CFL Preseason Storylines: 5 Things To Watch For In 2024 Season

By Steve Bittenbender
Fact Checked by Jim Tomlin

The kickoff to the 2024 CFL season is less than a week away, and the first two teams to play this season will be the last ones who played in 2023. The Montreal Alouettes will start their defence of the Grey Cup Thursday on the road against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

Many Canadian sports fans – and folks at Ontario betting sites – will be focused on the Stanley Cup playoffs right now, especially whether the Edmonton Oilers can end the 31-year cup drought for Canada, the birthplace of hockey.

But the 2024 CFL season has many intriguing storylines. Here are five stories we’re excited to see unfold between now and Nov. 17, when BC Place hosts the 111th Grey Cup.

 
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Can Montreal Repeat As Grey Cup Champions?

Jason Maas enjoyed a terrific first year as Montreal’s coach. The former leader in Edmonton guided the Alouettes to an 11-7 record, their best since 2019. However, the team wasn’t just satisfied with that as they upset the 16-2 Toronto Argonauts in the East final and then stunned Winnipeg in the Grey Cup. See our CFL betting guide page for tips on wagering on the 2024 CFL season.

Last season was also the first in Montreal for quarterback Cody Fajardo. Signing as a free agent after a successful three-year run with Saskatchewan, Fajardo completed 70.9% of his passes and threw for 3,862 yards in 16 games. He was even better in the playoffs as he completed 73% in the postseason, including a 21-of-26 performance for 290 yards and three scores in the Grey Cup. He earned MVP honors in the game by throwing for the winning touchdown in the final minute, giving the Alouettes their first Grey Cup since 2010.

For Montreal to repeat, oddsmakers at Pinnacle Ontario Sportsbook believe the Alouettes will need to beat the same two teams in this year’s playoffs. They give the defending champs odds of +550 to repeat, while Winnipeg is the favorite at +215 and Toronto a close second at +300.

Winnipeg’s Drive For Five In A Row

The Blue Bombers have defined excellence in the CFL for years, having appeared in the last four Grey Cups. They’re led by quarterback Zach Collaros, who followed up his back-to-back Most Outstanding Player award seasons by throwing for a career-high 4,252 yards last year. He turns 36 in August but there are no signs indicating the veteran will be slowing down any time soon.

At BetMGM Ontario Sportsbook, Collaros is the second choice to be this season’s Most Outstanding Player recipient. Only Vernon Adams’ odds of +550 are shorter than Collaros’ +650.

Oddsmakers at Sports Interaction Ontario sportsbook have set Winnipeg’s win total this season at 12.5, with odds of -135 for the over (+105 for under). The Blue Bombers are also -130 favorites to win their fourth straight West Division crown.

Can Toronto Succeed Without Chad Kelly?

Chad Kelly’s first CFL season as a starting quarterback was sensational. He threw for 4,123 yards and 23 touchdowns to earn the league’s Most Outstanding Player award.

However, a repeat of that season is not in the cards. In May, the league handed down a minimum nine-game suspension after determining Kelly broke CFL rules against gender-based violence. Kelly must undergo mandatory counseling, and his ban might wind up being longer than nine games.

Cameron Dukes has been Toronto’s starter in the preseason, with Nick Arbuckle backing him up. Reports also indicate the Argos will sign John Matocha, who played NCAA Division II football in the U.S. last season and recently completed a rookie minicamp with the NFL’s Denver Broncos.

Some sportsbooks have the Argonauts among the favorites this season, but oddsmakers at FanDuel Ontario Sportsbook have set Toronto’s win total at just 8.5 for the 18-game season, with odds of -136 for the over (+106 under). The Argos are also the book’s third choice in the East at +420.

Can B.C., Hamilton End Title Droughts?

If any team can shoot down the Blue Bombers in the West, it’s likely to be the B.C. Lions, who aim to play on their home field for the Grey Cup in November. BC Place was the site of the Lions’ last Grey Cup conquest, in 2011.

For B.C. to have a chance, they will need another strong season from quarterback Vernon Adams. The 31-year-old led the CFL with 4,769 passing yards last season. DraftKings Ontario Sportsbook set his passing yards over/under for 2024 at 4,250.5. Odds for the over are -110 and under are -115.

The Lions are +300 to win the West, behind Winnipeg’s -135. They’re also the fourth choice on the Grey Cup board at +650.

But B.C. doesn’t have the league’s longest Cup drought. That would belong to the Hamilton TigerCats, who won their most recent championship in 1999.

After reaching the Grey Cup Final in 2019 and 2021, the TiCats have followed up with back-to-back 8-10 seasons and losses to Montreal in the East Division semis.

Keeping quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell healthy will be key for Hamilton to end its drought. The veteran quarterback suffered an adductor muscle strain and a broken leg last season; those injuries limited him to six games. He looks to be ready for the 2024 season, as the 34-year-old went 10-for-16 for 139 passing yards in an exhibition game last week against Ottawa.

Caesars Ontario Sportsbook doesn’t believe this will be the year Hamilton ends its Cup drought. They have given the TiCats odds of +1200 to win the Cup, the same odds as Saskatchewan. Only the Edmonton Elks (+2500) and Ottawa RedBlacks (+2800) have longer odds.

 
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Is Expansion Still In The Cards?

There has been talk of adding a 10th team to the CFL, which would give the league two five-team divisions, but it doesn’t look like it will happen anytime soon.

Efforts to put a team in Atlantic Canada have been fruitless as officials in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island have resisted the idea. The league might continue to play games in the region to grow the sport, but an expansion franchise is years away if it happens at all.

Another location for a CFL expansion franchise could be Quebec City, which Commissioner Randy Ambrosie called a “great football city” last fall.

Check out our reviews of Ontario sports betting apps here at OntarioBets.com all season.

USA Today photo by Dan Hamilton

Author

Steve is an accomplished, award-winning reporter with more than 20 years of experience covering gaming, sports, politics and business. He has written for the Associated Press, Reuters, The Louisville Courier Journal, The Center Square and numerous other publications. Based in Louisville, Ky., Steve has covered the expansion of sports betting in the U.S. and other gaming matters. He shares his expertise on OntarioBets, among other sites.

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