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CFL 2023: Week One Power Rankings, Season Preview, And Predictions

The 2023 CFL season kicks off on Thursday night. Oddsmakers and prognosticators are banking on the Winnipeg Blue Bombers not only making it to their fourth straight Grey Cup but reclaiming their throne atop the Canadian Football League.

Odds to win the 2023 CFL Grey Cup

TeamOpening Odds
WinnipegWPG (Projected Win Total 12.5)+180
BCBC (Projected Win Total 10)+410
HamiltonHAM (Projected Win Total 10)+450
TorontoTOR (Projected Win Total 9.5)+550
CalgaryCGY (Projected Win Total 9.5)+600
OttawaOTT (Projected Win Total 7.5)+1,000
MontrealMTL (Projected Win Total 7.5)+1,100
SaskatchewanSSK (Projected Win Total 7.5)+1,400
EdmontonEDM (Projected Win Total 6.5)+2,600

CFL 2023 Season Overview

Was a dynasty denied in 2022 or delayed?

Last season, the CFL’s winningest franchise, the now 18-time champion Toronto Argonauts, thwarted a three-peat when they upset a 15-win Winnipeg team in Grey Cup 109.

However, a lot has transpired since last November’s surprising conclusion.

If possible, on paper, the highly motivated Bombers look stronger now than they did a year ago. They have brought the band back together while fortifying their foundation with building blocks from their recent championship past.

The rest of the CFL’s upper echelon is riding into 2023 with significant changes at the almighty quarterback position.

The defending Grey Cup Champion Argos, who will be celebrating their 150th anniversary, are sailing into a new campaign with Chad Kelly as their captain at the controls.

The B.C. Lions’ will be without one of the CFL’s greatest success stories in the modern era, Nathan Rourke. The record-breaking Canadian sensation is in Jacksonville, trying to make an NFL roster. In his huge shadow, B.C. is turning to Vernon Adams to try and recapture some of the magic Rourke created in 2022.

The Calgary Stampeders are turning the page and starting a new chapter without Bo Levi Mitchell. The latter is on a redemption tour in Hamilton to cement his legacy by winning the Ti-Cats a championship.

The rest of the CFL sees Edmonton and Ottawa in familiar positions, still trying to carve out a new winning culture. Could this be the year they finally rise from the basement?

While the Saskatchewan Roughriders and Montreal Alouettes have undergone significant changes as they look to reset, redirect, and alter their fortunes.

Here’s how I think all nine CFL teams stack up heading into the 2023 season, from the bottom to the top, along with my predicted record for each team.

CFL 2023 Week One Power Rankings/Season Predictions

#9: Ottawa REDBLACKS (2022 record: 4-14, missed playoffs)

For many, Ottawa is a sexy pick to emerge from the East.

The reason for optimism is that the REDBLACKS are rolling with well-respected CFL assistant Bob Dyce as their leader after a 1-3 stint as interim head coach in 2022. The hope is that Dyce will help change the team’s culture and losing ways. He’s assembled an accomplished coaching staff with the likes of Khari Jones and Barron Miles.

On paper, Ottawa looks as good as they have in years. The team has elite players on both sides of the ball, like DE Lorenzo Mauldin and WR Jaelon Acklin. They added DB Jovan Santos-Knox, among others, during the offseason.

However, ultimately what will determine whether Bob Dyce can turn around the Redblacks’ fortunes is quarterback play. They won’t get out of their doldrums until Ottawa gets consistent and high-level play from the position.

The team is banking on Jeremiah Masoli returning to the lineup and playing at top form. However, Masoli is still on the shelf recovering from a leg injury that wiped out his 2022 season. Masoli is not expected back until Week 4.

Nick Arbuckle is entrenched as the team’s pivot for the time being. Ottawa needs to avoid a slow start to change the trajectory of season’s past. If they can survive the early absence of Masoli and get him to play at a top level when he returns. Ottawa will push for the playoffs.

  • 2023 Prediction: 6-12 Last in The East

#8: Edmonton Elks (2022 record: 4-14, missed playoffs)

The climb back into contention for Edmonton has been highly challenging. A once prideful franchise has fallen on hard times. It’s gotten to the point where they can’t even win games at home. An unthinkable feat during the franchise’s glory days.

Chris Jones and his staff are trying to climb back up the mountain. An uphill battle considering the strength of the Western Division’s established winning teams like Winnipeg and Calgary. And now the emergence of the B.C. Lions.

Edmonton is looking to move up in class, and they spent this off-season making upgrades all over their roster. The one area that stands out is the team’s new receiving corps.

The Elks added Eugene Lewis, Kyran Moore, and Steven Dunbar Jr. The new group of pass catchers is teaming up with rising talent Dillon Mitchell. As a result, on paper, Edmonton’s new weapons, along with star RB Kevin Brown, have a chance to be one of the best offensive attacks in the league.

The continued progression of quarterback Taylor Cornelius and the Elks’ defense will determine their fate in 2023. A year ago, the latter gave up the most points in the CFL. Edmonton won’t win games if that area and Cornelius’s play don’t take a positive step forward this season. But they should find a way to win a game at home for the first time in four years, hopefully.

  • 2023 Prediction: 6-12 Last Place in The West

#7: Montreal Alouettes (2022 record: 9-9, lost Eastern Final)

Ranking a playoff team from a year ago this low in the power rankings seems harsh. But no team in the CFL has undergone the number of changes Montreal has this offseason.

The question is, will it ultimately be for the better?

Montreal has bid adieu to some of its best players from 2022 in Adarius Pickett, Trevor Harris, and megastar WR Geno Lewis, among many others.

The Als have a new owner in Pierre Karl Péladeau, a new QB in Cody Fajardo, and a new head coach in Jason Maas. The newly anointed trio at the top hold the key to the team’s success in 2023 and beyond.

On paper, the Alouettes don’t look like a better team than they were last season. There’s way too much uncertainty across the board heading into 2023.

Perhaps the alterations made to the Als will prove fruitful as the season progresses. But the Montreal faithful hope the overarching changes don’t live up to the old French saying, “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.”

  • 2023 Prediction: 7-11 Third In The East

#6: Saskatchewan Roughriders (2022 record: 6-12, missed playoffs)

No team was a bigger disappointment in the CFL last season than the Saskatchewan Roughriders. The Riders were supposed to be contenders for a Grey Cup but fell extremely hard. Murphy’s Law was in full effect for Saskatchewan in 2022.

A year later, the team made several critical tweaks to their roster. The biggest of note is the arrival of veteran quarterback Trevor Harris. The often underappreciated Harris should stabilize the Riders’ QB position. But the two veteran pickups on the offensive line of Philip Blake and Colin Kelly should help strengthen what was a glaring weakness for the Riders a year ago.

Saskatchewan has one of the CFL’s best rushing attacks, special teams units, and defenses. They should be better in 2023 than the disaster that occurred in 2022.

The Riders organization is not ready for a rebuild. They chose to stay the course with their head coach Craig Dickenson and decided to retool their roster for one more run. If Sask falters in 2023, they could blow the whole thing up and start again from scratch.

  • 2023 Prediction: 9-9 Fourth Place In The West, Crossover Playoff Team

#5: Calgary Stampeders (2022 record: 12-6, lost Western Semi-Final)

At some point, the eternally consistent Stampeders will fall out of the playoff picture. But I wouldn’t bet against Calgary doing that anytime soon. Not under the expert watch of GM John Hufnagel and head coach Dave Dickenson.

No team in the CFL has been a better model of consistency over the past decade than the Calgary Stampeders. Despite yearly changes to their roster, the Stamps stay in contention year after year. The anticipated drop-off never happens. The team continues to churn out and develop new stars when they move on from their old ones.

Quarterback Jake Maier outplayed Bo Levi Mitchell in the last two seasons. But this is the first time that keys to the kingdom are undoubtedly being handed to the 26-year-old. Calgary has a ton of talent offensively, both in the run and pass game. And very few teams are as well coached as the Stamps.

The departure of defensive standouts Jameer Thurman and Folarin Orimolade is significant. So it will be interesting to see if Calgary’s defence can overcome those losses. But knowing their track record, they probably will.

  • 2023 Prediction: 10-8 Third Place In The West

#4: B.C. Lions (2022 record: 12-6, lost Western Final)

The Leos are a well-rounded football team with some of the most dynamic players in the entire league. In particular, the team’s receiving corps stands out from the crowd.

B.C. had three receivers in 2022 that finished over 1,000 yards receiving. Lucky Whitehead, Dominique Rhymes, and Keon Hatcher. The trio’s stats are even more impressive, considering that only seven other receivers league-wide eclipsed that yardage total.

The naive expectation is that the Lions will pick up right where they left off a year ago. However, that’s if you choose to willfully ignore the fact that not only is superstar QB Nathan Rourke gone, but so are RB James Butler and All-Pro receiver Bryan Burnham. That’s a lot of productivity and leadership to lose from a year ago.

The key to BC’s 2023 season will be the play of Vernon Adams, or should he falter, Dane Evans. The team certainly has enough talent to be a contender. But for the Lions to rise to a championship level. They will need high-level play from their quarterback position.

  • 2023 Prediction: 10-8 Second Place In The West

#3: Hamilton Tiger-Cats (2022 record 7-10 lost East Semi-Final)

The Ti-Cats are poised to make a significant jump from a disappointing 2022 season.

Hamilton has had one of the most talented rosters in the entire CFL over the last few seasons. So it’s not surprising that seven Ti-Cats made TSN’s top 50 CFL player list.

What held Hamilton back a year ago was inconsistent play from their quarterback position.

Enter Bo Levi Mitchell.

After two seasons in Calgary that were below his Hall of Fame standards, the natural inclination is to write the 33-year-old Mitchell off. But the future CFL Hall of Famer is highly motivated to create a new narrative in what should be his final playing chapter.

The Ti-Cats have a lot of talent around Mitchell to aid him on his mission. The team’s biggest acquisition in the offseason, not named Bo, was RB James Butler. For the last few years, Hamilton has played musical chairs at that position. Adding a standout like Butler will enhance their offense greatly in the run-and-pass game.

Defensively, adding Jameer Thurman might trump the Butler and Mitchell moves. There may not be a better all-around football player and leader than Thurman. He will help stabilize a very talented defense on and off the field.

Hamilton is once again the host team for the Grey Cup. There’s a good chance they get back there after falling by the wayside a year ago.

  • 2023 Prediction: 10-8 Second In the East, Grey Cup Berth

#2: Toronto Argonauts, 2022 Record: 11-7, Won Grey Cup 109

Typically when a team wins a world championship. They don’t return the following season with a new look and an entirely different starting quarterback. The mojo is usually maintained at all costs, at least for the follow-up season.

The Boatmen are bucking that trend as they enter year #150 of their existence.

The CFL Champion Argos were fortunate to retain their entire coaching staff this offseason. Something that often doesn’t occur when a team wins a title.

Ryan Dinwiddie was able to hang on to promising young coaches like defensive coordinator Corey Mace. Toronto also retained most of its championship corps from 2022. For those reasons, I am bullish on the Boatmen’s chances of winning it all again in 2023.

Toronto has a chance to be one of the most well-balanced teams in the CFL this season. They have a super-talented roster loaded with Canadians who would start for every team, even if a ratio didn’t exist.

Toronto’s defensive front seven and run game should be top-tier. The Argonauts have a chance to be better in both those areas than they were last season.

However, there’s a boom or bust quality to the team. And it’s all tied into Toronto’s all-in approach to Chad Kelly. The Argonauts are banking on Kelly being a superstar this season. If he is, they could be better than they were a year ago. If not, Toronto will stumble from its perch atop the CFL.

  • 2023 Prediction: 11-7, First place in the East, Eastern Final Exit

#1: Winnipeg Blue Bombers (2022 Record 15-3, Lost Grey Cup)

The Blue and Gold have brought their band back together for another Grey Cup run. The Bombers have re-signed 19 players from their core. And returning into the fold from their recent championship past are kicker Sergio Castillo and superstar wideout Kenny Lawler.

The latter will miss the opening of the season. But when he returns, will team up with the likes of last year’s breakout star Dalton Schoen, Nic Demski, and Rasheed Bailey in a very diverse passing attack.

From top to bottom, the Blue Bombers have the most complete team. They have a stellar coaching staff with elite players at every position.

Winnipeg is a yearly championship contender for several reasons. However, chief among them is that they have the CFL’s best quarterback in Zach Collaros, and the best head coach in Mike O’Shea. In any football league, that crucial combination is fail-proof.

As a result, it’s challenging to not make Winnipeg the league favorite to win it all for the third time in the last four CFL seasons.

  • 2023 Prediction: 14-4, First Place In The West, Grey Cup 110 Winners

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Mike Mitchell Reporter
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