Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 1:30 PM EST and updated at 6:25 PM EST.
7:00 PM EST. The winds of change swept across the Saskatchewan plain, as former football czar Chris Jones left his post as head bench boss and general manager for the greener pastures of Cleveland, Ohio, as an assistant coach under defensive coordinator Steve Wilks. Back in Regina, the Roughriders stayed in house for their next coaching candidate after hiring Craig Dickenson, who formally ran the special teams. This will be Dickenson's first shot as the top man calling the shots. Like the Roughriders, Hamilton also has a new coach calling the plays, as June Jones has left to be the head coach and general manager of Houston's still unnamed XFL team.
Orlondo Steinauer was a career CFLer who transitioned into the coaching ranks after retiring in 2008. He spent two seasons with the Argonauts before heading to the Steel City to be the Cats defensive coordinator. Steinauer left for Fresno State in 2017, but lasted just one season as the Bulldogs defensive coordinator before returning as Jones' assistant head coach last season. The Ti-Cats promoted him after both the Argos and Lions showed an interest in his services.
The Roughies unexpectedly won 12-games last season, but in a poll of 50 CFL "experts," precisely zero picked Sasky to win the West Division this season. Even the Eskimos, who are 12-1 to win the Grey Cup, while the Roughriders are 8-1, picked up a pair of votes from the panel. Media perception has an influence on the market and for comparison's sake, 43 of the 50 polled chose the Tiger-Cats to win the East.
The Tiger-Cats are the consensus favorites out East, but that overblow perception only inflates their market value. They were in a very similar situation last season and were unable to finish 2018 with a winning record. Hamilton made headlines with the colossal offensive numbers put up by quarterback Jeremiah Masoli and the weapons surrounding him, but where the Ti-Cats failed miserably was on the defensive end, which just so happens to be the Roughriders biggest strength. The hype is so high around Hamilton that even the local media cannot help itself with this headline from 900 CHML's Rick Zamperin, "Hamilton Tiger-Cats have best shot at winning the Grey Cup." Sure he makes a great case for the Tabbies, as they return Masoli and a couple of his favorite targets in Brandon Banks and Luke Tasker, but the 'Cats have failed to meet some lofty goals as recently as last season and for a franchise that hasn't won a championship in this league in 20 years, some humility would go a long way. Sure, the East Division looks like easy pickings, but that's been the case for a few seasons and Hamilton has nothing to show for it.
While this game will be in the shadow of the Raptors and Warriors, Canada included, this is a night that Canadian football bettors have been waiting for since the end of the NFL season. The hype around the Tabbies has persuaded the market to back them in what appears to be a favorable spot at home tonight, but we argue that these openers are a drain on the home side. There's usually a bunch of unnecessary pomp and circumstance, as well as all of the promotional obligations that come with it that the road team doesn't have to deal with. The Roughies are every bit the Ti-Cats equal and this should be nothing more than a business trip for the Green and White. Saskatchewan can win this game outright and we suspect they will, but these inflated points are too good to pass up. This line is likely going to -4 by game time (or -4½) so wait for a better number if you like. We'll do the same and update it just after dinner. Sakatchewan will be the play.
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Saskatchewan +5 -110 (Risking 2.2 units - To Win: 2.00)