3DownNation contributors fearlessly predict the 2021 CFL standings

Photo courtesy: CFL

3DownNation’s contributors have taken the plunge, predicting how the CFL standings will unfold after a year away from the field.

We’ve taken a fearless approach to these predictions, so be prepared for some bold takes. It’s been forever since any teams hit the field, so it makes sense to go big when it comes to prognosticating the 2021 season.

On Wednesday, our contributors will be predicting this year’s award-winners, so don’t forget to check back for more content looking ahead to the 2021 regular season.

John Hodge

East Division

HAMILTON TIGER-CATS — The Ticats should breeze through the regular season, but the pressure will be on late as they look to end a 21-year Grey Cup drought at home.

TORONTO ARGONAUTS — If their new pieces can gel quickly, the Argos could be dangerous. They have as much talent as any team in the CFL.

MONTREAL ALOUETTES — Vernon Adams Jr. needs to prove that 2019 wasn’t a fluke and the talent around him should help make that happen.

OTTAWA REDBLACKS — As far as I’m concerned, this team is playing for 2022. Hopefully the Redblacks can uncover a few gems, then continue overhauling the roster next off-season.

West Division

EDMONTON ELKS — The linebacking corps is extremely young, but the defensive line is great, the secondary is solid, and the offence is fire. The Elks are a team to watch.

WINNIPEG BLUE BOMBERS — Expecting Zach Collaros to remain healthy for a season is optimistic, though I think Brady Oliveira and Johnny Augustine are ready to take over from Andrew Harris.

CALGARY STAMPEDERS — This year will be the biggest test of Bo Levi Mitchell’s career as he works behind an average offensive line and throws to mediocre receivers.

SASKATCHEWAN ROUGHRIDERS — The offensive line is just too banged up to inspire much confidence. Newcomer Keion Adams has big shoes to fill replacing Charleston Hughes.

B.C. LIONS — The defensive front-seven is extremely young and Michael Reilly needs to prove he can get rid of the ball quickly. There’s potential here, but this team has a lot to prove.

JC Abbott

East Division

HAMILTON TIGER-CATS — A glaring question mark at left tackle is a concern, but this team is too good not to overcome it.

TORONTO ARGONAUTS — This team is a complete wildcard, but star power should power them into the playoffs comfortably.

MONTREAL ALOUETTES — Live by Vernon Adams Jr., die by Vernon Adams Jr. With some holes on the roster, any regression from their star quarterback could doom the Als.

OTTAWA REDBLACKS — Pray for R-Nation. The 2019 Redblacks were among the worst teams in CFL history and I don’t see dramatic improvement on this roster.

West Division

CALGARY STAMPEDERS — The West is going to be as impossibly tight as ever and Calgary’s ability to consistently replenish talent makes them a hard team to bet against in a season full of unknowns.

EDMONTON ELKS — The new look is great, but even better is a high-powered offence led by Trevor Harris, Derel Walker, Greg Ellingson and a re-invigorated James Wilder Jr.

WINNIPEG BLUE BOMBERS — The reigning Grey Cup champions are better than the sum of their parts, but aging stars, a lack of proven offensive game-breakers and my own lack of trust in Zach Collaros makes it hard to see them challenge in the West.

B.C. LIONS — The Lions are a much better team all around, but it is hard to bet on a team with the sum total of one pass rusher with CFL experience on their roster.

SASKATCHEWAN ROUGHRIDERS — The Riders need to hit on a whole lot of young players to succeed and will have to get by early with Brett Boyko at tackle, a recipe best known for killing the 2019 Lions.

Ryan Ballantine

East Division

HAMILTON TIGER-CATS — A great team that stayed great. This is an easy pick.

TORONTO ARGONAUTS — The Stampeders of 2016/19 were great teams and now a bunch of them are in Toronto. 

MONTREAL ALOUETTES — If Vernon Adams Jr. can repeat his late 2019 success, it will prevent a West Division team from crossing over this year. 

OTTAWA REDBLACKS — Thank whatever or whoever you pray to that the atmosphere in Ottawa is so fun and vibrant, because this team is hot garbage. 

West Division

CALGARY STAMPEDERS — If there is ever a doubt that the Stampeders will be able to adequately replace the players they lost, please refer to the last 13 years. This time they had twice as long and twice as many players to choose from. 

WINNIPEG BLUE BOMBERS — The defending champs are starting the season without Darvin Adams and no timetable for Andrew Harris. A slow start could hurt more than normal in a short season.

EDMONTON ELKS — Despite the off-season gong show in the front office, they will likely see a playoff spot with Harris under centre. 

SASKATCHEWAN ROUGHRIDERS — Too many injuries and retirements to overcome, particularly along the offensive line.

B.C. LIONS — Michael Reilly is one of the game’s greats, and he has another in Burnham to throw to. It still won’t be enough. 

Santino Filoso

East Division

HAMILTON TIGER-CATS — Without question the deepest roster in the division, so the Ticats are the Beasts of the East until proven otherwise.

MONTREAL ALOUETTES — Vernon Adams Jr. is the real deal but have the Alouettes really done enough to improve one of 2019’s worst defences? I don’t think so.

OTTAWA REDBLACKS — With a top-tier defence and elite special teams leading the way, LaPolice schemes enough offence for a .500 season.

TORONTO ARGONAUTS — An overhauled their roster + a brutal schedule + a rookie head coach isn’t a recipe for success.

West Division

CALGARY STAMPEDERS — Players come and go, but a truly healthy Bo makes all the difference.

WINNIPEG BLUE BOMBERS — Harris might be 34 years old, but the Bombers can still ride him (and most of their Grey Cup roster) to the playoffs.

EDMONTON ELKS — Elizondo is building something out there, but who knows what exactly? The Elks will move the ball, but that doesn’t necessarily equate to points.

B.C. LIONS — A significantly improved offensive line lets Reilly live up to his contract.

SASKATCHEWAN ROUGHRIDERS — Too many injuries and not enough QB depth means a rough season in Regina.

Joel Gasson

East Division

HAMILTON TIGER-CATS — As much as these are supposed to be fearless predictions, they’re also not dumb. The best QB depth in the CFL launches the Ticats to first-place.

MONTREAL ALOUETTES — A big year for Vernon Adams Jr. will make the East Final very interesting. 

TORONTO ARGONAUTS — The Argos might start off slow without a pre-season and a lot of fresh faces but they’ll figure it out and make a post-season push.

OTTAWA REDBLACKS — Two good teams and one that gets better as the year goes on doesn’t leave much room for Ottawa. 

West Division

CALGARY STAMPEDERS — They might not go 14-0 but Bo Levi Mitchell makes them the class of what could be a tight West.

WINNIPEG BLUE BOMBERS — The reigning champs have suffered some losses from 2019 but are still pretty good overall.

SASKATCHEWAN ROUGHRIDERS — A home playoff game seems unlikely unless a new offensive line works out across the board. 

EDMONTON ELKS — Something is off in Elksland. They’re going through some things as they establish a new culture. 

B.C. LIONS — The O-line may be better but Michael Reilly proves to be more of a problem than initially thought as the hits he’s taken, age and the year off catch up to him.

Jonathan Hudson

East Division

HAMILTON TIGER-CATS — A clear goal of Grey Cup revenge and a weak division means this team has an east path to the East Final.

TORONTO ARGONAUTS — I’m not sure ownership deserves any credit but an East Semi-Final berth will be earned by the football operation staff and their talent-poaching over the extended off-season.

MONTREAL ALOUETTES — High-risk, high-reward was the strategy in 2019 for Vernon Adams Jr. Expect a return to the average and a possible crossover from the West Division.

OTTAWA REDBLACKS — A team that made some promising moves to reconstruct itself, but also lost too many of its core pieces coming into 2021. Too soon and too little to expect better than a year of missed playoffs.

West Division

CALGARY STAMPEDERS — In a short season I will take the team best known for consistently finding new talent with an MOP-calibre QB who should be returning to health after an injured 2019. 

WINNIPEG BLUE BOMBERS — I spent too much time in the past crediting Paul LaPolice’s style of offence that relied on kicker Justin Medlock to score points. Is Winnipeg capable of another style with Collaros? 

EDMONTON ELKS — Edmonton could host the West Semi-Final if things come together under the new staff, but there’ve been so many moving parts across the organization that betting on it is hard.

SASKATCHEWAN ROUGHRIDERS — Starting a short season injured and shallow on the offensive line is tough, but I see the crossover as a possibility.

B.C. LIONS — A new staff means new beginnings, but until I see it for myself I’m not ready to think the team has solved its protection problems.

Mike Ludwig

East Division

HAMILTON TIGER-CATS — They’ll probably lose a few games, but (for now) they’re the favourite to win it all in December.

TORONTO ARGONAUTS — Like Edmonton, the question is how well ‘on paper’ translates to results with a first time coach. I think they’ll be fine, but not good enough to top Hamilton.

MONTREAL ALOUETTES — Vernon Adams Jr. is primed for a serious sophomore slump — unless he’s worked his tail off for the past 21 months.

OTTAWA REDBLACKS — By the end of the year we’d be doing Ottawa a favour by not talking about them.

West Division

EDMONTON ELKS — Elks and Riders sneak ahead of the rest. Tight one, but Edmonton’s offensive line earns the edge.

SASKATCHEWAN ROUGHRIDERS — The defence is strong, though there are questions at linebacker. Fajardo is a talented runner but may have to run too much to clinch the bye.

CALGARY STAMPEDERS — They haven’t not hosted a playoff game since they lost the West Semi-Final to Edmonton in 2011. This is the year they’ve lost too much to replenish.

B.C. LIONS — Likely to have a high-level offence and an elite secondary, but will be held back by a lacklustre defensive line. Still good enough for a crossover.

WINNIPEG BLUE BOMBERS — Hot take: Winnipeg will be the odd one out of a big 7-7 tie. Blame the schedule.

Brendan McGuire

East Division

HAMILTON TIGER-CATS — If they can avoid a quarterback controversy, they’ll be the Beast of the East.

MONTREAL ALOUETTES — Vernon Adams Jr. has to prove he’s more than a one-hit wonder. All signs indicate he’s up to the challenge.

OTTAWA REDBLACKS — They’ve got the coach and the quarterback but it’s everything else that scares me.

TORONTO ARGONAUTS — The Argos will struggle because they’re built on free agency and lack an identity.

West Division

CALGARY STAMPEDERS — The Stamps haven’t missed out on first place very often in the last 30 years and after missing in 2019, I’d say they are due.

SASKATCHEWAN ROUGHRIDERS — An elite secondary is still largely intact and good enough to carry the defence.

EDMONTON ELKS — The Trevor Harris and Jaime Elizondo connection is due for something good, just as it was in Ottawa.

WINNIPEG BLUE BOMBERS — Depending heavily on a quarterback who’s had one good month of football since 2016 and an aging running back is not a recipe for success.

B.C. LIONS — Last season was awful. Their solution was to fire their rookie head coach and replace him with another head coach who had an even more awful year.

Josh Smith

East Division

HAMILTON TIGER-CATS — Expectations haven’t been this high in Hamilton in my lifetime. The Tabbies live up to it and then some.

MONTREAL ALOUETTES — The wins pile up as Vernon Adams Jr. takes a Josh Allen-like leap.

TORONTO ARGONAUTS — The Boatmen will be better than 2019, but that quarterback situation is dicey at best.

OTTAWA REDBLACKS — They are lucky it is only a 14-game season because otherwise they might threaten the 2003 Ticats’ record for losses in a season. This team could legitimately go winless.

West Division

CALGARY STAMPEDERS — I have been hearing “this is the year the Stamps fall off” for what feels like forever. I’ll believe it when I see it.

B.C. LIONS — I feel like Michael Reilly has a big bounce-back year and won’t get anywhere near as pummelled as he did in 2019.

EDMONTON ELKS — This offence is going to be fun to watch, but a rookie head coach is going to make mistakes and that will cost the Elks a home playoff game.

WINNIPEG BLUE BOMBERS — Relying on Zach Collaros to stay healthy for a full season, even a shortened one, is asking a lot.

SASKATCHEWAN ROUGHRIDERS — I think Cody Fajardo is a flash in the pan and gets exposed as such this year. With no viable backup plan behind Fajardo, the Riders go from first in 2019 to worst in 2021.