Toronto at Winnipeg
Optimism is high in Winnipeg. A new head coach, new quarterback and new attitude to start the 2014 season. But I am not sure if they have the personnel yet to compete at the highest level consistently. And come Thursday Night, they do have to compete against a quarterback in Ricky Ray that completed 77 per cent of his passes last year and had a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 21-to-2. Drew Willy for Winnipeg is a complete unknown, so an immense advantage at quarterback for Toronto. Both teams are also unknown on defense. Can the Argos be dominate as a four man pass rush team, dropping eight into coverage? In Winnipeg, can Gary Etcheverry create game-changing pressure all night long or, through preparation, the Argo starting 12 be able to find opportunity all night long? Final point; there is also a special teams return advantage with Chad Owens over any returner in Winnipeg. The Bombers will have to play a near perfect game to win, while the Argos just need to stay calm in tough a atmosphere to win.
Week 1, Game 1 - Argos over Bombers.
Montreal at Calgary
Both teams looked dreadful in their respective last exhibition games and normally I would not consider that an issue because they are exhibition games, But, Troy Smith was physically inaccurate with his passes and the combination of Drew Tate and Bo Levi Mitchell were no more efficient. Pure football logic says both teams will have better quarterback play working with the starters in preparation throughout the week and a repeat of last week's performances should not happen. This one should be either a single touchdown win or even only a field goal, and I do like Calgary to create the win. Excellent special teams battle Saturday afternoon at McMahon Stadium. Larry Taylor, the former Stampeder on one side for Montreal, against Jock Sanders - the best free agent pick up of 2014, a former rider and presently a Stampeder.
Calgary by no more than 6 -- maybe only 3.
Edmonton at B.C.
I think Edmonton may be a better team now then as the team back in October. Chris Jones ran a tough training camp and as a first year head coach it always is. To obtain early positive results, it should be. By the time Saturday turns into Sunday, we will get a much clearer picture of Eskimo football. Now, in BC Kevin Glen will be fine and even though they are young upfront, he should stay upright though the game. I really think the strength of BC will be the front seven on defense. Eric Taylor at one defensive tackle is underrated and Khalif Mitchell at the other with be effective. I think BC can make Edmonton one dimensional and create enough second and longs to win. Mike Reilly will be protected this year through design and personnel, but in a home opener, I like BC to win in the 4th.
Lions over Eskimos.
Hamilton at Saskatchewan
The best game of Week 1, yet tough game for the Ticats to win in the opening week. I do not underestimate Hamilton. Last year, after five games they were 1-4 and by the end of the season had gone through 88 players and 57 different starters. Last year was about evaluating and molding and yet they made it to the Grey Cup. Kent Austin has a plan and you saw it develop as the season progressed. Last Thursday, seeing Zack Collaros was impressive. He has excellent in and out of pocket movement and is a thicker player than I thought - important because you know he will run. Hamilton will not start the season 1-4 this year and will not go through 88 players and 57 starters this year. But, I do think they will begin O-1. The single-biggest issue for Saskatchewan is who is the running back to replace Cory Sheets. That may not be decided until mid-season but they have to find one. Until the do, the strength of the Riders is a well-established offensive line and a winning quarterback that is coming off an excellent playoff run. Who will replace Kory Sheets, who will replace Weston Dressler and who will replace Craig Butler? All important questions to be answered. I do not expect either team to dominate but I do expect the best fans in CFL football to show up and make a difference.
Riders in a close game.