This is the calm before the football storm. In less than a month, NFL training camps will be opening, and Aaron Rodgers will be slinging passes in Green Bay Packers practices. Rodgers rarely will get intercepted.
The media will play up the Denver Broncos’ quarterback derby, and Tom Brady most likely will take the field with a four-game suspension still hanging over his head.
Baseball is nice, golf majors can be dramatic, and soccer excites some people, but it’s obvious the sports wagering world revolves around football season.
“It’s not too far away,” South Point sports book director Chris Andrews said. “It will sneak up on us pretty quick.”
Actually, football already is here. North of the border, it’s the second week of the Canadian Football League season, which will inspire more followers than the Jeb Bush campaign and deserves more viewers than the next bad Matthew McConaughey movie.
OK, that’s not saying much. But several of the games are on ESPN2, and while the CFL is not must-see TV, when there are televised football games with betting lines attached, there will be eyes on the action.
The CFL is considered sports book space junk — floating in obscurity with the likes of NASCAR and the WNBA — yet it can prove valuable if you cash tickets on it.
“I think the best opportunities in the CFL are in the first month of the season,” said Sportsmemo.com handicapper Ian Cameron, who released four plays in Week 1 and went 4-0.
Cameron (@bobano on Twitter) lives in Canada, and he knows the league’s nine teams better than the oddsmakers at this stage of the season. He hit another winner Thursday on the Ottawa Redblacks at pick’em in their 28-13 victory over the Montreal Alouettes.
The Redblacks’ quarterback is Trevor Harris, who took over the No. 1 job when 41-year-old Henry Burris went down to injury last week. Burris broke into the NFL with the Packers in 2001 and played in six games for the Chicago Bears in 2002.
The CFL has produced quarterbacks who went on to excel in the NFL, such as Doug Flutie and Warren Moon. If Cleveland Browns burnout Johnny Manziel ever hopes to get back to the big leagues, he might have to blaze a trail through Canada after he’s done partying in Mexico.
Bo Levi Mitchell, who played college ball at Southern Methodist and Eastern Washington, is currently the top quarterback in the CFL, according to Cameron. Mitchell leads the Calgary Stampeders, and that sort of makes him comparable to Brady.
“The Stampeders, a lot like the New England Patriots of the NFL, are a model franchise in the CFL,” Cameron said. “All they do year in and year out is be in the hunt to win the West Division and be in the hunt to be in the Grey Cup game. I expect nothing less from Calgary again this year.”
Cameron released a play for Friday on Calgary as a 9-point home favorite over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
It’s a stretch, but Chris Jones is the CFL coach who compares best to the Patriots’ Bill Belichick. Jones, the new coach and general manager of the Saskatchewan Roughriders, guided the Edmonton Eskimos to last year’s Grey Cup title. Jones grew up in Tennessee and speaks with a thick Southern accent that surely sounds odd north of the border.
The Roughriders finished 3-15 last season mostly because quarterback Darian Durant, a former North Carolina star, was lost to an injury.
“Saskatchewan has the most rabid fan base in the CFL. It’s lunatic-level fans,” Cameron said. “This is the team that everybody is fascinated to see. Chris Jones is a defensive genius, and he has been a winner everywhere he’s been. It’s a slam-dunk hire. How quickly does that turnaround happen? That remains to be seen.”
The Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ quarterback is Jeremiah Masoli, a former college star at Oregon. Masoli is a dual-threat playmaker, similar to Jonathan Jennings of the BC Lions. Jennings had a failed tryout with the Packers two years ago.
“I’m opening the door for BC to be a moneymaker and an ATS sleeper this season,” said Cameron, who has a play for Friday on BC as a 6-point ’dog at Hamilton.
Obviously, the BC-Hamilton game will not create a Monday Night Football atmosphere at the South Point or any other Las Vegas book.
“We get a handful of nickel ($500) bets,” Andrews said. “I don’t know of anyone who looks to bet more than a dime ($1,000), but even that’s rare. We get a little CFL action, but it’s nothing for me to sweat.”
The CFL regular season lasts 20 weeks — 18 games and two byes — before concluding with the Grey Cup in November.
“Once September rolls around, it takes a back seat,” Cameron said. “A lot of people turn their attention to the NFL and college football.”
But for now, the CFL is the only football game in town, and it can pay to play it.
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports betting columnist Matt Youmans can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2907. He co-hosts “The Las Vegas Sportsline” weekdays at 2 p.m. on ESPN Radio (1100 AM). Follow on Twitter: @mattyoumans247