To state that followers of the CFL, and more specifically the Toronto Argonauts were displeased with the league’s schedule would be an understatement. A good portion of fans and ticket holders of the Argos, in particular, see the CFL’s 2023 schedule for Toronto as a slap in the face towards them and the now 18-time Grey Cup Champions.
The final piece to the 2023 Toronto Argonauts regular season schedule was revealed earlier this week with the announcement by the CFL that the Boatmen will play the Riders again in Touchdown Atlantic.
Without further ado, let’s delve into Double Blue’s 2023 schedule. Week by week, the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of it all.
The Grey Cup Champion Toronto Argonauts Open The CFL Season On A Bye
The good: Even though it’s not desirable. There is a competitive advantage to opening the CFL season on a bye week. Not only do the Argonauts stay in Ontario for all of training camp, and the preseason. But it gives them two weeks to prepare for their first opponent. Last season, the Boatmen were in the same predicament. They used the two weeks to set their roster, heal up any wounds from camp, and got a chance to fully scout their opponent’s play in Week 1. Although, the Argos barely snuck by Montreal in Week 2 of the 2022 season. (David Cote says hello). It certainly didn’t hurt the Boatmen on their voyage into the year.
The bad: Having a bye week so early in the season has a temporary advantage but over the long haul, it can hurt a team having to use one so early in a 21-week regular season.
The ugly: How does a league not have its defending champion open up its regular season? The CFL unfortunately at times, misses the boat on the most obvious things leagues should do. It’s understandable in a nine-team league, that someone has to have a bye to open the season. There’s no getting around that. But you must make an exception for your league champion. Any other league would have its champions face off against a marquee franchise to open a new season. The CFL misfired mightily on not scheduling the Boatmen in a Grey Cup rematch against a team like Winnipeg.
Week 2: Toronto Argonauts Host The Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Sunday Night, June 18th, 7 pm ET at BMO Field
The good: A marquee matchup under the big lights. This setting should be in a primetime slot. Especially when considering TV ratings. It’s also a fitting way for Toronto to open its campaign, even if it’s a week later than it should be. As a bonus for those who have no love lost for the hated Ti-Cats, hoisting another championship banner in front of them is sweet but evil justice.
The bad: From a family perspective, although it is summertime, scheduling late games on a Sunday is not always advantageous for drawing in the younger crowd. Even if kids have no school the next day. The last day of school for most GTA boards is June 30th.
The ugly: See Week 1’s bye. This game should have opened the CFL season.
Week 3: Toronto Argonauts Travel Out West On Sunday, June 25th, at 7 pm ET To Face The Edmonton Elks
The good: After spending nearly two months at home from May to late June. An early-season west coast trip is not a bad thing. In fact, the Argos have only one road trip until Week 6 in mid-July. That’s an early-season advantage for Toronto. You will have to pay that bill later in the year. Even still, it gives the team a chance to get off to a good start mentally and physically. The seven days in between the emotions of the opener is also positive.
The bad: Save for last season’s win by Toronto in Edmonton. The Argos haven’t had a lot of success making this journey in the past. A loss in the opener would only make this trip that much more daunting. Things can turn on a championship team fast if you don’t get off to a good start. See the NFL’s 2021 Super Bowl champion LA Rams.
The ugly: There really isn’t anything supremely negative to harp on here. Perhaps Argos fans would have preferred a trip to beautiful Vancouver to face the Lions instead. Traveling fans could complain about the time of the game. But I think it would nitpicking to go that route. There’s plenty more to complain about as move forward with the schedule.
Week 4: Boatmen Back At BMO, To Battle The B.C. Lions, Monday Night July 3rd
The good: The Argos head back home with an added day’s rest to face the B.C. Lions. Depending on what happens with Nathan Rourke, and his future NFL aspirations, this can be a quality marquee early-season CFL game.
The bad: From a TV perspective. It’s understandable to want this game on in primetime. From a spectator standpoint. The difficulties of navigating to an Argos game with family in tow on a Monday Night create challenges for drawing a favorable crowd. This game would have been better served as an afternoon game on the weekend to accommodate fans and family who mostly live on the outskirts of the GTA.
The ugly: This starts a brutal stretch where the defending champion Argonauts will not be in front of their home crowd until Week 10 on August 13th. Six weeks after Toronto plays their second home game. Perhaps Toronto FC will be happy that their field won’t be compromised during this stretch. But it’s an egregious error on the CFL’s part to space out home games in this manner.
Week 5: Toronto Argonauts Enter Their Second Bye Week
The good: Hard to find any positives in this. Other than the usual benefits players and coaches have in resetting and reassessing as they are afforded extra time to prepare for their next opponent.
The bad: The Argonauts will have had very little time to form their identity during this period of the season. The stops and starts to their campaign are a hindrance having only played only three games. With a week one bye, having another one four weeks later is nonsensical. It just puts the team in a bad position by backloading so many games.
The ugly: The start of a brutal stretch of no home games, four road trips, with one game disguised as a home game, which is really a neutral site contest. The league did the Argos no favors here.
Week 6: Toronto Resumes Their Season In Montreal On Friday Night July 14th
The good: Toronto has some added time to prepare for this crucial divisional game. Just like last season, the Boatmen and Alouettes will only play each other three times during the regular season. The narrow margin of victory in the Argos-Als games decided the East in 2022. Montreal will be on short rest, having played at BC five days earlier.
The bad/ugly: I am lumping these two categories together. Because from a standalone and competitive perspective. There really isn’t much to gripe about here. It’s really what has come before and what will follow that makes the positioning of this game an issue.
Week 7: Argonauts Hit The Hammer, On Friday Night July 21st
The good: The fact that the Ti-Cats games with the Argos are spread out this season is a good thing. The last two years of watching the CFL’s greatest rivals share an entire month and change of head-to-head battles was hard to bear even for the league’s most ardent fans of this rivalry.
The bad: Back-to-back road games against division rivals can be especially challenging. Hamilton will have an added day of rest as well heading into this game. It’s a minor advantage but couple that with the Argonauts playing back-to-back against East rivals add to Hamilton’s favor.
The ugly: I get it from a travel perspective. But do the Argos have to play their evil Ontario brothers five times a season every year? Some variation from the new norm would be appreciated. Toronto will play Hamilton four times in a season for the third straight campaign. Prior to the two teams playing four times in 2021, this many games between the two rivals hadn’t happened since 2012. Too much of a good thing is overkill.
Week 8: Touchdown Atlantic Returns On Saturday, Afternoon July 29th, With An Argos-Riders Rematch
The good: TD Atlantic in 2022 was a success. And the Argonauts being a part of this tradition is a good thing. It’s an honour in many respects that Toronto has been chosen to play in this game again. Hopefully one day, the region will have its own team to cheer for. But in the meantime, if this becomes a regular thing, the Argos could in theory pick up new fans in Halifax.
The bad: Very few fan bases are as passionate or will travel to neutral sites to watch their teams as Rider nation will and have in the past. However, that creates a competitive imbalance in this type of setting that is supposed to be neutral. It wouldn’t have been a bad thing if this game featured divisional opponents instead. But choosing who will be the “host team” in that scenario creates another area of grievance. In the future, the CFL should look toward a workaround where divisional teams who play an odd number of games against each other play this neutral site affair instead.
The ugly: Road game #3 in a row for the Boatmen disguised as a home contest. For the second consecutive season, the Argos lose a home game on their schedule. Toronto keeps getting the short end of the stick from the league.
Week 9: Toronto heads to Calgary on Friday Night, August 4th
The good: It’s time for some serious stretching. Typically, any clash with Calgary is a great measuring stick game. So from a football perspective, this contest should provide a good barometer of where the Argos stand as they near the midway point of their season.
The bad: This is the worst of the Argos’ spacing in between games for their entire 2023 schedule from a competitive standpoint. Toronto has only five days to prepare for the Stampeders. It’s a nearly impossible spot for them to win.
The ugly: Not only are the Argonauts playing their fourth straight road game in less than four weeks. But they will see the Stampeders twice in their next three games. I could surmise that this stretch of the season could in theory kill the Argos. But we haven’t gotten to the worst part of their schedule yet.
Week 10: The Argos Finally Return Home For The REDBLACKS on Sunday Night August 13th
The good: Toronto is finally at home with added rest after an ungodly stretch of road games. If the Boatmen reach this point of the 2023 season with their heads still above water in the standings. It will be a major accomplishment.
The bad: You have to wonder what shape the Argonauts team will be in when this game happens. With a bye week coming up. Players may have mentally and physically checked out by this point. Toronto isn’t exactly coming home fresh.
The ugly: Yet another Sunday night game on the Argos schedule which serves as a hindrance toward fans and families who want to come out to BMO. It could also prohibit Ottawa fans from attending, who would be more likely to show up for a Saturday game. Perhaps the Argonauts’ absence away since early July will make fans appreciative of seeing their team back in the Six. It could also give added time for tickets to sell. But being out of sight, and out of mind doesn’t help the defending champs stay prevalent in their own city.
Week 11: The Toronto Argonauts Get Their Last Bye Week Of The 2023 Season
The good: The appropriate time for the Boatmen to have a bye on their schedule. Based on the stretch of games they just endured.
The bad/ & the ugly: The calm before an even worse storm enters the horizon. The Argos play ten straight weeks of football after this. Winning the East becomes imperative at this point just to get another bye week as salvation for what’s to come.
Week 12: Argos Get Calgary At Home On Friday Night, August 25th
The good: There’s always an advantage playing a team for the second time coming off a bye week. The Stampeders are a difficult challenge but Toronto gets them at home with added time to adjust from their first meeting with Calgary.
The bad: Yet another night game on Toronto’s schedule. It’s better than Thursday night, I suppose. But the time in the scheduling is still not favorable to the entire fan base.
The ugly: It’s out of the utmost respect for Calgary but playing them twice in three games is tough. This is not exactly an easy landing spot coming off your bye week.
Week 13: 52nd Labour Day Classic At Hamilton, Monday Afternoon September 4th
The good: The Argos’ nine games with eight or more days of rest are the most in the CFL and their five games with seven or more days of rest are second most in the league. For this crucial game. It’s important to have added time to prepare.
The bad &/ugly: Honestly, in a schedule that has a lot of issues. There isn’t much to nitpick about in this particular game. There are bigger fish that will or have already been fried.
Week 14/15: Home & Home Games With Montreal, Saturday, September 9th At 1PM ET @ BMO & Friday September 15th @ Alouettes
The good: For the traditionalist, It’s never easy but back-to-back games with rivals can be a good thing. Argos fans finally get an afternoon game at BMO Field. The first and last. Enjoy it this one time only.
The bad: The Argonauts will get the Als at home on short rest after playing the LD Classic. Montreal will have a full week to prepare for Toronto.
The ugly: Even though the CFL is double dipping East games here to make up for the lost time. For some crazy reason, the league has Toronto playing three of their last five games of the season against non-divisional opponents. A period of the year that should be reserved for primarily divisional games.
Week 16: Toronto Argonauts Host The Ti-Cats Part 2, Saturday Night September 23rd
The good: East division stakes should be very high in this game. Toronto getting Hamilton late at home late in the season is on paper beneficial to them. Argos will have eight days of rest for this crucial battle.
The bad & the ugly: It’s tiresome to have to go back to this point. However, scheduling another night game in Toronto is not very friendly to the market. Toronto is getting a lot of primetime treatment by the league, and the CFL is working hard to avoid the NFL monster in the fall. But an afternoon game here would have sufficed.
Week 17: Grey Cup 109 Rematch Takes Place In Winnipeg Friday Night September 29th
The good: Depending on both teams’ outlooks by late September. On paper, this is one of the sexiest matchups on the entire CFL schedule. It’s a must-watch game.
The bad: There are so many things to pick apart here. Let’s start with, you would figure that the team that has made the Grey Cup three years in a row, would face off with the team that dethroned them more than once the following season. The Bombers are Argos should have met twice during 2023. Instead, Toronto has double dates with Edmonton and Saskatchewan.
The ugly: Missed opportunities all around by the CFL’s schedule makers. Booking this as a night game on a Friday night is smart. But if you were going to have this matchup between the Argos and Bombers be their lone showdown in 2023. It should have been the league’s opener instead. Rather than buried for later in the season. This could and should have been part two of the Grey Cup rematch during the CFL 2023 regular season. Instead, it’s positioned with less meaning.
Week 18: Friday Night October 6th, 150th Anniversary Celebration At BMO Versus The Elks
The good: For once perfect timing by the CFL. This game needed to happen in a primetime setting in Toronto. The October 6th game will be a 150th Anniversary celebration game as the Argonauts football club marks its milestone birthday.
The bad & ugly: Right place and time, wrong opponent. While there’s no denying that the Argos have a ton of history with every team in the CFL. The choice of Edmonton is not exactly a perfect one. This game would have been better reserved for Hamilton. The fact that the Argos are playing a late-season game against a non-divisional opponent is another miss by the league.
Week 19: Saturday Night October 14th, Home For Ottawa
The good: The Argos are playing back-to-back home games for the first time in 2023. It only took them 19 weeks. This could be the last home game of the 2023 season for the defending champs.
The bad & ugly: See the good. The fact that it took 19 weeks for the Argos to play two games in a row at home is nonsensical. What makes this worse however is that the REDBLACKS are getting a bye after this game, while Toronto heads out West.
For what it’s worth, and in fairness, there is a rationale behind not scheduling multiple home games in a row for CFL teams. The schedule makers like Trevor Hardy @CFLCapguy have interesting threads of information online to explain how a CFL schedule is formatted. For those who want to check it out.
Week 20: Saturday Afternoon October 21st Road Trip To Saskatchewan
The good: It’s challenging to find any positives in this scheduling.
The bad & ugly: Two games on the schedule feature the Riders and Argos. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. Minus the fact that they are losing a home game for the second year in a row in this series. But Toronto’s pairings with West teams in 2023 leave a lot to be desired. Perhaps Saskatchewan and Edmonton can exceed expectations in 2023. It’s always possible. But Toronto should have been playing Winnipeg twice instead this year.
Week 21: Regular Season Finale, Saturday Night September 28th In Ottawa
The bad & ugly: The good portion of this weekly schedule breakdown has been left blank for a reason. Not only are the Grey Cup champs playing their tenth game in a row without a break. But they are coming into this game after a trip out West. To make matters worse, the REDBLACKS will have two weeks to prepare for this game at home. They will be well rested awaiting the weary Argos.
Toronto Argonauts 2023 Schedule Final Analysis
On one hand, playing devil’s advocate, the CFL has positioned the Argonauts with 14 prime-time games. So that’s a sign of faith in their drawing power, in a sense. And by the looks of it, the overall CFL schedule is designed to be TV friendly.
The Canadian Football League is acknowledging the monster that is the National Football League by scheduling the majority of their games on Friday and Saturday nights. Even the league’s playoff schedule is getting out of the NFL’s way.
From a maximum viewership standpoint, you can’t blame the CFL for that strategy. After all, they are not alone in playing the avoidance game. Earlier this fall, Major League Baseball moved a World Series game on network television to steer clear of a regular season NFL game on Thursday night that was airing on a streaming service. That tells you all you need to know about the NFL’s drawing power.
Scheduling an entire league of odd-numbered teams is always challenging. Beyond tv scheduling, there is also a consideration for venue availability when it comes to finding the right fit over 21 weeks.
All that being stated, upon intense inspection and deliberation, it’s challenging not to view the CFL’s schedule of the Argonauts in 2023 as terrible. In so many respects.
Firstly, scheduling teams to play for ten or more straight weeks in a row is a safety issue. It not only leaves a team at a competitive disadvantage but it endangers the well-being of players physically and mentally. Quite frankly, I am surprised that the CFLPA hasn’t taken issue with this.
Secondly, not having your league champion open your season is really poor planning and a sign of disrespect toward your championship team. It’s inexcusable and embarrassing. It makes no business sense, whatsoever. The CFL dropped the ball in not only placing their winningest franchise on a bye in week one but limited the Grey Cup rematch to a late-season solo matchup.
Lastly, the overabundance of night games in Toronto is a disservice to the fan base and to the market the Argos play in. The start times will hurt ticket sales and league growth. In order to grow as a league, it’s a must that you engender your product to the next generation of CFL fans. Families and traveling fans will not be able to attend games in 2023 because of the CFL’s poor scheduling dates and times. The lack of balance in start times is a detriment.
On a positive note, if you are among the crowd of conspiracy theorists who believe that the CFL has a bias toward Toronto. The 2023 schedule should officially remove the tin foil hat from your head. As a Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa gift in exchange. You can keep the Argos are cheating the salary cap conspiracy in its place instead.
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