CFL Betting: Why the Calgary Stampeders Won’t Win the Grey Cup

by Aaron Brooks
on October 20, 2017

With just a couple of weeks to go before the Canadian Football League playoffs, the Calgary Stampeders are clearly the team to beat.

The Stamps have lost just once this year, and that defeat came more than 3 months ago. Since a 7-point loss in Montreal, Calgary has rattled off 11 straight victories, with many of them coming by double digits.

The Stampeders own the league’s best offense, but the biggest reason they’re 13-1-1 is the play of their defense. Calgary has allowed just 267 points in its first 15 games, nearly 150 less than any other team in the league. Their point differential is an incredible +224, meaning they’ve nearly doubled up their competition.

Oddsmakers have taken notice, listing Calgary at just even money to take home the CFL championship next month. Here are the full odds as of this week at Bovada:

  • Calgary Stampeders: +100
  • Winnipeg Blue Bombers: +333
  • Edmonton Eskimos: +700
  • Toronto Argonauts: +900
  • Saskatchewan Roughriders: +900
  • Ottawa RedBlacks: +1200
  • British Columbia Lions: +2200
  • Hamilton Tiger-Cats: +5000
  • Montreal Alouettes: +6600

Even though Calgary would only need to win 2 games (the West final and then the Grey Cup) to claim the championship, those +100 odds really aren’t that appealing in a league as quirky and unpredictable as the CFL. Besides, there are several reasons to believe the Stampeders won’t finish off the job and the better value may be in 1 of the underdogs (I’m looking at you, Ottawa.)

Here are 4 of them.

1. The Stampeders Have a History of Choking

Just because the Stampeders are romping through the regular season hardly guarantees that they’ll be lifting the Grey Cup in November.

Last year, the Stamps nearly set the single-season CFL wins record (losing their final game to finish 15-2-1) and then went on to lose the Grey Cup in overtime as double-digit favorites.

It was just the latest in a long string of disappointing finishes by Calgary following a stellar regular season. Even though this will be the fifth year in a row that the Stampeders have won 14 games or more, and their 11th consecutive season above .500, they’ve won just 1 Grey Cup since 2008. In 11 of the past 15 seasons, they haven’t even got to the championship game.

Does past history really matter? Not always, but it might in this case. Much of the top talent from last year’s team is on the current roster, as is the entire coaching staff. And even players new to the squad this season will have to put up with the questions about the franchise’s tendency to choke in the playoffs.

2. The Road Through the West Is Tough

The Grey Cup game might not even be the toughest match Calgary has to play in its quest for a championship.

The Stampeders will also have their hands full in the West Division final. Calgary has already virtually locked up top spot in the West, a first-round bye and home-field advantage in the playoffs, but the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Edmonton Eskimos and Saskatchewan Roughriders are all very capable of upsetting the hosts.

At 11-4 through 15 games, Winnipeg appears to be Calgary’s biggest threat. The Bombers can run the ball (1st in the league in rushing), which is always a huge asset in playoff football, and they’ve got the second-highest scoring offense in the CFL. Winnipeg also won’t be intimidated by playing on the road, having won 6 of its first 7 games away from home this season.

Edmonton (9-6) is also dangerous. After a 6-game losing streak all but negated the Eskimos’ 7-0 start to the season, the Eskies have righted the ship by winning their last 2 games, scoring 72 points in the process. The last time Edmonton played Calgary, the Stampeders needed a touchdown in the final minute to prevail 25-22.

There’s also an outside chance that the Stampeders will play Saskatchewan in the Western final, which will be more difficult than the Roughriders’ 8-7 record suggests. The Riders held Calgary to just 15 points in their most recent meeting, and Saskatchewan head coach Chris Jones is very familiar with the Stampeders from his days coaching the Eskimos.

3. Their Offense Has Struggled Against Tough Opponents

If you just look at the surface statistics, the Stampeders’ offense looks like its usual lethal self. Calgary ranks first in the CFL in point-per-game average (32.7), and the Stamps are third in the league in both rushing yards and total yards per contest.

However, those season-long stats have been severely inflated by a few lopsided results against mediocre competition. Calgary hung 59 points on the Alouettes 2 weeks ago and whipped the Tiger-Cats 60-1 back in July. Take away those 2 outliers against the worst defenses in the league, and the Stamps’ average points per game drops to 28.6. That would rank them behind Winnipeg and Saskatchewan, and just ahead of Edmonton.

In 7 games against opponents from the West Division this season, the Stamps have put up more than 30 points on just 1 occasion. They struggled to beat the Roughriders 15-9 3 weeks ago in Saskatchewan, and they’ve also averaged just 24 points per game in 2 meetings with the B.C. Lions this year. Even the Blue Bombers, a likely opponent in the upcoming playoffs, held Calgary to 29 points in their only meeting this season.

4. The Grey Cup Is in Ottawa

The host venue for this year’s Grey Cup is Ottawa. For those of you not familiar with their Canadian geography, Ottawa is located on the border between Ontario and Quebec in the eastern time zone.

It’s also the home of the defending Grey Cup champion RedBlacks, who beat the Stampeders in overtime in last year’s final and tied them in this year’s regular-season opener. Ottawa has tons of momentum right now, having overcome a slow start to clinch a playoff spot last week and could even finish first in the East, making it a strong possibility that they can be the third Grey Cup host to play in the game in the last 6 years. The last 2 times the host teams played in the Grey Cup, they won the game, including Toronto’s 35-22 upset of Calgary in 2012.

If Ottawa doesn’t get to the Grey Cup, it’ll probably be the Argonauts representing the East instead. If that happens, Toronto is just a 4-hour drive from Ottawa and the Grey Cup crowd could have a strong pro-Argonauts feel to it.

One other reason the Grey Cup being in Ottawa could hurt the Stampeders is the weather. It can get pretty rainy, windy and cold in Ottawa in late November (possibly even snowy), and there’s no shelter in the open-air stadium. Calgary is no stranger to snow and cold, but frigid temperatures and strong winds could minimize the Stamps’ skill advantage and make it anybody’s game.

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