Week 13 Recap

Maybe I’m getting old and crotchety, but I’m over the live mic games.  The novelty has worn off, and you can tell that either the players and coaches have some say in what goes to air or they’re just shutting their mouths.  See: Chris Jones basically having nothing to say during his live mic game.

But once in a while, the live mic gives a little glimpse of humour, and the above clip of Travis Lulay was pretty funny.  He took a vicious shot right under the chin later in the game, so we’re hoping he’s okay.

Ottawa at BC

What is the deal with Ottawa QB Trevor Harris?  He has a dynamic RB in William Powell and a solid receiving corps with Greg Ellingson, Brad Sinopoli, and Dionate Spencer.  Yet Harris and the REDBLACKS are having a tough time generating any offense over the past couple of weeks.  While they’ve run into a couple of teams whose defenses have made big improvements over the past couple of weeks – see: Montreal and BC – they should still be able to put up points.

If I recall correctly, the TSN crew thought Harris does much better in a hurry up offense rather than one that takes the full 20 seconds between each play.  If that’s the case, then run the hurry up offense!  But I’m starting to think the problem is starts with the REDBLACKS’ offensive line, which gave up SIX sacks on Friday night.  It’s a young line – and that will pay dividends in time – so there are some growing pains.

Still, the REDBLACKS need to figure out how to help their young oline so that their offense can get going.  That might mean focusing on the running game more in the first quarter to help the young’uns start winning the line of scrimmage, or bringing in extra blockers to help the passing game.

The Lions had to win on Friday night to keep any hope of making the playoffs alive.  The crossover is in play, as the Lions now have four wins, one more than both Montreal and Toronto in the East Division.

BC’s offense was not spectacular, as it only managed to 260 yards.  It was in tough from the beginning, as C Cody Husband went down, leaving the backup to take over.  His snaps were all over the place, making it difficult for the BC QBs on timing routes and hand offs.  Luckily, the BC defense scored a pick six and came up with two other interceptions that helped limit the REDBLACKS to only one TD on the night.

As mentioned above, QB Travis Lulay went down after taking a hit to the chin in the second quarter.  WR Emmanuel Arceneaux is already out for an extended period of time.  If Lulay misses any significant playing time, the Lions’ chances of making the post-season will be in trouble.

FINAL: Ottawa (6-5) 14, BC (4-6) 26

Hamilton at Toronto

Before I say anything about the actual game, I need to complement Henry Burris.  And no – you are not in a parallel universe or the twilight zone.  Burris worked this game alongside Gord Miller and I thoroughly enjoyed the two of them.  Miller is a classic play-by-play man who clearly follows the CFL even though hockey is his milieu.  What I liked about Burris was that I felt like I was learning by listening to him break down a play.  He talked about the progressions a QB would generally have on a certain type of play and would identify the routes.  It was like he was in my living room beside me breaking down the game for me as it went along.  I hope he gets more assignments because he is far better than either Glen Suitor or Matt Dunigan.  Duane Forde is pretty blasé, but I still enjoy him.

As for the game, the Argos did start WR Duron Carter, but he mostly saw time on kickoff and punt returns.  He was targeted on one offensive play – a pass deep to the end zone that was beyond his reach.  He could be a difference maker for the Argos as he gets more time on the field.  The Argos are desperate for another receiver to take the heat off of veteran WR SJ Green, although WR Armanti Edwards has proven to be a good foil for Green.

The Argos put up more of a fight than I expected.  Inconsistency remains their biggest issue.  Some offensive drives they couldn’t get the right amount of personnel on the field, while on others, they cut through the Hamilton defense making it look so easy.  A couple of miscues on short yardage – they lost two 3rd down gambles – and the game might’ve ended differently.

I continue to be impressed by Hamilton QB Jeremiah Masoli.  He threw for over 300 yards and 4 TDs on Saturday afternoon, with another 300+ yard game breaking a franchise record formerly held by – Henry Burris.  He also moved the ball on the ground, rushing for 51 yards, which kept the Argos’ defense off balance most of the game.

With a win, the Tiger-Cats moved into a tie with the REDBLACKS for first in the East Division, while the Argos remain in the CFL basement with only three wins.

FINAL: Hamilton (6-5) 36, Toronto (3-8) 25

Saskatchewan at Winnipeg

I have a lot to say about this game, but much of it isn’t exactly PG.  The play above was inexplicable.  The Riders ran the same play earlier in the game.  You have four receivers on the right side of the formation, telegraphing exactly what is about to happen again.  No one seems to see the DB creeping up to jump the route and the play is not only a bust, but results in a pick six.  The Riders’ offense is so very easy to defend against.  Opposing defensive co-ordinators probably look forward to the weeks they play the Riders because they don’t have to put much thought into their game plan.

That being said, the Bombers’ offense didn’t exactly light the world on fire.

Matt Nichols was amazingly inept, throwing TWO pick sixes in the first half, which led to him being booed off the field a half time and Chris Streveler going in at QB in the third quarter.

It didn’t help.

Here’s another inexplicable play.  It’s second down, and a bunch of the Blue Bombers’ defenders are crowding the line of scrimmage.  They’re going to blitz.  It’s not hard to see that there are few Rider olinemen than Bomber guys on the line, so someone is going to get by unblocked.  The inability of ANYONE on the Rider offense to react is mindnumbingly stupid.  And it resulted in QB Zach Collaros being pulled from the game.

Obviously the Rider defense won this game for the Riders.  It had a much better game against the run, but, in my opinion, left receivers with too much cushion throughout the game.  But when the defense has two TDs and the offense had NONE, it’s hard to criticize the game plan.

Kudos also to Brett Lauther, who racked up another six field goals on Saturday afternoon.

The Riders’ offense is just – effing terrible.  (I am running out of adjectives to describe its ineptitude.) Somehow it has managed to help put up enough points to keep the Riders on a four game winning streak, but instead of getting better, it’s getting worse.  If RB Tre Mason wouldn’t have put up 117 rushing yards, the Riders would’ve been two and out for most of the game.  The offense wasn’t working when QB Brandon Bridge was running it, and it isn’t working with QB Zach Collaros.  The common factor is Offensive Coordinator Steve McAdoo.  Kevin Glenn made McAdoo look good last year.  But his offensive playbook is now being exposed for what it is: a couple of plays drawn on the back of napkins from the Memories restaurant at the Quality Hotel in Regina.

The Riders have won the last four games DESPITE their offense.  The Riders’ defense is the main reason why the Riders are 7-4.  The Riders lead the league in points off of turnovers.  I think the Rider defense has now scored MORE TDs than the Rider offense.  That is unacceptable.

The Bombers have their own problems.  They may have a genuine QB controversy, as the fans clearly want Chris Streveler to take the reins, while Head Coach Mike O’Shea seemingly remains committed to Matt Nichols.  With a bye week coming up, O’Shea will have a lot of time to figure out who his starting QB is going to be going forward.

One final note: if DE Willie Jefferson EVER AGAIN showboats on his way to the end zone, he’d better be benched.

FINAL: Saskatchewan (7-4) 32, Winnipeg (5-7) 27

Calgary at Edmonton

That was CLOSE.  And it’s possible Calgary got robbed.  I thought the Calgary player’s backside might’ve hit the turf before the ball came out.  But he didn’t argue with the ruling of incomplete, so maybe I’m completely out to lunch on this one.

Both the Calgary and Edmonton defenses took the night off in what became a shootout between QBs Bo Levi Mitchell and Mike Reilly.  Mitchell ended up with 491 yards, 4 TDs, and 3 INTs, while Reilly had 397 yards, 3 TDs, and 1 INT – plus another 3 TDs on the ground.  His CFL Fantasy score must’ve been RIDICULOUS.

The Eskimos were in control for most of the game, but Calgary made a late surge and just about took the game away.  It was tons of fun to watch, especially given the offensive ineptitude of the previous game.

I’m surprised Calgary’s defense wasn’t better, as up until now it’s been the league’s leading defense, but what do I know?

FINAL: Calgary 42 (9-2), Edmonton 48 (7-5)

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Week 6 Recap

Ms. Myers has a point.  Who hasn’t bought a jersey with their favourite player’s name on the back, only for that player to get traded?  Just because a bunch of people bought JM – aka he-who-shall-not-be-named – jerseys without thinking it through doesn’t mean that the Tiger-Cats should be expected to basically refund the money paid for those jerseys.

Everyone knows that Montreal has struggled to find a QB since the retirement of Anthony Calvillo in 2014.  Since that time, at least twelve different QBs have started games for the Alouettes.  TWELVE.  Injuries have been part of the problem, but the fact of the matter is that the Alouettes simply haven’t found a starting QB.

Montreal was desperate.  Attendance has been dropping over the past couple of seasons.  The Alouettes have lost 15 out of their last 16 games. (This makes the Riders’ loss to the Alouettes a couple of weeks ago even more inexplicable.)  This season was looking like another write off, so Alouettes GM Kavis Reed did what he does best: trade away the future for a some sort of shot at the present.

I assume Montreal’s ownership had to sign off on this deal given JM’s past and the conditions placed on him by the CFL.  And if I was Montreal ownership, I’d be asking Reed why he decided to give away *two* first round draft picks for a guy who hasn’t played one down in the regular season.  From that perspective, this trade makes no sense.  Not even Ricky Ray – a first ballot CFL Hall of Famer – was worth *two* first round draft picks when he was traded to Toronto by Edmonton in 2011. (Side question: Where is Steven Jyles now?)

Because of this trade, Montreal does not have a first round draft pick until 2022.  Reed gave up not one, but TWO first round draft picks to get JM.  He did get a starting LT in Tony Washington, and another OL in Landon Rice.  Given how porous Montreal’s offensive line has been thus far this season, JM’s agent might have been telling Reed that his client needed a better line in front of him.

For Hamilton, I’m not convinced that giving away two offensive linemen – especially a starting LT – was necessary.  The Tiger-Cats had the Alouettes by the you-know-what; they could’ve demanded anything.  They did pick up DE Jamaal Westerman and WR Chris Williams, who started his career in Hamilton.  I see the need for Westerman, but Williams is expendable given WR Brandon Banks.

If you’re looking for a person to feel sorry for as a result of this trade, think of QB Vernon Adams.  He was traded to Hamilton by Saskatchewan in the off-season as part of the trade for DE Charleston Hughes.  He was cut by the Tiger-Cats last month and signed by the Alouettes.  Adams hasn’t had a lot of luck in the CFL.  And now it looks like JM is stalking him.  The guy can’t catch a break.

Week 6 was a much better week for me, as I went 3-1.  As usual, the Tiger-Cats did the exact opposite of what I thought they would do, so we begin our recap with their game against the Riders.

Saskatchewan at Hamilton

I’ve already had this argument this past weekend, but I’m sticking to my original conclusion: that baby is in a precarious position, Andy.

Now I expected the Tiger-Cats to beat the snot out of the Riders.  The Ti-Cats were at home, they had a bye week to prepare for the rematch, and historically, teams tend to split home-and-home series.  But Hamilton came out sluggish, allowed the Riders to hang around, and couldn’t find any momentum in the second half after the Riders pulled ahead.

One thing I noticed early on was that the Ti-Cats were leaving the middle wide open.  The Riders took advantage of this in the second half on Marcus Thigpen’s 80 yard TD run.  I was disappointed that Offensive Coordinator Steve McAdoo didn’t take advantage of it more often, but that might’ve been on QB Brandon Bridge and/or the receivers.  I did see Thigpen try to release to the middle on another play, but it was late and Bridge had to throw the ball away.

The good news for Bridge was that after the first quarter, Chris Jones decided to let him PLAY.  No more stupid QB shuffling.  And it paid off.  Bridge went 17/22 for 165 yards and 1 TD.  He should’ve been around 19 or 20 completions out of 22 attempts, but WR Shaquelle Evans dropped a ball or two, and I think Naaman Roosevelt also dropped a sure pass.

Overall, the Rider offense was much improved over the previous game.  The running game was featured more often – although shuffling three RBs in and out seemed ridiculous – the passing game featured high percentage plays, and Bridge did a good job of spreading the ball around.  Another big positive was the fact that the offense didn’t take ANY penalties – not one.  Just imagine what could happen if Duron Carter EVER makes his way back to the offensive side of the ball!

Before we leave the offense, I must take Chris Jones to task for not having one freaking backup offensive lineman.  When OG Brendon Labatte went down early in the game, DL Eddie Steele came in and I figured the game was over.  Why do the Riders carry 8 defensive linemen and 8 linebackers and not ONE backup offensive lineman?  They didn’t carry an extra DB either!  WTF, Jones?  You’re lucky that Labatte came back in the game, as did DB Crezdon Butler.  Personally, I think it is a fireable offense for a head coach not to have a backup offensive lineman dressed.

The Riders did a good job of keep Hamilton QB Jeremiah Masoli off balance.  They limited his ability to run, and forced him out of the pocket on numerous occasions.  This led to some frustration for the Hamilton offense, which was very apparent in the pouty face that WR Brandon Banks wore for most of the game.

It also helped that Hamilton Head Coach June Jones made a couple of questionable decisions along the way.  The onside kick in the third quarter still has me wondering what he was thinking.

The Riders got some help from their special teams, as RB Christion Jones ran a punt back for a TD.  After missing his first field goal of the night, K Brett Lauther hit three others.  Hamilton did get one special teams TD, but that was the only breakdown all night.  For what it’s worth, it looked like two Riders ran into each other, allowing the Hamilton returner through the lane.

While the Riders exploded for a whole THREE TDs on Thursday night, it must be remembered that one was a special teams TD, and one came off a single running play.  The Riders did sustain more drives, winning time of possession by about 5 minutes, but they must start scoring TDs instead of field goals.  As for Hamilton, I expected better.  But it turned out okay for me.

FINAL: Saskatchewan (3-2) 31, Hamilton (2-3) 20

BC at Ottawa

Each of these teams had a chance to make a statement this past week.  BC had a chance to show that the previous week’s comeback against the Bombers wasn’t a fluke, while Ottawa could redeem itself after a more-than-forgettable performance against the Stampeders.  The result was an entertaining game where BC made some further strides and the REDBLACKS earned a rare win at home.

I tend to pick REDBLACKS WR Greg Ellingson when I need a REDBLACKS in my CFL Fantasy League, but this week I went with WR Brad Sinopoli, and this was a good move.  Sinopoli had a big game two weeks ago and continued his impressive pace this past week.  Lions WR Emmanuel Arceneaux had 152 yards and a TD, which is the biggest performance from him that I can recall in awhile.

The Lions did a good job of shutting down REDBLACKS RB William Powell.  The REDBLACKS did not reciprocate, as backup RB Brandon Rutley – who was in for injured RB Jeremiah Johnson – had 91 yards.  But the REDBLACKS wouldn’t have even been in this game if K Lewis Ward would not have gone 5/5 on field goals.  The REDBLACKS need to finish drives if they want to compete with the West Division teams.

REDBLACKS QB Trevor Harris redeemed himself with a 350+ passing yard performance after a dismal performance last week.  In, particular, he led the REDBLACKS down the field to score the winning TD.  Lions QB Travis Lulay could not do the same on the Lions’ final drive, but he still finished with 300+ receiving yards – although his completion percentage was barely above 50%.  And then there was the time count violation that led to the REDBLACKS’ winning drive.

The jury is still out on these two teams, as their performances have varied from abysmal to promising.  The REDBLACKS won this week, but these teams are evenly matched.  It’ll be interesting to see where they end up.

FINAL: BC (2-3) 25, Ottawa (3-2) 29

Winnipeg at Toronto

I know this is weird, but I have to echo the thoughts of Milt Stegall: how is it that a Marc Trestman-coached team can’t score any points?

This is the third game that Argos QB James Franklin has started, and it was his worst.  He only mustered 151 passing yards, and he didn’t throw a TD.  But Franklin can’t do it all on his own.  The Argos’ so-called ‘biggest weapon’ has been MIA so far this season.

Where is James Wilder, Jr.?

If you find him, please let the Argos know.

The Bombers drove down the field for a TD on their first drive of the game and never looked back.  They absolutely owned the Toronto defense, which was on the field a lot, out gaining Toronto by about 275 yards.  However, Winnipeg did give up a couple of needless TDs.  Pity points, I guess.

FINAL: Winnipeg (3-3) 38, Toronto (1-4) 20

Montreal at Calgary

This headline is just all kinds of awesome.

Bo Levi Mitchell could barely move on Saturday night.  And the Stampeders still beat the Alouettes by nearly twenty points.

The Alouettes continue to shoot themselves in the foot at every possible juncture.  Looks at these turnover statistics:

About the only interesting part of this game was that we had our first instance this year of two challenges on the same play – with both challenges being correct.  Stampeders Head Coach Dave Dickenson challenged a catch that upon review was not a catch, and then Alouettes Head Coach Mike Sherman challenged that there was defensive pass interference.  Sherman was also correct.  If I remember correctly, Montreal turned over the ball not long after that.  Pas de suprise.

FINAL: Montreal (1-4) 8, Calgary (5-0) 25

Week 4 Recap

Milt still has allllllllllllll the moves.

I’ve enjoyed the panel this year – for the most part. But this past weekend the guys were talking out of both sides of their mouths. With a straight face, they said that James Franklin did a good job of protecting the football and being patient, even though he threw two interceptions, while the Riders had pretty much the exact same game and got roasted for it – and rightfully so.

I’m not too surprised by this, but…

The panel’s disgust with Rider Head Coach Chris Jones’ decision-making was as apparent as ever this week.  But to be fair, EVERYONE was second-guessing his two QB system on Thursday night.  Rider QB Brandon Bridge was pretty clear after that the game that it wasn’t his preference; he had two series to put some drives together, otherwise the switch was on.

As Glen Suitor said, if you’re going to do something unconventional, you’d better win, and Jones did that this week.  But while he won this week’s battle, I don’t think an in game QB carousel is going to be the answer to winning the war.

Despite the Riders winning on Thursday night, I still managed to go 3-1 with my picks.

Hamilton at Saskatchewan

If you’re looking for highlights from this game, you’re going to be looking for a long time.  On the other hand, if you’re looking for the low points from the game, just check out each and every time the Rider offense had the ball for the first 56 minutes of this game.

Coming in, I, and everyone else, thought Hamilton’s offense would absolutely dominate the Riders.  But after getting shellacked by the Alouettes last week, the Riders brought their ‘A’ game to an epic defensive battle against the league’s current top offense.  The Rider D managed to keep the Tiger-Cats out of the end zone for 60 minutes, which I didn’t think was possible.

On offensive, the Riders continued their streak of ineptitude.  It began with the asinine QB rotation I mentioned above, and continued with the ridiculous play calls.  Calling for a hand off to a running back on 2nd and 19 should result in an automatic firing of the offensive co-ordinator.  As usual, McAdoo seemed to completely hamstring his QBs, calling more runs than usual in order to minimize mistakes.  It made for a boring and predictable game until Bridge let loose with a couple of minutes to play and connected with WR Joshua Stanford on a great pump and go.  Bridge made a great toss with defenders in his face by putting the ball only where Stanford could catch it.  And Stanford made an excellent adjustment to the ball and secured it with a defender draped all over him.  RB Marcus Thigpen FINALLY showed his breakaway speed and ran the ball to the outside and down the sideline for the winning TD.

(Why the CFL on TSN Twitter feed doesn’t have a clip of this one good play I do not understand.)

While the Riders kept the Tiger-Cats out of the end zone, they still let them amass 300+ yards of offense.  Plays like these drove me CRAZY!

CB/WR Duron Carter had a much better game on Thursday night, mostly because he was kept to the wide side of the field and wasn’t matched up with speedy WR Brandon Banks.  That match up was left for DB Ed Gainey, and while he didn’t have his best game, he made enough plays on the last drive of the game to ensure Hamilton didn’t score.

The Riders go into the bye week with a 2-2 record, as to the Tiger-Cats.  And while the Riders are happy to have escaped with a win on Thursday night, they have a lot of work to do this week to try and solve their offensive woes.

FINAL: Hamilton (2-2) 13, Saskatchewan (2-2) 18

Ottawa at Montreal

Apropos of nothing, I would like to mention that the REDBLACKS’ Twitter feed is the snarkiest in the CFL.  Par exemple:

But I am kind of ticked I took WR Greg Ellingson instead of WR Brad Sinopoli this week.  As a result, my fantasy team got rolled over this week.

With William Powell’s effort, the REDBLACKS should’ve put the Alouettes away a lot sooner than they did.  Instead, they let Montreal hang around and make a game of it – sort of.

Ottawa did no help itself by taking 100+ yards in penalties.  It settled for field goals instead of TDs, but it owned the time of possession and Montreal could not come back.

The good news for the Alouettes is that after beating the Riders last week, they hung around with a team that everyone thought would beat them by at least a dozen.  Even better, starting QB Jeff Matthews was better than the combined Rider duo of Brandon Bridge and David Watford.  What the Alouettes need to do is use RB Tyrell Sutton more.  He got into a groove in the 4th quarter, but it was far too late.  Integrating him into the offense in a game right from the start should pay dividends for the Alouettes later on.

Whatever the Alouettes do next, they need to focus on getting fans in the stands.  Attendance at this game was just north of 16,000 – and that was with a lot of REDBLACKS fans in the stands.  It’s a worrying trend.

FINAL: Ottawa (2-1) 28, Montreal (1-3) 18

Edmonton at Toronto

Mike Reilly versus James Franklin.  The teacher versus the student.  Mentor vs. mentee. It was the same blessed thing all week long.  After all of the build up, you think it would’ve been a great game!  Instead, it was a complete snoozefest.

Toronto went up early, Edmonton took the lead in the second half, and in the last couple of minutes, Toronto scored a TD, got a two and out from its defense, and James Wilder Jr. ran out the clock.

As a result, we have this wonderful headline:

Jason Maas’ decision-making under fire again after Esks loss

With about two minutes to go in the game, Maas decided to kick the ball away instead of attempt to get a first down on 3rd and 8.  The Argos got the ball and never gave it back.  Should Maas have tried to get the first down?  In retrospect, sure.  At the time?  He probably should’ve.  As the Eskimos’ defense hasn’t exactly been locking it down this season, I would’ve put the ball in Mike Reilly’s hands.

Too bad, so sad.

FINAL: Edmonton (2-2) 17, Toronto (1-2) 20

BC at Winnipeg

Jock Climie, whom I rarely quote or paraphrase, said it best this weekend: the Lions are a talented team, but for all that talent, that are underperforming.

As a result, when the Bombers went up 21-3, I turned off the TV and did something else.

In my head, I jokingly thought that the TSN panel should question Head Coach Mike O’Shea’s strategy to pull Matt Nichols and let Chris Streveler make a couple of plays from time to time throughout the game.  But unlike the Bridge-Watford tandem that can’t seem to even create decent statistics for ONE QB, the Nichols-Streveler duo was very productive.

Ugh.

As for the Lions, well, 3 interceptions makes it tough on your defense.  The Lions could not get their passing game together.  QB Jonathon Jennings only managed 105 yards, and backup Cody Fajardo had 68 yards.  In other words, they had a Bridge and Watford kind of night – not good.  The only bright light was Jeremiah Johnson with 80 rushing yards.  But it was just not the Lions’ night.  Jennings needs to be much better, as does the Lions defense.  Unfortunately for them, they face the same Winnipeg team again in Vancouver this week.  Oof.

FINAL: BC (1-2) 19, Winnipeg (2-2) 41

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:

week2

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

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

east_preview

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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