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Time for some football, eh?

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A 2013 CFL season preview

While the opening of the 2013 NFL season may still be a couple of months away, that doesn't mean that you have to wait until September to get your football fix. Our neighbors to the north are about to get things started.

That's right the 2013 CFL season is upon us.

Sure, it isn't quite the same game. The rules are different and the field is bigger. However, there's no disputing that the Canadian game is eminently watchable, with a charm all its own. Maybe you're a football junkie desperate for a fix. Maybe the impending end of the NHL season has left a void. Or maybe you're just on the market for something new.

If any of these descriptions fit you, this 2013 CFL season preview is for you.

East Division

Hamilton Tiger-Cats (2012: 6-12)

The Tiger-Cats were one of the two teams to miss the playoffs in 2012, despite some high-level individual performances. The defense will need to improve for Hamilton to have a shot.

While quarterback Henry Burris had a monster year (5,367 yards and 43 TDs), the real story is the continued holdout of superstar receiver/returner Chris Williams. Williams had over 3,300 total yards and 17 TDs between his receiving work and punt return duties; the Tiger-Cats will be hard-pressed to replace that kind of massive production. Add to that a defense that was perhaps the worst in the league last year and things are looking glum for Hamilton, though new coach Kent Austin offers some degree of hope.

Prediction: 5-13

Montreal Alouettes (2012: 11-7)

Montreal is one of the consistent powers in the CFL. Their veteran presence likely ensures another solid season, although the team will have to adjust to yet another new coach after Marc Trestman left for the Chicago Bears.

The story in Montreal this season as it has been for the past 15 years is quarterback Anthony Calvillo. Despite his advancing age, he is still one of the elite players at the position, with over 5,000 yards and 31 TDs last season. Slotbacks Jamel Richardson and S.J. Green both went for over 1,000 yards receiving last year with nine TDs between them. And while the defensive talent doesn't pop quite like it does on the offensive side, it is a veteran unit with a lot of experience it's a group that knows what is necessary to win.

Prediction: 11-7

Toronto Argonauts (2012: 9-9; Grey Cup champions)

The Argos are the reigning champions of the CFL. Despite a mediocre regular season, they put up wins when it counted the most. Whether they can repeat that feat, however, remains to be seen.

Veteran QB Ricky Ray had a solid season, with over 4,000 yards passing and 20 TDs. Wide receiver Chad Owens was the CFL's Most Outstanding Player last year; not only did he catch 94 passes for over 1,300 yards and six TDs, he also had over 2,400 combined punt/kick return yards. The Argos running game was less potent, though a full year of UNH product Chad Kackert likely changes that. However, the offensive line is iffy, while the defensive side has seen massive turnover the entire defensive line plus three starters from the secondary are gone. The D will have to coalesce in a hurry if the Argos hope to repeat.

Prediction: 10-8

Winnipeg Blue Bombers (2012: 6-12)

There's not a lot to look forward in Winnipeg. Injuries and inconsistencies plagued this team all last season; all they can do is hope that their luck is better in 2013.

Quarterback Buck Pierce is one of the more talented passers in the CFL, but his checkered injury history leaves him suspect especially since his backups are fairly inexperienced. There is some offensive talent here: Chad Simpson rushed for over 1,000 yards in just 14 games, while receiver Chris Matthews and slotback Terrence Edwards combined for 151 catches and over 2,200 yards. The defense has some talented players Bryant Turner and Alex Suber foremost among them but they'll have to perform at a much higher level than they did last year for the Blue Bombers to succeed.

Prediction: 7-11

West Division

BC Lions (2012: 13-5)

The Lions had an outstanding regular season in 2012, only to run up against a red-hot Calgary team in the West final, thus missing out on a chance to defend their 2011 Grey Cup title. However, the returning roster still carries a whole lot of talent.

The offense is led by quarterback Travis Lulay. He was third in the league in both passing yards (4,231) and touchdown passes (27). Running back Andrew Harris is another potent weapon in the BC attack, with over 1,100 yards rushing, over 700 yards receiving and 11 total touchdowns. The Lions also feature an offensive line that has led the league in fewest sacks allowed for two years running. And despite being overshadowed by the offense, the BC defense was the stingiest in the league, allowing fewer than 20 points per game and leading in most significant statistical categories.

Prediction: 12-6

Calgary Stampeders (2012: 12-6; Grey Cup runner-up)

The Stampeders almost made it to the promised land last year, getting all the way to the Grey Cup before getting taken down by the Toronto Argonauts. There's no reason to think they won't be back as strong as ever in 2013.

Quarterback Kevin Glenn put up over 4,000 yards passing and 25 TDs. Calgary also featured Jon Cornish, the league's leading rusher with nearly 1,500 yards, and Nik Lewis, who was fourth in the league with 1,241 yards receiving. The team put up 535 points last year, good for second overall. Defensively, the charge is led by end Charleston Hughes, who put up 11 sacks in an all-star campaign. However, the defense overall appears to be a work in progress, meaning that the offense will have to continue to carry the day.

Prediction: 11-7

Edmonton Eskimos (2012: 7-11)

Edmonton snuck into the playoffs last year despite a poor record. They were bitten by the injury bug and struggled to get things going. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like 2013 is going to run a whole lot smoother.

New quarterback Mike Reilly won the starting job due to injury; he has his work cut out for him. He's got some help in receiver Fred Stamps, who was second in the league in receiving last year despite the team's volatile quarterback situation. But beyond Stamps and running back Hugh Charles, the offensive cupboard is pretty empty. The revamped offensive line is also suffering some growing pains. The defense has some star power; linebacker J.C. Sherritt set a CFL record with 130 tackles, while lineman O'Dell Willis is a sack machine. Still, expect a bumpy road for Edmonton.

Prediction: 6-12

Saskatchewan Roughriders (2012: 8-10)

The Roughriders will be playing host to the 2013 Grey Cup. With the improvements they've made on both sides of the ball, they've got a real chance of not only hosting the game, but winning it.

Quarterback Darian Durant had a strong year, with 3,800 yards passing and 20 TDs. His favorite target was slotback Weston Dressler, who caught 94 balls for over 1,200 yards. Kory Sheets was the best running back not named Jon Cornish last year, with over 1,200 yards rushing and 500-plus yards receiving. They also added all-time CFL receiving yards leader Geroy Simon to their offense in the offseason. There are a bevy of weapons. The defense has been revamped, but with new signees like John Chick and Ricky Foley, opposing QBs will be on the run all year. They were already one of the best defenses in the league they may have gotten even better.

Prediction: 10-8


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