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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Week 3 Preview

If you are a Western Canadian, there is no doubt that you have made fun of Eastern Canada at some point.

If you haven’t, you’re clearly lying.

We all make fun of Toronto and its self-importance. When we think of Ottawa, we think of politicians and wasting money – not all that unlike how the city has managed to lose its football franchise twice at the expense of its fan base.

And everyone, including those who live there, wonders why anyone would voluntarily choose to live ‎in Hamilton.

We Westerners have thumbed our noses at Eastern Canada since time immemorial; it’s part of our birthright. And we have made fun of their feeble football teams for years.

It wasn’t that long ago that the Arblows and Kitty Cats were propped up by the league (although it was mostly the Western teams and David Braley propping them up because they were the ones that had money). And who knows when Ottawa will need saving again.

The Eastern football teams have generally sucked for the last decade, except for the Alouettes and a blip now and then by the Arblows. ‎The Kitty Cats were a complete joke, and the Bumblers were only there because neither division really wanted them. Plus, they fit in with the East’s losing ways.

east dudes

These days, though – and I admit that it is very early days yet – the East is becoming a more stable, exciting division with young QBs (minus Henry Booris), new stadiums and growing fan bases.

The proof? Last week, Eastern teams went 4-0 over their Western counterparts; ‎overall, the East is 5-1 against the West. If this continues, the balance of power in the CFL may shift East, and I have to admit that such a shift would likely benefit the league as a whole.

Regardless, it’s nice to have some parity in the CFL again.

‎Here’s a reminder of this week’s games:

week 3

And here are my thoughts on this week’s games:

  • OTTAWA @ EDMONTON: Normally, I would pick the Schmoes no matter what. But the RODBLACKS are 2-0, and the Schmoes haven’t won a game yet. The Schmoes will be without QB Broke Pierce Jr, (Mike Reilly)‎ for at least 10 weeks, if not the season, and they’d previously lost their starting running back. The Schmoes’ defence was also shredded by the Arblows in Week 1. But there is one important factor that should be taken into account: the Schmoes had a bye last week and have had ample time to prepare. Matty Ice (the Schmoes’ backup QB, Matt Nichols – nickname not mine) will have the reins and he should be all practiced up. Prediction: Edmonton by 5
  • MONTREAL @ WINNIPEG: Is The Rookie (Rakeem Cato) a one-game wonder? Is Free (Drew) Willy truly healthy enough to play? Like most games, this one comes down to the QBs. The Bumblers’ defence has had a rough start to the year, while Montreal’s stifled the Stumps in surprising fashion last week. Then again, Montreal looked très terrible in its opening game, and the Bumblers looked rather promising. Therefore, I declare that this game is a toss up. While my head is telling me that Montreal will win, my gut says that the Bumblers will finally win one at home this year. Prediction: Winnipeg by 3
  • SK @ BC: This is another tough game to pick. Both teams are winless. Both teams have strong receiving cores. Both teams have solid QBs. The main matchups, though, are on defence. Can the Riders’ secondary shut down Emmanuel Arcenaux et al? Can the Lions’ linebackers render Jerome Messam ineffective and stop the Riders’ passing game? All eyes will be on The Lion King (a Rod Black-ism), Solomon Elimimian, as he comes off an MOP season. This game might come down to which team is more desperate for a win, and right now I’d say it’s the Riders. Prediction: Riders by 4
  • TORONTO @ CALGARY: You’ve gotta think the Stumps are one ticked off team that will be more than ready to play on Monday after getting outplayed, outmanned and outgunned by the Als last week. The Arblows, on the other hand, have managed to win both of their games so far this season – and both were road games. The Arblows’ totally awesome and unnecessary road trip (sponsored by the ogres at ROGERS) continues this week, and you have to think that a third week on the road might make the team start to show a bit of wear and tear. Then again, the team might be motived by that whole ‘us against the world’ thing. Still, I think the Stumps will feel that they have something to prove after last week’s debacle. Prediction: Calgary by 7

Week 1 Recap

That was one of the most bizarre weeks of CFL football that I can recall in some time.

And I’ve watched A LOT of football.

As such, on Saturday night, I just about printed out all of my season previews for the sole purpose of BURNING THEM.

But I didn’t. We’re only one game in, and there’s a lot that can happen over the course of a CFL game, let alone a season.

And in that vein, let’s have a moment of silence for the loss of Darian Durant for the season…

done

What devastating news. We wish Darian and Doug, the name I’ve randomly given to his Achilles, all the best in their recovery.

Rider fans, including the writer, are likely still in a state of disbelief this morning. Coach Chamblin swore at a reporter at the post-game news conference. And the team took a number of hits besides the season-ending injury to Durant that will create major ratio issues. The Riders’ depth is going to be tested early, and it won’t be pretty.

I think I may cry.

And I may need to write a new preview. It may be cathartic.

However, we must move forward, although I admit that my enthusiasm for this CFL season has been significantly dampened by what transpired at Mosaic Stadium on Saturday night.

I was a dismal 1-3 with my predictions this week.  Here’s a recap of the weekend’s games:
  • The RODBLACKS surprised everyone by beating Les Alouettes, although let’s be honest – the Als losing both of their QBS – namely Goldilocks Crompton and Fever LeFevour – was a boon for the RODBLACKS. The Als will need to find two QB quick. Does Tino Sunseri get a call?
  • The Kitty Cats nearly did the improbable, beating the Stumps at home. But terrible play calling in the waning minutes of the game allowed the Stumps to kick a 50 yard field goal for the win. Ugh.
  • What the…?? The Arblows absolutely LIT. UP. the Schmoes’ defence for 400+ yards of offence en route to a 26-11 win. No Name Harris threw for over 300 yards and the Schmoes lost Broke Pierce Jr. (Mike Reilly) for a significant amount of time. Major injuries to both the Schmoes’ QB and RB spell trouble.
  • I do not recall the last time I saw such a pathetic display of tackling by the Riders. The Riders made the Bumblers look like Ricky Ray and Charles Roberts in their prime. And I also swore Richie Hall was back with those 10 yard cushions the defence gave to the Bumblers’ receivers.  Major injuries to DD, as mentioned above, and starting Canadians Nic Demski and Shea Emry (both possibly 6-gamed) put the Riders in a whole heap of trouble. Watch for an airlift of QBs and more Canadian players this week.

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!