Ottawa Redblacks (2015: 12-6 SU, 12-6 ATS, 10-8 O/U)
The defending East Division champions will have a major challenge on their hands in trying to duplicate 2015’s success. Everything went right for Ottawa as it jumped from 2-16 in their expansion season to 12 wins and in the process advancing to the Grey Cup. Regression almost seems too obvious but keep in mind the East continues to be the weaker of the two divisions and the remaining teams all have question marks of some kind. Ottawa’s success came in large part because of 41-year-old quarterback Henry Burris who posted a 70.9% completion rate and an incredible 101 QB rating; 93.4 and 78.7 the previous two seasons. It’s not realistic to expect him to match 2015’s production. Burris does however possess one of the best receiving corps in the CFL led by Greg Ellingson, Chris Williams, Ernest Jackson and Brad Sinopoli.
Ottawa did lose upwards of a half dozen of their veteran players to free agency. The departures of offensive lineman Colin Kelly and defensive stalwarts Shawn Lemon, Justin Capicciotti, Keith Shologan and Jovon Johnson will be big obstacles to overcome early in the season. The Redblacks also suffered a critical injury in the preseason as projected starting running back William Powell was lost to a ruptured Achilles. They did sign a critical insurance policy at quarterback in Trevor Harris who performed well for an injured Ricky Ray with the Toronto Argos last season. Harris threw a CFL best 33 TDs last season and ranked third in passing yards at 4,354. With the aging Burris unlikely to make it through an entire season unscathed, Harris is top notch backup.
The loss of offensive coordinator Jason Maas (HC Edmonton) and his highly efficient and effective no-huddle, up-tempo offense could be felt. Newly appointed OC Jaime Elizondo takes over and while capable, he’s simply not on Maas’ level at this point. The talent is there for another run at the East Division title but as mentioned, it’s tough not to project some sort of step back after last year’s 10-win improvement. It will be a question of value and where the betting markets price this team. If lined among the elite, Ottawa may have a difficult time making its backers money.
Be a part of Canadian resident Ian Cameron's 2016 CFL campaign. Action gets underway late June and runs through late November. Ian has been a consistent producer in the CFL with 55% winners since joining Sportsmemo in 2012.