CFL Countdown

STEVE COAD -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:06 AM ET

Hamilton (9-8-1) at Montreal (14-4)

The skinny: Tonight, 7:30 p.m. (CBC). The Alouettes, the CFL's dominant team (40-14 overall) the last three seasons, shocked us all by falling to the Toronto Argos 26-18 in the East final after such a promising regular season that started with six straight wins. Head coach Don Matthews' teams tend to turn over talent and this year is no exception. Gone are stalwarts Jermaine Copeland (free agent, Calgary), receiver Thyron Anderson (New Orleans, NFL), kicker Matt Kellet (trade, Ottawa), safeties Barron Miles (free agent, B.C.) and William Loftus (trade, Edmonton), corner David Sanchez (free agent, Edmonton), running back Autry Denson (released) and fullback Bruno Heppell (retired). In other words, a lot of talent left town in the offseason. Still, expect the Als to be good. They still have gunslinger Anthony Calvillo and his sidekick receiver Ben Cahoon and they're still strong on defence. The Ticats? They'll rise -- or fall -- with quarterback Danny McManus.

Cody's call: Alouettes 30-21

Ottawa (5-13) at Edmonton (9-9)

The skinny: Friday, 9 p.m. (TSN). After the Eskimos, Grey Cup champs in 2003, fell by the wayside in last year's West semi, big changes unfolded. Via free agency and trades, the Esks bagged, among others, former Western Mustang offensive lineman Sandy Annunziata in a swap with the Argos. No question, though, Edmonton's biggest acquisition was QB Ricky Ray, who re-signed with the Eskimos after spending last season failing to catch on in the NFL (New York Jets). Last year's offensive co-ordinator Danny Maciocia replaced Tom Higgins as head coach and it appears the Eskimos are back in business, even without gritty running back Mike Pringle, who has retired. The Renegades have shored up a few things, too -- their ownership situation for one. Detroit businessperson Bernie Glieberman, former owner of the Rough Riders, now owns controlling interest in the Renegades. Regardless of who owns the club, it'll only go as far as quarterback Kerry Joseph take it. After starting 3-0, Joseph went down with an ankle injury, taking Ottawa's season with him.

Cody's call: Eskimos 37-17

B.C. (13-5) at Toronto (10-7-1)

The skinny: Saturday, 7 p.m. (CBC). It's the rematch of last year's Grey Cup game, which, of course, the Argos won 27-19 in a bit of an upset. We shouldn't get carried away with the upset thing, though -- the Argos were full value. The Lions might have had more chomp if they'd stuck with the guy that got them to the final -- quarterback Casey Printers. All he did, after all, was win the league's MVP award for his spectacular regular season. Instead, usually clear-thinking head coach Wally Buono gave the Grey Cup start to the more experienced Dave Dickenson and the rest, as they say, is history. B.C.'s quarterback controversy won't go away till one or the other is gone, although Dickenson appears to be the guy at the moment as Printers battles tootsie troubles. The Lions lost Chris Brazzell to the Ticats via free agency, but they're still flush at receiver with the likes of Geroy Simon, Jason Clermont and Londoner Ryan Thelwell. The Argos haven't changed much from last year but they didn't need it. Expect quite a clash as both teams are titans on either sides of the ball and on special teams, too.

Cody's Call: Argonauts 27-24

Winnipeg (7-11) at Saskatchewan (9-9)

The skinny: Saturday, 10 p.m. (TSN). Fortune is smiling again on Roughriders quarterback Nealon Greene, who broke his leg in last year's season opener and surrendered his starting job to a blossoming Henry Burris, who merely took Saskatchewan all the way to the the West final. Burris jumped ship to the Calgary Stampeders and Greene is back at the Roughies' helm. His biggest allies, besides a rock-solid defence, are running back Kenton Keith and receiver Matt Dominguez, both of whom will be on board from the beginning of the season. Jim Daley took over as the head coach of the Blue Bombers after Dave Ritchie was canned in August, and Daley did some good things, especially in the attitude department. The Bombers are bummers when it comes to depth of talent, particularly on the offensive line and secondary. In a move to shore up the O-line, the Bombers added former Western tackle Mike Abou-Mechrek from the Alouettes.

Cody's call: Roughriders 30-21

Last year's record: 48-37


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