2018 CFL Betting Preview – Best Sites, Grey Cup Odds and Johnny Manziel

by Rick Rockwell
on June 12, 2018

Minute Read

With the Canadian Football League (CFL) ready to kick off the season this week, sportsbooks have released their odds on favorite to win the 106th Grey Cup. Additionally, there are some intriguing CFL props and futures that might also be worth placing some money on.

The 2018 CFL season consists of 9 teams and is 21 weeks long. Each team will play 18 regular season games, with the hopes of being one of the 6 squads to make the 3-week playoffs. The Grey Cup championship game will be played on November 25, 2018, at The Brick Field at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton, Alberta.

Heading into the 2018 season, there are many fascinating questions to be answered and several storylines that have thrusted the CFL into a larger spotlight. No storyline has garnered more coverage than Johnny Manziel’s signing with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. But, can the maligned former Heisman Trophy winner lead his team to a Grey Cup victory? We’ll examine that possibility and more, as we take an in-depth look at the 2018 Grey Cup betting odds and CFL prop bets.

Previous Grey Cup Winners

The Grey Cup is the trophy given to the winning team and it’s also the name of the CFL’s championship game. The trophy and title game were named after Albert Grey who served as the Governor General of Canada from 1904 to 1911. He first donated the trophy to the Canadian Rugby Union in 1909, which was the premiere league for amateur rugby, according to the Canadian Football Hall of Fame. It wasn’t until the late 50’s that the rugby unions would form what’s now known as the Canadian Football League.

Before we look at the current odds for the 2018 Grey Cup, let’s take a look at the previous winners over the last 20 years:

# Grey Cup Winning Team Losing Team
86th Calgary Stampeders Hamilton Tiger-Cats
87th Hamilton Tiger-Cats Calgary Stampeders
88th BC Lions Montreal Alouettes
89th Calgary Stampeders Winnipeg Blue Bombers
90th Montreal Alouettes Edmonton Eskimos
91st Edmonton Eskimos Montreal Alouettes
92nd Toronto Argonauts BC Lions
93rd Edmonton Eskimos Montreal Alouettes
94th BC Lions Montreal Alouettes
95th Saskatchewan Roughriders Winnipeg Blue Bombers
96th Calgary Stampeders Montreal Alouettes
97th Montreal Alouettes Saskatchewan Roughriders
98th Montreal Alouettes Saskatchewan Roughriders
99th BC Lions Winnipeg Blue Bombers
100th Toronto Argonauts Calgary Stampeders
101st Saskatchewan Roughriders Hamilton Tiger-Cats
102nd Calgary Stampeders Hamilton Tiger-Cats
103rd Edmonton Eskimos Ottawa Redblacks
104th Ottawa Redblacks Calgary Stampeders
105th Toronto Argonauts Calgary Stampeders

The Argonauts have won 17 overall Grey Cups out of 23 appearances. The Edmonton Eskimos also have 23 Grey Cup appearances, but are 14-9 overall. The Saskatchewan Roughriders have the most Grey Cup losses as they’ve gone 4-15 in their 19 cup appearances.

2018 CFL Grey Cup Odds

With the season about to begin, and roughly 5 ½ months until the championship game, here are the 2018 Grey Cup odds courtesy of BetOnline.ag:

  • Calgary Stampeders +200
  • Edmonton Eskimos +600
  • Toronto Argonauts +650
  • Winnipeg Blue Bombers +650
  • Hamilton Tiger-Cats +700
  • Saskachewan Roughriders +750
  • BC Lions +1000
  • Ottawa Redblacks +1200
  • Montreal Alouettes +1800

Grey Cup Betting Favorites

According to the odds above, the following 3 teams are viewed as the favorites to win the 106th Grey Cup:

Calgary Stampeders +200

The Calgary Stampeders are looking to win their first Grey Cup since 2014, and their 8th overall. They’ve made the last two Grey Cups, but have fallen short with losses to Ottawa and Toronto in the championship games. Sports books and pundits feel that this is the year that Calgary wins it all. And, it’s easy to see why. Starting QB Bo Levi Mitchell finished 3rd last year in passing yards with 4,700 on the season. He also had 23 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. I expect the 2016 Most Outstanding Player to have better numbers in 2018, and help lead the Stampeders back to the Grey Cup. Calgary is expected to be more explosive in the rung game this season as they believe Terry Williams is more dynamic and will replace the departed Jerome Messam who led the team in rushing last year.

Calgary led the CFL in 2017, with a record of 13-4-1. They were also 2nd in the league in scoring with 523 points. I expect them to put up more points this year and possibly exceed last year’s record.

According to BetOnline, the Over/Under for total wins in 2018 is at 11.5. I believe this is an easy bet to win. Calgary last finished with less than 11.5 wins back in 2011. And, they had 11 wins that year. From 2012 to 2017, they won 83 total games which breaks down to an average of 13.8 wins per season. They’ve won the West Division 4 out of the last 5 years, and I expect them to win it again this year.

Edmonton Eskimos +600

The Eskimos last won the Grey Cup in 2015, when they defeated the Ottawa Redblacks. This year’s Grey Cup is being played at their home stadium and you can bet the Eskimos would love to make it to the championship game. Since joining the CFL in 1949, the Eskimos have won 14 championships and only trail the Argonauts (17 trophies) for the most Grey Cup titles all time.

The Eskimos have arguably the best quarterback in the league with Mike Reilly who led the CFL last year in passing yards (5,830) and touchdowns (30). The 2017 season was Reilly’s best statistical year of his career and he definitely gives Edmonton a solid chance to win every game.

The Eskimos finished 2017 with a 12-6 record. The Over/Under for wins in 2018, is set at 11.5 just like the Stampeders. Not only will these two teams battle it out for Alberta bragging rights, but they will battle it out this year for the West Division title. Over the last 4 years, Edmonton has won 48 total games and one Grey Cup. That’s an average of 12 wins per season since their losing 2013 season. I expect the Eskimos to put up at least 12 wins this year. Go with the Over!

Toronto Argonauts +650

The Argonauts are the defending CFL champions and have won 17 Grey Cups all time. Toronto surprised the CFL faithful by winning the cup last year despite going 9-9 in the regular season, which gave them the East Division title. Let’s not forget, they were the only team to finish .500 or better in the East. They came from behind to defeat Saskatchewan in the Eastern Final and then pulled off the big upset 27-24 in the Grey Cup over Calgary.

It was the first year for Marc Trestman as head coach. The former Chicago Bears head coach left the NFL to take the head coaching job of the Argonauts. It marked his second stint with the CFL.

The Argonauts are led by one of CFL’s greatest quarterbacks in Ricky Ray. The Toronto QB returns for his 16th season and is currently 4th all-time in career passing yards with 60,429. Last year, he finished second in the league behind Reilly with 5,546 passing yards and 28 touchdowns. His leadership can’t be overstated enough.

Also on offense, CFL’s rookie of the year James Wilder Jr. returns to lead the backfield. Wilder Jr. finished the 2017 season 4th with 872 rushing yards. He had 5 rushing touchdowns and 533 receiving yards on 51 catches. Look for Wilder Jr. to be one of the top all-around backs in 2018. Top receiver S.J. Green will once again be Ray’s go-to weapon and in the race for the best receiver in the league. Last year, Green finished with 104 catches, 1,462 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns. He was second in the league for all 3 of those categories.

The Over/Under for total wins this year is set at 9.5. I believe that Toronto can squeak out 10 wins this year as Ottawa and Montreal are expected to be the two worst teams in the league.

Grey Cup Betting Value

With only 9 teams in the league, there’s not as much separation between the teams in regards to betting odds. With that said, I believe the Hamilton Tiger-Cats at +700 odds provides the best value. And yes, that’s largely due to Johnny Manziel.

Hamilton went to the Grey Cup in 2013 and 2014, but ended up losing both games. The last time they won a Grey Cup was in 1999. They have won 8 total Grey Cups since their arrival in 1950. In addition to those highs, they’ve also had some historic lows. In 2003, the Tiger-Cats finished 1-17 which is the worst record in the history of the CFL. Last year, they finished 6-12, which was largely due to the play of incumbent QB Jeremiah Masoli.

Masoli went 6-4 last season under interim coach June Jones and put up some fantastic numbers in his starts, throwing for 3,177 yards, 15 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. He also added 446 rushing yards and 4 rushing touchdowns. His play in 2017 earned him a 2-year extension and earned June Jones the job as full time coach. Jones has head coaching experience in the NFL and NCAAF.

For those that don’t remember, Masoli had some off-the field troubles in 2010, when he played for the Oregon Ducks. Masoli finished his college career with Ole Miss in the 2010-11 season. He’s been with Hamilton since 2013, and finally earned his shot as the starting QB last year. Now, he has to deal with “Johnny Football” chasing him down for the starting QB role.

Like Masoli, Manziel has been a lightning rod for controversy and attention since his 2012 Heisman Trophy season at Texas A&M. Failed stints in the NFL and off-field issues led to his departure from the National Football League and landed him in football purgatory. However, also like Masoli, Manziel is looking to turn his career and life around as a member of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

Although Hamilton appears stacked at the QB position, they need to worry more about their poor rushing offense and inconsistent defense. They finished near the bottom of the CFL in rushing yards last year and gave up the 2nd most points in the league (545).

The Over/Under for wins in 2018 is set at 9.5 wins. If they can establish a running game, and improve that defense, then I think they will surpass the 10 win mark and compete for the East Division.

Grey Cup Darkhorse

The Ottawa Redblacks have the second worse odds of winning the Grey Cup at +1200. However, they are my darkhorse pick for winning it all. Ottawa went to the championship game in 2015 and 2016. They ended up winning the Grey Cup in 2016, just their 3rd season in the league. They defeated the massive favorite Calgary Stampeders in overtime.

Last year, Ottawa finished 8-9-1 and ended up losing 31-20 in the Eastern Semifinal to Saskatchewan. The team was led by quarterback Trevor Harris, who they expect to lead the team back to the playoffs in 2018. Harris had solid numbers last year with 4,679 passing yards. He also finished tied with Reilly for the most touchdown passes with 30.

Ottawa’s rushing game looks to be even better than last year. William Powell led the Redblacks with 1,026 rushing yards, which was good for 2nd in the league. However, the one back who has looked the best in preseason was Cedric O’Neal who joins the team after unsuccessful attempts in the NFL with the Eagles and the Bills. With a top level quarterback, a dynamic running game, playmakers at receivers and an improved defense, I believe Ottawa has a real chance at making it deep into the playoffs, where anything can happen. Just look at Ottawa’s improbable Grey Cup run in 2016 as an example of playoff miracles.

The Over/Under for total wins in 2018 is 8.5. I am going with the Over, as I think Ottawa will get at least 9 wins this year. The last time they went over 8 wins, was in 2015. However, I think they have made enough improvements this offseason to hit that 9-win mark.

2018 CFL Prop Bet: Season Win Totals

Including the win totals listed above, the following is the complete list of 2018 CFL Season win totals courtesy of BetOnline:

CFL Team Win Total Over Odds Under Odds 2017 Record
BC Lions 6.5 -150 +130 7-11
Calgary Stampeders 11.5 -130 +110 13-4-1
Edmonton Eskimos 11.5 -110 -110 12-6
Hamilton Tiger-Cats 9.5 +100 -120 6-12
Montreal Alouettes 5.5 +110 -130 3-15
Ottawa Redblacks 8.5 -130 +110 8-9-1
Saskatchewan Roughriders 8.5 -130 +110 10-8
Toronto Argonauts 9.5 +125 -140 9-9
Winnipeg Blue Bombers 10.5 -120 +100 12-6

As mentioned in my Grey Cup analysis above, I believe Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton, Hamilton, and Ottawa are great candidates for hitting the Over. For Unders, I like Montreal.

2018 CFL Johnny Manziel Prop Bets

It should come as no surprise that with the attention Johnny Manziel brings, he’s also inspired many sportsbooks to list a variety of prop bets for the 2018 CFL season. The following is a list of the best Johnny Manziel prop bets according to BetOnline and Bovada:

Will Johnny Manziel Start Week 1 of the 2018 CFL Season?

  • (Yes +200 and No -300)
  • The answer is clearly NO on this one. Manziel hasn’t outplayed Masoli in the preseason and it’s going to take an injury or poor play by Masoli for Manziel to get any starts in the regular season. This prop bet and odds were listed prior to the preseason finale.

    Total CFL Starts for Johnny Manziel in 2018

  • (Over 7.5 is -110 and Under 7.5 is -110)
  • As much as I want to see Manziel take the field, I think it will be in more of a backup capacity. Masoli has been in the CFL for 5 years now, and had a great 2017 season despite getting only 10 starts. I expect Masoli to play well enough to keep Manziel on the bench for at least the first 10 to 12 games. I’m going with the Under 7.5 starts in this prop bet.

    Will Johnny Manziel be on a CFL roster by the end of the season?

  • (Yes -200 and No +150)
  • If he was the starter, then I would say there’s a chance that excellent on-field production could lead to a call from an NFL team. However, since he’s the backup right now, I’m going with Yes (-200) that he will still be on a CFL roster by the end of the regular season.

    How many passing yards will Manziel throw in the regular season?

  • (Over 3,900 yards is Even and Under 3,900 yards is -140)
  • I’m going with Under 3,900 yards (-140). I don’t see Manziel playing enough to crack even half of this amount. I believe Masoli is going to get the majority of regular season work unless an injury occurs.

    With that in mind, we can easily address the next two Prop Bets:

    Over/Under 11.5 interceptions: Under 11.5 ints (-120)

    Over/Under 23.5 touchdown throws: Under 23.5 TDs (-140)

    Will Johnny Manziel win the 2018 CFL MVP Award?

  • (Yes +1000 and No -2500)
  • This is another easy one to address. Simply put, the answer is NO (-2500). Look for another QB like Reilly, Ray or Mitchell to snag the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player Award. In fact, Reilly is the 2017 winner and Mitchell is the 2016 winner. Manziel has no shot at winning this award even if he surpassed the numbers in these prop bets.

    2018 CFL Grey Cup Betting Summary

    The CFL excitement begins on Thursday, June 14th, when the 2018 season kicks off with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers hosting the Edmonton Eskimos in the first of four Week 1 games. Over the next 5 ½ months, CFL fans will be treated to a fantastic season that will certainly provide some memorable moments. None will be more memorable in 2018, than Johnny Manziel’s first touchdown throw if he sees the field.

    With that said, I’m picking the Calgary Stampeders (+200) to win the 2018 Grey Cup. I believe they still are the most complete team in the league and they’ve appeared in the last two Grey Cups. Keep an eye out for my longshot in Ottawa as they play in a weaker division and have gone deep in the playoffs with losing records in the regular season.

    2018 CFL Prop and Grey Cup Betting Recap

    Instead of having to go back and read through the entire article again, here’s a quick recap of my bets for the 2018 CFL season and the Grey Cup:

    2018 Grey Cup Winner: Calgary Stampeders +200

    2018 Grey Cup Betting Value: Hamilton Tiger-Cats +700

    2018 Grey Cup Longshot: Ottawa Redblacks +1200

    2018 CFL Season Win Totals:

    • Calgary Stampeders Over 11.5 wins (-130)
    • Edmonton Eskimos Over 11.5 wins (-110)
    • Hamilton Tiger-Cats Over 9.5 wins (+100)
    • Ottawa Redblacks Over 8.5 wins (-130)
    • Montreal Alouettes Under 11.5 wins (-130)

    The Best 2018 CFL Grey Cup Betting Sites

    Since the CFL is more of a fringe sport in America, there aren’t a lot of sportsbooks that offer a wide range of CFL wagers. So, make sure you look for a site that offers the CFL Grey Cup odds, various CFL prop bets, futures, and player prop bets.

    From there, you will want to look at sites that have a great reputation, excellent customer service, offer several different options for withdrawing your money or depositing your money, have a smooth user interface, and offers a reliable mobile sports betting platform. And if you are feeling particularly frisky, try to find a site that offers live betting on CFL football games.

    Rick Rockwell

    As a longtime freelance writer, avid sports fan, former athlete, and experienced sports bettor, Rick Rockwell has risen up the ranks at GamblingSites.org to become the self-professed "King of the Blog" in his first year with the site.

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