Canadian Football League training camps kick off this weekend, officially starting the countdown to the 107th Grey Cup on November 24 in Calgary.
Over the next four weeks, players will be competing for jobs and starting positions, coaches and player personnel staff will determine what their teams will look like, and fans, well, they’re just jacked that football is back.
Any prognostications as to how each of the league’s nine teams will fare this season are, as of right now, based on what we see on paper.
But that won’t stop me from unleashing the season’s first CFL power rankings.
1. Calgary Stampeders. The defending champions are not only No. 1 by default, they still are going to be a tough out in 2019. There are a lot of changes on defence but with QB Bo Levi Mitchell — a two-time Grey Cup champion and last year’s Most Outstanding Player — still chucking the ball, the Stamps remain the CFL’s top seed.
2. Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Head coach Mike O’Shea may employ the most balanced roster in the league, but at the end of the day the Bombers will need quarterback Matt Nichols to make the jump into elite level status to challenge for a championship.
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3. Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Orlondo Steinauer is the new head coach in Steeltown and he inherits a talented team that may have the clearest path to a division title with Ottawa undergoing a facelift and Toronto and Montreal in full rebuild mode.
4. B.C. Lions. The addition of star quarterback Mike Reilly and receiver Duron Carter will greatly improve B.C. offensive fortunes. Now new head coach DeVone Claybrooks has to push all the right buttons.
5. Edmonton Eskimos. In what amounted to a nearly complete makeover, the Eskimos added QB Trevor Harris, receiver Greg Ellingson and linebacker Larry Dean this off-season. But we’ve seen many times in the past that making a lot of changes doesn’t guarantee success.
6. Saskatchewan Roughriders. Speaking of changes, the Riders have a tonne of talent, but with uber boss Chris Jones long gone, the responsibility of guiding Saskatchewan falls on rookie head coach Craig Dickenson. A healthy Zach Collaros would greatly improve the Roughriders’ chances in 2019.
7. Ottawa Redblacks. The Redblacks are seventh on the list primarily due to their trip to last year’s Grey Cup. Ottawa, along with Toronto and Montreal, have a gargantuan question mark at the most important position on the field, quarterback.
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8. Toronto Argonauts. Ricky Ray retired just weeks ago, leaving the starting QB duties to James Franklin. If he doesn’t start to live up to hype that followed him from Edmonton, it’s going to be a long season in the big smoke.
9. Montreal Alouettes. Not only is the team’s ownership status in flux, the on-field product leaves a lot to be desired. It has been a revolving door at quarterback since Hall of Famer Anthony Calvillo retired after the 2013 season, but at least the Alouettes don’t have to deal with the Johnny Manziel circus this season.