The defending division champions saw a lot of roster turnover in the off-season. Doug Brown, Odell Willis, Fred Reid and Brendon LaBatte are all no longer in Winnipeg. Brown's departure will be the most felt, but don't discount how much LaBatte meant to that offensive line. The Bombers think they have the right guys to make another run at a championship, but the losses they suffered in the off-season, coupled with the additions the teams below them made, puts the Bombers in a tough spot to repeat as division champs.
The Ti-Cats made a lot of moves, but the key ones were signing Andy Fantuz, trading for Henry Burris and naming George Cortez as the team's head coach. Making that many major changes in one off-season usually leads to rocky start, but a favourbale schedule the first five weeks gives the Ti-Cats a chance to start strong. A lot of questions comes on defense, but it would be unwise to forget about the loss of kicker Justin Medlock. With his booming leg, the guy was automatic points from 55 yards inwards. His loss may be the biggest one the team will deal with all season.
A lot of people will say that the Als are on the down swing, but they still have one of three best quarterbacks in the history of the game (Anthony Calvillo), the best receiver in the league (Jamel Richardson) and last season's top rusher (Brandon Whitaker). The question marks come on defense, where the team let go of plenty of former starters and will be using a 3-4 scheme under new coordinator Jeff Reinebold. The Als still have plenty left in the tank and it would be foolish to not consider them a threat to win their third Grey Cup in four years.
Much like their provincial rivals, the Toronto Argonauts underwent a massive restructuring over the winter. A new quarterback in Ricky Ray and a new head coach in Scott Milanovich has Argo fans thinking championship. It might be too soon for that, as the roster does have its share of holes, especially at receiver. Aside from the multi-talented Andre Durie, the Argos receiving corps leaves a lot to be desired. The Argos will be more competitive than they were in 2011, but a 9-9 record is likely the ceiling for a team that probably needs one more off-season to get the roster in shape.
Five Bold Predictions (aka What I'll be Wrong Probably Be Wrong About)
- It will be a battle all year between the Cats and Als for first in the East, Winnipeg will easily finish in third, but a few games back of Hamilton and Montreal, and Toronto will finish in fourth.
- Henry Burris will break many single-season Tiger-Cat records, including passing yards and touchdown passes.
- The Als will have another triple crown with Anthony Calvillo leading the league in passing yards, Jamel Richardson leading in receiving yards and Brandon Whitaker narrowly edging out Jon Cornish for the rushing title.
- Buck Pierce will get hurt and lose his starting job to Alex Brink. Brink will pilot the Bombers offense into the playoffs, leading to Pierce's release in the off-season.
- The Argos will struggle at the start of the season and it will cost them any chance of making the playoffs in the East. But they will find their stride in the second half of the season and make a real push to cross into the West.