Canadian Football League worth a look

In three weeks, the New England Patriots open training camp, and the sight of Tom Brady’s passes will ease our sore eyes. The sports betting world revolves around football season, which is almost here.

In reality, it already has kicked off. North of the border, it’s the second week of the season. Who knew?

The Canadian Football League opened in obscurity, and similar to Tom Cruise’s recent science fiction movie, few people care to see it.

But the CFL is worth a look, if only because there are football games with betting lines attached. As a bonus, some of the games are televised here, and you know some of the players.

“I’ll bet it just as much, if not more, than the NFL,” said handicapper Ian Cameron of Sportsmemo.com.

Chad Johnson, once known as Ochocinco and formerly one of Brady’s wide receivers with the Patriots, is now catching passes from Troy Smith, the former Heisman Trophy winner from Ohio State.

Johnson and Smith play for the Montreal Alouettes, who were crushed 29-8 by the Calgary Stampeders last week in the teams’ season opener. Even on a slow news day, that game failed to make news.

It also failed to make any bookmakers sweat out the result. Nick Bogdanovich, director of William Hill sports books, used the word “nonexistent” to describe the CFL wagering handle.

“It’s always been nothing,” Bogdanovich said. “It’s not on TV, so people don’t get to know the teams and players, and that’s always been the biggest battle.”

If it’s not on TV, it won’t get bet. The CFL is a long way from winning the battle, but at least it’s back on the most relevant network.

ESPN reacquired the U.S. broadcast rights for this season as part of a five-year deal. Seventeen games will air on ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPN News, including the Grey Cup, and 69 more games will be available on ESPN3. The league received more exposure from Peter King, who experienced the opening week and wrote a column for SI.com.

Cameron, who lives near Toronto, where every game is televised, said, “It’s football in July. I have a passion for football. I would rather watch it any day of the week than baseball, and I like baseball.”

This time of year, most of us stick to the daily grind of baseball. But handicappers usually find a niche or two, whether it’s the WNBA, golf, boxing, mixed martial arts, soccer, tennis, the horses at Del Mar or the greyhounds at Derby Lane.

Cameron, being a Canadian, does his homework on the CFL. He knows the quirky rules, the quarterback depth charts of all nine teams and much more.

“When the NFL and college football come around, some other guys push the CFL out the back door and forget about it,” Cameron said. “I’m there start to finish.”

In Johnson’s debut for the Alouettes, he caught two passes for 20 yards. Those were his first catches since 2011, when he exited the NFL with a reputation as a clown. Smith, a castoff of the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers, completed 18 of 41 passes for 154 yards with an interception. Smith is replacing Anthony Calvillo, who began his career with the Las Vegas Posse and retired as the league’s all-time passing leader, and not doing a good job of it.

“Montreal’s offense looks like a total mess,” Cameron said. “Smith has huge shoes to fill and huge pressure on his shoulders.”

Cameron (@bobano on Twitter) recommends betting today’s BC Lions-Montreal game under the total of 50. The Lions, he said, have a solid defense and “pedestrian” offense.

His play for Saturday — and you can see the game on ESPN2 at noon — is Saskatchewan-Toronto over 54. He said the game has “shootout potential” on the Rogers Centre turf.

Darian Durant, who played at North Carolina and was cut by the Ravens in 2005, was the quarterback of last year’s Grey Cup champion Roughriders. Durant helped Saskatchewan put up 31 points in its opener, and he’s one of several former college quarterbacks starring in obscurity north of the border.

If you waste two hours at the Cruise movie, you can’t get a refund. It could pay to follow the CFL, at least until the NFL sets up camp.

■ BOTTOM LINES — It’s a big fight weekend in Las Vegas, beginning with UFC 175 on Saturday and another card Sunday, both at Mandalay Bay. Chris Weidman is a 2-1 favorite over Lyoto Machida in Saturday’s middleweight title bout.

Lou Finocchiaro (@GambLou and Againstthenumber.com) has found a niche as a successful UFC bettor. He recommends two underdogs — Marcus Brimage (plus-110) over Russell Doane and Kenny Robertson (plus-140) over Ildemar Alcantara — and Weidman, who he bet at minus-185, in the main event.

“Weidman is six years younger, an inch taller and has a 4-inch reach advantage,” Finocchiaro said. “No doubt, Weidman wants this on the mat, and I think he will take him into the second or third round and tire him out. Weidman is going to beat this guy.”

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports betting columnist Matt Youmans can be reached at myoumans@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2907. He co-hosts “The Las Vegas Sportsline” weekdays at 2 p.m. on ESPN Radio (1100 AM). Follow him on Twitter: @mattyoumans247.