After a turbulent start to my CFL betting year, I have finally righted the ship (pun intended since the Toronto Argonauts are named after a ship). With a 3-1 run on my CFL picks in Week 8, I am ready for a successful Week 9.
The key to my CFL betting success is that I bet early in the week so that by kickoff, the price that I bet a team or total at is better than what is being offered. For example, I could bet a team at -2.5 and they close at -4.5. This is known as beating the closing line.
This week, we have a full slate of four games - two nationally televised on ESPN2 (Hamilton/Toronto and Edmonton/BC) and the other two will be on ESPN+.
Thursday, the undefeated Winnipeg Blue Bombers visit a quietly dangerous Montreal Alouettes team. Friday, the Calgary Stampeders visit an Ottawa Redblacks team that was winless up until last week.
Lastly, we have a doubleheader Saturday night on ESPN2. The top two teams in the East Division face off as Hamilton visits Toronto. That game is followed by a lopsided matchup between the Edmonton Elks and BC Lions.
Below, I go over my best bets for this week’s slate, as well as the differences between the CFL and NFL.
Record (Tracked by Betstamp App): 17-19, -7.4% Return on Investment, +4.4% Closing Line Value
All CFL betting odds are current as of Tuesday, August 2 at 10 a.m. EST at Caesars Sportsbook.
Winnipeg vs Montreal Prediction
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers are the only CFL team left with an undefeated record, and they are the two-time defending Grey Cup champions. On the other side of the coin, the Montreal Alouettes have a losing record, and they fired their head coach - Khari Jones - last month.
Despite what seems like a lopsided matchup, Montreal has a fighting chance as they are playing at home this week. Not only are the Alouettes at home, but they are selling poutine helmets at the game. Who cares if your team has a losing record when you can eat poutine out of an Alouettes helmet?
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What’s notable about Montreal is that despite having a losing record, they have an average scoring margin of -0.3 per game. They should have a .500 record, but because of bad luck, they have a losing record.
Last week, the Alouettes nearly came back from a 24-6 deficit at the start of the fourth quarter, to lose by only a touchdown against Hamilton. This is added to a list of Montreal heartbreaks, which include losing to Calgary by only a field goal in the final minutes and losing to Toronto off a missed field goal.
For Winnipeg, not only are they 8-0, but they are 6-2 against the spread. What makes the Blue Bombers a tricky team to bet on is that they are clearly the best CFL team, but they are built to win close low-scoring games, rather than winning in BC Lions-style blowouts.
The Blue Bombers are allowing 17.8 points per game, which is the fewest in the CFL. What’s important to watch is their injury report as they have yet to have a bye week this season. Reigning Defensive Player of the Year Jackson Jeffcoat and leading receiver Greg Ellingson both missed last week’s game against Calgary.
Regardless of the injury report, there is a good chance that Montreal shocks the world and upsets Winnipeg at home Thursday.
Score Pick: Montreal 20, Winnipeg 15
Winnipeg vs Montreal Best CFL Bets
Montreal +6 (-110)
Wager: 1 Unit
Despite an 8-0 record, Winnipeg has only won two games this season by more than a touchdown. On the road against a tough Montreal Alouettes team, they will struggle to cover the spread this week.
Montreal has played competitively this season even if their 2-5 record suggests otherwise. Since the coaching change and making Trevor Harris the starting quarterback, the Alouettes have been able to put points on the board.
I am a bit hesitant to take Montreal’s moneyline, but their spread at +6 points is a good bet. Assuming Jeffcoat plays, I would bet Montreal up to +4.5.
Calgary vs Ottawa Prediction
Calgary has a 4-2 record with their only two losses coming against Winnipeg. Ottawa has a 1-6 record, and their star quarterback, Jeremiah Masoli, is likely out for the season.
With such a contrast between the Stampeders and the Redblacks, is there any point in betting on the Redblacks Friday?
Ottawa may have the worst record in the CFL, but they are not the worst team. That honor goes to the Edmonton Elks. Outside of Edmonton, virtually any of the other eight CFL teams have a realistic chance of winning each week.
Ottawa’s luck has not been too good this season. Their first two games were against Winnipeg, and they lost each game by less than a touchdown. Then, the Redblacks lost Masoli to an ACL injury from a dirty hit against Saskatchewan.
That left Ottawa running out backup quarterback Caleb Evans, who struggled last year as a rookie. This season, Evans is a new man. After a rough start against Hamilton in Week 6, Evans had two strong games in Weeks 7 and 8.
Last week against Toronto, Evans completed 82.8% of his passes and threw for 286 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. Not only is Evans dangerous through the air, but he is dangerous on the ground.
Ottawa will have a tough time against a strong Calgary defense, but they benefit from home-field advantage and a weak Calgary quarterback in an aging Bo Levi Mitchell. It should be a fun game Friday night, and Ottawa might come away with a victory.
Score Pick: Ottawa 24, Calgary 20
Calgary vs Ottawa Best CFL Bets
Ottawa +6.5 (-110)
Wager: 2 Units
As soon as FanDuel opened Ottawa as a 7-point home underdog Monday afternoon, I had to bet on them. Sadly, for everyone else, they are now between 5.5- and 6.5-point underdogs depending on the sportsbook you use.
At the time of this article, the Redblacks are +6.5 at Caesars, which is a great price. We should see a tight game, and I would bet Ottawa up to +5.
Hamilton vs Toronto Prediction
The most competitive game this weekend is between the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and the Toronto Argonauts. The Argos have a 3-3 record, while the Tiger-Cats are 2-5. Both teams are separated by each other by less than an hour’s drive, but the Argos should benefit from home-field advantage despite having the worst attendance in the CFL.
Every week in my CFL column, I sound like a broken record about Toronto. Even though they are the only East Division team without a losing record - and they were the regular season division champions last year - I am a skeptic of theirs.
Last season, despite a 9-5 record, they allowed more points than they scored. This season, despite having a .500 record, they have an average scoring margin of -5.8. If a team like the Argos is losing by almost a touchdown each game, they are vulnerable to an emerging team like the Ti-Cats.
For the previous two CFL seasons, Hamilton won the East Division. This season, the Ti-Cats started with an 0-4 record, but like Stella, they have gotten their groove back. After going 2-1 in their last three games, Hamilton is ready to go HAM on their opponents.
The key for the Tiger-Cats will be stopping Toronto running back Andrew Harris. When Harris has a decent game, the Argos usually win. Unfortunately for Toronto, when Harris has a bad game, they usually lose.
Last week against Ottawa, Harris had 17 rushing yards and Toronto put only 13 points on the board. Hamilton, on the other hand, was able to contain a dangerous Montreal ground game. I see the same thing happening this week, and that is why I like Hamilton’s chances.
Score Pick: Hamilton 30, Toronto 22
Hamilton vs Toronto Best CFL Bets
Hamilton Moneyline (+105)
Wager: 2 Units
Despite a 2-5 record, Hamilton’s season isn’t dead. The Ti-Cats make the playoffs if the season ended today, and beating Toronto would help solidify their playoff chances.
Toronto is not as good of a team as they look, and Hamilton is a much better team than they look. At better than even money to win outright, Hamilton is the best bet, and I would bet them up to a -2.5 favorite in this week’s game.
Edmonton vs BC Prediction
The most boring game of the CFL season might take place this weekend between Edmonton and BC. The Lions have an average scoring margin of +14.5 and the Elks have an average scoring margin of -16.1. That is why it makes complete sense that BC is favored by almost two touchdowns.
Despite what seems obvious, is there a good betting angle for the second half of Saturday’s doubleheader?
Edmonton is bad for several reasons, but one reason why they are bad is because of their quarterback situation. The Elks settling on a quarterback is like my girlfriend settling on a dress to wear when her friends come into town.
They have last year’s starting quarterback Taylor Cornelius, who has more interceptions than touchdowns. They also have rookie Canadian national Tre Ford, who is electric but frequently injured and inexperienced, as well as rookie American Kai Locksley, who has yet to throw a pass but is a threat on the ground.
If Ford plays, Edmonton should put some points on the board, but if Cornelius plays, they should score 14-20 points.
Ford has missed the last month with a collarbone injury. If he returns this week, Edmonton should end up as an eight- or nine-point underdog. Cornelius managed to throw for 270 passing yards against Winnipeg with 59 rushing yards and no touchdowns. If Cornelius plays and can continue moving the ball up the field, then Edmonton might sneak in with some points.
BC should put up some points against a weak Edmonton defense as they have the most electric offense in the CFL. Their offense, led by quarterback Nathan Rourke, has torn every CFL team to shreds this season except for Winnipeg.
In what should be a BC blowout, I expect that we will see some fireworks between both teams.
Score Pick: BC 35, Edmonton 21
BC vs Edmonton Best CFL Bets
Over 50.5 Total Points (-110)
Wager: 0.5 Units
I am not sure what to expect this week in Saturday’s late-night game, but I think we will see some scoring. If BC jumps to an early lead, watch for Edmonton to get aggressive early and potentially put points on the board.
The Lions, unlike many teams, are hesitant to put the brakes on their offense, which is why I don’t think that a blowout will lower their chances much of going over the 50.5-point total this week. I like the Over in this game and would bet it up to 52.5 points.
CFL vs NFL: The Biggest Differences
The biggest barrier that stops people who like betting on American gridiron football from betting on Canadian gridiron football is that the rules seem confusing. In general, the differences in rules between both games mean lower scoring games, and fewer games are decided by three, four, six, seven, or ten points.
To make the rules less confusing, I have assembled a guide below on the differences between the CFL and NFL.
CFL: Three Downs Instead of Four
In the CFL, each team on offense has only three downs instead of four. That means that instead of three and outs, you have two and outs.
With fewer chances to keep possessions alive and the same number of yards to make up, CFL offenses tend to be pass-heavy. In 2021, 61.8% of CFL offensive plays were passing plays. Additionally, more teams go for it on third down in the CFL than fourth down in the NFL.
CFL: Bigger Field
CFL Fields are 110 yards long, 65 yards wide, have 20-yard endzones, and the field goal post is at the beginning of the endzone. NFL fields are 100 yards long, 53.33 yards wide, have 10-yard endzones, and have their field goal post at the end of the endzone.
This means more two-point conversion attempts, more special teams touchdowns, and it is easier to make field goals.
CFL: The Rouge
In the Canadian game, teams can score on one-point plays also known as singles or rouges. If a team misses a field goal and the opposing team doesn’t return it past the end zone, the kicking team gets a point. For punts, the punting team gets a point if the receiving team doesn’t return it past the end zone.