CFL Week 3 predictions: best bets for Lions at Bombers, Ticats at Riders

Photo courtesy: David Dermer/B.C. Lions

It’s Week 3 in the Canadian Football League and while it remains early, it already feels like an important week for a couple of teams.

The four-time West Division champion Blue Bombers are looking to prove the first two weeks of the season were just a tune-up, while the Montreal Alouettes are hoping to keep the good times rolling when they unveil their Grey Cup banner. The Edmonton Elks are looking to avoid an 0-3 start, while the Saskatchewan Roughriders are looking to solve their penalty woes and improve to 3-0.

Here are some picks and props for the week ahead.

Thursday, June 20: Ottawa Redblacks vs. Montreal Alouettes — 7:30 p.m. EDT

The Als have picked up where they left off last year with wins over Winnipeg and Edmonton. This week, they face a Redblacks team that looks much improved from their disappointing season a year ago.

Dru Brown has the reigns as an undisputed starter for the first time in his young career and started his tenure in the nation’s capital with an upset win over the Blue Bombers last week, throwing for 285 yards in a 23-19 win.

But he faces a tougher test this week in Montreal, a team that’s allowed 32 total points in their first two weeks this season. Noel Thorpe’s defence wreaked havoc while only rushing four and disguising their pressures last week against McLeod Bethel-Thompson. If they gave the veteran two-time all-star fits, I imagine they’ll cause some pre-snap mayhem for Brown as well.

The Redblacks had trouble stopping the deep ball last year and Zach Collaros was able to connect on passes of 47 and 76 yards in Week 2. Ottawa looks much better overall but it appears they could be vulnerable down the field again this year.

With Cody Fajardo looking very comfortable throwing the ball downfield and some very talented receivers at his disposal, this could be a long night for Ottawa’s secondary.

The picks: Montreal -6.5 and Tyson Philpot OVER 63.5 receiving yards

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Photo courtesy: Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Friday, June 21: B.C. Lions vs. Winnipeg Blue Bombers — 8:30 p.m. EDT

We get a matchup of projected powers in the West Division on Friday Night Football with the Bombers hosting the Lions. This was projected by most to be an early West Final preview, but neither team is off to the start they want. 

Zach Collaros has struggled mightily to start the 2024 campaign as he’s yet to throw a TD pass this year, a stat that looks all the more glaring next to three interceptions.

The offensive line started to look shaky late in their game against Ottawa and they have yet to find a rhythm after losing Jermarcus Hardrick in the off-season. Winnipeg has allowed the third-most sacks in the CFL through two weeks.

Meanwhile, B.C. started their season with a loss to the Toronto Argonauts and got all they could handle from Calgary before pulling away in the fourth. The good news is Vernon Adams Jr. has rekindled his connection with Alexander Hollins and Justin McInnis, while William Stanback looks to get back to his form from 2021.

Hollins leads the league in targets and is tied for the lead in receptions, while McInnis leads in yards. They’ll look to attack a defence that has allowed the most big plays in the CFL this season.

B.C.’s offensive line has had some issues of its own after a blitz-heavy attack from Calgary in Week 2. Even with that, Adams was able to throw two touchdown passes for the second straight week in the 26-17 win.

Ultimately, both sides have more flaws than people would have expected early in the season, it just feels like Winnipeg’s are bigger right now.

The picks: Lions +120 and Alexander Hollins OVER 80.5 yards

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Saturday, June 22: Edmonton Elks vs. Toronto Argonauts — 7:00 p.m. EDT

McLeod Bethel-Thompson faces his former team on Saturday evening in The Six coming off of two close losses at home to start the year.

Perhaps the Elks have been watching their hockey-playing neighbours’ quest for the Stanley Cup as they seem to think games are only three periods as they experienced another late-game collapse.

They had opportunities to put Saskatchewan away in the fourth quarter in Week 1, but pressure on Bethel-Thompson and some untimely turnovers cost them a win. It was rinse and repeat for Week 2 with a turnover on downs early in the frame and an interception when the game still hung in the balance.

Now Edmonton faces an Argos’ defence that got better as Week 1 went on. They allowed just seven points in the second half to Vernon Adams Jr. and the B.C. Lions in one of the more surprising results of the opening week.

The Boatmen are second in the league in sacks with six — and they’ve only played one game. That could be an issue for Bethel-Thompson, who has faced a lot of pressure in his first two weeks in the Alberta Capital.

Even though Week 1 looked really good for Cameron Dukes, I still don’t know if I can trust the young quarterback going forward. But, I do know I can trust Toronto’s defence to be tough all season long.

The Picks: Under 50 AND McLeod Bethel-Thompson UNDER 295.5 passing yards

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Photo: Matt Smith/3DownNation. All rights reserved.

Sunday, June 23: Hamilton Tiger-Cats vs. Saskatchewan Roughriders — 7:00 p.m. EDT

We get an encore of last week’s craziest game to wrap up Week 3 with Hamilton facing Saskatchewan. This time, it’s the Tiger-Cats looking to spoil the home opener for the Roughriders.

Those with watermelon helmets will tell you that the team is grinding out wins thanks to a never-say-die attitude from new head coach Corey Mace, while capitalizing off mistakes from their opponents.

The other eight fan bases in the league will likely tell you Saskatchewan has a horseshoe located, uh, somewhere, to go along with their watermelon chapeaus. But that isn’t going to make Sunday’s crowd in Regina any less insane.

The Riders have scored 37 points in the fourth quarter this season, 12 more points than in quarters one through three combined. They have survived turnovers, injuries, and penalties to get to a 2-0 record.

Hamilton has been on the opposite side of this scale. Their Week 1 comeback attempt fell short against Calgary and they were on the wrong end of the Riders’ miracle comeback in Week 2.

Late-game execution hurt them in last week’s home opener as a defence that looked strong for three quarters couldn’t stop anything late, allowing Trevor Harris and the Riders back into the game before a heart-breaking interception sealed the deal.

The pick helped mask the issues the pass defence had all game long against Bo Levi Mitchell as the former Stampeders’ quarterback lit up his former West Division rival for 380 yards and three scores.

One area in which the Riders have thrived this season is in their run defence. Saskatchewan held James Butler to 27 yards in Week 2 after shutting down Edmonton’s Kevin Brown in Week 1 to the tune of 23 yards.

I would expect Saskatchewan to continue to limit that area of the Hamilton attack in Week 3, while the offence feeds off of a home-opening crowd at Mosaic Stadium Sunday Night.

The picks: Saskatchewan -2.5 and James Butler UNDER 63.5 rushing yards