And so commences the season to decide which Western Division team will beat the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the Grey Cup. And, if you listen to anyone (or everyone) on TSN, it will be Calgary. They love Calgary so much, they should marry Calgary. (Back in the good ole days, the season was played to decide which Western Division team would play the Montreal Allouettes in the Grey Cup, until the Saskatchewan Roughriders singlehandedly changed that to which team would lose to the Allouettes in the Grey Cup.) Anyway, these are my dumb predictions for the regular season final standings, from worst to best.
Ottawa Redblacks: Nope. Not this year. Still lousy. They appear to have a strong receiving corps but they do not have a similarly strong offensive line and running game. Worse yet, Henry Burris is too old and the Redblacks are going to learn that having a nice smile doesn’t win ballgames. This team needs to develop a good young quarterback and think about two years from now, when they will start becoming competitive… or folding for the third time. But don’t worry, Horn Chen will bring football back to Ottawa and resurrect the Rough Riders name. Did I tell you how much I hate the Rough Riders? No? Well, I hate them, a lot. Especially the 1976 Rough Riders. Tony Gabriel made a pact with the devil while standing on the sidelines as the game drew to an end. The devil promised him that he would be allowed to make the greatest play in Ottawa football history. And the devil came through by driving the franchise into oblivion 20 years later.
Montreal Allouettes: Quarterback Jonathon Crompton looks like a guy who says “Awesome!” a lot. He won’t be saying that very much this year, at least not during football games. It’s nice to see a new face emerge, but he’s not going to take anyone by surprise this year. The rest of the team is blah. This team won’t even make the playoffs.
Toronto Argonauts: They will be one of only two Eastern teams that make the playoffs. I don’t know why they are any good, but they are. Ricky Ray is not the reason, although he is the best quarterback in the league when healthy. Most of the time during games he looks like a guy trying to remember what he did with the remote, except after touchdowns, when he looks like he just woke up early on Saturday morning and suddenly remembered that he doesn’t have to go to work. Curtis Steele is under-rated and under-used. Argo suck, and yet they win.
Hamilton Tiger-Cats: Ti-Cats in first place at the end. What the hell, why not? Coach Austin does nothing but Grey Cup appearances, so even if they don’t end up in first, they’ll be going to the Grey Cup, so who really cares about the regular season? Like Toronto, I can’t figure out why this team is any good. By the end of the year, it will seem like they should have a losing record and yet somehow they will end up 10-8 and in first.
BC Lions: BC sucks and will this year. There are too many new players learning a complicated new offensive system installed by Cortez, the cerebral master of the balanced offense. The amazing glass quarterback Travis Lulay will not make it through more than a handful of games, which will further impact continuity as they try to get him into games at the expense of developing their next quarterback. The defense will be solid and sometimes spectacular, but it will not be enough. By the end of the season, they may play spoiler of some sort, but that will be the best they can expect.
If anything, they’ll head east for the playoffs and might play in the Eastern Final.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers: They exploded out of the gate last year, but hit a brick wall when the league figured them out. Quarterback Drew Willy is a good man and prototype pocket quarterback who will improve every year until he is wins the Grey Cup, but it won’t be in 2015. The pressure will be too much this year for a berth in a home Grey Cup and the team will wilt. As part of their evolution towards being a consistently strong team, this year they’ll head east for the playoffs and might play in the Eastern Final.
Edmonton Eskimos: They surprised everyone last year but they were only two dropped passes away from losing the Western Semi-Final to a team that was playing without a quarterback. Head Coach Jones is a ruthless sonofabitch, and I say this with the utmost respect, but this team does not have the talent to compete against the two top western division teams. A ravenous defensive line does not a defence make. Bowman is highly overrated and will be shut down this year, having been one of the main Eskimo surprises because everyone was worried about Fred Stamps. Losing their starting running back doesn’t help, either.
Saskatchewan Roughriders: This team will default into second in the west. They are not good enough to get pass Calgary and not bad enough to fall behind everyone else in the West. If former Defensive Coordinator Richie Hall was still around this year, this defense would lead the league in most categories. As it stands now, I have no idea how they will do with a new system in place. I always preferred insanity-based defenses like Etcheverry’s, but there was a quiet genius to Richie Hall’s World War One trench warfare. There would be some breakouts here and there, but for the most part, opposing offenses would have to fight for every inch, and they would pay for it. This year, who knows? I presume the front four will dominate, Emry and Brackenridge will be solid/spectacular, but after that, the future is cloudy. Offensively, again, a new system will slow things down in the early part of the season, but the team lucked out with the new rules that will favour offenses, so they might be able to settle in quickly. If Richardson comes through this year, the Riders will have a terrifying aerial attack reminiscent of the Austin-lead Riders of the late-80s and early-90s.
Calgary Stampeders: Conventional wisdom says this team will repeat as Grey Cup Champions (and TSN won’t shut up about it) and I am nothing if not conventional (and lazy), so even as a proud member of Rider Nation, I must admit that the Stamps are the best in the league with no weaknesses. Strong coaching, outstanding quarterback, a good receiving corps, the most consistently solid defense, and continuity in both offensive and defensive systems. However, I say this: In order to be the man you have to beat the man, and Calgary got lucky last year when Darian Durant got hurt and the Stamps were not required to play the Riders in the Western Final. This outstanding 2015 Calgary team will need to get through a Rider team that will just be rounding into form around the time of the Western Final. Two heavyweights will slug it out in McMahon Stadium. That will decide which team is the man. My only caveat: Brett Jones’s departure won’t help the Stamps, and the loss of that fat little bastard Nik Lewis may be felt more deeply than anticipated. He was the heart of this team who plunged the dagger into the heart of Riderville many times. He’s like a combination of Geroy Simon and Milson Jones.
Thus spake Zarathustra.