2017 Week 3 Recap

Three weeks into the CFL season, the standings in the West Division look just about where I thought they’d be, with the exception of Edmonton being undefeated.

The East Division is surprising on a number of levels.

First, the defending Grey Cup champs are winless through the first three games of the season.  While I thought they might suffer a bit of a Grey Cup hangover, I can’t believe they lost at home to the Argos this week.

The Argos are the other surprise, starting out with a 2-1 record.  They completely surprised the Tiger-Cats in Week 1, while their next game against BC seemed to be a better indicator of where their game was at.  They could not get anything going in the first half on Saturday night, but yet came back to beat Ottawa at home.

Hamilton just looks terrible.  I am surprised how weak its offensive line is, and I expected better from the linebackers.  You can tell that Zach Collaros is constantly hearing footsteps, as he hardly sets his feet before throwing.  And then there are the penalties and complete lack of discipline.  Like here:

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Will Hill is definitely going to be the first player suspended by new CFL Commissioner Randy Ambrosie.  You can’t touch an official.  Ever.  Right, Kent Austin?

While Riders’ HC Chris Jones was on the hot seat last week, this week it’s Tiger-Cats’ Head Coach Kent Austin, whose team’s fortunes have really taken a nosedive since its last Grey Cup appearance in 2014.

On that note, let’s take a look at Hamilton’s performance and the other games from Week 3.

BC at Montreal

What’s with the BC Lions and the fourth quarter?

The Alouettes kept the game close, only down by 3 going into the fourth quarter.  They’d only given up 9 points to the Lions through the first 3 quarters and had a good shot at getting the upset.

But Jeremiah Johnson is tough to stop.

BC really should’ve been up by a TD going into the fourth quarter, but the goal post got in the way:

The Lions’ offence hasn’t exactly been lighting it on fire the first three weeks of the season, but it’s put together long TD drives in the fourth quarter when the game is on the line.  I expect the Lions to start putting together a better offensive effort this coming week when they return home after being out east after two weeks.

As for the Alouettes, they’ve scored 17, 16, and 16 points in each of their first three games.  While you have to admire the consistency on one level, the lack of offensive output is somewhat troubling, especially when you have weapons like Tyrell Sutton and Ernest Jackson.  The Als’ defence is keeping the team in games, but it needs help from Darian Durant and the offence.

BC (2-1) 23, Montreal (1-2) 16

Calgary at Winnipeg

You know the Stamps are having an off night when it takes them SIX TRIES to score from the one yard line.

Luckily for them, Winnipeg lined up offside on the third try, giving them an extra three attempts.

Stamps’ QB Bo Levi Mitchell had an ugly first half, about as ugly as his first half in the 2016 Grey Cup, throwing two interceptions.  The Stamps’ lack of offensive production allowed the Bombers to go up 10-9 at halftime.

Luckily for them, MATTY ICE threw this beauty pick six in Q3:

The Bombers scored ZERO POINTS in the second half.

While most of the Stamps’ offense seemed to take the night off, one guy had a break out game.

Kamar Jorden had two TDs: one on the ground, and one through the air.

Like the Alouettes, the Bombers’ defence held the Stamps in check as long as it could. The Bombers’ offence just couldn’t get going.

The Bombers continue to suck at home.  And against Calgary.  Just like usual.

Calgary (2-0-1) 29, Winnipeg 10 (1-1)

Toronto at Ottawa

Hmmm.

REDBLACKS’ QB Trevor Harris continues to put up stellar numbers, as do his receivers. Harris had 370 yards passing and 2 TDs.  Greg Ellingson had 10 catches for 170 yards and 1 TD.

The defence held the Argos to one point in the first half.

One point.

And yet the REDBLACKS lost 26-25.

Plays like this didn’t help:

It also didn’t help that Ricky Ray threw for 366 yards and SJ Green had 200+ yards.

You have to tackle better, REDBLACKS!

Still, Ottawa had a chance to win the game.  But Drew Tate fumbled the snap on the convert that would’ve tied the game.  Ottawa tried a 59 yard field goal on the last play, but it was wide and Toronto ran the ball out of the end zone.

While the reigning Grey Cup champs remain winless through Week 3, they’ve lost those three games by a combined 4 points.  It’s not time to panic in Ottawa.  Yet.

Toronto (2-1) 26, Ottawa (0-2-1) 25

Hamilton at Saskatchewan

WE’RE NOT THE WORST!  WE’RE NOT THE WORST!

That was, by far, the best defensive effort the Riders have put forth since Chris Jones took over as Head Coach.

Chris Jones also clearly listened to me, as the three-men fronts were at a minimum, and there were a lot less substitutions than usual.  Jones finally let his guys play.  And they rewarded him with a stellar defensive effort, allowing Hamilton only 1 net yard of offence in the first quarter on 206 yards offence in total.  TSN’s game line only has the Riders with one sack, but I can think of at least three.

The Riders’ offence hit its stride this week, with Steve McAdoo finally calling a more imaginative game that featured some actual rushing plays!  The Riders should keep giving the ball to Cameron Marshall, as he breaks tackles more often than not.  He had 71 yards on the ground.

Kevin Glenn had his best game in a while.  He threw for 380 yards and 2 TDs, and also rushed for 2 TDs – even if, according to Milt Stegall, he does run as slow as a turtle.

But in true Kevin Glenn-style, he had to make one bad decision that marred a pretty incredible effort:

This caused me to have this reaction:

KEVIN

Thank goodness KG shrugged it off and went back to work.

Naaman Roosevelt had his best game of the season with 167 yards receiving.  Duron Carter got his first TD of the season, and Bakari Grant continues to make key catches in the red zone.

The Riders’ special teams also deserve kudos for keeping Brandon Banks in check all night, helped by solid directional kicking from Josh Bartel.  Tyler Crapigna nailed both of his field goals, including a 45 yarder.

BTW, what was with the short kick in the 4th quarter, Jonesie?

As for Hamilton, its offensive line had trouble all night with the Riders’ front four.  Zach Collaros looked off all night, except for the one TD drive Hamilton had in the third quarter.

Defensively, Hamilton started some pure rookies in its secondary.  And yes, Hamilton missed Emmanuel Davis and Abdul Kanneh.

But Hamilton’s main problem was discipline: 15 penalties for 187 yards.  These extended drives for the Riders and put Hamilton’s offense in second and long situations most of the night.

Now, on the officiating front, it was a bad night.  Tim Kroeker’s crew is by far the worst in the CFL; his crew seems to throw a flag on each and every play.  If a foul doesn’t affect the play, why throw the flag?  There were flags thrown for both teams that should’ve been picked up.

As for Command Centre, it should’ve picked up Kent Austin trying to get the officials’ attention when he wanted to throw his challenge flag.  And letting the Saunders catch stand in the fourth quarter when the replay clearly showed the ball touching the ground was ridiculous.  While neither play had an impact on the game (Austin’s challenge most likely wouldn’t have been successful, and the Saunders catch didn’t result in points – if I recall correctly), this is the stuff the CFL must get right.

Hamilton (0-2) 20, Saskatchewan (1-2) 37

 

 

 

Week 2 Recap

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I’m a big believer in having the CFL season open on Canada Day each and every year. IMHO, a truly Canadian league should identify itself with its country’s birthday.  It could be an annual tradition that the CFL can build on each and every year.

But what do I know?

It was nice to see each team decked out in Canada 150 shirts this past weekend that celebrated its hometown or adopted legends.  George Reed isn’t a Canadian by birth, but he has adopted Canada as his home.  As has Mike ‘Pinball’ Clemons.  And Henry Burris.

Just in time for Canada 150, Chris O’Leary wrote a great article about Americans CFL players who’ve adopted Canada as their home.  You can check it out here.

Week 2 got off to a great start with another match up between the Stamps and REDBLACKS, then featured a rather ho-hum Friday night doubleheader and ended with the Riders somehow managing to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Ottawa at Calgary

Like last year, REDBLACKS’ QB Trevor Harris is starting off the season with a couple of strong starts. He threw for 425 yards, and three of his receivers had 100+ yard games (Ellingson, Sinopoli, and Spencer).

Yet his team remains winless.

The biggest question that comes out of this game for me is whether both of these teams’ defences suck or if their offences are just that good.

I am impressed with the REDBLACKS.  I assumed they’d suffer a post-Grey Cup hangover, especially with Henry Burris retiring.  So far they haven’t lost a beat, and have played the Stamps down to the wire each week.

As for the Stampeders, I expected them to hammer the REDBLACKS both weeks. Regardless, it does my Rider heart good to see the Stamps at 1-0-1, and not 2-0 through Week 2.

Calgary 43 (1-0-1), Ottawa 39 (0-1-1)

BC at Toronto

This game was booooooooring.  It took forever for one team to take control of the game, which ended up being BC.

The high-flying offence the Argos sported a week ago was nowhere to be found, although Ricky Ray still managed to throw for 327 yards.  Rider castoff Armanti Edwards had a huge game, with 133 yards and a touchdown.

Are the Argos taking a page from Chris Jones’ playbook and dispensing with any sort of a running game?

Jeremiah Johnson had a good night on the ground for the Lions, with 70 rushing yards and a TD.  Bryan Burnham was Jonathon Jennings’ favourite target, with 118 yards receiving.

This was not a clean game; there were a lot of turnovers.  The Lions had an interception and a fumble, while Argos also had an interception but managed two fumbles.

BC 28 (1-1), Toronto 15 (1-1)

Montreal at Edmonton

It’s only Week 2, but the Esks have lost two starters to season-ending injuries.  LB JC Sherritt ruptured his Achilles tendon last week, while in Week 2 RB John White tore his ACL and will be out for the remainder of the season.

Lucky for the Eskimos, they were playing the Alouettes, who got off to a 10-0 start in the first quarter and had trouble getting anything going after that.

Darian Durant did not have a great game, throwing for only 166 yards.  The Alouettes’ biggest offensive weapon was Tyrell Sutton, who posted 88 rushing yards.

After a few early drops, the Eskimos’ receivers finally got in gear in the second half. Adarius Bowman amassed 117 receiving yards and a TD.  Travon Van (who?) filled in admirably after John White went down and added 50 rushing yards to the Eskimos’ offensive output.

Last week’s standout receivers, Brandon Zylstra and D’Haquille Williams, were both quiet, only having 17 receiving yards between them.

Als’ PK Boris Bede is off to a much better start in 2017, making 5/6 field goals thus far, including going 4/4 in the loss to the Esks.

Montreal 19 (1-1), Edmonton 23 (2-0)

Winnipeg at Saskatchewan

Damn you, Riders.  Just like last week, you gave me hope and then you took it away and it made me feel like this:

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BTW, Tyler Crapigna has not had a good couple of weeks.

After getting out to a 10-0 start and playing a perfect defensive game in the first quarter, the Riders’ defense fell apart, giving up 21 points in approximately 11 minutes in the third quarter.  Weston Dressler had the Riders’ secondary chasing him all night long, and he would’ve had three TDs if Matt Nichols hadn’t overthrown him in the end zone.

Despite throwing two interceptions, both of which I would put under the category of ‘inexplicable’, Kevin Glenn managed to get the Riders back into the game into the fourth quarter and send the game into OT.  But in class Kevin Glenn-style, he screwed up when the team had chances to win the game.

Nic Demski continued his great play, picking up 82 receiving yards and a beauty TD where he got in behind coverage and was all alone.

Sadly, the Riders lost Caleb Holley to a shoulder injury.  He’ll likely be out for some time.

Winnipeg 43 (1-0), Saskatchewan 40 (0-2) (OT)

2017 CFL Season Preview: Part III

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It is going to be a GREAT year in the West Division.

The Stampeders are going to be seeking #redemption all season long to make up for their 2016 Grey Cup loss.

The Lions are nipping at the Stampeders’ heels, as Jonathon Jennings should only be better with one full season under his belt.

Mike Reilly will keep the Eskimos competitive.

The Bombers will be looking to build on last season’s third place finish in the West Division.

The Riders will try and play spoiler as they try to get back into the playoffs for the first time since 2014, but it will be an uphill climb.

Let’s preview what should be a stellar West Division.  Ready? BREAK!

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2017 CFL Season Preview: Part II

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Last year at this time, Henry Burris was the starting QB of the Ottawa REDBLACKS, with Trevor Harris nipping at his heels.  Jim Popp was still trying to prove that he could be both a coach and a GM.  Scott Milanovich and Jim Barker were in charge of the Argos during their first season away from Rogers Place.  Kent Austin was grumpy and unshaven.

To begin the 2017 season, Trevor Harris takes over as the REDBLACKS’ starting QB from the retired Henry Burris.  Jim Popp has reunited with Marc Trestman to try to turn the good ship Argo around.  Jacques Chapdelaine loses the ‘interim’ tag and takes over as Head Coach of the Alouettes.  Kent Austin is still grumpy and unshaven.

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February Frenzy

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Here we are, almost at March, edging closer to the 2017 CFL season.

I gave up on the 2016 CFL season in last August.  At that point, the Riders were 1 and a billion, their chances of making the playoffs basically nil.  For the second straight year, the Riders weren’t really worth watching.

And yet I still care.

I just about divorced the Riders once and for all on January 13, 2017, when they traded Darian Durant, my love in an alternate universe, to the Montreal Alouettes.

To KAVIS REED’S Alouettes.

Oh yeah.  Kavis Reed is now the Alouettes’ GM.  And Jacques Chapdelaine is their coach.

And then Kevin Glenn returned for his third tour of duty with the Green and White.

It feels like some weird reenactment of Groundhog Day.

Then there are the *constant* rumours that Rider Head Coach Chris Jones is teeing up a trade for Eskimos’ QB prospect James Franklin.  Add the head-scratching signings of receivers retreads Chad Owens and Bakari Grant and the recent retirement of long-time OL Chris Best and the offseason is not assuage Riders fans’ fears.

But last year at this time Rider fans were swooning over Chris Jones’ free agent signings: Shawn Lemon, Justin Capicciotti and…I can’t remember anymore.  That’s how much of an impact those signings made.

Thus far in 2017, with the exception of the signing of OT Derick Dennis, the reaction to the Riders’ free agent signings has been either ‘meh’ or ‘huh?’

But after the past couple of seasons, I have to think that lower expectations are better where the Riders are concerned.

Some other CFL notes, quotes, and jokes:

  • While the Riders have seemed like the CFL’s best hot mess given the constant media coverage, that title actually belong to the lowly Toronto Argonauts, who have managed to go through nearly two weeks of CFL free agency without a Head Coach OR GM.  This makes me question the intelligence of those players who’ve actually SIGNED with the Argos over the past couple of weeks.  But do not fear: in true Argos’ fashion, the Argos have gone south and by all accounts will be bringing back the dynamic duo of Mark Trestman and Jim Popp as Head Coach and GM.  This is good for the Argos, as their first season at BMO Field was a certified embarrassment, but there’ll be quite the mess to clean up.  If Ricky Ray stays healthy, though, look out; Trestman did wonders for Anthony Calvillo in his last years in the CFL.  As for Drew Willy, he might be the unluckiest guy in the CFL.
  • If the Riders win the 2009 Grey Cup, Darian Durant is inarguably the greatest QB in franchise history.  So who is it?  I say Kent Austin given that he won as a QB in 1989 and then a coach in 2007.  He was instrumental in getting Kerry Joseph to guide the Riders to the 2007 Grey Cup.
  • I continue to be amused by Kavis Reed’s ability to fail successfully, i.e. get promoted even though he’s not been successful in his previous role.  It’s widely rumoured that the Alouettes have major salary cap problems, so his job won’t be easy.  Especially given his inability to count (see: 2009 Grey Cup).
  • Drew Tate was traded to the REDBLACKS.  He was worth a fifth round conditional pick in the 2018 CFL draft.  For some reason this makes me feel better about myself.
  • I’m surprised the REDBLACKS didn’t hold on to Ernest Jackson.  He only scored the franchise’s first Grey Cup winning TD.
  • Meanwhile, Grey Cup winning QB Henry Burris is beginning his post-retirement broadcasting career by joining CTV Ottawa’s Morning Live show.  I would smash my TV if I had to see Smilin’ Hank every weekday morning.
  • The Tiger-Cats have been awfully quiet this offseason.  Their biggest news has been not re-signing SB Andy Fantuz.  He still remains a free agent.
  • MATTY ICE re-signed in BomberLand not long after the Riders traded Darian Durant. What I learned watching the SuperBowl, though, was that Matt Ryan is THE ORIGINAL MATTY ICE.  I always knew Matt Nichols was a fraud.
  • There hasn’t been a lot of noise out of Calgary, Edmonton or BC either, except for the move of popular players to the NFL.  The Esks’ leading receiver, Derrel Walker, signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Lions LB Adam Bighill is now with the New Orleans Saints.
  • This Vince Young talk is ridiculous.  If the Riders sign him, they’ll look pretty hypocritical given that Darian Durant is roughly the same age.  Rider fans should focus on the loss of Chris Best.  The Riders’ OL has a huge hole at right guard now.  The Riders should focus on drafting more OLmen in May’s CFL draft.

Next up for the CFL is the inaugural CFL Week held in Regina from March 21-26.  Seeing Darian Durant wearing an Alouettes’ jersey will suck.  A lot.

2016 Week 6 Picks

This just reminded me that we’re nearly 1/4 of the way through the 2016 CFL season.

That went fast

Surprises?  How much teams are winning on the road.  That starting QBs are getting hurt frequently for the second consecutive season.  That the Tiger-Cats and the Argos haven’t been better.  That the Lions have been quite a bit better.  That teams aren’t bothering to run the ball anymore.

Duhs? The Bombers continue to suck.  The Riders’ defence is taking some time to come together.  The REDBLACKS’ (YUCK) offence has been as good as it has – except for last week.  That the referees continue to be inconsistent, that Command Centre has no clue what ‘conclusive evidence’ means, and that the ‘eye in the sky’ has been useless.

And so it goes.

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2016 Week 2 Recap

So that was an eventful weekend.

The Alouettes’ Duron Carter started a melee, the BC Lions shockingly destroyed the Tiger-Cats, and Darian Durant made it through an entire game for the first time since Labour Day 2014.

The only unsurprising thing was that the Bombers continue to suck.

(Some things never change, eh?)

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