After looking at the burning questions facing the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 2018 season, let’s have some fun and make some predictions for the upcoming year.
1. Brandon Banks will lead the CFL in receiving: Banks averaged 95.9 yards a game when he was inserted into a full-time role on offense last year. While he is unlikely to maintain that pace over a full 18 games (a pace that would put him at 1,726 yards, a mark only two receivers over the last 10 years has reached), if he even dips slightly it is not out of the realm of possibilities for him to eclipse 1,500 yards on the season which would probably be enough for him to claim the receiving crown.
2. The Ticats will host a playoff game: Maybe this isn’t as bold as some predictions, but I think second spot comes down to a slugfest between Hamilton and Ottawa. The two teams meet three times in 2018, with two of them being played in Hamilton. In a division as tight as the East — hey, every team being bad still means they are grouped close together — having home field in a best of three will be what edges Hamilton over Ottawa.
3. Hamilton finishes above .500: Again, not a tremendously bold prediction, but you can count on one hand the amount of times the Ticats have finished the season with more wins than losses over the last 15 years. No, seriously, it’s only happened three times. They were 9-8-1 in 2004, 10-8 in 2013 and 10-8 in 2015. To contrast, the Calgary Stampeders have had the same amount of losing seasons (5-13 in 2003, 4-14 in 2004, 7-10-1 in 2007) during that span as the Ticats have had winning ones. So saying the Ticats will finish with a higher number in the win column than the loss column is actually a lot bolder than you would think.
4. At least one Ticats player will be nominated for a league award: Before the season begins there are a number of players on the Hamilton roster that could be in contention for end-of-season awards. If Brandon Banks does match that torrid pace he was on at the end of last year he will be an MOP candidate; top lineman is always a tough award to predict, but Brandon Revenberg has steadily improved each year and could finally get some recognition; Ted Laurent is always in the top Canadian discussion; Larry Dean was in the mix for top defensive player last year and should be again in 2018; and let’s not forget about Simoni Lawrence. He had a down year in 2017 and will look to bounce back in a big way in 2018. At least one of these guys, or one I haven’t mentioned, will be in Edmonton for the player awards in November. And speaking of November.
5. The Ticats will make the Grey Cup: I know, I know. Hardly surprising that the “Ticats guy” sees the Ticats making the title game, but hear me out on why. I think the team that ran off six wins in their final 10 games will be even better this year. You never see mid-season coaching changes work in football, and the Ticats switching from Kent Austin to June Jones completely changed this team. I think the small things that went wrong last year under Jones will be corrected this year and give the Ticats the push they need to make it back to the Grey Cup for the first time since 2014. Unfortunately, the season will end the same way it did in 2014, with the Ticats in the Grey Cup but losing, this time to Edmonton.