ALOUETTES (0-0) AT BOMBERS (0-0)
Tonight, 8 p.m. TV: TSN
Alouettes line: Montreal will once again in 2013 field a veteran team led by pivot Anthony Calvillo. But while the Als boast a league-high 13 players on their roster with six or more years of CFL experience, they've also brought in 11 rookies this season as rookie head coach Dan Hawkins tries to improve a defence and special teams that struggled in 2012.
Bombers line: The Bombers roster is mostly unchanged after a 2012 season that saw them go 6-12, with the front office adding just four rookies to the 2013 team and hoping that the increased maturity of the veterans who remained makes the difference this year. As goes QB Buck Pierce, so go the Bombers in recent years and this year will be no exception.
Bottom line: A sold-out crowd of 33,500 for the historic first-ever game at Investors Group Field should provide enough electricity to light the place up without hydro.
TIGER-CATS (0-0) AT ARGOS (0-0)
Friday, 6 p.m. TV: TSN.
Ticats line: The Tiger-Cats had a ridiculously potent offence in 2012, but still finished dead-last in the CFL, thanks to a defence that was just ridiculous. The Ticats look once again this year like they'll score lots of points, even with disgruntled receiver Chris Williams apparently sitting out the season. The defence looks better, but it would be impossible to be worse. The question is if it has improved enough to make Hamilton a legitimate Grey Cup contender.
Argos line: Lost in their triumphant playoff run and victory in the historic 100th Grey Cup on home turf was the fact the 2012 Argos weren't actually very good in the regular season, finishing with a modest 9-9 record before getting hot when it mattered. Lots of key veterans from last year are back, but lots are also gone on a club that will head into 2013 with 16 first-year players.
Bottom line: Pick em.
LIONS (0-0) AT STAMPEDERS (0-0)
Friday, 9 p.m.. TV: TSN
Lions line: Take away an upset loss to Calgary in last November's West Final and there's an excellent chance the Lions would come into this season as the two-time defending Grey Cup champions and people would be talking about whether this was one of the league's great dynasties in the making. They've made some significant changes, but remain the most experienced team in the league.
Stampeders line: Calgary stunned everyone but themselves in getting to last year's Grey Cup game and made some significant off-season changes Stamps guru John Hufnagel thinks will make them even better. Topping that list is the aquisition of former Bombers DB Jonathan Hefney, who has nothing but upside on the field if Hufnagel can figure out a way to temper the antics off of it.
Bottom Line: This one's worth watching just to see what Hefney looks like in a Calgary uniform. Weird eh?
ROUGHRIDERS (0-0) AT ESKIMOS (0-0)
Saturday, 2:30 p.m. TV: TSN.
Saskatchewan line: Riders GM Brendan Taman spent his off-season adding experience to a team that hopes to be playing for a Grey Cup at home in Regina in November. The opening-day roster has -- get this -- over 1,000 more games of CFL experience than Saskatchewan's opening-day roster in 2012.
Eskimos line: The once-proud Eskimos franchise is well on its way to becoming a CFL laughingstock under the eccentric reign of GM Ed Hervey. First, Hervey decided it'd be funny to announce he'd aquired DE Odell Willis one minute after free agency opened in February, netting his team a $10,000 fine. Then, Hervey decided to hold a double-secret training camp in Florida over the winter. Then last weekend, Hervey decided for reasons known only to him to keep his final training camp cuts a secret from his own fans for almost an extra day.
Bottom line: Eskimos fans are in for a long year.
THE PICKS (straight up)
The Free Press has assembled a panel this season to offer their fearless predictions every week. Joining us this year are CJOB's Bob Irving, and from the Free Press, sports editor Steve Lyons, columnists Gary Lawless and Doug Brown and football writers Paul Wiecek and Ed Tait:
Irving: Winnipeg, Toronto, Calgary, Saskatchewan
Lyons: Winnipeg, Hamilton, Calgary, Saskatchewan
Lawless: Montreal, Hamilton, Calgary, Edmonton
Brown: Winnipeg, Toronto, B.C., Saskatchewan
Tait: Montreal, Toronto, B.C., Saskatchewan
Wiecek: Winnipeg, Toronto, Calgary, Saskatchewan