Season record: 0-0
Last week: 0-0
Hamilton Tiger-Cats at Toronto Argonauts
Thursday, June 23: 8:00 PM ET
With the arch-rival Ti-Cats in town to open BMO Field in the opening game of the 2016 season, this game has all the makings of an emotional, high-scoring classic. While taking Jeremiah Masoli on the road over Ricky Ray could be breaking the archaic code of Canadian football, Toronto’s defensive backfield is, once again, very inexperienced. Three starters in the secondary from last season won’t be in the lineup, as AJ Jefferson is injured, Devin Smith retired and Travis Hawkins was released. I can’t see that secondary being aided from the defense line, either, as while the Argos spent money in free agency to upgrade their pass-rush, I can imagine a scenario where those signings disappoint. Chad Owens, making his return to Toronto in his first game with the Black & Gold, could have a huge day, as Jeremiah Masoli will hold his own at quarterback with an impressive supporting cast.
Montreal Alouettes at Winnipeg Blue Bombers
Thursday, June 24: 8:30 PM ET
The Bombers have simply had the Als’ number in recent years. Both secondaries will have two rookies in the starting lineup, while both defenses boast solid front-sevens. The lack of continuity in Montreal’s offense presents a great opportunity for Winnipeg’s starting offense to gain some traction after a shaky season. The Bombers should be able to force Kevin Glenn into some turnovers, too, as Jamaal Westerman and Euclid Cumming should have big days pass-rushing against two young, Canadian offensive lineman – Jacob Ruby at LT and rookie RG Philippe Gagnon. Expect a low-scoring affair that sees Paul Lapolice utilize Andrew Harris heavily as a pass-catcher.
Ottawa Redblacks at Edmonton Eskimos
Saturday, June 25: 7:00 PM ET
The Eskimos have underwent some major roster turnover defensively, losing Dexter McCoil, Willie Jefferson and Aaron Grymes to the NFL. Field-side corner John Ojo, meanwhile, suffered a season-ending achilles injury. Mike Reilly will surely have a strong performance, but I’m taking Henry Burris and Co. against a rebuilding Edmonton defense sans Chris Jones in the Grey Cup rematch. The Eskimos’ defense simply won’t be the same unit this season.
Calgary Stampeders at BC Lions
Saturday, June 25: 10:00 PM ET
The Lions have a good opportunity in week one to make a statement game at home. Second-year quarterback Jon Jennings is expected to continue on his upwards trajectory in his development, potentially asserting himself as a top CFL passer in year two. While I think the Lions will surprise a lot of people this year, it won’t start early against the experienced Stampeders. While undergoing a lot of changes, the Stamps’ had succession plans in place for most of the veteran starters they moved away from – and that includes the transition from Jon Hufnagel at head coach to Dave Dickenson.