Over or under: plenty of reasons for bettors to be optimistic on Redblacks’ 2024 win total

Photo courtesy: Bob Butrym/RFB Sport Photography

Following an off-season that saw general manager Shawn Burke augment both sides of the ball by landing prized free agents like Dominique Rhymes and Adarius Pickett, R-Nation has more than a few reasons to assume things will turn around. But after four disappointing years for the Redblacks, seeing will be believing for many.

DraftKings has put Ottawa’s win total for 2024 at 6.5, which means the team only has to finish 7-11 or better to reach the over. That’s understandable given the team has gone 14-58 since 2018’s Grey Cup loss, but in Bob Dyce’s second full season as head coach, the team should finally return to being a contender.

There’s no denying that last year’s 4-14 record was ugly, but the 2023 Redblacks were a weird team. Yes, the losses piled up, but they had some strong underlying stats.

For starters, as offensively challenged as it felt like the team was at times, the Redblacks still scored more points than Edmonton, Calgary, Saskatchewan and Hamilton — three of whom made the playoffs.

Coaches always preach the importance of winning the turnover battle because normally when a team has a positive turnover ratio, they emerge victorious. Yet in the eight games where the 2023 Redblacks took the ball away more frequently than they lost it, they only managed to win three times.

Furthermore, if it felt like Ottawa was constantly just a play or two away from a better outcome, it’s because they were. A full two-thirds (12) of the Redblacks’ games in 2023 were single-score contests. In those games, they went just 3-9.

For 2024, if you factor in the addition of someone like Dominique Rhymes to pair with Jaelon Acklin, a fully healthy Bralon Addison, another year of experience for a (mostly) unchanged offensive line, and improved quarterback play with Dru Brown now under centre, it’s hard to imagine the team not coming up on the right side of a few more close games.

Flipping to the other side of the ball, Burke managed to bring back the entire defensive line, which was the team’s best positional group in 2023. Cleyon Laing, Lorenzo Mauldin, Cleyon Laing, Mike Wakefield and Bryce Carter headline what will be a deep and relentless rotation of pass rushers and run stuffers.

Adarius Pickett, Jovan Santos-Knox and Frankie Griffin stack up against any trio of linebackers across the league, and depth players such as Gary Johnson Jr., Davion Taylor, Tyron Vrede and Lucas Cormier — the 10th overall pick in the 2023 Draft — will be pushing for playing time.

Free agency saw the departure of a handful of veteran defensive backs, but Money Hunter, Brandin Dandridge, Damon Webb, Alonzo Addae and Justin Howell boast plenty of experience and big-play capability. There’s also a handful of promising young players in Tobias Harris, Alijah McGhee and Deandre Lamont.

Special teams are Dyce’s area of expertise and if DeVonte Dedmon is back to 100 percent — and if the preseason is anything to go by, he is — the Redblacks’ return game should regularly be setting up the offence in great field position. If Dedmon does get nicked up, Ottawa has real depth behind him in speedy American rookie Kalil Pimpleton. The kicking game will once again be in reliable hands with Lewis Ward and Richie Leone both returning to strut their stuff.

Finally, as they look around the division, the Redblacks shouldn’t feel like anything is impossible. The Alouettes are defending champions but playing 18 games as the hunted takes a toll. With 2023 MOP Chad Kelly set to miss at least nine games for the Argos, Toronto is going to be inexperienced at the game’s most important position. The Ticats always play Ottawa tough but Hamilton is banking on getting 2018-type production out of quarterback Bo-Levi Mitchell. It’s a heck of a gamble and if he struggles, it’s not as if there’s much depth behind him.

If those teams falter even slightly — and I believe most of them will — then the Redblacks should collect most of their scraps. That makes it worthwhile to pound the over on the lowest win total you can find for this team in 2024.

Santino Filoso is originally from Ottawa and has written about the Redblacks since 2013. He is the only CFL writer currently living in Brazil (as far as we know).