The 2017 Silly Ball season (CFL) begins on Thursday and that means the fun of betting regular-season football again.
If you’ve never bet it before, it’s OK. Below are some tips I did up last year that would’ve helped you win money if you followed them.
The most important ones early on are this:
Another item to note this year is that a few teams, namely Saskatchewan, Montreal and Ottawa, have new faces at starting quarterback. Keep an eye on how these teams adjust coming out of the gate.
(June 23, 2016)
I remember walking into the Wynn sportsbook’s back room one summer afternoon and there was this super upbeat oddsmaker keenly looking in on a Hamilton Tiger-Cats game on the screen in front of him.
I can’t remember exactly but I think they were playing the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
I made a comment about him needing to adjust the rabbit ears or something and he shot around in his swivel chair. Two seconds later he started spewing Oskee-Wee-Wee and it took about a half a minute before I realized I was way out of my league as a semi-dedicated follower of the CFL.
This is the Wynn. Las Vegas. In Nevada.
This guy lapped up this 3-down, oversized end zone shit up like it was a second helping of Grandma’s chocolate pudding.
I Ioved him immediately.
I asked him if he was from Canada and he looked at me like I had four heads and in retrospect, it was a rather presumptuous question. Sometimes when the crickets get quiet on warm summer nights, I wonder why the hell I ever asked that at all.
But I digress.
I can’t remember what his name was but what I do remember is that he was responsible for setting the CFL lines in a market where not many guys had the balls to set CFL lines.
For starters, it was the CFL. Your friends might laugh at you if this is part of your occupation. And secondly - any time you are setting lines on a sport that only has a smattering of followers, you have to be very careful not to get your ass kicked. Information can be a little tougher to come by and there’s always a chance there are bettors out there who know more than you do.
What I’m trying to say is the CFL can be a great sport to bet. You and the oddsmakers are often on an even playing field and that playing field just so happens to have a 55-yard line and uprights that could give you a concussion if you don’t keep your head up.
Speaking of heads up, here a few quick tips for betting the CFL based on my years of betting this sport in a semi-dedicated degenerate fashion:
Stereotypes exist for a reason, people, and this is Canada we’re talking about here. You might get a snowstorm in September or a game so sticky and smouldering in July that defenses just can’t keep up by the time the fourth quarter rolls around.
Wind also plays a role and suddenly a game that relies on the aerial assault becomes a ground game with winds whipping at 35 km/h through Tim Horton’s Stadium (in Hamilton).
Injuries matter more
I’ve long felt injuries are the most overblown steaming pile of cow shit when it comes to betting sports. They are really easy to talk about because they are so tangible but there is so much talent out there in major sports that there is usually someone waiting to fill the gap better than what is assumed.
Not so much in the CFL. The talent pool is smaller and this is a completely different game. If you get a QB who is thrust into playing his first game, well, it’s more like he's playing his first game of football all over again. Consider that if he came from major U.S. college football – and most of them do – he likely has never played a game of 3-down football before.
Same applies to defense. When key players are out, you’d better pay attention because veteran offenses will light a rookie up in a hurry in this league. I swear to God, sometimes they forget there is an extra man on the field.
Mind the grass
A new factor to be aware of this year is there is a grass field in play. For the first time in several seasons, there will be a grass field in the league as the Argonauts move to BMO Field.
I’m not sure how this will play out yet but my hunch is this will favor the offenses. More slippery surface on a CFL-sized field. Keep an eye it either way. Oddsmakers may have trouble adjusting to this one.
Take thy points
This league is all about parity. The favored Edmonton Eskimos are +400 at Bovada and the biggest underdog Montreal Alouettes are just +1200.
So it shouldn’t surprise you that underdogs went 55 percent last year at 44-35-1 against the spread. Anyone can win on any night in this league.
Look at UNDER and the Underdogs early
The UNDER is 25-15 ( 62.5%) and underdogs are 24-16 against the spread (60%) over the first four weeks of the season over the course of the past 10 years.
So look for inflated lines and totals in the early going.
Good luck. And if you don't already love the CFL, hopefully it can at least hold you over until September. It's a fun sport to bet.