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

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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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Rider Report – Week 3: Riders in BC

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THE RECORDS

Saskatchewan: 0-2 – Last in the West Division

BC: 0-1 – Tied for 2nd in the West Division

THE WEEK BEFORE

The Riders lost 42-40 to the Argos in double OT.  The REDBLACKS came back to drop the Lions 27-16.

THE STATS

*Note that the Lions have played one less game than the Riders.

The Riders lead all team offensive categories in the CFL, averaging 542 yards per game, with a net average of 538 yards per game.  This average is nearly 200 yards more than the next team.  The Riders are passing and rushing for an average of 381 and 161 yards per game, respectively. The Lions’ offence is 6th overall in the league, with only 254 passing yards and 59 rushing yards.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Riders are 5th in yards allowed per game (6th passing/6th rushing), while the Lions are 7th (5th passing/9th rushing).

THE STORY LINES

Both teams look for their first wins of the year after disappointing starts to the year.  The Lions got off to a good start in their opening game, but faltered in the 4th quarter, allowing the REDBLACKS to score two late TDs to win.  The Riders are 0-2 for the first time since 2011 (also known as the FAILED GREG MARSHALL EXPERIMENT), but have only lost both games by a combined total of 6 points.  However, the Riders have dug themselves a bit of a hole to begin the season, losing two games at home.  A win on the road would go a long way to helping them dig themselves out.

geooooooooooorge

A few notable players and coaches switched sides over the offseason.  Former Rider offensive coordinator George Cortez now has the same role with the Lions.  Rider PK Paul McCallum was released by the Lions just prior to training camp after playing for the team for nine years.  This will be McCallum’s first game back at BC Place since being released, and he comes in with a 100% field goal percentage.  Not too shabby.

THE MATCH-UPS

Quarterbacks: Kevin Glenn has put up spectacular numbers through the first two weeks of the season.  He’s 3rd in passing in the CFL, but he’s also played one less half than the two QBs in front of him and only trails the leading passer by 38 yards.  Travis Lulay played his first full game in nearly two years last week.  He looked a little rusty, and he seemed to be forcing the long throws.  This week will be a test as that shoulder gets two straight weeks of work.  Edge: Riders

Offensive lines: The Riders’ offensive line has been surprisingly strong thus far, allowing only 1 sack thus far, and letting KG do all of that passing.  The Lions’ offensive line, though, is full of Lions’ rookies; only one player on the Lions’ offensive line remains from last year’s group.  Edge: Riders

Receivers: Both teams heavily rely on their receivers for offence.  This is a big turnaround for the Riders, who have been known as a rush-first offence for the last couple of years.  BC’s receivers are more prototypical receivers – tall, strong and speedy – while Saskatchewan’s receivers are a lot smaller and rely a lot more on finesse and speed rather than height and power.  Nevertheless, the Riders have been lighting up opposing defences.  The jury is still out on the Lions’ receivers under the new offence run by George Cortez.  Edge: Riders

Defensive lines: The Riders’ defensive line has struggled to get pressure thus far this season, but the Lions haven’t had a lot of success either.  Edge: No one

Linebackers: The Lions have reigning MOP Solomon Elimimian and Adam Bighill in the middle.  The Riders are starting Jeff Knox Jr. and Jake Doughty, both of whom are only in their third and second CFL starts, respectively.  Edge: Lions by a lot

SecondariesThe Riders have a veteran secondary, but that secondary is having trouble adjusting to the new illegal contact rules.  Instead of playing a man-to-man defence, the Riders now play a type of zone defence that has more holes in it than Justin Trudeau’s election platform.  (Yeah, I was reaching there).  The Lions’ secondary is officially full of newbies as stalwart Ryan Phillips went down to injury last week.  Edge: Riders, but barely because they’re playing like rookies

Special Teams: As noted above, Paul McCallum returns to BC for the first time as a Rider since 2005.  Ray Early leads all punters in punting averages and has been a welcome addition to the Riders’ special teams.  The Riders’ special teams coverage has been solid.  The Lions are starting a rookie kicker who converted all of his field goals and converts last week; his punting, though, was a bit suspect.  The Lions also allowed a TD on a return, but lucky for them, it was negated by a penalty.  Edge: Riders

INTANGIBLES

For whatever reason, I think the Riders will want this game more.  But, the Riders also need to stop taking so many penalties  Edge: No one

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.

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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:

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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