The hurricanes are over – for now – and autumn is just around the corner. It’s an old Canadian cliché to say that the CFL season doesn’t really begin until after Labour Day, but for a multitude of reasons, this is once again true. The West, just like each of the past couple years, has been a far stronger division than the East, with Calgary leading the pack as per usual while Winnipeg follows closely behind; the rest of the West is all at .500 or better. In the East, with the REDBLACKS once again leading things, albeit with a miserable 4-7-1 record, it’s hard to believe that the lowly, last-place Hamilton Tiger-Cats are just 2.5 games back of the division lead – especially since they started this season 0-8. It’s going to be a dogfight once again in both divisions – but expect the crossover rule to likely apply once more; in sum, the fourth-place team in the West, which in all likelihood will have a better record than the third-place team in the East, will cross over and play the second-place team there, with the winner advancing to face the division winner. Just like so much of Canadian society, it’s socialism in action. Cue a whole bunch of redneck Cowboys fans shouting “SAD!” at me.
In some league-wide news, the CFL made two major announcements on Wednesday, September 13th – the season will be expanded from 20 to 21 weeks, starting in 2018, in order for all teams to receive a third bye week throughout the season. The bigger announcement, which I’m pleased about from a safety standpoint but am somewhat skeptical of from an on-field product standpoint, was the announcement that padded practises in-season will be eliminated outright. Previously, teams were allowed 17 full-pad practises once training camps are completed by the final week of June; with them now eliminated entirely, the league is hoping that player safety will be improved tremendously as a result. I’d like to believe… but I do question how offences are supposed to be as effective if they can’t get enough full-speed reps in during practise as they could in years previous. At any rate, I do hope it pans out!
In other CFL news, Johnny Manziel triggered the 10-day window on his negotiation rights with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats; as the owner of his CFL rights, this means the Ti-Cats will be forced to either sign him, trade his rights to another team, or release him from their negotiation list entirely. I’m personally skeptical they’d offer him a contract, since A) they previously put him through a workout at the end of August in Buffalo, and had said that they felt he wasn’t ready during that time, and B) he’s likely to command much more than the CFL minimum salary due to his (perceived) star power and the importance overall of the quarterback position. More updates will follow on where Johnny Football will end up – but if he does come north, my likeliest bet is to a Montreal strip club.
Onto the games!
WEEK 12 RECAPS
Montreal 18 vs. BC 41: After a bye, BC finally gets back in the win column, but this victory came at a steep cost, as the Lions lost starting QB Travis Lulay for the season with a torn ACL suffered his first offensive snap. While that’s a big blow to the team, especially with former starting Jonathon Jennings playing so shakily as of late, there’s some relief in having Jennings step in and have a strong game, going 22-29 for 295 yards, 2 touchdowns, and, most importantly, no turnovers. The Alouettes’ struggles continue, and Darian Durant was once again pulled, sending in Drew Willy in for garbage time when it was clear that Montreal had no chance of catching BC. With a 26-3 lead at the half, the Als mustered a grand total of 68 yards of offence after half an hour of play. The highlight of the night, however, was a blocked field goal that would have added three more points for Montreal; instead, Boris Bede’s kick was blocked by Chris Rainey, and returned 73 yards by LB Anthony Gaitor for a touchdown to put the game firmly in BC’s grasp.
Saskatchewan 28 vs. Winnipeg 48: Winnipeg got its revenge for last week’s defeat in Regina, and the Bombers move to 8-6 all-time in the Banjo Bowl against the Riders. Clarence Denmark caught two touchdown passes from Matt Nichols, while LB Moe Leggett picked off Saskatchewan QB Kevin Glenn and scooped up a blocked punt for two touchdowns as well. It was a back-and-forth first half, with both teams trading plenty of scores, but with Winnipeg taking a 29-20 lead into the half, they would pull away over the final thirty minutes. The Blue Bombers continue to roll with the league’s top offence; this was their ninth game of 30+ points this season and their fourth with over 40. Matt Nichols had another excellent night, going 24-37 for 282 yards with three touchdowns, while for Saskatchewan, Kevin Glenn had a tougher outing, with 2 interceptions thrown to go along with 327 yards on 15-22 passing and 2 TDs; however, Glenn left in the third with an injury to his throwing hand, prompting Brandon Bridge to step in for the final frame; there’s been no update as of yet on his injury status. Also of interest from this game was the police barricade that was happening outside the stadium before kickoff time; a runaway moose was in the nearby area, creating lineups into Investor’s Group Field as cops and conservation officers worked for a couple of hours to catch and tranquilize the animal.
Hamilton 26 vs. Ottawa 22: This was as disgraceful a half of football as I’ve seen the Ottawa REDBLACKS play since their inaugural 2014 season, when as expansion team punching bags, they got regularly whipped. However, this game – which saw a 1-8 Tiger-Cats team take a 23-7 lead into halftime – was horrendous on so many levels. Jeremiah Masoli was a threat on the ground all night, and Ottawa’s defence had essentially no responses to his nimble escapes out of the pocket for 45 minutes of this game. On the offensive side, things weren’t clicking well for the REDBLACKS either through the first two quarters; it was only in the third, when Trevor Harris connected with Diontae Spencer for a TD and Mossis Madu for a 2-point conversion, that momentum began to swing back somewhat towards the home team. Scary times for Ottawa fans, though, as Harris got hit hard in the third quarter by DL Davon Coleman, and was forced to leave the game with an injury to his throwing shoulder. While backup Drew Tate, who was a former starter in Calgary, came in and pushed the game for the REDBLACKS, including an absolute dime of a deep bomb to Josh Stangby for a TD… but unfortunately, giving up a late sack on 2nd-and-long with just under a minute to go cost Ottawa a win. Running back CJ Gable was another factor for Hamilton in this one, racking up 74 yards on 11 carries and two touchdowns as well.
Calgary 25 vs. Edmonton 22: Calgary won their seventh straight, while simultaneously dealing Edmonton their fourth consecutive defeat, with a very exciting win on the road at Commonwealth Stadium. Eskimos QB Mike Reilly rebounded from two sub-par efforts in previous weeks to finish with 461 passing yards on the night, but it still wasn’t enough to get by the Stamps. While the first half of this one was a defensive struggle for the most part, the second half had both quarterbacks chucking deep, with Bo Levi Mitchell tossing a couple picks and Reilly one of his own as well. In the three-minute warning, Reilly connected with Duke Williams for a 33-yard TD to cap off a 7-play, 91-yard drive to put Edmonton up 22-18 with just over two minutes left; unfortunately, Mitchell drove the Stamps down the field, leading a 69-yard drive of his own to have Marquay McDaniel catch a 5-yard touchdown to put Calgary back on top, 25-22. Edmonton had time for one last drive, but unfortunately, new kicker Chris Milo, a former Ottawa REDBLACK, had his 46-yard boot go wide right as time expired, sealing the win for the Stampeders.
BYE: Toronto (4-7)
WEEK 13 PREVIEWS
Saskatchewan (5-5) vs. Hamilton (2-8), Friday, September 15th, 7:00 PM EST: While Hamilton has won two straight games and looked much better since making their changes at head coach and quarterback, the West remains a much tougher division than the East, and they’ll most likely have their hands full when the Riders come to town for this one. It’ll be interesting to see if Kevin Glenn is ready to go for this one – after leaving last week’s game against Winnipeg with an injury to his throwing hand, it remains to be seen who’s starting – Brandon Bridge has been occupying the backup slot while Vernon Adams, as the number 3, has been used in short-yardage duties since his arrival in Regina, but the intention of the trade was clear – at some point in the future, Chris Jones views Adams as his future starter. Expect the special-teams to also be improved this week – after some very poor play last week, including a blocked field goal returned for a TD and a failed onside kick, that part of their game will need to be better, especially against a team that has such a strong returner available in Brandon Banks. The return of Banks and fellow receiver Luke Tasker to prominence in the offence have been two reasons why the Ti-Cats have improved as of late – it’s curious as to why they both weren’t used more effectively in the first half of this season.
Edmonton (7-4) vs. Toronto (4-7), Saturday, September 16th, 4:00 PM EST: These are two teams that both need to get back on track if they want to stay in the thick of the playoff race. The Eskimos have lost four straight, while Toronto let Hamilton claim their first victory of the year in their Labour Day Classic matchup. The return of Derel Walker to the Eskimos’ lineup is a big addition for Edmonton, and his 95 receiving yards and rushing TD were major factors last week against the Stampeders. The continued integration of Walker as a deep threat means freeing up both Brandon Zylstra and Adarius Bowman in the slot, both of whom thrive in that role. For the Argos, the defence needs to step their game up further; while Mike Reilly doesn’t have the legs that Jeremiah Masoli used so effectively to help scramble for yardage, he has arguably the best arm in the league, so the secondary is definitely going to be on notice for this one.
BC (6-5) vs. Calgary (9-1-1), Saturday, September 16th, 7:00 PM EST: With the loss of Travis Lulay, Jonathon Jennings will get his old job back; while he looked sharper against Montreal than he had for many weeks previously, this is still a tough matchup to come in against, with both a ferocious Calgary pass rush and linebacker Alex Singleton, who thrives both dropping back in coverage and in a more traditional role in the front seven as well. With QB Bo Levi Mitchell throwing an unusual number of interceptions as of late, we might expect the Stamps to rely on their ground game quite a bit for this one – with the Lions having Jeremiah Johnson in their backfield and the Stampeders having Jerome Messam, this could be a predominantly ground-based battle this week.
Ottawa (4-7-1) vs. Montreal (3-8), Sunday, September 17th, 1:00 PM EST: Ottawa’s taken both games so far this season against the Alouettes, and while their season series is already in the bag, they’ll need to win this one in order to stay afloat at the top of the East Division. After such a poor first half against the Ti-Cats, hopefully those types of mistakes have been flushed out of their system by now, and the defensive line will actually remember how to properly run a contain set. One big change comes at QB for Ottawa – Trevor Harris is expected to miss anywhere from 2-6 weeks with a partially separated throwing shoulder, and so Drew Tate will be getting the starter’s job for the foreseeable future. For the Alouettes, some big changes are coming – HC Jacques Chapdelaine and DC Noel Thorpe were both fired on Wednesday, with GM Kavis Reed stepping in to fill the head coaching duties for the balance of the season. Senior defensive assistant Greg Quick will take over as DC, while QB coach Anthony Calvillo will take over as the OC. Overall, these firings are perplexing – not only does that make five coaches in five years for the Als, but the majority of the team’s issues were on the offensive side of the ball, and not the defensive one – making Thorpe’s dismissal very odd to me as well. Darian Durant’s been benched in each of his previous two games, and with the team having been so far out of it these past few games – including a 28-point loss to these same REDBLACKS just two weeks ago – it might be time to question whether the leash has been permanently shortened on him if he can’t stop turning the ball over. This was not what Montreal was expecting when he signed his contract extension earlier this year – at over $400K a season, he absolutely hasn’t lived up to expectations thus far.
BYE: Winnipeg (8-3)
STANDINGS AND STATS
East Division Standings
|Team||Games||Wins||Losses||Ties||Points For||Points Against|
West Division Standings
|Team||Games||Wins||Losses||Ties||Points For||Points Against|
- Harris, OTT – 3724
- Reilly, EDM – 3626
- Ray, TOR – 3343
- Harris, OTT – 23
- Nichols, WPG – 22
- Glenn, SSK – 21
- Messam, CGY – 730
- Harris, WPG – 656
- Johnson, BC – 609
- Ellingson, OTT – 1080
- Green, TOR – 1002
- Zylstra, EDM – 916
- Butler, TOR – 7
- Westerman, WPG – 7
- Johnson, CGY – 7
- Gainey, SSK – 6
- Randle, WPG – 4
- Heath, WPG – 4
- Medlock, WPG – 36
- Hajrullahu, TOR – 30
- Paredes, CGY – 30
Remember to submit your picks here! http://www.pooltracker.com/join.asp?poolid=138425
|Rank||Total Points||Weekly Score||Win Percentage|
|Game Time Decision||33||3-1||67.35%|
|Joliet Jake Delhomme||24||3-1||48.98%|