The Canadian Football League is gearing up for an exciting kickoff on June 8th. With preseason underway and the anticipation building, we couldn’t resist the opportunity to provide a quick season preview accompanied by our early CFL Power Rankings.
Our analysis delves into every team to bring you our early CFL Power Rankings and season preview.
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2023 CFL Power Rankings and Preview
#1 Winnipeg Blue Bombers
Despite a narrow loss to the Argos, Winnipeg remains the team to beat in the West Division. They re-signed head coach Mike O’Shea and retained their core championship players while strengthening their air attack with the return of Kenny Lawler and kicker Sergio Castillo.
With aspirations for four consecutive Grey Cup visits, the Bombers seek dominance, led by quarterback Zach Collaros. Collaros’ exceptional performance last year, with 4,183 yards, 37 touchdowns (the league’s highest), and just 13 interceptions, holds the key to Winnipeg’s continued success. If this team can stay healthy, all the necessary pieces should fall into place.
#2 Toronto Argonauts
Toronto shocked the Bombers in the previous Grey Cup and now relies on inexperienced QB Chad Kelly for the upcoming season. Despite limited CFL experience, Kelly impressed in the Grey Cup game when he replaced the injured McLeod Bethel-Thompson. With Bethel-Thompson’s departure to the USFL, Toronto has put their faith in Kelly, who has thrown only 52 CFL passes, including playoffs.
Beyond the quarterback position, the Argos boasts a solid running game with Andrew Harris and AJ Ouellette. The team’s defense has been bolstered with the additions of Jordan Williams, Folarin Orimolade, and Adarius Pickett, providing a well-rounded attack. If their quarterback gamble pays off, the Argos could emerge as the Beast in the East.
#3 British Columbia Lions
With last year’s standout QB Nathan Rourke now in the NFL, Vernon Adams Jr. takes the helm for the BC Lions. Adams Jr. proved his worth when Rourke was injured, guiding the team to their best regular season finish since 2016.
Although missing now retired Bryan Burnham, the Lions remain stacked with talented receivers like Lucky Whitehead, Keon Hatcher, and Dominique Rhymes. The running back situation is still uncertain, likely to be resolved in training camp. Adding Michael Couture strengthens the offensive line, while BC’s defense is why this Lions team is third in our Power Rankings. Notably, the acquisitions of players like Shawn Lemon and an increased role for Ben Hladik at center linebacker bolster a potentially dominant defense.
#4 Calgary Stampeders
The Stampeders face a tough challenge in the highly competitive CFL West. Last season, they struggled with a 1-5 record against teams above them in the standings. To have a chance this year, they must narrow the competition gap against strong opponents like BC and Winnipeg.
Calgary excels in the running game and led the CFL in rushing yards in 2022. With weapons like Ka’Deem Carey, Peyton Logan, and Dedrick Mills, they can create explosive plays out of thin air. Quarterback Jake Maier will lead the team, but their receiving corps appears thin. Expect the Stampeders to prioritize the running game over passing. Nevertheless, the additions of James Vaughters and Julian Howsare will have an impact on the revamped defensive line, while newly signed free agent right tackle Jamal Campbell should only add to their strong offensive line.
#5 Hamilton Tiger-Cats
Hosting the Grey Cup has motivated the Hamilton Tiger-Cats to try and assemble a competitive team. They underwent significant offseason renovations, including the addition of veteran quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell, who brings his championship pedigree and aims to rejuvenate his career. He’ll get a weapon in newly acquired running back James Butler, a thousand-yard rusher with the BC Lions last season.
The receiving corps features returning players Tim White and seasoned veteran Duke Williams. If Bralon Addison recovers swiftly from his Achilles injury, look out! However, the defensive side of the ball raises some questions and is expected to be a work in progress. Nonetheless, signings like Chris Edwards and Ja’Gared Davis should help get things on the right track.
#6 Saskatchewan Roughriders
The Roughriders are ranked #6 now, but don’t be surprised if they rebound from a forgettable 2022 season. Their quarterbacks still have PTSD over the amount they got sacked, 77 times to be exact. The offensive line is a work in progress, bolstered by adding big-beef American players and free agents.
The arrival of experienced QB Trevor Harris brings hope, as he thrives when given time to make plays. This team’s focus this year will be building a dynamic offense, and if they can protect the QB, they do have the necessary weapons to put up a lot of points. On the defensive side, the Riders have acquired Micah Johnson and Stefen Banks to team up with Anthony Lanier II and Pete Robertson, forming a fearsome group capable of wreaking havoc on opposing quarterbacks.
#7 Ottawa Redblacks
Remember when the Redblacks won the Grey Cup in 2018? Because since that time, they have suffered through three seasons where all they could muster up was four victories per year. The team’s offensive line and defense are solid, but the key will be putting up points.
Luckily they have their QB, Jeremiah Masoli, back after being lost for the 2022 season with a leg injury. He has all the makings to be a star in this league, and if he can connect with receiver Jaelon Acklin consistently, they’ll be a dynamic duo. Although the running game raises concerns, the team is eyeing 24-year-old Charles Williams as a potential spark. Williams, who holds the all-time rushing record of 4,201 yards at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV), could make a significant impact.
#8 Edmonton Elks
Edmonton fans have endured a bleak period in the CFL recently. The Elk’s performance has been abysmal, with their last home win dating back to 2019. However, there’s only one way to go from rock bottom, and head coach/general manager Chris Jones has taken the sledgehammer to the team and started rebuilding.
The Elks made significant changes, notably signing highly coveted wide receiver Eugene Lewis to a lucrative contract, reportedly making him the league’s highest-paid non-quarterback. They also invested heavily in Steven Dunbar Jr, adding more receiving options for quarterback Taylor Cornelius. The Elks got aggressive in free agency and drafted a beast in Canadian linebacker Michael Brodrique. Those are some positive signs this team is turning around and maybe lying quietly in the weeds.
#9 Montreal Alouettes
With new ownership providing much-needed stability, this franchise took crucial steps in the offseason. The first was securing a new quarterback, Cody Fajardo, who is eager to put behind the nightmares of a struggling offensive line during his time in Saskatchewan. Fajardo possesses a strong arm and quick feet, and with improved protection in Montreal, he has the potential to rediscover his 2019 form when he led the league in passing yards.
If running back William Stanback can replicate his performance from 2021 and maintain good health; he’ll be a valuable weapon for the team. Additionally, the Als have rebuilt their receiving core, made defensive additions, and, most importantly, approached the upcoming season with a sense of optimism.