Week 2 Picks

I get what the Riders are trying to do here, but I think ‘Wassup?’ would’ve have been a better word choice.  To ‘sup’ means to sip a drink.  Come on, guys.

Anyway…

Remember the guy who got pasted at last weekend’s Lions’ game?

He decided to get a lawyer.  He’s probably going to sue Lions DB Marcell Young for battery – or at least threaten to sue him.  Apparently the streaker’s name is Jager Myslawchuk, which tells you everything you need to know after him.

In other news…

GOOD LORD.  BTW, does anyone know what the #paperplates hashtag means?

And finally…

The REDBLACKS are in first place in the East Division by virtue of having a bye in Week 1.  I love the CFL!

Last week I was a solid 3-1 with my picks.  My only error was in picking Toronto over the Riders.  But if you’d sat through the Riders’ last pre-season game, you wouldn’t have picked them, either.

Here are this week’s games:

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This week’s games are a lot harder to pick than last week’s.

Saskatchewan (1-0) at Ottawa (0-1)

Oh man.  Could this be the reverse of last year when Bo Levi Mitchell told Duron Carter he’d pick on him if he played defensive back and Carter ended up picking off Mitchell for a TD?

“Bo Levi – SHUT YOUR MOUTH!!”  I still love it!

The REDBLACKS certainly aren’t giving Carter any ammunition, which makes me nervous.  Carter is starting in place of DB Nick Marshall, who was placed on the six-game injured list earlier this week after picking off Ricky Ray and taking the ball back for a TD when the Argos were in town last Friday night.  (My question to Chris Jones is this: do you really not have any other defensive backs that are better than Duron?) Look for REDBLACKS QB Trevor Harris and his wide receiver trio of Greg Ellingson, Brad Sinopoli, and Diontae Spencer to go after Carter early and often.

Other than Carter versus the REDBLACKS’ receivers, the other key match up is the REDBLACKS’ offensive line against the Riders’ formidable front four.  The REDBLACKS’ offence thrives on the big play, so it’ll be important for the Riders to disrupt the pocket and make sure Harris doesn’t have time to set up the long ball.  There will no doubt be some double-teaming in Charleston Hughes’ future given last week’s performance.  The Riders’ defense was fairly passive in the second half of last week after being up a few TDs, and they can’t let that happen against the REDBLACKS.

One variable this week is the fact that it’s the REDBLACKS’ home opener.  After a bye last week, the REDBLACKS have had loads of time to prepare for the Riders and they’re rested and ready to put on the pads and play.  This just might give the REDBLACKS a little more jump in their step, so the Riders will need to ensure the REDBLACKS don’t get out to an early lead.

Notice I haven’t said anything about the Riders’ offense?  I am cautiously optimistic after last week’s performance, but it’s still a work in progress.

PICK: Ottawa by 3

Winnipeg (0-1) at Montreal (0-1)

Why yes – I did watch this, even though it was ridiculous.  What I really don’t understand is why they have to wear their uniforms while doing a key flip challenge.

I tried to find the Instagram story to see which team Stella picked to win, but no luck.  There’s a metaphor for the Alouettes of the past few seasons in there somewhere.

Last week, rookie Winnipeg QB Chris Streveler had a pretty decent debut.  Montreal QB Drew Willy started off strong, but faded as the game went on.  Both team’s defenses had trouble, particularly Winnipeg’s, which gave up nearly 500 yards against Edmonton.

Winnipeg is also on the road.  That doesn’t usually bode well for West Division teams.  But Winnipeg used to be an East Division team.

In case you can’t tell, I don’t have much to say about this game.

PICK: Winnipeg by 5

Hamilton (0-1) at Edmonton (1-0)

Hamilton was not exactly handed an easy schedule to begin the year.  Last week they were in Calgary, and this week they make a stop in Edmonton.

The Tiger-Cats may be aided by the return of CB Delvin Breaux from the NFL.  Breaux was released following the 2014 season and signed with the New Orleans Saints.  He broke his fibula twice while with the Saints and was recently released.  The crazy part?  Two orthopedic surgeons with the Saints misdiagnosed his second broken fibula as a contusion.

For Rider fans, Breaux will always be known as the guy Kory Sheets stiff armed for his first TD of the 2013 Grey Cup.

(Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

You can watch the play at the 0:25 mark of this highlights video.

Once he’s ready to play, Breaux will be a great addition to a Tiger-Cats secondary that could use a veteran presence.

As for Edmonton, they barely escaped with a win last Thursday night.  Their secondary did not show up, although it was missing a few guys, including key veteran DB Aaron Grymes.  That unit should play better this weekend.

Hamilton QB Jeremiah Masoli had a decent game in Calgary last week, but a costly interception late in the 4th quarter sealed the game for the Stampeders.  Masoli can’t turn the ball over this week if the Tiger-Cats are going to win, as Edmonton QB Mike Reilly will pounce on every mistake.

PICK: Edmonton by 6

Calgary (1-0) at Toronto (0-1)

BWAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!

The Stampeders are so undeniable they’ve lost the Grey Cup TWO TIMES IN A ROW!!

(These teams should really hire me to review their marketing campaigns.)

This is the game that should’ve opened the season, as it features a rematch between the two teams who squared off in the 2017 Grey Cup in snowy Ottawa.

There’s no doubt the Stampeders will want to exact a little revenge on the Argos.  Both teams struggled in their opening games as their offences tried to get going.  Until the 4th quarter, the Stampeders seemed to stumble every time they got near the end zone, while the Argos didn’t even get near the end zone until the last 15 minutes of their game against the Riders.

Both defences will be challenged this week.  Neither can let the opposing QB get into a rhythm, as both Bo Levi Mitchell and Ricky Ray can slice a defense apart if given time.  I’m personally hoping for a high-scoring game.

While the Argos beat the Stamps in the Grey Cup last year, the Stampeders were the superior regular season team as Toronto only had a 9-9 record.  It may be a new season, but I think the Stampeders will have an extra edge given the bit of unfinished business they have from last year.

PICK: Stampeders by 5

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Back in the Black

For the REDBLACKS, the 2017 season was the one that got away.  It started out well, with a Grey Cup rematch that saw the REDBLACKS tie the Calgary Stampeders in a high scoring affair.  After that, the REDBLACKS lost the next 4 out of 5 games by a combined 10 points.  Ultimately finishing with an 8-9-1 record, the REDBLACKS failed to capitalize on a weakened East Division and let the Toronto Argonauts slip into first place, leaving the REDBLACKS to take on – and subsequently lose to – the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the East Division Semi-Final.

One of the major issues the REDBLACKS had throughout the 2017 season was turnovers.  The REDBLACKS had a -12 turnover ratio, with only BC and Montreal having a worse ratio.  This means that not only did the REDBLACKS cough up the football a lot, they didn’t produce many turnovers.

Enter: Noel Thorpe

Noel Thorpe’s defences are far more aggressive than anything former defensive co-ordinator (now linebackers coach) Mark Nelson ever ran.  The additions of Kyries Hebert – even at age 37 – and Loucheiz Purifoy will help inject the REDBLACKS’ defense with a more hard-nosed style of play.  However, the REDBLACKS will need to overcome the losses of DL Zach Evans, who signed with the Riders during free agency, and LB Taylor Reed, who is now a member of the Argos.

While the REDBLACKS’ defense got a makeover, the offensive core remains intact.  QB Trevor Harris and star receivers Brad Sinopoli, Greg Ellingson, and Dionate Spencer all re-signed with the REDBLACKS in the off season. RB William Powell also re-signed.  If he can stay healthy, he may well lead the league in rushing yards.  Despite missing 6 games last season, Powell only finished 9 yards behind Andrew Harris for the league rushing title.  With the addition of Richie Leone as field goal kicker, the REDBLACKS shouldn’t have any trouble putting up points this season.

Last year the REDBLACKS lost a number of games as their defence couldn’t close out teams.  This season the REDBLACKS are looking to rectify that problem and get back on top of the East Division.

A New Era

Photo from Twitter: @randyambrosie

Think bigger“.

That’s the attitude Randy Ambrosie introduced to the CFL when he took over as Commissioner last June.

Even though he hasn’t been on the job for a full year yet, Ambrosie has already left his mark on the CFL – and in a decidedly good way.

Ambrosie has been highly visible over the past year, travelling across the country to promote the CFL and engage with fans – and not just during the season.

This year marked the inaugural Randy’s Road Trip, where Ambrosie visited each CFL city to hold a town hall with die hard fans.  In a quest to make the CFL a truly coast-to-coast league, Ambrosie even ventured out to Halifax, fanning hopes that the Atlantic Schooners – or some such team – might one day be a reality.

What Ambrosie has accomplished in a mere 10 months is rather stunning when compared to the tenures of previous commissioners.  (See: Orridge, Jeffrey.) He kept the CFL in the sports pages for most of the past off-season, by introducing new initiatives such as Randy’s Road Trip and holding CFL meetings in January in Banff.  The release of the 2018 schedule in December 2017 was a surprise Christmas gift to CFL fans, allowing them to dream of summer nights full of football even when it was -40 outside.  Of course, this does not mean that everything went smoothly.

While the NFL window disappeared with the last CBA, apparently some teams have made side deals with players to allow them to be released midway through their first CFL contract to pursue NFL opportunities.  Ambrosie issued a strong statement to reiterate that this practice is offside the CBA.  But then the league had to issue a mea culpa when it came to light that it registered a contract that allowed just that.  This will no doubt be an issue in the coming year since the current CBA expires in May 2019.

Then there was the Johnny Manziel circus.  (DEAR LORD, MAKE IT STOP.) After Ambrosie set down the rules for Manziel to even sign a contract for the 2018 season, CFL pundits engaged in what might be the most annoying game of “Will he or won’t he?” the CFL has ever seen.  The constant speculation even got on the nerves on CFL veterans:

AMEN, GREG.  A-FREAKING-MEN.

But if there is a CFL Commissioner who can handle the Manziel show, it is Ambrosie.  Upon Manziel’s signing with the Tiger-Cats earlier today, he released a statement making it clear that Manziel’s time in the CFL is conditional.  The conditions have not been made public, but I have faith that Ambrosie will have no qualms about putting Manziel in his place if need be.

With the plethora of player movement this past off season, the 2018 CFL season is setting up to be possibly one of the most competitive seasons in CFL history.  This, along with the stabilization of the league’s head office, has put the ball in Ambrosie’s hands.  It’s up to him to take the CFL to the next level.

 

2016 CFL Season Preview: Part 2 of 4 – East Division

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For many years, the CFL’s East Division was often referred to as the LEAST Division – especially by yours truly.

But the 2015 season proved to be a season where the word ‘parity’ was tossed around a lot. And for good reason.  Three of the East Division’s four teams finished with better records than three of the West Division’s five teams.  The REDBLACKS had 12 wins, while the Argos and Ti-Cats had 10 wins a piece.  In comparison, only Edmonton and Calgary managed to amass more than 10 wins in 2015.

Weird.  VERY weird.

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