Rick Zamperin: Eskimos, Stamps and Argos have best shot at Grey Cup glory
Exactly 200 days after the Toronto Argonauts won the 105th Grey Cup in snowy Ottawa, the Canadian Football League’s 2018 season kicks off Thursday night.
Game No. 1 pits the Edmonton Eskimos against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, and the regular season concludes on Nov. 3 in B.C. when the Lions host the Calgary Stampeders.
And if 2017 proved anything to CFL fans, it’s that any team in this league can win the Grey Cup.
Well, except for Montreal, which is undertaking what looks to be a lengthy rebuild under GM Kavis Reed and new head coach Mike Sherman. Will Sherman be coaching the Alouettes in 2019? I’d bet against it.
You can also scratch Winnipeg off that list because, well, they just don’t win Grey Cups in the ‘Peg anymore, do they? (Psst, their last championship came 28 years ago.) Also, starting quarterback Matt Nichols will miss the first four to six weeks with a knee injury. Don’t panic, Bombers fans, there’s always next year. Maybe.
You might as well add B.C. to the group of non-contending teams, even though it would be nice to see Wally Buono win it all in his farewell season. For that to happen, the Lions must have QB Jonathon Jennings perform like he did in 2016 and not 2017.
I reluctantly have to admit that I don’t envision the Ticats playing at Commonwealth Stadium on Nov. 25. Hamilton, once again, has to trudge through a brutally hard schedule to start the season, and head coach June Jones is tasked with handling a tricky quarterback situation with incumbent starter Jeremiah Masoli hearing the footsteps of former NFLer Johnny Manziel behind him.
I really like the talent that Chris Jones has stockpiled in Saskatchewan. If Zach Collaros can somehow find time behind what looks like a leaky offensive line in Regina, then the Roughriders have a shot at Grey Cup glory.
Ottawa can get to the big dance, too. If starting QB Trevor Harris can stay healthy — and honestly, we can say this about every team in the league (except for Montreal; sorry, Als fans) — then the Redblacks will be a contender come November.
Toronto can definitely go back-to-back. The Argonauts weren’t expected to do anything positive last year, weeks after GM Jim Popp and head coach Marc Trestman landed in Toronto. But the Argos shocked the league and went all the way. The scary thing is, their team should be even better this season. Look out!
The class of the CFL remains in Alberta, where the Eskimos and Calgary Stampeders will joust for the top spot in the league. If the Canadian Football League was comprised of one division, instead of East vs. West, these two clubs would have probably met in the final over the last number of years.
Edmonton, Calgary and Toronto are my top Grey Cup contenders. Ottawa, Saskatchewan and Hamilton have a good shot. I think Winnipeg and B.C. are darkhorses. And Montreal (again, you have my sympathy) has no hope.
If I’m forced to make a prediction, I’ll pick the Eskimos to beat the Argos.
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