Montreal Alouettes at Winnipeg Blue Bombers (+4, 51)
Dan Hawkins has some big shoes to fill. The new coach of the Montreal Alouettes will try to continue the success his team enjoyed under Marc Trestman when the Alouettes open the CFL season at the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Thursday. Trestman, who led Montreal to a 59-31 regular-season record and two Grey Cup wins in five campaigns, is now coaching the NFL’s Chicago Bears. Hawkins was unable to guide the Alouettes to victory in either of their preseason games, but will have a chance for his first CFL triumph against last year's weakest team in the East Division.
Following an appearance in the 99th Grey Cup, Winnipeg scored a league-low 376 points to finish the 2012 season with a 6-12 mark. The Blue Bombers’ offence did not fare any better in the preseason, managing just two field goals while allowing a total of 76 points in two contests. Winnipeg has reason for optimism - including a new stadium and the return of quarterback Buck Pierce, who missed most of last season due to multiple injuries. Pierce is the only quarterback on the roster with substantial CFL experience - but the Blue Bombers' preseason struggles are a familiar refrain.
Home underdogs were a profitable play in the CFL last season. Host teams getting the points went 11-9 SU but 14-6 ATS in 2012. Oddsmakers have tabbed the Blue Bombers as 4-point home underdogs for Thursday's Week 1 opener.
TV: 9 p.m. ET, TSN
ABOUT THE ALOUETTES: QB Anthony Calvillo is returning for his 20th CFL season. The 40-year-old threw for more than 5,000 yards three times during Trestman’s tenure. With his receiving corps - led by veterans Jamel Richardson and S.J. Green - largely intact, and RB Brandon Whitaker set to return from last year’s season-ending knee injury, Calvillo has all the tools at his disposal for another successful season.
ABOUT THE BLUE BOMBERS: Construction delays pushed the opening of Investors Group Field - Winnipeg’s new home - back a full year, but the 33,422-seat stadium is finally ready to replace Canad Inns Stadium, the home of the Blue Bombers for the last 60 seasons. The change of scenery might do well for a Winnipeg squad that is largely unchanged from last year. The Blue Bombers allowed 531 points in 2012 and will have to be stronger on defence as long as their offensive struggles continue.
* Over is 5-2 in the last seven meetings in Winnipeg.
* Alouettes are 2-7 ATS in their last nine meetings.
* Alouettes are 1-5 ATS in their last six meetings in Winnipeg.
* Over is 21-8 in Alouettes last 29 road games.
1. Montreal posted a losing record on the road (4-5) in each of its last two seasons.
2. Despite Grey Cup appearances in 1992, 1993, 2001, 2007 and 2011, the Blue Bombers have not won a championship since 1990 - the longest drought in the CFL.
3. Calvillo holds the professional football record for career passing yards with 78,494 and has thrown a record 449 touchdown passes.