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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Week 5 Recap

ofer

Knock, knock.

Who’s there?

Owen.

Owen who?

0 and 5.

Needless to say, I QUIT.

(Figuratively speaking, of course.)

Not only did I go 1-3 this week, but my beloved Riders are a winless 0-5 and will likely be 0-7 after the next couple of games.It’s so frustrating to watch these Riders. The offence is playing quite well – yesterday aside – but the defence continues to absolutely SUCK.

I counted one Hamilton punt yesterday. One. Hamilton basically scored on nearly every offensive possession. And on three consecutive plays, the Ti Cats ran to the same side of the defence and three times they got big gains.

Yet the Riders were still in it going into the 4th quarter.

Then Kevin Glenn went down, the Riders couldn’t stop the Ti-Cats from marching down the field, and you knew the game was lost.

Is this as bad as 2011? ‘Cause it sure feels like this team has been Greg Marshall-ed.

And here’s a recap of this weekend’s games:

  • I have no idea what to make of these RODBLACKS.  One week they look like worldbeaters, and the next week they look like they’re a junior football team. Jon Cornhole broke his thumb, which means he won’t be able to suck his thumb when he’s having a temper tantrum.  It also means he’ll have to sit out for 6-8 weeks.  No doubt he will be pouting about how he won’t be the rushing king of the CFL this year, nor the Outstanding Canadian.  Boo freaking hoo.  The RODBLACKS finally got their passing game going, and now have a 3-2 record.  I don’t understand what’s happening in this league this year.
  • This game featured what may go down as the comeback of the year.  The Arblows were down 21-0, and yet they managed to not only erase that deficit but win the game.  The Next One (Trevor Harris) appears to be the real deal, which means the Arblows have an interesting situation on their hands: do you stick with The Next One or stay with The Current One (Ricky Ray)?  Or, do you trade one of them?  Hmmm…  (I can see Brendan Taman sitting in his office right now, figuring out which Canadian draft picks he should give away in a trade.)
  • This game was a sloppy mess as the rain poured and got sloppier as the mistakes piled up.  (Did I not say that there would be fumbles/mistakes galore?) When Free (Drew) Willy got hurt early in the second half and went down, so did the Bumblers’ hopes of winning that game.  As for the Schmoes, I still maintain that they’re not as good as their record indicates.  And MATTY ICE got benched in favour of James Franklin.  He’s really not that great of a QB.
  • Where do you even start with the Riders?  Sad Sack Collaros picked their defence apart, CJ Gable ran all ober the middle, and the Ti-Cats won the battle between the league’s best offence and the league’s best defence.  I feel badly for Kevin Glenn, who’d been playing so well up until yesterday.  You could tell something wasn’t quite right given the amount of passes he missed.  So who starts on Friday: Brett Smith or Tino Sunseri?  Oh wow.  I think I might skip watching that game…

Week 5 Previews

Over the last week or so – basically since the CFL released those penalty infographics and everyone went nuts, a lot has been written about the CFL’s prospects.  Some of these rants, like Jack Todd’s over-the-top column(that stole my flag reference) or this Rider fan’s open letter to the CFL, are heralding the new rules as the beginning of the end of the CFL.  Others, like Glen Suitor, think the CFL will be all the better after the transition,not unlike the NHL after it clamped down on clutching and grabbing (personally, I still prefer a bigger ice surface, World or Olympic-style).

While I’m not much of a fan of the new rules, I have to admit that they’re not as distracting as I first thought they would be.  However, for the casual CFL fan, they could be a big problem.

The issue is that NONE of the rules – not even the old ones – are being correctly applied on a consistent basis.  CFL Command Centre seems to make up new interpretations every week. Case in point: Last weekend, Rider DB Michael Carter was flagged for “illegal contact that became pass interference”.  First of all: what the h-e-double hockey sticks does that even mean?  Glen Suitor’s explanation that it became pass interference once the ball was thrown has some merit, but based on the replays, the ball was clearly thrown before the contact took place.  Second: the receiver started it.  Now this may sound rather childish, but the new illegal contact rule is supposed to cut both ways.  Third: the contact was minimal.  My concern when the new rules were announced is that even if a DB grazed a receiver, a flag would be thrown.  This play has not assuaged my fears.  For the most part, I do think the referees have been doing a somewhat decent job with the new rules, but in this instance, they got it completely wrong.  The fact that CFL Command Centre upheld the call was ludicrous.

Suffice it to say that the quality of the officiating in the CFL has a long way to go before it gets to the level it needs to be.

Here are this week’s games:

Week 5

And here’s a preview of this week’s games:

  • This game is likely going to be the second shellacking the RODBLACKS will take this year.  The first?  By the Schmoes.  I still can’t believe MATTY ICE beat them that handily two weeks ago.  Anyway, Jon Cornhole appears to be getting his game back after a slow start, but the Stumps still have a ways to go before they even begin to resemble the team that basically steamrolled its way to the Grey Cup last year.  The RODBLACKS pretty much gave away last week’s game, so they’ll have to play their absolute best (which ain’t all that great) in order to be able to even try to keep up with the likes of the Stumps.  Prediction: Stumps by 18
  • The Arblows had last week off, but that likely won’t matter a lot because almost anytime an Eastern Division team travels west, they lose.  Even the mighty mighty Alouettes of the Anthony Calvillo era couldn’t win in BC (although there was that one time where they actually did, but Murray Clark – whom I just realized is no longer a CFL referee [interesting] – whistled the play dead.  That was a problem).  The Next One (Trevor Harris) may be good, but I don’t think he can overcome the time difference.  The Lions did not play all that well last week, but they managed to eke out a win on the road.  Playing at home on dry turf should be a piece of cake compared to last week’s soggy mess that was Taylor Field.  Prediction: Lions by 5
  • Oh, Bumblers.  How I enjoyed watching you bumble your way to a loss last week.  This game is going to come down to which team makes the least amount of mistakes.  Or which team takes the most advantage of the other team’s mistakes.  And given how these teams have played over the last couple of weeks, there will be LOTS of mistakes.  I think MATTY ICE will throw 2 interceptions, and the Bumblers will fumble once and Free (Drew) Willy will throw one interception. Prediction: Schmoes by 3
  • About this week’s game, which we’re attending, my Mama says: “Maybe we’ll actually see the Riders win a game this year!”  Yes, Mama, that would be nice! Coach Chamblin has been surprisingly quiet, especially given last week’s theatrics.  Seems that a loss took a bit of the wind out of his sails.  The Riders continue to be ravaged by injuries, although the Kitty Cats haven’t exactly had it all that easy on the injury front, either.  Hamilton is a bit of an unknown quantity this year; I thought they’d be stronger out of the gate, but they’ve definitely stumbled.  I also thought that Hamilton won a lot at Taylor Field.  I was clearly very wrong.  The Riders’ record against the Kitty Cats as of late has been pretty good, and for some unknown reason, I expect that to continue on Sunday. Prediction: Riders by 8

Rider Review – Week 4: When it rains, it pours

ughIt was a dark and stormy night at Mosaic…

While it may not be your typical scary movie, in football terms, the start to the Riders’ 2015 season has been nothing other than a horror story.

The Riders’ lost their starting QB in Week 1, and since then, things have simply snowballed.

Every game results in a serious injury to a key player, and every week brings a new controversy.

This week, DB Tristan Jackson hobbled off the field after a horse collar tackle brought him down.  And Coach Chamblin stood up to his detractors, possibly in an attempt to take some of the pressure off of his team.

CFL ROUGHRIDERS ARGONAUTS

The result?  Another loss.

Football is a funny game.  It’s a game of inches.  A game of strategy.  And at times, a 60 minute game that comes down to one or two plays.

The proof?  Through Week 4, the Riders are 0-4.  But they’ve only lost those four games by a combined 12 points.  In comparison, the Stampeders are 3-1, but they’ve only won their three games by a combined 7 points.

The Riders’ losing streak continues to summon comparisons to the 2011 season, but that season was not so much a horror story as a sad story as the team gave up on its coach.  The barrage of injuries to key personnel and the small scale of the losses is what differentiates 2015 from 2011.

The good news for the Riders, though, is that some players will get healthy and return, and there are 14 games left.  In other words, the Riders have a chance to change their story from one of horror to one of redemption.

THINGS THAT WORKED

1. Running game: Once again, the RB tag team of Jerome Messam and Anthony Allen amassed over 100 yards of rushing.

2. Second down conversions: While the offence was not as in sync as we’ve come to expect over the last couple of games, it was certainly resilient.  The Riders continue to lead the league in second down conversions, and this game more than likely extended that lead.

3. Jerome Messam: While most of the focus has been on his league-leading rushing statistics, his ability to catch the ball is just as impressive.  He added 75 yards to his receiving total, and combined with his rushing yards, he leagues the CFL in combined yards.

4. Weston Dressler: Another 100 yards game.  Need I say more?

5. Jamel Richardson: He doesn’t get a lot of touches per game, but when called upon thus far this season, he’s answered.

6. Stopping the big play: The Riders’ defence generally made BC march the ball down the field, as opposed to the previous week when big plays did them in.  The defence also made a big stop near the end of the game, giving the Riders a chance to win.  Hopefully this is a sign of good things to come.

THINGS THAT DIDN’T

1. Run defence: For the love of all things Green and White, why oh why oh WHY did someone not spy Travis Lulay when he continually ran for big gains??  Because the Riders always love to contribute to CFL history, they helped Lulay rack up 105 rushing yards, a career best for him.

CFL ROUGHRIDERS ARGONAUTS

2. Pass rush: See each of the previous weeks for my comments on this issue, because I don’t feel like repeating myself for the umpteenth time.

3. Energy: The Riders looked like ‘The Walking Dead’ out on the field.  Maybe it was the weather.  Or maybe it was the losing streak looming over their heads, but the Riders showed very little spark.

4. Penalties: The amount of offensive penalties are absolutely killing drives and costing the Riders valuable points.  Hell, even Weston Dressler got a penalty this week!  I continue to be stunned, amazed and perplexed by CFL Command Centre’s interpretation of the new illegal contact rules and its inconsistency.

OFFENSIVE STAR: #33 – JEROME MESSAM, RB

He put up nearly 140 combined yards on Friday night, even after sustaining a vicious, but clean, hit that made him slow to get up.  His average yards per carry is 7.7, which is ridiculous.  If he stays healthy, he’ll be in line for the Riders’ MOP nomination.

DEFENSIVE STAR: #50 – JAKE DOUGHTY

This is solely based on statistics: 6 tackles and one forced fumble.  He led the team in tackles and he always seemed to be around the football.

SPECIAL TEAMS STAR: #38 – TRISTAN JACKSON, DB

CFL ROUGHRIDERS ARGONAUTS

This is more of an honourary award, because TJ looked like he was going to have a good game before being brought down by that rookie BC kicker whose name I refuse to mention.  Get well soon, TJ.

NEXT UP: vs. HAMILTON.  I thought the Riders’ record against the Kitty Cats at Taylor Field was far worse than it actually is.  That being said, Hamilton is a weird team: they win when you’re sure they’re going to lose, and lose when they should win.  I expect another close game, as the Ti-Cats will be a little cranky after losing to the Als last week.

Week 4 Recap

everyone

So I was driving on Friday, making my way down the Trans-Canada, about 11 hours into a 12 hour trip and I was only partly listening to the Rider game, but from what I heard, it was so bad that all I could do was laugh.

When I got to our destination, I watched the rest of the gong show.

Needless to say, the game was sooooooo disappointing.

Where is the leadership on this team? Where is the pride? Where is the frustration? I’d love to hear the players express some anger. Instead, they seem to be so passive – almost like they’re resigned to losing.

It’s gonna be a long, looooooong, loooooooooooooooooooooooooong season…

The good news?  I was a ‎perfect 4-4 with my picks this week. It only took my 4 weeks to figure things out.  Here’s a quick recap:

  • ‎I NAILED this prediction right down to the point spread.   GO ME. Anyway, Hamilton did what it usually does – it failed to win a winnable game. Did you really expect anything less?
  • Coulda, woulda, shoulda – the RODBLACKS had this one within reach, but ill-timed fumbles and other negative plays allowed MATTY ICE and his 3 interceptions to look far better than was deserved.
  • Le Grand Orange repeatedly ran over the Riders. What did I say in my preview?? Oh, that’s right: “So let’s put it this way: if the Lions start running the ball, the Riders are going to have even more problems.”  Enough said.
  • If you at all wondered why we call those Blue and Gold the “Bumblers,” this game showed you why as a blocked punt returned for a TD, an interception, and a strategic error on a return basically handed the Stumps another win. FUN FACTS: The Stumps have won their 3 games by a combined 7 points.  In comparison, the Wretched Riders have lost their 4 games by a combined 12 points.

Week 4 Preview

Dear CFL:

If you have to create infographics of penalties, you obviously:

a) think you have a problem; and

b) want to make it clear that you’re not the source of the problem.

Needless to say, we all have yelled ‘C’MON REF!‘ at some point early on in this season.

Personally, I have been rather frustrated with the amount of penalty flags I see each and every game.

And I’m faaaaaaaaaaaar from the only one.

So, in response to those who think that the referees have been abusing their penalty powers, the CFL released these infographics yesterday:

penaltiespenalties2

(You know, these infographics might be the most professional material the CFL has ever put out.)

My first question in looking at these infographics is since when do we refer to penalties as fouls?

My second question is: aren’t roughness fouls also preventable fouls?  I would think that shoving a guy after the whistle is somewhat preventable.

My third question is what is a technical foul? And really, aren’t all fouls predictable and therefore preventable in some way?  If a kicker kicks a kickoff (heh) out of bounds, it may be more of a technical foul because there isn’t any roughness involved, and it’s not as if the kicker wanted the ball to go out of bounds.  But couldn’t it have been prevented had the kicker kicked the ball better?  Maybe he should’ve squib kicked it if there’s a substantial wind…

ANYWAY…

The CFL’s argument is that nearly 60% of the penalty flags that have been thrown thus far this season didn’t need to be thrown.  And of those, only a small fraction have anything to do with the new rules.

While I would agree with this in part, the fact is that more penalties are being called in general according to someone who has a lot more time on their hands than me. It’ll be interesting to watch how this analysis changes as the season goes on.

Regardless, the CFL and its players need to figure out how to deal with the epidemic of penalty flags, because nobody has enjoyed watching these flag fests over the past couple of weeks – not even ME.

Here are this week’s games:

Week 4

And here are your previews:

  • The Kitty Cats come off a bye week where they said BUH BYE to running back Nic Grigsby ($10 says he ends up with the Riders by Labour Day).  The Als are smarting a bit after losing a close game to those awful Blue Bumblers.  While the Cats are a better team on paper and also have game-breaker Brandon Banks (hmmm…he needs a nickname), the Als are rather formidable when they’re playing at home.  So…I’m going to go out on a limb and say Montreal wins this one. Prediction: Montreal by 4
  • I can’t believe the spread in this game is only 3.5 points – especially after the Schmoes shredded the RODBLACKS last week.  I think this is the week where we actually find out if the RODBLACKS are, as they say, ‘for real’ (I hate that phrase), or if they’re the scout team I think they are.  I still don’t think that MATTY ICE (Matt Nichols) is a good QB.  Must I link to the most hilarious interception you may ever see to prove my point?  Okay.  I will.  The Schmoes’ defensive was back in gear last week, but I expect the RODBLACKS to come out with a bit more fire since they’re playing at home.  Nevertheless, the Schmoes will still win this game.  Prediction: Edmonton by 12
  • What can I tell you about this game that you don’t already know?  I can tell you that Weldon Brown won’t be suiting up for the Riders again this season.  And I can tell you that this spells trouble.  Up until he had to leave last week’s game due to injury, he had pretty much shut down Emmanuel Arceneaux.  I fear the same won’t occur this week.  For some reason the Lions don’t run the ball much, which I always think is a mistake because Andrew Harris is a goooood running back.  So let’s put it this way: if the Lions start running the ball, the Riders are going to have even more problems.  The Riders are desperate to win at home and keep the boo birds at bay.  Therefore, I think they Riders will play ‘not to lose’ instead of ‘to win,’ and that never works out well.  Prediction: BC by 6
  • The Stumps have juuuuuuuuuuuust been getting by the last couple of weeks.  A one point win over the Kitty Cats and a five point win over the Arblows doesn’t exactly scream ‘COMMANDING’.  Maybe it’s still a bit of a Grey Cup hangover, but they’re just not all that sharp.  Lucky for them, though, they get to play the Bumblers.  The Bumblers have shown that their defence will make teams pay for their mistakes, so if the Stumps’ offence can keep from turning over the ball, the Stumps should cruise to a win.  Plus, I just don’t think that Free (Drew) Willy will be able to put up enough offence to keep pace with the Stumps. Prediction: Calgary by 10

Week 2 Recap

What the…??

wow

 

My thoughts exactly, kid.  What is going on in the CFL??

Let’s take a quick look at all of the things I have been so very wrong about thus far this CFL season:

  • The Arblows and Alouettes, have not been the doormats I thought they would be. 
  • The RODBLACKS are undefeated thus far, which I would have bet my ENTIRE YEAR’S SALARY against. 
  • The Schmoes’ defence has looked terrible, instead of the dominating force I predicted. 
  • The Stumps looked shellshocked in their game against Montreal, and lost to a rookie QB who was on the practice roster the week before.
  • Trevor (No Name) Harris has been stellar, as have the Arblows in general. 
  • Bovine Mitchell has started one-hopping throws, which is just weird – but also wonderful. 
  • Darian Durant is hurt AGAIN.
  • The Riders’ leading receiver is some guy named Ryan Smith – aka Dressler 2.0.  (See his amazing 4th quarter catch here.)
  • The Riders’ defence sucks.  

And so on and so forth…

But that’s what makes the CFL the unique league it is – no lead is safe, and you should always expect the unexpected. 

I was 2-2 with my picks this past week, one of which had the Riders losing. (I was kind of hoping to be wrong about that one.)

Here’s a recap of the weekend’s games: 

  • The football gods continue to be unkind to QBs as Free (Drew) Willy went down while the ‎Bumblers hosted the Tiger Cats. What started out as a tight contest turned into a shellacking as the Kitty Cats scored more than 30 points in the first half. Remember when I said that the Bumblers’ defence really didn’t look that good last week? The ‘Cats proved me right (for once this season).  Final score: Kitty Cats 52, Bumblers 26.  
  • What the h-e-double hockey sticks happened on Thursday night in Montreal to make the Stumps look like actual stumps on Friday? Bovine Mitchell missed tons of throws, the Stumps’ defence was porous and made The Rookie (Rakeem Cato in a stunning debut) look like Ricky Ray in his prime. Don’t get me wrong – I’m mostly happy with the outcome, because it keeps the Stumps with the rest of the pack in the West Division, but for the sake of my football pool, well – it kind of sucksFinal score: Les Alouettes 29, Stumps 11.  
  • Well lookee here – we’ve got ourselves a real football team! The RODBLACKS put together another solid effort by beating the Leos at home by a score of 27-16. Most impressive, though, was the RODBLACKS’ comeback when down in the 4th ‎quarter. I’m not convinced they’ll be able to keep us this calibre of play all season, but they’re definitely not a free space on the bingo card these days. As for BC? Le Grand Orange made it through the entire game. That is promising. Final score: RODBLACKS 27, Cowardly Lions 16.
  • I cannot believe I’m about to say this, but BRING RICHIE HALL AND HIS 10 YARD CUSHIONS BACK. At least his defence ‎had some modicum of a pass rush. Rushing 3 linemen and yet allowing opposing receivers to be wide open when there are 9 other defenders in the backfield is simply inexcusable. Yes KG threw an ill-timed interception – but he led the team down the field for a go-ahead TD and to two TDs in overtime. Coach: When your QB throws for nearly 500 yards and your offence puts up 40 points and yet you blame the offence for the loss because it left points on the field, I have to question whether or not you were actually watching the game. John Chick was nowhere to be found today. That’s a symptom of a much bigger problem, which is that this defence has no teeth. Or, to use a more sports-appropriate metaphor, balls.  Final score: Arblows 42, Riders 40.  

A full breakdown and analysis of the Rider game will be posted tomorrow.  Have a great Monday!