We're past the midway point of the CFL season and the cream has certainly risen to the top with the elite teams coming out of the West Division without exception. With that said, I'm heading to the East Division for a Grey Cup sleeper. Here's a quick look at a longshot side that might just provide its backers with a considerable payday come late November.
The Hamilton Tiger-Cats are currently priced around 14-1 to hoist the Grey Cup trophy. I believe now is the time to take a flyer with the Tabbies as they check in a middling 3-4 on the campaign but are still in the mix for an East Division title with no team seeming to be interested in planting itself in the driver's seat.
We've seen the Ti-Cats offense wake up (finally!) in the last couple of games, putting up their two highest-scoring performances of the season - 34 points in a victory over Toronto and 28 points in a heartbreaking one-point loss against Montreal (the same Als team that handed Winnipeg its first loss of the season one week previous).
While Hamilton's defense has struggled for the most part, it should only be a matter of time before it gets its heart-and-soul back from injury in veteran Simoni Lawrence. Somewhat surprisingly, the Ti-Cats have held six straight opponents to 90 or fewer rushing yards. Only four of seven opponents have completed more than 18 passes against them so it's not as if they've been getting boat-raced on a weekly basis.
Note that the Ti-Cats have a excellent opportunity to take control of the East Division with three of their next four games coming against the Argos (two games) and the Alouettes. They lost by two touchdowns on the road against the league's best team in Winnipeg in an early season 'measuring stick' game back in Week 2 but will get a shot at revenge against the Blue Bombers, at home on September 17th. Also note that the Ti-Cats late season schedule is favorable with consecutive games against one of the league's worst teams in Ottawa in late October.
While Hamilton is undoubtedly a true longshot, I have little interest in backing front-running teams like the Blue Bombers and Lions at a 4-1 or worse return with so much season remaining. I do question whether the two-time defending champion Blue Bombers may have peaked a little early while the Lions just lost starting quarterback Nathan Rourke to injury. Provided the Ti-Cats can get QB Dane Evans back to 100% health, I do think the potential is there for them to surprise down the stretch.