After Week 13 in the Canadian Football League, Peerless Perry doesn’t know what to think anymore. This is truly a handicapping season for the ages—for all the wrong reasons.
Last week, Peerless took the Eskimos to cover by 2 ½ against the woeful Winnipeg Blue Bombers, who managed to throw away a huge lead at home and lost by eight points in overtime. Peerless thought it was a gift from the handicapping Gods.
The next day he watched in disbelief as the Hamilton Tiger-Cats looked to be home and cooled out late in their game, in position to cover the eight-point spread over Montreal. But late in the game Montreal scored a touchdown. The Als still lost—but so did Peerless.
Peerless went against Calgary by seven to take the Argos and the points. Toronto won outright. The Saskatchewan Roughriders were favoured by five, and Peerless picked them to cover against the B.C. Lions, but it was not to be.
So Peerless viewed week 13 with a curious eye, knowing the end result could have been worse. Hey, he could have been Bombers’ head coach Tim Burke, who keeps inventing new ways to lose. There’s been some crazy stuff happening, but that’s the CFL for better and for worse.
B.C. (8-4) at Winnipeg (2-10)
Friday, 8 p.m. Investors Group Field
Why B.C. can win: They are on a magnificent high after beating the Roughriders on the road and are now tied with the Riders in the standings. Thomas DeMarco played magnificently in his debut as the interim quarterback. He was poised and efficient. The Lions protected the ball and that was the difference. That said, they could have been better in the score zone. But here’s the thing: they play their second road game in six days and will be missing some key players due to a rash of injuries. Can DeMarco duplicate his first outing? Most of the young quarterbacks have come back down to earth in their second starts.
Why Winnipeg can win: Who knows if they can after last week’s debacle. But what kind of character is on this team? We’ll find out against the Lions. Mad Max Hall is back in as starter and played decently last week. All he and the offence need to do is find a way to get off to a good start and get the crowd involved. It happened last week until the game dramatically turned. If the defence can somehow play a full 60 minutes—and isn’t this the problem with the Bombers, who come frazzled far too often due to coaching in my opinion – there is some hope.
The spread: B.C. -6
The pick is: Bombers and the points.
Calgary (9-3) at Hamilton (6-6)
Saturday, 6 p.m. at Guelph Alumni Field
Why Calgary can win: The Stamps lost at home to the Argos last week and simply looked lost at times, particularly in the second half. Running back Jon Cornish needs to get more touches. The Ticats are good against the run, but Cornish is a good receiver, too. Kevin Glenn is likely to start again at quarterback and who knows what happens now with Bo Levi Mitchell? Receiver Mo Price is sidelined, so that’s a key player out of the lineup. The offensive line needs to be better and this is an area the Ticats will undoubtedly attack. The defensive line needs to pressure Ti-Cat quarterback Henry Burris into making mistakes.
Why Hamilton can win: The Ti-Cats are complex—it’s tough to tell whether or not they’re improving. It’s like the conversation about Henry Burris, is he Good Hank of Bad Hank? The running game has really improved, but overall the offence can be so much better. Rookie receiver Greg Ellingson will likely not play and that means the Stamps may double up on Andy Fantuz, so Bakari Grant figures to see the ball more. The Ti-Cats’ return game is ineffective while the Stamps’ is among the best in the league.
The spread: Hamilton -2 ½.
The pick is: Stamps and the points.
Toronto (8-4) at Edmonton (3-9)
Saturday, 9 p.m. Commonwealth Stadium
Why Toronto can win: Three wins in a row, all on the road, the last two against Saskatchewan and Calgary. Good teams find ways to win and the Argos have won in different ways in all three games. The Argos are playing like a team moving in the right direction, even without their regulars. They are facing an Esks team full of confidence, but the Argos are feeling pretty good, too. They were vulnerable against the run earlier in the season, but Edmonton is primarily a passing team. The Argos will try to get physical and force Edmonton quarterback Mike Reilly to throw quickly with hitches and hot reads. If Reilly chooses to run, the Argos have the speed to stop him. After the last few weeks, the Argos are playing with house money on this elongated road trip.
Why Edmonton can win: This is really a test of the Eskimos’ mettle. Beating Winnipeg in back-to-back games is one thing; beating Toronto is quite another. Running back Hugh Charles returned last week and did okay after missing three games, but didn’t appear to be 100%. Receiver Fred Stamps is always dangerous, but the Argos have the capability to stop him. Adarius Bowman is really the one to watch as a secondary target. He has looked good since coming back from injury. The Eskies ended an eight-game losing streak last week that was the longest in several decades. The test now is building off that win.
The spread: Edmonton -1.
The pick is: Argonauts and the point.
Saskatchewan (8-4) at Montreal (4-8)
Sunday, 1 p.m. Molson Stadium
Why Saskatchewan can win: The Roughriders are probably glad to be on the road, if only to get some distance from what’s been happening at home. With three losses in a row, including the last two on their field, and four defeats in their last seven games, things are getting ugly. Geroy Simon needs only one reception to set a CFL record for all-time catches, but that’s just a small part of the bigger story, which is the stunning fall of the Riders. Heck, they can’t even convert field goals without the ball hitting the uprights. How bad is that? The running game may pick up with Chris Garrett in his second start. He was clearly not totally familiar with the playbook last week in his debut. But the Riders need to find a way to move the pocket. Darian Durant is not a pocket passer, and with no surefire running attack the Als can tee off on him.
Why Montreal can win: Josh Neiswander looked okay last week when placed back in as the starter. He has the weapons and made use of them, including breakout star Duron Carter. The receiving crew was already good, albeit not nearly as potent with pivot Anthony Calvillo sidelined. I still maintain Jerome Messam needs to get more touches because he is capable of wearing down the defence. The other aspect of this team is that their defence isn’t that bad. In fact, it’s underrated. Playing at home hasn’t been great for the Als, who usually are a lock to win at Molson Stadium. The Als have lost three in a row and might extend that to four. The pressure is really on the Riders.
The spread: Saskatchewan -3½.
The pick is: Als and the points.