The regular season for the CFL begins June 8 but preseason games are about to be in full swing.
In a league with as much year-to-year roster turnover as the Canadian Football League, the preseason is vital for coaches to assess their new players and for those players to start to build chemistry.
With that in mind, OntarioBets.com takes a look at five CFL storylines for fans and customers at Ontario betting sites to watch over the preseason. These will give CFL bettors something to think about before the games begin in earnest.
Can Winnipeg Continue its West Dominance?
The Blue Bombers don’t enter the season as the defending Grey Cup champions for the first time since 2019 after losing the 2022 Grey Cup final to the Toronto Argonauts.
But Winnipeg was once again the top team in the West Division and will be hoping to return to the big game for the fourth consecutive year. Sportsbooks think that they will, as the Bombers are the favourites to win the Grey Cup with odds of +300 at BetMGM Ontario Sportsbook.
Winnipeg returns star quarterback Zach Collaros and has kept most of the team around him intact, making the Blue Bombers the rare CFL team that has roster consistency from the prior year. Their key offseason addition was Kenny Lawler; he spent last year in Edmonton but was with Winnipeg in 2021 and led the league in receiving yards, so he will have an easy transition back.
Calgary and BC look to offer Winnipeg the most competition in the West with Saskatchewan and Edmonton both way down the odds board and not expected to be anywhere near Winnipeg’s level.
These teams have various title odds at different Ontario sports betting apps, so we encourage customers to shop around for the best lines on their preferred teams before the season starts,
Andrew Harris’ Last Stand
It’s tempting for aging players to go out as champions. But the desire to compete for another year was too strong for Toronto running back Andrew Harris, who returns to the Argos for a final season.
Harris has battled injury for the past few seasons but has been effective when healthy, putting up 670 yards of offense in his eight games last year, then had a strong performance in the playoffs. Harris has won the Grey Cup in each of the past three seasons, spending the two prior years with Winnipeg.
Toronto is +550 at FanDuel Sportsbook Ontario to repeat but will have to do so without last year’s starting quarterback, because McLeod Bethel-Thompson took his talents south of the border to the USFL. Chad Kelly is the new starter for Toronto and looked good when called upon in the Grey Cup last season.
Can BC Continue Its Rise?
The BC Lions were one of the surprise stories in the league last year, finishing second in the West with a 12-6 record. However, this year comes with some new challenges as stud QB Nathaniel Rourke has gone to the NFL, top running back James Butler signed with Hamilton and veteran WR Bryan Burnham retired.
Rourke missed the end of last season with an injury. BC already has Vernon Adams Jr. on hand to replace him and he is capable.
The Lions, +650 at NorthStar Bets Ontario Sportsbook to win the Grey Cup, have enough stars at receiver to handle the loss of Burnham. But someone will need to emerge at running back if BC is serious about challenging the Blue Bombers.
Montreal and Saskatchewan Swap QBs
Two teams that had disappointing seasons last year essentially traded quarterbacks in the offseason.
Free agent Cody Fajardo signed with Montreal after being with Saskatchewan last year, and Trevor Harris signed with the Roughriders, coming over from the Alouettes.
Fajardo’s former offensive coordinator, Jason Maas, also comes with him as his new head coach for the Alouettes, who are +1200 at DraftKings Sportsbook Ontario to win the Grey Cup. If he can get better offensive line support in Montreal than he did in Saskatchewan, Fajardo should be in line for a big bounceback.
Harris isn’t as much of a running threat as Fajardo is, but his calm veteran presence in the pocket should be a good fit for the Roughriders as they hope to make a return to the playoffs.
New Era in Calgary
Bo Levi Mitchell has been the face of the Calgary Stampeders for years, but some regression in his play combined with the emergence of Jake Maier made him expendable. So Mitchell has landed in Hamilton as their new pivot.
Last season Maier was clutch for Calgary down the stretch, leading them to the playoffs. This season the Stamps have +650 preseason odds at Caesars Sportsbook Ontario, and they should have another leap in Maier’s play for 2023.
Calgary boasts one of the best run games in the league with defending rushing champion Ka’Deem Carey, so Maier will have that to lean on as he tries to lead this club to a Grey Cup.
Calgary’s preseason odds are around the middle of the league. But a strong start from Maier could see them leap quickly up the odds board.
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