CFL betting, wk 20 (part 2): We don’t dig Johnny Manziel but like Alouettes -2 (also Riders -4½)
All righty, NFLbets has just enough time to get in some more betting on CFL week 20 and write up this column before the Ottawa Redblacks at Hamilton Tiger-Cats game kicks off. This particular CFL Best Bets piece will be short, as the impetus for wagering in both games may be expressed accurately in brief.
BC Lions +4½ at Saskatchewan Roughriders, over/under 50½ points
Even before the Winnipeg Blue Bombers clinched a playoff spot with their win over the Calgary Stampeders, BC Lions had earned their ticket to the postseason despite sitting one game back of the Bombers. Going into Saskatchewan, BC still holds the tiebreakers with the Bombers for the third spot and in winning this game would be in third place by dint of the tiebreaker.
But here’s the thing: Wally Buono, winningest head coach in CFL history and five-time Grey Cup champion, is no dummy. Wally looks at the schedule and sees this game, plus the next with Calgary in yet another must-win game for week 21; meanwhile, the Bombers can sit starters against Edmonton. He considers his roster, still returning key players from injury. He knows his team’s point differential is negative for the year (-14) and that his charges are adapting week to week to get wins.
And he’s not going to mind entering the playoffs at 9-9 if it means going through Hamilton and Ottawa (in either order), which would be the schedule for the West’s fourth-place finisher, as opposed to trips to Saskatchewan and Calgary (in either order) for the no. 3.
Truth is, once the Riders get out to a lead of a touchdown or more, Buono will yank his starters at halftime and tune up a few bench and/or returning players. Take the Saskatchewan Roughriders -4½ vs BC Lions.
Toronto Argonauts +2 at Montreal Alouettes, over/under 49½ points
Watching Johnny Manziel play for the Montreal Alouettes in 2018 has been truly painful. After getting traded to the Als for week 7, Manziel has not been able to do much for a patchy (to put it extremely mildly) roster and coaching staff. His passing stats (95 of 146 for 1092 yards to go with three TDs against seven interceptions) are the worst among current CFL starters. He’s had some success running the ball, going for 177 yards on 25 carries for 7.1 per carry – less than half a yard less than his yards per pass attempt!
(Incidentally, Johnny’s weak arm resulted in the embarrassing situation of having his backup come in to heave the game-ending Hail Mary.)
Week to week, Manziel appears not to have learned the playbook at all unless that playbook actually consists of nothing but pages reading LET JOHNNY IMPROVISE. Forgetting hitting checkdowns. If Alouette receivers are getting open (as they occasionally have), Manziel doesn’t see them before taking to his feet or getting crushed under another sack.
Even worse is Manziel’s obvious lack of leadership ability and apparent apathy about this fairly fatal shortcoming for a professional quarterback. Johnny celebrates one-play victories alone, and rarely do teammates help him back up – literally or psychologically – after failure. A couple of below-average starts from Antonio Pipkin of Tiffin University and the Arizona Cardinals practice squad had teammates gushing. We’ve yet to hear a single positive word about Manziel from any Alouettes player in 2018.
And yet, we’re somewhat riskily advising bettors to take the Montreal Alouettes +2 vs Toronto.
Why? In short, it’s all about Manziel and the Alouettes’ record-breaking numbers. Those numbers: the Alouettes’ 0-6 record in Manziel’s starts; that’s a record in futility for a starting QB in the CFL, i.e. no modern-era CFL quarterback has gone without a win or tie in his first six starts. And last week, the Als certainly would have had a punter’s chance had not Boris Bede missed a field goal and/or whiffed for a 34-yard punt to set up an Argonauts score.
Also, the Argos are bad. Like nearly as bad as Montreal bad. Bad enough to lose this week? Absolutely. We say Montreal’s 0-5 SU (but 2-3 ATS!) streak and Manziel’s 0-6 are snapped in a game you probably won’t want to watch. Take the Montreal Alouettes +2 vs Toronto. And if it comes in, you can celebrate like Manziel world: Dump champagne over your own head and whoop it up as your teammates ignore you.
NFLbets’ recommendations for CFL betting in week 20 (part 2):
• Saskatchewan Roughriders -4½ vs BC Lions; and
• Montreal Alouettes -2 vs Toronto.
CFL best bets record to date: 10-9.
CFL recommendations record to date: 10-9.
Overall record: 20-18.