CFL Countdown

STEVE COAD -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:17 AM ET

Winnipeg (5-13) at Montreal (10-8)

The skinny: Tonight, 7:30 p.m. (TSN, RDS). As the lid lifts on another CFL season, I'm picking the Toronto Argos to win the Grey Cup. Having said that, should any one of seven teams win it, I wouldn't be surprised. But if Winnipeg wins it, I'll be shocked. The Blue Bummers new head coach is Doug Berry, the offensive co-ordinator in Montreal till his offseason free fall into Winterpeg. The Als, 1-3 in Grey Cup games since 2000 (they won it in 2002), have the players to take it all this year -- especially on offence. They need to be better on defence. Last season, their blitzing defence was so deftly shredded by opponents' quick plays that it had to be abandoned at midseason. Different folks on D may see the Als bring back the blitz.

Cody's call: Als 36-17

Saskatchewan (9-9) at B.C. (12-6)

The skinny: Tonight, 10:30 p.m. (TSN). The second half of tonight's twin bill features a statistical struggle at wide receiver with a whack of local flavour. That would be London's Ryan Thelwell of B.C. against Saskatchewan rookie Andy Fantuz, a Chatham native who rewrote every meaningful Canadian university receiving record in four stellar seasons with the Western Mustangs. All Thelwell, a former football and hoops star at Catholic Central high school, did last season with the Lions was snag 74 passes for 1,035 yards and seven TDs. The Western Conference is completely up for grabs. With QB Casey Printers gone, the Lions are Dave Dickenson's to lead uncontested. The Roughriders became contenders with the offseason acquisition of QB Kerry Joseph and wideout Jesse Armstead from the Ottawa Renegades, on hiatus this season.

Cody's call: Lions 33-30

Hamilton (5-13) at Toronto (11-7)

The skinny: Tomorrow, 3 p.m. (CBC). Hey, it's the Labour Day Classic in June. Not exactly, but what the heck, any renewal of this rivalry -- one of oldest and most bitter in Canadian sports history -- is good. Better than good this year, because Hamilton appears to be competitive with anyone in the East. In recent years, the Argos have been all about Damon Allen, menacing defence and glittering special teams. About all they've lacked is a strong running game. Enter Ricky Williams, the suspended NFLer the Argos have borrowed from the Miami Dolphins for a one-season run. The Greg Marshall-led Ticats went wheelin' and dealin' in the offseason, picking up QB Jason Maas, a key guy in Edmonton's charge to the Grey Cup last season, receivers Terry Vaughan (Als) and Kwame Cavil (Esks) and running backs Josh Ranek (Renegades) and Corey Holmes (Roughriders). And for good measure, the Tabbies snagged former Ottawa head coach Joe Paopao as offensive co-ordinator. This is actually the third meeting between these teams in recent weeks, Hamilton prevailing in a pair of exhibitions. This week, however, the Argos will actually open their play book.

Cody's call: Argos 23-21

Edmonton (11-7) at Calgary (11-7)

The skinny: Tomorrow, 8 p.m. (TSN). Opening weekend's final game pits the defending Grey Cup champs against last season's biggest over-achiever. Indeed, the Stampeders have lots to live up to. Picked for last in the West a year ago, Calgary surprised everyone by coming in second. The fab feat earned Tom Higgins, an Edmonton castoff the previous year, coach of the year honours. Henry Burris was a big part of Calgary's resurgence, passing for 4,290 yards with 23 touchdowns. He also ran for 513 yards and scored nine TDs. Burris was especially sharp late in the season upon returning from a thumb injury, leading Calgary to victory in its last four regular-season games.

Cody's call: Eskimos 27-21

Last season's record

Overall: 48-34


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