CFL Beat: Playoffs – Division Semifinals

The Maestro
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The Maestro

The Maestro is a mystical Canadian internet user and New England Patriots fan; when the weather is cooperative and the TV signal at his igloo is strong enough, he enjoys watching the NFL, the Ottawa Senators & REDBLACKS, and yelling into the abyss on Twitter. He is somehow allowed to teach music to high school students when he isn’t in a blind rage about sports, and is also a known connoisseur of cheap beers across the Great White North.
The Maestro
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The playoffs are here! The regular season is over at last. For BC, Toronto, and especially Ottawa, this week couldn’t have gotten here fast enough. We’ve already seen some turnover happen previously this season, but a few other key dominoes are falling now. In league news this week:

  • Ottawa REDBLACKS head coach Rick Campbell decided that he was going to part ways with the team, despite having one year left on his contract. While no direct causation has been stated, it’s been heavily implied, by both the Ottawa media and other league sources, that Campbell’s relationship with GM Marcel Desjardins soured as the season went on. This is completely understandable, considering the roster of complete and utter dogshit that the GM gave the coaching staff this year. As a REDBLACKS fan, I’m disappointed by how things turned out; I wish Rick all the best in wherever he ends up next. He shouldn’t have been the one to leave this team – it should have been the GM, and ownership should’ve been more clued in to that fact that the team’s lack of success is largely in part due to Desjardins. We’ve seen multiple reports over the last couple of seasons that departing players have left the REDBLACKS with a bad taste in their mouth – from Henry Burris to Trevor Harris, Greg Ellingson, William Powell and SirVincent Rogers, to former OC Jaime Elizondo, and now with coach Campbell, there’s been disturbing trend to how the GM has apparently been treating people in the organization.
  • One positive Ottawa note, mixed in with the rest of the negativity surrounding the team: the REDBLACKS did re-sign a bunch of key Canadian players to two-year extensions this week, the most notable one being WR Brad Sinopoli, who’s become the face of the franchise. If a player like Sinopoli, who’s been in Ottawa for five seasons and racked up 1000+ yards in four of those, wants to come back for another two seasons… things can’t be all bad. Right?
  • The BC Lions fired head coach DeVone Claybrooks after just one season with the team, in which they started started off 1-10 before finishing the year 5-13. I don’t think Claybrooks got a fair shake at all, considering this firing. I strongly suspect he’ll be back as a head coach sooner rather than later.
  • Montreal has begun negotiations with head coach Khari Jones on a contract extension, which is just as well… he is my pick for coach of the year. Say what you will about Orlondo Steinauer and the excellent job he’s done in Hamilton, even with Jeremiah Masoli going down in August, but Khari Jones walked into what was essentially a five-year dumpster fire in Montreal and snuffed it out in short order. Not only that, but his players love him. It’s incredibly difficult to walk that line to achieve success with teams that have perpetuated a losing culture, but Jones is arguably the biggest cause of the Alouettes’ turnaround this year, and he deserves every penny he can get out of the team.
  • The Edmonton Eskimos’ WR Diego Viamontes, from Mexico, made headlines when he became the first global player to start in a CFL game this past week against Saskatchewan. The CFL 2.0 global expansion plan is intended to be a gradual but steady one, with the intention of growing the league’s brand recognition across the world and foster opportunities for international players to play in a top pro league. Nobody was expecting huge impacts from this first wave of global players seeing playing time this year, but it’s a small positive step forward all the same. The league announced this week it’s committed to more global events this year, with player combines happening once again in Europe, Mexico, and in Japan – a new addition this upcoming off-season.
  • In the best headline I’ve seen all year: REDBLACKS linebacker Jeff Knox, Jr. was in a car accident in upstate New York, where apparently he “hit a tiger”, according to a Twitter video he posted (it was probably a bobcat, but even still…). Talk about a weird one. Knox is OK; the animal, unfortunately, died from the impact. Sorry to report.

Onto the games!

WEEK 21 RECAPS

Montreal 42 vs. Ottawa 32: Vernon Adams, Jr. started this game, but Matthew Shiltz finished it, as the Alouettes decided not to risk their star quarterback to injury in the final 30 minutes of this contest. A number of other starters sat for most of this game, but the Als’ offence still continued to roll; Adams threw two touchdowns in the first half, while Shiltz had another in the third quarter. With another score by rookie RB Jarveon Williams, Montreal had a lot of points on the board, but to Ottawa’s credit, they kept pushing Montreal all game. Despite a previously anemic offence, the REDBLACKS got three rushing touchdowns from short-yardage QB Jonathon Jennings, as well as three field goals and a rouge; it was a very close game in the fourth quarter when Montreal finally broke things open with a pick-six by CB Najee Murray. After that, it was curtains – the final act of a dismal REDBLACKS season, completed at long last.

PICK: Montreal

RESULT: Montreal

Edmonton 13 vs. Saskatchewan 23: For the first time since 2009, and for only the third time since 1976, the Roughriders are West Division champions. It was far from a guaranteed decision – with the Stampeders nipping at their heels, the Riders were also down starting QB Cody Fajardo for this game. Isaac Harker, starting in his place, did exactly what he needed to do, finishing 23-28 for 213 yards, but most importantly, not turning the ball over. That said, it was still tough sledding – with Edmonton holding a one-point lead at the start of the fourth quarter, Saskatchewan missed a field goal, tying the game on a rouge. Saskatchewan would make another, but it wasn’t until LB Cameron Judge intercepted Eskimos’ QB Troy Williams and ran the ball back 29 yards for the pick-six that the game, and the division title, was firmly in Saskatchewan’s grasp.

PICK: Saskatchewan

RESULT: Saskatchewan

Toronto 18 vs. Hamilton 21: With the Ti-Cats choosing to rest Dane Evans for their appearance in the upcoming East final, rookie Hayden Moore got his first career CFL start, and it was… not good. Moore threw four interceptions, including an 89-yard pick-six on the opening drive, but at the end of the day, it didn’t matter. Hamilton rode a strong game from RB Cameron Marshall (18 carries, 109 yards, 2 TDs) to the win. With the score knotted at 17 apiece for almost half the game clock (2:39 Q2 – 6:27 Q4), the game was remarkably tight, including right down to the wire. With both teams scoring another single point off a punt and a rouge, respectively, the stage was set for Lirim Hajrullahu to kick the game-winner from 40 yards out with 6 seconds left on the clock. With the victory, Hamilton ends the regular season a perfect 9-0 at home, and the odds-on favourite for this year’s Grey Cup.

PICK: Hamilton

RESULT: Hamilton

Calgary 21 vs. BC 16: With the Riders already having locked up the division title by the time the Stamps rolled in to Vancouver, Calgary could possibly have elected to rest their starters – but they still needed the win, lest they allow the Bombers to take home-field advantage in this week’s game by virtue of their head-to-head record. As such, every man was needed  – and with Calgary missing a large chunk of their defensive starters due to injury, they were forced to tighten up late. With an 11-point lead at the half, Calgary had control going into the final two quarters- but a long, sustained BC drive would soon cut the lead to just four with twenty minutes of game time left. In the fourth quarter, however, Bo Levi Mitchell shook off an earlier interception by connecting with rookie receiver Hergy Mayala, who hauled in a nine-yard pass for a score. For BC, the season is now over, but there’s a few small bright spots – John White rushed for over 1000 yards this year, hitting the milestone late in the fourth quarter, while Bryan Burnham also hit a career high in receiving yards, with 100 catches for 1492 yards, to go along with 11 touchdowns.

PICK: Calgary

RESULT: Calgary

BYE: Winnipeg (11-7)

DIVISION SEMIFINAL PREVIEWS

EAST DIVISION SEMIFINAL

(Crossover) Edmonton (8-10) vs. (2) Montreal (10-8), Sunday, November 10th, 1:00 PM EST: If the Eskimos lose this game – and the signs are likely that they will – this is probably Jason Maas’ final game as Edmonton’s head coach. Quite honestly, that should be the case – his prowess as an OC with both Toronto and Ottawa is what earned him the job in the first place, but his shortcoming as a head coach has always his inability to keep his players disciplined and regulated. Trevor Harris will play – and he’s consistently been a strong playoff performer through his CFL career – but there’s a lot of holes in the roster. Edmonton will likely struggle to contain the Als’ Vernon Adams, Jr., who is probably the most mobile quarterback in the league right now. Montreal is favoured to win, and if Adams shows that he can continue to make many more good decisions than bad ones, then things will carry forth as planned. It’s been a really, really good year in Montreal – with their first playoff game in five years, fans have a lot to celebrate. They probably won’t get past Hamilton, but it’s a really positive thing to see what HC Khari Jones has done with his team this year.

PICK: Montreal

WEST DIVISION SEMIFINAL

(3) Winnipeg (11-7) vs. (2) Calgary (12-6), Sunday, November 10th, 4:30 PM EST: Will it be Chris Streveler or Zach Collaros who gets the start for the Bombers? After Collaros’ last game against Calgary, it’s hard to argue against it – even with his limited time with Winnipeg’s playbook. The Stamps are banged up on defence right now, with a few key faces, including LB Cory Greenwood, DT Cordarro Law and S Royce Metchie, not certain to play. The Stamps are also going up against the league’s best running game, with Andrew Harris having racked up almost 2000 yards from scrimmage this year. That said, at the end of the day, Calgary has been the model CFL franchise this decade for a reason. They’ve got steady quarterback play, a deep receiving corps, and a defence with all kinds of guys who are ready and willing to step up and make plays. Not to mention – they’ve got home-field advantage for this one. As good as both teams are, it remains a very, very difficult challenge to win a road game at McMahon Stadium. It’s really hard to bet against a team that’s been to five of the last seven Grey Cup games, after all…

PICK: Calgary

BYE: (1) Hamilton (15-3), (1) Saskatchewan (13-5)

REGULAR SEASON FINAL STANDINGS AND STATS

East Division Standings

Team Games Wins Losses Points For Points Against
y-Hamilton 18 15 3 551 344
x-Montreal 18 10 8 479 485
e-Toronto 18 4 14 373 562
e-Ottawa 18 3 15 312 564

West Division Standings

Team Games Wins Losses Points For Points Against
y-Saskatchewan 18 13 5 487 386
x-Calgary 18 12 6 482 407
x-Winnipeg 18 11 7 508 409
c-Edmonton 18 8 10 406 400
e-BC 18 5 13 411 452

y – clinched division title
x – clinched playoff berth
c – clinched crossover spot
e – eliminated from playoff contention

Passing Yards

  1. Fajardo, SSK – 4302
  2. Harris, EDM – 4027
  3. Bethel-Thompson, TOR – 4024

Passing TDs

  1. Bethel-Thompson, TOR – 26
  2. Adams Jr., MTL – 24
  3. Evans, HAM – 21

Rushing Yards

  1. Harris, WPG – 1380
  2. Powell, SSK – 1093
  3. Stanback, MTL – 1048

Receiving Yards

  1. Banks, HAM – 1550
  2. Burnham, BC – 1492
  3. Begelton, CGY – 1444

Sacks

  1. Hughes, SSK – 16
  2. Davis, HAM – 13
  3. Jefferson, WPG – 12

Interceptions

  1. Rose, WPG – 9
  2. Roberson, CGY – 7
  3. Rolle, HAM – 5

Field Goals

  1. Whyte, EDM – 47
  2. Hajrullahu, HAM – 47
  3. Ward, OTT – 43

PICK POOL FINAL STANDINGS

Congrats to Litre_Cola, who hung on long enough to ensure he walks away the 2019 CFL Pick Pool champ! DM me your address for your slightly-used prize (if you dare…) All I can think about is how I hadn’t fucked up and forgot to enter my picks in two of these weeks, that may well have been me sitting at the top of the heap there… time to start preparing for 2020, clearly.

Rank Total Points Weekly Score Win Percentage
Litre_Cola 61 4-0 75.31%
SonOfSpam 58 4-0 71.60%
Game Time Decision 58 4-0 71.60%
Ballsofsteelandfury 56 4-0 69.14%
Beerguyrob 55 3-1 67.90%
The Maestro 53 4-0 65.43%
BC Dick 53 4-0 65.43%
Sharkbait 37 0-4 45.68%
blaxabbath 37 2-2 45.68%
Dolph Ucker 0 0-4 0.00%
nomonkeyfun 0 0-4 0.00%
Spanky Datass 0 0-4 0.00%
Wakezilla 0 0-4 0.00%

Enjoy the games, everyone.

The Maestro
The Maestro
The Maestro is a mystical Canadian internet user and New England Patriots fan; when the weather is cooperative and the TV signal at his igloo is strong enough, he enjoys watching the NFL, the Ottawa Senators & REDBLACKS, and yelling into the abyss on Twitter. He is somehow allowed to teach music to high school students when he isn't in a blind rage about sports, and is also a known connoisseur of cheap beers across the Great White North.
https://www.doorfliesopen.com/index.php/author/the-maestro/
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litre_cola

3 gently used fleshlights SHOULD be on my mantle.

Last Canadian
Last Canadian

Rick Campbell in Edmonton makes sense in a return of the prodigal son type deally, give him both jobs GM and HC. Claybrooks was in waaaayyyyy over his head. Great DC, the stumps sure missed him. There are some terrible GM’s in the CFL.

BC Dick

Agree that Claybrooks didn’t get a fair shot. The players kept fighting for him even at 1-10. No quit, no sniping in the media. David Braley needs to sell this team because he’s clearly not paying attention. Also agree on Maas getting the boot if he loses. And I’m just fine with that because he’s quite simply a jackass. As long as BC doesn’t hire him.

Horatio Cornblower

Good to see Mexicans taking some Canadian jerbs for a change, amirite?

BC Dick

Being the CFL, he was probably still taking an American’s job. Can’t get away from them, can you, Yankees?

Horatio Cornblower

Just wait until we get that wall below Colorado! Then you’ll see! Then you’ll all see!