Johnny, Johnny, Johnny.
There are three other games on the slate this week and some interesting storylines – the return of Zach Collaros, McLeod Bethel-Thompson starting in Toronto, Calgary’s unbeaten streak – but all the oxygen in the CFL universe will be consumed by Johnny Manziel’s first CFL start in Montreal.
Whether Manziel can revive the Alouettes’ sagging fortunes – can he play defence, too? – is very much an open question but the level of attention he’ll get while trying to do it certainly isn’t. A couple of our contributors even picked Montreal…
Here’s the picks.
Thursday, Aug. 2
Ottawa at Toronto, 7 p.m.
At Toronto, McLeod Bethel-Thompson will make his first career CFL start for the Argos (1-5), who went 1-3 under backup James Franklin and were outscored 78-34 in dropping a home-and-home series to Winnipeg. Ottawa (4-2) tops the East Division but couldn’t score a TD last week in Hamilton. Consider, though, the lone blemishes on the Redblacks’ record are two losses to league-leading Calgary. Trevor Harris was 23-of-35 passing for 228 yards against Hamilton while Canadian Brad Sinopoli had nine catches for 82 yards. But Greg Ellingson had just three receptions for 34 yards and has finished under 50 yards receiving in four straight games.
Dunk: Redblacks like playing at BMO. REDBLACKS
Edwards: Ottawa looks pretty good, Toronto does not. REDBLACKS
Gasson: Tough times in Toronto. REDBLACKS
Hodge: Ottawa is rollin’ thanks to Noel Thorpe’s defence. REDBLACKS
Ballantine: Ottawa’s offence has looked good against anyone but Calgary. Toronto isn’t Calgary. REDBLACKS
Filoso: I’ll take a Noel Thorpe coached defence over a QB with two career passes any day. REDBLACKS
Smith: The Argos aren’t going to fall to 1-6 are they? Are they!? They are. REDBLACKS
Totals: REDBLACKS 7 ARGOS 0
Saskatchewan at Edmonton, 10 p.m.
At Edmonton, it’s becoming yet another solid season for Mike Reilly, the CFL’s outstanding player last year, He’s leading the league in passing yards (2,063), completion average (68.7), completions (147) and TDs (13) and tied for first in passing efficiency (108.1). Reilly threw for 415 yards and four touchdowns as the Eskimos (4-2) beat Montreal 44-23. Saskatchewan (3-3) activated veteran quarterback Zach Collaros (concussion) from the six-game injured list and he could see action. The Riders also are reportedly moving Duron Carter from the secondary back to the receiving corps.
Dunk: Saskatchewan nearly has their best roster together. RIDERS
Edwards: Riders are improved with Collaros. Esks still better. ESKS
Gasson: It’s a short week after a loss that angered the fan base? Seen it before. Something still feels off in Edmonton. RIDERS
Hodge: You can’t win without moving the ball. ESKS
Ballantine: Collaros and Carter not enough to battle Reilly et al. ESKS
Filoso: Having Duron back on offence and Collaros under centre keeps things respectable but still. ESKS
Smith: With Zach back and D.C. back chillin’ on offence, this has the feel of an upset. RIDERS
Totals: ESKS 4 RIDERS 3
Friday, Aug. 3
Hamilton at Montreal, 7:30 p.m.
The Hamilton Tiger-Cats never had the chance to see just how good Johnny Manziel could be in a regular-season game. They’ll find out Friday night. The former Heisman Trophy winner will make his first CFL start when the Montreal Alouettes host Hamilton at Molson Stadium. Manziel made headlines in May when he signed with the Ticats, but never played a regular-season down with the club before being traded to the Als on July 24.
Dunk: Johnny Football is capable of magic, but not enough, yet. TICATS
Edwards: Five practices. Five. FIVE. TICATS
Gasson: The Als will get a boost but I don’t see the Hamilton losing streak continuing. TICATS
Hodge: No, Johnny, no, no, no (Johnny no good). TICATS
Ballantine: Mr. Football practised against the Ticats Defense for weeks and weeks. Won’t be pretty but….ALS
Filoso: Get ready for the Jean Football hype to crank up a notch. ALS
Smith: No one really knows what Johnny Manziel can do, but his old team that watched him in practice for weeks probably knows him the best. I think he’ll be good eventually, but it’s too soon. TICATS
Totals: TICATS 5 ALS 2
Saturday, Aug. 4
British Columbia at Calgary, 9 p.m
At Calgary, consider the Stampeders (6-0) are unbeaten at home (3-0) while B.C. (2-3) is winless on the road (0-3). Granted, the Stamps have beaten up on East Division competition (5-0, 145 points for, 46 points against) but they did surge into a 24-0 lead last week versus Saskatchewan then were able to right the ship after the Riders scored 19 straight points. The Lions haven’t played since a 29-25 loss to Ottawa on July 20. Veteran Travis Lulay threw for 325 yards and two TDs and Brandon Rutley ran for 91 yards and a touchdown, but went down with a knee injury and is now on the six-game injured list.
Dunk: Lions are better with Lulay, but the backend concerns are too much. STAMPS
Edwards: Calgary is 637-0 at home against teams with a ‘B’ in their name over the last eight millennia (all numbers approximate.) STAMPS
Gasson: flip a single-sided coin. STAMPS
Hodge: Calgary at home. STAMPS
Ballantine: Another free space on the bingo card to try and keep pace with Edwards at the top of the standings. Stamps haven’t won by less than 10 yet. STAMPS
Filoso: Calgary will eventually lose at home, but not this week. STAMPS
Smith: If Calgary is at home I am taking Calgary. STAMPS
Totals: STAMPS 7 B.C. 0