Fearless predictions for the CFL awards

The Toronto Argonauts are up for multiple honours at the CFL awards gala Thursday night in Ottawa, but what are their chances against their West Division opponents? Here’s a look at the nominees and some predictions:

Outstanding player

QB Ricky Ray, Toronto vs. QB Mike Reilly, Edmonton

Despite yet another outstanding season, Ray is in jeopardy of becoming the CFL awards version of Susan Lucci. Ray passed for 5,546 yards and 28 touchdowns while completing 71 per cent of his passes this season in leading Toronto’s remarkable turnaround. Nonetheless, he’ll likely be the bridesmaid for the league’s top award for the third time. That’s because Reilly led the CFL with 5,830 passing yards and a quarterback rating of 87.1 while tying for the league lead with 30 touchdown passes. Voters — primarily CFL media from across the country — have a tendency to reward gaudy stats and players from winning teams, and Reilly leads Ray on both counts. The pick: Reilly

Top defensive player

LB Kyries Hebert, Montreal vs. LB Alex Singleton, Calgary

Hebert has two impressive numbers: 110 tackles, which led the East Division, and the 37 on his birth certificate. Still, being the best player on a 3-15 team will hurt his chances, especially when compared to Singleton, who was second in the league in tackles with 123 and anchored a defence that allowed just 19.4 points per game and forced 45 turnovers, both league bests. Singleton also added four sacks, a forced fumble and one interception. He also has magnificent hair. The pick: Singleton

Top Canadian

WR Brad Sinopoli, Ottawa vs. RB Andrew Harris, Winnipeg

Sinopoli won this award in 2015 and recorded his third straight 1,000-yard season despite missing the last two games due to injury. He also led the league with 41 catches for a first down. But Harris set a CFL record for receptions by a running back, leading the league with 105. He also rushed for more than 1,000 yards for the third time in his career, so . . . The pick: Harris

Top offensive lineman

C Sean McEwen, Toronto vs. OT Stanley Bryant, Winnipeg

Winnipeg recorded the most rushing yards in the CFL and was the only team to average 100-plus per game, while McEwen helped the Argonauts record the second-highest net offence. But tackles often have an advantage over interior linemen and Bryant was a West all-star in 2013 and 2014, meaning he’s a more familiar name than McEwen, who is in just his second year. The pick: Bryant

Top special teams player

KR Diontae Spencer, Ottawa vs. KR Roy Finch, Calgary

Spencer scored two kick-return touchdowns while recording 1,796 return yards, but Finch was truly spectacular, averaging 16.4 yards per punt return, the third-highest average in CFL history. Finch also recorded more kick return yards (1,914) and scored more touchdowns (three) than Spencer. This could be unanimous. The pick: Finch

Top rookie

James Wilder Jr., Toronto vs. WR Marken Michel, Calgary

Wilder Jr. recorded 872 yards rushing and 533 receiving while scoring a total of five touchdowns in only 10 starts (17 appearances). His backstory — his father, James Wilder Sr., played 10 seasons in the NFL — will also help with name recognition. Michel has 41 receptions for 780 yards, but that was only good enough for 19th in a league with 13 receivers with 1,000 yards or more. He did lead the league with 19 yards per reception. The pick: Wilder, barely.

Top coach

Marc Trestman, Toronto vs. Dave Dickenson, Calgary

After finishing last in the East Division with a 5-13 mark last year, the Argos finished first under Trestman (albeit with a middling 9-9 record). Dickenson went 13-4-1 to run away with the West, though that was a regression from the 15-2-1 record they posted in 2016. This is a battle between the two narratives popular in this category: the remarkable comeback and the dominant juggernauts. The pick: Trestman

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