Strength Ranking: Getting Things Started for Week 1 -

Strength Ranking: Getting Things Started for Week 1 –

TORONTO – After a full training camp with all the pre-season games in place, we are preparing to start a new season of the CFL in early June. After two very tough years of the pandemic, it’s great to get back to the usual schedule, with a sense of getting back to normal about a game that has been disrupted for far too long.

As we head into the season opener Thursday night between the Calgary Stampeders and the Montreal Alouette, we find one constant over the past two years of turmoil and it’s the Gray Cup holders.

It’s a far cry from a spoiler alert to let you know that our first power rating for the 2022 season starts with the team that has primarily held that spot for the past year, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. As they take their first steps toward what could be a history-making peat trio, they do so knowing that the target on their backs has only grown. There won’t be free points on the Bomber Bingo Card this season, but they know it.

While the other eight teams in the league target the defending champions twice, let’s see how they all stack up while everyone sits at 0-0.

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1. Winnipeg Blue Bombers

2021 record: 11-3
Off-season standings: 1

Does anyone else scroll down the page and expect to see the bombers in this place? It’s a fair reflection of how good this team is, first climbing to the top of the CFL mountain in 2019, and then showing that dominance last year in defense of their Gray Cup victory. There are changes in Winnipeg this year – Andrew Harris’ move to Argos is the key move – but provided the bombers can produce Brady Oliveira and Johnny Augustine, the rest of the core we’ve known/loved/fear should continue depending on your allegiances, and reigns as business as usual.

2. Hamilton Tiger Cats

2021 record: 8-6
Off-season standings: 2

The Ticats move into the regular season having made their choice in the quarterback, with Dane Evans taking the clear first place for the first time in his career. The obvious challenge to attack would be consistency from week to week. Injuries to both Evans and Jeremiah Masoli last year were to blame, but when Evans was healthy in 2019 we saw what he was capable of. Ja’Gared Davis’ loss on the D streak was mitigated by an off-season signing with Micah Johnson, and like Winnipeg – these teams always seem to be tied together – the team’s core is back, looking to take that last step towards a ‘Grey Cup’ victory.

3. Toronto Argonauts

2021 record: 9-5
Off-season standings: 3

Argos took over a team that was close to making it to a Gray Cup match in 2021 and looked for experienced vets to help them get over the hump. Andrew Harris knows a thing or three about winning the Gray Cups and Brandon Banks has plenty of motivation this year to show that he can still play at a high level and help his team win. The addition of Jarged Davis will bolster a defense that needed more punches last year. Continuity within the organization at the moment should only help Argos as they look to move to the top of the competitive Eastern Division.

4. Saskatchewan Rough

2021 record: 9-5
Off-season standings: 4

With the Raiders hosting the Gray Cup this year and the team on the cusp of reaching the big game in the last two seasons with Cody Fajardo at QB, a storm of expectations is brewing in Saskatchewan. At the top of the list, we will see Fajardo lead an explosive attack on the pitch, starting this week against Hamilton. Some players rise to the occasion in high pressure situations. We’ll soon begin to see how the Riders team responds to being under the microscope for the next few months.

5. Calgary Stampeders

2021 record: 8-6
Off-season standings: 6

After a bear year in 2021, it’s hard to know what to expect from the stamps this season. Bo Levi Mitchell put in less than excellent numbers in his only pre-season game, making 3-10 passes for 37 yards with two interceptions, but the Stamps single-handedly beat the Lions’ roster and that’s a shadow of what the team will already offer this week when they host Edmonton. Mitchell sat down Friday in Edmonton, but the Stamps dominated the Elks, with a 37-7 win. Mitchell is a heavily decorated CFL vet and vet at the time, so we think he’ll be sharp and ready when the curtain comes up on him Thursday.

6. Ottawa Redblocks

2021 record: 3-11
Off-season standings: 7

In our off-season power rankings, we’ve said this is going to be a team to watch by June and it’s absolutely true now. The talent is undoubtedly in Ottawa and we saw glimpses of it in the team’s pre-season work. Now we can see coach Paul Lapolis trying to pull it all together. A good start in the East this year will be more important than it has been in a number of years. REDBLACKS are talented in every aspect of the ball and it will be interesting to see how they perform in the coming weeks in the highly competitive East Division.

7. Montreal Alouettes

2021 record: 7-7
Off-season standings: 5

Pre-season lessons are always sprinkled with grains of salt and asterisks, but we’ve got one takeaway from Alouettes so far: This squad can be surrounded by quarterback noise all season. The hype was raised Friday night at the TSN studio, when coach Kharry Jones slightly waived if Vernon Adams Jr. would be the starting quarterback in Thursday night’s game in Calgary. Despite the noise outside the locker room, Jones, Adams and Trevor Harris will have to keep it quiet and consistent both inside and on the field. That’s going to be an interesting thing, starting this week.

8. Black BC

2021 record: 5-9
Off-season standings: 8

The Lions have spent the past few months under the watchful eye of several league followers having immediately gone with Nathan Rourke as a starter when Michael Riley retired. In free agency, they added Michael O’Connor as his reserves and eyebrows rose across the country. Even leaving their Canadian status aside (a pretty cool story, by the way), the team tends to two very inexperienced QBs to take them into the season. You should never buy what teams sell in pre-season, good or bad, but both pivots looked strong in Friday’s pre-season win over Saskatchewan. Rourke will have to show he’s real, starting this week. If so, lions have something interesting to do with cooking.

9. Edmonton Alex

2021 record: 3-11
Off-season standings: 9

The question that loomed about Camp Elks when it opened is still there to some extent, four weeks later. Who is the starting quarterback? Chris Jones probably knows, but when you ask a question at this point in the season the team could have a long way to go. Nick Arbuckle played well in his pre-season game, but an injury kept him from showing what he could do in game two. Will this continue for the first week? Until we have a good sense of who will be at the center of this team, there is still a long way to go.

2022-06-06 21:16:01

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