2016 CFL Season Preview: Part 3 of 4 – West Division

west_preview

It still irritates me that the Blue Bombers are in the West Division.

But that really has nothing to do with the topic at hand.

We’re here to discuss what should be a great race in the CFL’s West Division this year.  The Division’s bottom three teams last year, i.e. Winnipeg, B.C. and Saskatchewan, have all made moves that *should* make them more competitive, setting the stage for what could be an excellent playoff spot battle after Labour Day.

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2015 CFL Preview – Part 3 of 4: West Division

flag football

You know, we might as well call our game flag football, as there were FIFTY-FIVE (55) penalty flags in Saturday night’s pre-season tilt between the Riders and the Schmoes.

SO. MANY. FLAGS.

I am already tired of hearing the phrases “illegal contact” and “pass interference”‎ – and it’s still only the preseason!

The CFL’s officiating has always been suspect, and with these new rule changes, one of its glaring weaknesses is going to be highlighted week in, week out.

Bah.

Anyway, the results of this past weekend’s games were as follows:

Calgary beat BC 20-6. 

Montreal rolled over the RODBLACKS 26-9. 

The Schmoes won 31-24 over the Riders in what was, in case you missed the dozens of references to it, THE MOST NORTHERN CFL GAME EVER.

But if you’re reading this (and thank you to the one or two of you who actually are) you’re not reading this to see what the pre-season results were.  You’re reading this to see what the season has in store for our enemies in the West Division.  Read on to find out!

BC Lions

jeff1jeff2

                                                        LAME!

So last year I boldly predicted that the Cowardly Lions would finish 1st in the West Division.  I was so WRONG.  So very, VERY wrong.  My reasoning, though, was sound.  It was the Leos’ execution – and coaching – that failed them (and me).

There are a lot of questions for the orange and white going into this season.  The first question is whether or not new Head Coach Jeff Tedford can adapt to the CFL game. Will he be more of a Bart Andrus (failed Arblows coach of 2009) or a Marc Trestman (the Alouettes‎’ shaman)?

Toronto Argonauts head coach Bart Andrus reacts after the B.C. Lions kicked the go-ahead field goal during third quarter CFL action in Toronto on Friday, August 14, 2009.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese
(THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese)
Montreal Alouettes' head coach Marc Trestman holds up the Grey Cup after defeating the Saskatchewan Roughriders during the CFL's 98th Grey Cup football game in Edmonton, Alberta, November 28, 2010. REUTERS/Todd Korol (CANADA - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL) ORG XMIT: EDM65
(REUTERS/Todd Korol)                          

One of these guys was successful; the other wasn’t.  Can you tell which is which?

Well, Tedford actually has more CFL experience than either Andrus or Trestman had. He played in the CFL for a few years and worked as an assistant with the Stumps for three seasons in the very early 1990s before heading to the US. But, that was a few decades ago. However, he does have guys like George Cortez, the offensive coordinator the Riders fired and the Lions hired, around to help.

‎The other big question is whether Leos’ QB Travis Lulay (also referred to by the BC media as Le Grand Orange‎ – huh?) can regain his former…form. He only played part of one game last year after rehabbing from shoulder surgery. And in said game, he re-tore the same shoulder. He forewent surgery and opted for a rehab program.  If Le Grand Orange/Lulaylemon can’t start – and it looks like he won’t at this point – then it’s up to John Beck (who?) to lead the Cowardly ‎Lions.

Aside from potential coaching and QB issues, though, the Lions ‎remain strong at receiver and linebacker.  A strong receiving core isn’t worth much, though, if those receivers don’t have anyone to throw the ball to them.  Also, there are a lot of holes on both offensive and defensive lines. As such, there are a lot more questions than answers as far as the Lions are concerned, and that doesn’t bode well as the regular season approaches.

Prediction: 5th in the West

Calgary Stampeders

yuck
UGH.

I was forced to visit the Stumps’ Facebook page to find some pictures for this preview. The amount of references to ‘Grey Cup’, ‘champions’ and ‘repeat’ was sickening. 

But – and it seriously pains me to say this – there’s a good chance that those words will be said in November, as the Stumps remain strong at nearly every position.  However, there will be some changes along both their offensive and defensive lines with Saskatchewan product and standout centre Brett Jones signing with the NY Giants of the NFL and Brandon Boudreaux moving to the Stumps from Hamilton.  There are some changes at receiver, too, with the losses of Maurice Price (Ottawa) and Nik Lewis (Montreal) and the signing of Bo Levi Mitchell’s brother, Cory.

bros
While Bo Levi totally won the family name game, Cory clearly won in the looks department. 

But still – the Stumps will be good.

And that’s it. I don’t want to talk about the Stumps anymore. Instead, let’s look at this infographic about how much ‘stuff’ the Stumps go through in a year and try to figure out why they chew so much gum.

stuff
I’d bet a lot of $$$$$ that all of the boxes of cereal are boxes of Cornish Flakes the Stumps bought to soothe Jon Cornhole’s ego when no one else wanted to buy any.

Prediction: 1st in the West (YUCK)

Edmonton Eskimos

schmoes
 Best fans?  Hmmm…

Last year, the Schmoes went from cellar dwellers to finishing second in the West Division.

It was not enjoyable.

Head Coach Chris Jones completely revamped the Esks’ defence, which went from being near the bottom of the league in almost every statistical category in 2013 to being the best defence in the CFL in 2014. That defence remains intact and will be formidable once again this season.

On offence, ‎Mike Reilly (who’s still in desperate need of a nickname) remains the Schmoes’ starter, backed up by Matty Ice, also known as Matt Nichols (whose nickname is both terrible and awesome). Receiver Fred Stamps is no longer with the team, but given his lack of production over the last few seasons, this likely won’t be too big of a loss. However, the Schmoes are in need of a running back after John White suffered a season-ending injury in training camp. Former Blue Bumbler Chad Simpson has joined the team and has thus far performed well in limited pre-season action.

Even though the Schmoes will likely have a solid season, they’ll still likely play second fiddle to Connor McDavid and the Oilers in Edmonton’s sports scene. At least I can take some solace in that.

Plus, their mascots have weird text message conversations (this is an actual post from the Schmoes’ Facebook page):

mascots

Prediction: 2nd in the West

Winnipeg Blue Bombers

believe
The presale code is clearly a Freudian slip.

“If you just belieeeeeeeeeeeeve…”

It’s gonna take a LOT more than that for the Bumblers to climb out of the West Division basement.

But before that, let’s take a moment to watch Drew Willy dance with his wife at their wedding. *AWKWARD ALERT*

Drew is back and armed with a big shiny new contract that cements his status as the Bumblers’ QB of the future. But is he truly worth the hype‎ and the pay raise? I remain unconvinced. He will need to take a big step forward in terms of consistency this year to show that he was worth the money.

free willy
Darian Durant had 8 TDs last year – and he only played half a season. Just sayin’…

Defensively‎, the Gary Etcheverry experiment is over and the Richie Hall Era begins. That is so weird to say. Anyway, the Bumblers ought to be less bumbling on the defensive side of the ball under Hall’s tutelage. BUT, they’re still the BUMBLERS.

Prediction: 4th in the West

‎That’s it for this week. The final pre-season games happen this weekend and then next week, it’s time for the regular season to begin!

Next time – a preview of my beloved Roughriders!