BC Lions at Montreal Alouettes (-5)
Thursday, September 3: 7:35 PM ET
This game is the first of a handful of very tough picks this week — all four contests should be tight, hard-fought match-ups that will make for must-watch entertainment. Tanner Marsh is expected to start this game for Montreal (4-5) who are coming off an impressive victory at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton. With just thirty-five pass attempts over the past two seasons, Marsh is a bit of an unknown for an Alouette team that is without Rakeem Cato due to both a lower body injury and a family emergency. Montreal’s best shot to earn a win will be to feed Brandon Rutley early an often against a Lions defence that is giving up a league-worst 134 yards per game along the ground. For BC (3-5), look for receivers Lavelle Hawkins and Bryan Burnham to make their season debuts following the release of A.C. Leonard. On the strength of their defence, I’ll take the Alouettes to win and cover.
Pick straight-up: Montreal
Pick against the spread: Montreal
Winnipeg Blue Bombers at Saskatchewan Roughriders (-3.5)
Sunday, September 6: 4:05 PM ET
When was the last time an 0-9 team was favored to win a game? The ‘Riders (0-9) come into this contest off a sweep of front office changes that included the firings of head coach Corey Chamblin and general manager Brendan Taman. Brett Smith is now the undisputed starting quarterback of the green and white under interim head coach Bob Dyce — not that he ever shouldn’t have been — and, aside from a terrible record, all appears well in ‘Rider Nation once again. With that said, I’m taking the Bombers on Sunday. This is not because I’m a Bomber fan — in fact, I haven’t picked Winnipeg (3-6) since the last time these two teams met back in week one — but because I promised myself I wouldn’t pick Saskatchewan until they won a game this season. Six weeks later, I’m still picking against them. That is, unless the Bombers announce Brian Brohm as the starter against the ‘Riders. If the Bombers start Dominique Davis, I’m taking Winnipeg and the points. If the Bombers start Brohm, I’m taking Saskatchewan straight-up and against the spread.
Pick straight-up: Winnipeg/Saskatchewan
Pick against the spread: Winnipeg/Saskatchewan
Toronto Argonauts at Hamilton Tiger-Cats (-7)
Monday, September 7: 1:05 PM ET
The Ti-Cats (6-3) let down CFL prognosticators across the country when they dropped last week’s contest to the sub-.500 Alouettes. It was the first defeat Hamilton has suffered at Tim Hortons Field and, sadly, it came on the same night the team chose to honour Ti-Cat legend Angelo Mosca. With that said, as much as losing is never a positive thing, the loss to the Als could help refocus a Hamilton team that was coming off three straight blowout wins against Western Division opponents. Meanwhile, Toronto (6-3) is coming off an embarrassing 38-15 dismantling at the hands of the Eskimos that ended a three-game winning streak. I’m tempted to take the Argos against the spread here, but, despite their loss to Montreal, I’m going to keep riding the Tabbies at home. I’m taking Hamilton straight-up and against the spread.
Pick straight-up: Hamilton
Pick against the spread: Hamilton
Edmonton Eskimos at Calgary Stampeders (-5.5)
Monday, September 7: 4:05 PM ET
I am unbelievably excited to watch these teams do battle. The Stamps (7-2) went 4-0 against the Eskimos (6-3) last season, including a dominant 43-18 victory in the Western Final. That game featured a hobbling Mike Reilly at the helm of the Eskimo offence, a spot that will now be filled by rookie sensation James Franklin. In a game that will feature two of the CFL’s top three offences (Edmonton, 381 total yards per game; Calgary, 379.5) and the league’s stingiest defences (Edmonton, 298 yards allowed per game; Calgary, 321), I see these teams playing a close game that will come down to the final snap. Game on. I’ll take the Stamps by a field goal.
Pick straight-up: Calgary
Pick against the spread: Edmonton
Season record straight-up: 25-15
Season record against the spread: 20-19-1
John Hodge, Blue Bomber Talk