Montreal Alouettes Begin CFL Title Defense

By: Adam Markowitz | Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Canadian Football season is finally set to get started, and the first regular season battle to beat the CFL odds should be a doozy. Percival Molson Stadium will be the site of the clash of CFL titans, as the Montreal Alouettes open up defense of their Grey Cup title against the British Columbia Lions.

This is the first United States televised CFL game of the year on the NFL Network, but those in Canada can still see this 4:35 p.m. (PT) kickoff Thursday on TSN.

Things looked terrible at the start of the season for head coach Wally Buono and his Lions last year. They started off with a win over the Edmonton Eskimos, but proceeded to lose their next seven games, going 1-6 ATS in that stretch. However, things turned around with a 38-17 win over none other than these Alouettes right here on the campus of McGill University.

BC went on to win seven of its last 10 games to get into the playoffs. Of those losses, three came in overtime, and the other came by four points at home against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

Travis Lulay took over under center at the beginning of October last year, and though none of his statistics really jumped off the page, he was clearly the best option that the Leos had at their disposal. He finished the season with 2,602 yards and nine TDs against 11 picks.

The biggest problem that Lulay is going to have in this one is that he has arguably one of the best players in the history of this league throwing the ball on the other side of the field that he has to keep up with.

Anthony Calvillo threw for 4,839 yards last season to go with 32 TDs. The future Hall of Famer has thrown for over 68,000 yards in his career, and he is inching closer to the 400-TD barrier. Calvillo just seems to keep getting better and better with age. He has thrown for a total of 15,111 yards and 101 TDs against only 26 INTs over the course of the last three seasons, and he has a pair of Grey Cup titles in a row now to show for his work.

There were really only two major changes for the Als in the offseason. Ben Cahoon, one of the most reliable receivers that Calvillo ever had to work with retired, and Avon Cobourne left the team and is now with Hamilton.

Replacing wide receivers has never really been an issue, as Calvillo seems to be able to throw lasers all over the field regardless of his targets. The question is whether Brandon Whitaker, who spelled Cobourne last year in the backfield when he was injured, really has the ability to be an every down back or not.

For whatever reason, the Lions have always seemed to play well against Montreal. They are 20-7 ATS over the course of their last 27 meetings with the perennial East Division powers, including covering both sets of CFL betting lines last year.

If you're preparing to back either side of the 'total', check out the 'under'. Montreal has gone 16-1 for 'under' bettors over the course of its last 17 games played in the month of June, and it is also 8-3-1 in its last 12 home games.

The 'total' has already dropped from 56 1/2 down to 53. The defending champs are favored by seven points in their opener.

The weather should be cool in Quebec for this one, as temperatures are expected to be in the mid-60s with a chance of passing showers through the evening. Wind, which is always a factor in a lot of CFL betting battles, shouldn't be in this one. A relatively light westerly wind is expected.

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