Every year, we ask some of the crew at 3Down to provide their predictions for the upcoming season, including the order of the divisions, the MOP winners and a coach on the hot seat. Looking back at last year, we did pretty well – other than the fact that most people figured Toronto would be terrible. That’s what happened, right?
Anyway, here’s our look ahead to 2018…
1. Toronto: It’s not just Ricky Ray. Year two of Jim Popp and Marc Trestman should be even better than year one.
2. Ottawa: If Trevor Harris gets hurt, all bets are off but you could say that about half the league. The Redblacks and the Ticats duke it out for a home playoff date.
3. Hamilton: I’m worried about their offensive line, secondary and a tough opening schedule. Other than that, everything’s fine.
4. Montreal: Sometimes the expected comes to pass.
1. Edmonton: They are good all over and have the best quarterback in the game.
2. Calgary: The Stamps have to come back to reality at some point. Right? Right?
3. Saskatchewan: I don’t like their offensive line, Canadian depth or the controversy that seems to follow them around. Still, from chaos comes beauty (and wins.)
4. B.C.: His own team will want to pay homage to the Godfather in his #ExitSZN and Jon Jennings needs to prove he’s still for real. He will.
5. Winnipeg: As Chris Jones demonstrated, accurate information about quarterback can be hard to come by. If Nichols is out long-term – like say until Labour Day – it could be a long year in Winnipeg.
MOP: I don’t want to take a usual suspect, so… Zach Collaros, QB, Saskatchewan.
DMOP: Marcus Ball, LB, Toronto. He needs to stay healthy, which is unlikely. But if he does…
Coach on the hot seat: Mike O’Shea, Winnipeg. Come at me, bro. (Not O’Shea, he’d tear my arms off.)
1. Ottawa Redblacks: Revamped defence and playmakers around Trevor Harris could have the team in the nation’s capital primed for first place.
2. Toronto Argonauts: The Argos are an easy pick to finish atop the division. It can easily happen as Marc Trestman enters year two.
3. Hamilton Tiger-Cats: Uncertainty in the defensive backfield seems to be a running theme for the Ticats. That area seems to be exploited by elite quarterbacks too often. If Johnny Manziel starts tho…
4. Montreal Alouettes: Mike Sherman needs to be able to get the Alouettes out of the locker room on time first and foremost before any serious consideration for moving up the standings occurs.
1. Calgary Stampeders: Bo Levi Mitchell fully healthy and his favourite target is back, Eric Rogers. Stamps do what their thing.
2. Edmonton Eskimos: When healthy the roster has few weak points, but Tommie Draheim sticks out.
3. B.C. Lions: Ed Hervey has fortified the trenches as best he could in one off-season and if Jon Jennings shows flashes of 2016 the Leos will rise.
4. Saskatchewan Roughriders:
5. Winnipeg Blue Bombers: If Matt Nichols was healthy the Bombers could be in contention to win the West. With Nichols out for a chunk of the season because of a knee injury Winnipeg drops. Unless Chris Streveler is “strevelation”.
MOP: Trevor Harris: Ottawa has a plethora of talent around him and if he puts a full healthy season together the stats will be elite.
MODP: Solomon Elimimian: Heart and soul of the Lions defence and if the team has a turnaround season it will be a strong bet Elimimian takes the award.
Coach on the hot seat: June Jones. Orlondo Steinauer is lurking and if Jones’ cadre of coaches can’t adapt to the CFL game quickly – Jerry Glanville – it could be turned over to Coach O.
1. Toronto: The Argos win the East for the second straight year (and only need nine wins to do it).
2. Hamilton: Masoli and Manziel carry the load to get the Ticats back to the playoffs.
3. Ottawa: The Redblacks miss the playoffs in a make-or-break year for Trevor Harris.
4. Montreal: At least the throwback uniforms will look nice.
1. Edmonton: The Esks get a berth in the West Final, but can they capitalize to earn a spot in this year’s local Grey Cup?
2. Calgary: The Stamps will be in a dogfight with Edmonton all season long.
3. Winnipeg: The Bombers’ season will be defined by how well the club can tread water with Matt Nichols out of the line-up.
4. Saskatchewan: Playing behind arguably the league’s worst offensive line could spell disaster for Zach Collaros.
5. B.C.: Ed Hervey’s going to build a winner, but he needs more time in the tough West Division.
MOP: Mike Reilly, QB, EDM: The Esks may struggle to protect Reilly at times this season, but he’s simply the best player in the league. If he stays healthy, he repeats as MOP.
MODP: Alex Singleton, LB, CGY: That’s right — another repeat winner. Solomon Elimimian may have a better season, but team records play a role in determining player awards.
Coach on the hot seat: It’s been nine months since Montreal fired their head coach, so… Mike Sherman
1. Toronto: Hard to see anything else happening.
2. Ottawa: I don’t know if I actually believe in Ottawa or if I just don’t buy the fact that Hamilton is going to be better.
3. Hamilton: Plenty of people seem to agree that they’re going to be improved this year and they might be. I’ve seen plenty of teams in sports have awful starts, have a good back half to the season only to struggle again.
4. Montreal: See the Argos.
Edmonton: Hate to follow the crowd here, but Edmonton seems poised for a big season.
Saskatchewan: I have my doubts here, there’s a lot to overcome, like oline and Canadian depth, but the just might. Their defence will keep them in games.
Calgary: They have to take a step back eventually, maybe this is the year? Probably not.
Winnipeg: I was really bullish on them, then Matt Nichols got hurt. It’s really hard to see them overcoming a possibly slow start.
B.C.: the Lions will be better than last year but is it enough in a tough west? I don’t know.
MOP: Andrew Harris – without Matt Nichols to start, Winnipeg really leans on the Canadian running back. This leads to a big year for number 33.
MODP: Willie Jefferson – Having Charleston Hughes at the other end frees Jefferson up for a huge season. He could be the single biggest reason the Riders could have a home playoff game.
Coach on the hot seat: Wally Buono…just kidding. I don’t know, hard to say with cap implications starting next year. June Jones if things go sideways in Hamilton?
1. Toronto: If there are holes on the Argo’s roster, I don’t see them. They’re loaded at the most important position (QB), have a star running back and reliable pass catchers. Oh, and a strong defence only got stronger in the off-season.
2. Ottawa: The offence will put up points and a revamped defence leads to more wins in close games.
3. Hamilton: A brutal opening schedule digs a hole the Ticats won’t climb out of
4. Montreal: The Als added some nice pieces in the off-season, but still lack a proven quarterback.
1. Edmonton: The Eskimos have depth, experience and the possibility of a home Grey Cup game as motivation. Look out.
2. Calgary: The Stamps don’t rebuild, they reload. As long as Bo Levi Mitchell is under centre, they’re contenders.
3. B.C.: A healthy Jonathon Jennings and reinforcements along both sides of the trenches make all the difference.
4. Winnipeg: Nichols’ injury puts a damper on an otherwise loaded roster.
5. Saskatchewan: Going 18 games with paper thin Canadian depth and a sketchy offensive line won’t be pretty
MOP: James Wilder Jr., RB Toronto Argonauts: In just 10 starts last season Wilder set the league on fire. Another year in Marc Trestman’s system along with the same offensive line and Hall of Fame QB means more of the same.
DMOP: Adam Bighill, LB, Winnipeg Blue Bombers: The monster in the middle picks up where he left off in 2016.
Coach on the hot seat: Coming off a pair of 8-9-1 seasons, a poor start could bode very poorly for Ottawa’s Rick Campbell
1. Calgary: The Stamps have been regular season champs far more often than not since Hufnagel came to town. They may not make the Grey Cup for a third straight year, but they will win the most games.
2. Edmonton: Nipping on Calgary’s heels, this may come down to the season series between these two clubs to decide home field for the West Final.
3. Saskatchewan – This was going to be Winnipeg but the injury to Matt Nichols may see the Riders sneak past them. Conversely, should the Riders stumble out of the gate….(see hot seat prediction below)
4. Winnipeg: With 9 players on the TSN top 50, the Bombers were poised to make some noise this season, then Nichols got injured. Losing your starter with questionable depth is a recipe for disaster
5. B.C.: Sadly, Wally’s career ends with him out of the playoffs for a second straight year. Move the Lions to the other coast and they might have got in, but the West will be too tough this year.
1. Toronto: Ray and Wilder should be enough to propel the Trestman bunch to top spot in the East. Look for the reigning and defending to get back to the dance this season
2. Hamilton: Played well under Jones last year. As long as Manziel doesn’t become a distraction, the Ticats should host the East Semi.
3. Ottawa: Back-to-back sub .500 seasons showed that Ottawa is “East Division good” but the Ticats are improved this season and the Argos are even better. Ottawa slides this season and may be in tough to prevent a crossover.
4. Montreal: Drew Willy is the starter here. It is going to be a slog in La Belle Province this year, but they will probably beat Calgary at home regardless.
MOP: A healthy, trimmed down Bo Levi will be passing more this year and with the targets he has available, he will threaten 6,000 yards this year.
DMOP: Solomon Elimimian has the edge here. In order to have a huge year defensively, you need to be on the field a lot. With power offences elsewhere in the West, Solly may just get that chance.
Hot Seat: Chris Jones made some big name cuts in camp. Should the Riders falter in the early part of the year, he may find his welcome worn out.
1. Toronto: The only team I’m confident will make the playoffs out of the East because they have a loaded roster. This could be the best team, top to bottom, that the Argos have fielded in over a decade.
2. Hamilton: Things get murky here. Are the Ticats the team we saw at the end of last season or does the league figure out what June Jones does and shut them down? I’ll split the difference and say the team does enough to eek out second place.
3. Ottawa: We already saw Ottawa fans hold their collective breath when Trevor Harris went down in the pre-season. If Harris misses any time during the regular season, and I think he will, the Redblacks are sunk.
4. Montreal: They still don’t have a QB.
1. Calgary: Until I am given a reason otherwise I will pick the Stamps to finish first. I don’t think they make the Grey Cup, but they play in the game that will decide who does.
2. Edmonton: They will be neck-and-neck with Calgary all year and the brass ring that is a home Grey Cup date is what will propel them throughout the season.
3. Saskatchewan: I don’t know if Zach Collaros can ever get back to the Zach Collaros that was the shoe-in MOP in 2015, but he doesn’t have to be that player because the Riders roster is plenty talented. The porous o-line will be the only thing that keeps them from reaching their full potential.
4. Winnipeg: The Bombers are going to have a tough go of it without Matt Nichols and will be playing catch-up all season. That is what keeps them from getting over the hump.
5. B.C.: Ed Hervey will make the Lions better, but they might be a year away. And are we sure the QB that can lead them back to the promised land is on the roster?
MOP: Ricky Ray. Damon Allen won his first and only MOP award in 2005 at the tender age of 42. The MOP is the one accolade that has eluded Ray his entire career. The second year in Trestman’s offence with a loaded roster on offence means Ray puts up some of the best numbers of his career and takes home the award.
Hot take alert: What if Duron Carter catches 70+ balls for over 1,000 yards and intercepts five or six passes, maybe even taking one to the house? If that were to happen, he’d have to be MOP, no?
MODP: Willie Jefferson. With Charleston Hughes on the opposite side, Jefferson has a chance to take a run at the single-season sack record. If he breaks that, he walks away with this award.
Coach on the hot seat: Mike Sherman. The Als aren’t averse to firing a coach mid-season, and ownership has publicly stated they think the team could make the playoffs. So is it bye-bye Mike Sherman if the team is out of the playoff race by Labour Day?