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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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

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 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