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Hello all – after almost six months away, the CFL Beat makes its glorious return this week! I’m looking forward to another year of covering the ridiculous sport of Canadian football for all of you; the season kicks off earlier than ever this year, with Week 1 games starting on Thursday, June 14th. Without further ado, let’s get you all prepped and up to speed on what to expect from north of the 49th parallel this year in the world of football.
WELCOME (BACK) TO THE CFL!
The first-ever CFL Beat, from 2016, provides more specifics than what I will be listing below, but if you’re unfamiliar with the sport or are looking for a quick refresher, here are some of the most important things to know:
- The league was founded in 1958, though teams have competed for the Grey Cup, Canadian football’s top prize, since 1909.
- There are nine teams organized into two divisions, each playing an 18-game regular season. The division winners each get a bye into the second round of the playoffs.
- Among the most important rule differences between the NFL and CFL: only 3 downs, field is 110 yards long by 65 yards wide, each team plays 12 players a side instead of 11, defense starts 1 yard back from the line of scrimmage, kicks/punt returners get 5 yards of buffer zone to make a catch, missed field goals that leave the end zone are called rouges and are worth one point – they are hilarious when they occur. (You can check out the full list of rule differences in 2016’s welcoming article, or here on Wikipedia if you’re curious.)
Next week, I’ll be giving the preview for all of the East Division teams, followed by the West Division teams the week after. Week 1 of the regular season kicks off on Thursday, June 14th, with a West Division semifinal rematch between the Edmonton Eskimos and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers at Investors Group Field to lead the way.
The 2018 Grey Cup is being hosted in Edmonton this year; after a cold, snowy, and windy matchup last year in Ottawa, expect to see… probably a lot more of the same. And even more severe weather, realistically. Edmonton is the city that warmth forgot. All this said, the 2017 Grey Cup was one of the best live sporting experiences I’ve ever had the chance to attend… despite wearing a half-dozen layers of clothing, it was entertaining as all hell, with a back-and-forth matchup on a snowy field with tons of highlight plays and miscues to boot, as well. Football at its finest!
2017 SEASON RECAP
A lot of very interesting storylines from last year, and it’ll be interesting to see how much of this holds for the coming year. The most important details:
- The Toronto Argonauts, who most experts (including myself) were expected to flounder and finish near the bottom of the league, shocked the nation and the heavily favoured Calgary Stampeders by winning the Grey Cup in a snowy Ottawa matchup, which I was fortunate to attend!
- The Calgary Stampeders, who finished the season with the top regular-season record for the second year in a row, choked once again in the Grey Cup against an underdog opponent.
- The Hamilton Tiger-Cats started the year 0-8 and made some serious changes to the direction of the franchise, with former head coach Kent Austin stepping down and June Jones taking the reigns; additionally, starting QB Zach Collaros was replaced permanently with his backup Jeremiah Masoli, and the team went 6-4 in the final 10 games of the season – a massive improvement. The team also angered a lot of its fans, as well as fans of the CFL and football as a whole, by almost bringing in disgraced former Baylor head coach Art Briles to serve as an assistant. Thanks to a large public outcry and league intervention, the team ultimately made the right call, but also definitely lost face in the process as well.
- The Edmonton Eskimos, led by 2017 Most Outstanding Player Mike Reilly at quarterback, overcame a lot of injuries throughout the year to make it to the West Final , where they lost to a balanced, healthy Stampeders team. With the depth they have at receiver, plus the addition of CJ Gable at running back to replace an oft-injured and newly released John White, they may have the best offence in the league in 2018.
- The Winnipeg Blue Bombers hosted a playoff game for the first time since 2011 due in part to an incredibly resurgent offence, led in part by QB Matt Nichols and dual-threat Canadian running back Andrew Harris. Playing in a tight division with Edmonton, Calgary and a resurgent Saskatchewan team, their second place finish was the highest in the West Division since 2003.
- The Saskatchewan Roughriders, who hired former Edmonton Eskimos coach Chris Jones to take over coaching and GM duties in December of 2016, put the franchise rebuild ahead of schedule; after a tough 2016 year with a highly porous defence, the Riders managed to clinch a crossover playoff berth – and thanks to the play of receiver Duron Carter, also ended up on tons of highlight reels as well.
- The Ottawa REDBLACKS, with their third offensive coordinator in four seasons in Jaime Elizondo, couldn’t defend their 2016 Grey Cup win, which was due in part to a large number of roster changes – particularly on defence – and a tough schedule that had their two bye weeks in the last three weeks of the season. Insane stuff.
- The BC Lions, who were expected to challenge for the West Division title with Jonathan Jennings taking over the #1 QB job permanently from former MOP winner Travis Lulay, regressed significantly, for a variety of reasons, and missed the playoffs. Longtime GM Wally Buono hired former Eskimos GM Ed Hervey to replace him in the job, and will stay on as head coach until his contract expires at the end of this season. After that? Nobody has any clue what’s going to happen with the team.
- The Montreal Alouettes. Woooooooof. Talk about some bad football. And talk about some even worse front-office decisions. Jacques Chapdelaine was hired as the fifth head coach in five seasons at the start of the year, and he made it just 11 games into 2017 before getting fired as well. Despite poor play-calling, part of the failure of the team also falls on GM Kavis Reed for giving out a massive contract to former Roughriders QB Darian Durant, who was horrendous when he wasn’t injured, and also for firing DC Noel Thorpe, who was responsible for one of the only positives to the team in defensive play. The Als finished 3-15… the worst record in 2017 by a lot. Oh, and Durant was then released. And then he retired. And Noel Thorpe got hired by the REDBLACKS. Great job, Kavis.
2017 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|
- Reilly, EDM – 5830
- Ray, TOR – 5546
- Mitchell, CGY – 4700
- Reilly, EDM – 30
- Harris, OTT – 30
- Ray, TOR – 28
- Harris, WPG – 1035
- Powell, OTT – 1026
- Messam, CGY – 1016
- Zylstra, EDM – 1687
- Green, TOR – 1462
- Ellingson, OTT – 1459
- Hughes, CGY – 11
- Butler, TOR – 10
- Bowman, MTL – 9
- Gainey, SSK – 10
- Leonard, HAM – 7
- Heath, WPG – 5
- Medlock, WPG – 56
- Paredes, CGY – 53
- Hajrullahu, TOR – 47
2018 PICK POOL
I will be running a pick pool again this season – it’s open to readers from anywhere in the world! If you’re interested in playing, just register here through the link below:
We had a very tight race last year – the standings from last year’s pool are below. Even if you don’t know a thing about CFL football, fret not and put your picks in all the same! Internet bragging rights ain’t nothin’ to sneeze at, folks.
2017 Pool Results
|Rank||Total Points||Win Percentage|
|Game Time Decision||51||62.96%|
|Joliet Jake Delhomme||28||34.57%|
And with that, tune in next week to check out previews of the East Division teams – Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and Hamilton. Maestro out!