Wednesday, June 24, 2015

2015 CFL Predictions: The Bold and the Obvious

Hamilton Tiger-Cats returner Brandon Banks is one of many players expected to have huge seasons in 2015.

The 2015 season kicks off on Thursday and I have a few predictions to put out there before I hear Rod Black's voice crack when he exclaims: "And the 2015 CFL season is officially kicked off." 

I'd like to be able to say that I'm completely confident in my predictions, but that would be a lie. The bold ones are essentially gut-feelings, so be sure to come back to this post in a couple months and laugh at what was wrote. I'll be on Twitter to accept the ridicule with no potential sorry excuse. 

You can read a detailed piece of my West Division predictions here, and East Division predictions here.

Playoff predictions: 

West Semi-Final: Edmonton over Winnipeg

East Semi-Final: Saskatchewan over Montreal

West Final: Edmonton over Calgary

East Final: Hamilton over Saskatchewan

Grey Cup: Hamilton over Edmonton

There you have it, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats are my projected Grey Cup champions. Keep in mind, while predicting the two teams that meet in the Grey Cup is logical, predicting the outcome of a game that won't be played for another five months is a complete toss-up. I'm going with the Ti-Cats simply because it'll be their third consecutive trip to the big game. 

And now for some individual stats...

Projected 2015 Individual Leaderboards: 

A) Quarterbacks: 

You'll hear me refer to the new rules the CFL implemented frequently throughout this post. I think we'll see an improvement in the offensive play, although defences will still make games very competitive. 

Starting with the quarterbacks, I think we could possibly see up to five 4,000 yard passers. Saskatchewan's Darian Durant believes he can pass for over 6,000 yards, which I don't buy at all and would be impressed to see a single signal-caller join the 5,000 yard club. Durant, Mike Reilly, Zach Collaros, Bo Levi Mitchell and Drew Willy are all solid bets to have big seasons if they can manage to stay healthy. 

Projected passing totals: 

1. Mike Reilly, Edmonton: 4,700 yards passing, 36 touchdowns, 12 interceptions

2. Bo Levi Mitchell, Calgary: 4,200 yards, 31 touchdowns, 9 interceptions

3. Drew Willy, Winnipeg: 4,150 yards passing, 20 touchdowns, 15 interceptions

4. Zach Collaros, Hamilton: 4,100 yards passing, 28 touchdowns, 11 interceptions

5. Darian Durant, Saskatchewan: 3,800 yards passing, 25 touchdowns, 16 interceptions. 

B) Runningbacks 

The new rules will also affect the CFL's run game and it's bell-cows, slightly diminishing their involvement in the offence with possibly less 1st down hand-offs. Calgary's Jon Cornish and BC's Andrew Harris are the only two runningbacks that I see surpassing 1,000 yards. Cornish is an easy bet as he did so last year in only nine games, while Harris as also an elite 'back who'll be playing in an offence that should be very run-heavy. Montreal's Tyrell Sutton and Edmonton's Kendial Lawrence, pending what his actual role in the offence will be, may not reach the four-figure plateau, but could challenge Harris for the total-yards-from-scrimmage crown. 

Projected rushing totals: 

1. Jon Cornish, Calgary: 1,500 yards, 11 touchdowns 

2. Andrew Harris, BC: 1,100 yards, seven touchdowns 

3. Tyrell Sutton, Montreal: 850 yards, seven touchdowns

4. Paris Cotton, Winnipeg: 750 yards, five touchdowns. 

5. Anthony Allen, Saskatchewan: 700 yards, five touchdowns. 

C) Receivers: 

As someone who loves offence and superstars, it was somewhat sad to see only three pass-catchers individually account for 1,000 yards of receiving last year. Since I have the quarterbacks' numbers improving in 2015, I can say confidently that the receivers' numbers will follow suit. With defensive backs no longer being able to clutch and grab, and with hopefully a clean bill of health, our superstar receivers whom the fans love ever so much will return. 

Projected receiving totals: 

1. Adarius Bowman, Edmonton: 1,500 yards, 10 touchdowns 

2. Eric Rogers, Calgary: 1,400 yards, 12 touchdowns 

3. Weston Dressler, Saskatchewan: 1,300 yards, 7 touchdowns

4. Chad Owens, Toronto: 1,250 yards, 9 touchdowns 

5. Clarence Denmark, Winnipeg: 1,200 yards receiving, 4 touchdowns

CFL awards: 

Most Outstanding Player: QB Mike Reilly, Edmonton

He'll have a monster year with the Eskimos, leading them to the Grey Cup. Both his passing and rushing stats will jump off the page. 
Update: Mike Reilly is likely done for the season with a knee injury. My new pick is Bomber QB Drew Willy. 

Most Outstanding Canadian: RB Jon Cornish, Calgary 

This would be the third consecutive year Cornish will have won the award. If he stays healthy, he can't be stopped. 

Most Outstanding Defensive Player: LB Dexter McCoil, Edmonton 

A sightly bold pick here, but McCoil was a ball-hawk in his rookie season. He has freakish athleticism and led the Eskimos in tackles, defensive touchdowns and was tied for the CFL's interception lead. 

Most Outstanding Rookie: G Sukh Chungh, Winnipeg

Drafted second overall by the Bombers not even two months ago, Sukh Chungh has already earned a starting position. His incredible athleticism and intelligence have impressed Winnipeg's coaching staff every day. 

Most Outstanding Special Teams Player: PR Brandon Banks, Hamilton

The league installed another new rule to open up the return game, so I definitely think this award will go to a returner. Banks is part of a great special teams group led by coordinator Jeff Reinebold that will be dynamic in 2015. 

Most Outstanding Lineman: G Brendon Labatte, Saskatchewan:

With former Calgary Stampeders centre Brett Jones gone to the NFL, I think Labatte is now the clear-cut top offensive lineman in the CFL.

10 Thoughts and Predictions: 

1. Much like in 2014, the Eastern Division will start terribly slow. The Argonauts play their first four games out West followed by a divisional game in Hamilton before finally playing their home-opener August 8th against Saskatchewan. 

The Alouettes play Calgary twice in their opening five games and could start 1-4, while the Redblacks are still gelling as an offence and start the year out West, so they'll possibly either start 1-6 or 2-5. Either way, CFL fans may revert back to insisting the league should implement a single-division playoff seeding format by labour day. 

2. If the Redblacks start as slow as I think they will, there's no way quarterback Henry Burris isn't holding a clipboard as Thomas Demarco's back-up by week nine. Burris will have no excuse as Ottawa did a great job acquiring talent to build around him, but still, it won't be enough to solve his accuracy woes. 

3. Training camp may be wrapped up, but there's still somewhat of a quarterback controversy brewing in "La Belle Province". Jonathon Crompton is currently Montreal's starter, but head coach Tom Higgins has made it pretty clear the 27 year-old pivot's job is far from secure. 

We already know Crompton isn't a field-general who'll carry the team to victory each week with big numbers. He's a game manager, but he still wins. As long as Crompton keeps his team's record around an even .500, he'll keep his job, no matter how he performes. But I can't see this happening. Dan Lefevour takes over by week six. 

4. BC Lions defensive end Alex Bazzie will be the lone breakout edge-rusher from 2014 to suffer a sophomore slump. Bazzie hit double-digits with his sack total last season, however he's currently listed as a back-up and could've been a product of the system last year. I also think Toronto's Ricky Foley, BC's Khreem Smith and Ottawa's Justin Capicciotti will see their numbers fall off. 

6. Out in Edmonton, I think Shamawd Chambers regresses in his fourth season with the Eskimos. A former first round pick, Chambers will start the season on the six game injured list, giving veterans Nate Coehoorn and Cory Watson a chance to lock down their spot, while 2014 first round draft pick Devon Bailey will get an opportunity as well. Chambers' season high for receiving yards is a mere 465. 

7. The Saskatchewan Roughriders will lead the league in penalties. It's a known fact that they had the most holding infractions called against them in 2014, and if they weren't first in total-penalty-yards-against, they were close. I think Saskatchewan's veteran secondary will struggle to adjust the to new role changes and it will hurt the team all season. 

8. There'll be a high number of veteran defensive backs that'll be on the bench by mid-season. Certain players that depend on their ability to play physical and impede a receiver's route will be exposed by the new rules and eventually replaced. Geoff Tisdale was the first to experience this, who's next? 

Patrick Watkins? Terrell Maze? Brandon Stewart? 

I expect many veterans to be affected. 

9. The speedy Brandon Banks will out-duel Ottawa's Chris Williams in the return game this year. While numbers show Brandon Banks is pretty average, I'm still predicting he'll have a massive year with Jeff Reinebold drawing up returns. Meanwhile, Ottawa's special teams are a mess that perhaps not even Williams can meet his full potential in, however the new rules will undoubtedly see punt return averages increase, and Williams will be right behind Banks. I'll set the 'over/under' for punt return touchdowns for the two as 5.5 and will take the 'over' for Banks.

10. Toronto's defence may have holes all over, but I'm quite confident newly signed defensive back A.J. Jefferson will stand out and earn All-Star nods. Jefferson, a four year NFL veteran, locked down receivers during the pre-season and has an interception to show for it. Expect teams to shy away from throwing towards him once the lanky 6'1", 200lbs cornerback pads his stats early on.

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