CBC Sports football contributor Malcolm Kelly breaks down the balance of power in the Canadian Football League on a weekly basis:
|1. TORONTO ARGONAUTS [Up from 2]|
Overall record: 8-4
Streak: Won 3
Gosh, when do Toronto and Calgary play again? Oh, yeah, it'll have to be the 2013 Grey Cup. There's nothing for it Argo haters (legions) but to be impressed with this streak. Three straight wins on the road including back-to-back over Saskatchewan and Calgary, with an offence missing its three best players. Toronto had over 100 yards rushing this week (led by fine NFL pickup Jerious Norwood), a key to continued victory. Defence was stalwart. Zach Collaros (330 yards, 4 TDs, no picks against the Stamps) shows each time out he can develop into a CFL star as Ricky Ray works his shoulder back into shape. Shame for Ottawa that Collaros is a free agent after this season. They can draft him and own his rights, but if he goes to the NFL they might not see him for a while. One more on the road: a big-time trap game at Edmonton.
|2. CALGARY STAMPEDERS [Down from 1] |
Overall record: 9-3
Streak: Lost 1
Top two places are a virtual tie this week as one loss isn't going to dampen the White Stallions' superb previous month. The CFL's top clubs battled for four quarters with the breaks, and the credit, going the visitor's way (first loss in 11 straight home games for Calgary). Kevin Glenn returned from a knee injury and had a good opening 30 minutes but a difficult second half against a swarming attack that makes quick read and release essential. Two picks by Glenn hurt more because they were both at important moments, one early and one in the middle of the third that would have kept the momentum for the red and white. Defence came up with four sacks, but Argos QB Collaros does not intimidate easily. Wish these clubs could do it again next week.
|3.B.C. LIONS [Up from 4] |
Overall record: 8-4
Streak: Won 2
This has to be the best moment of the year for the Lions. Coming into Regina without starting QB Travis Lulay and favoured on no-one's card, they relied on backup Thomas DeMarco, who was OK all game before discovering superb in the final seconds. A determined defence kept B.C. close enough to pull out a last minute victory thanks to a Paul McCallum field goal. Leos could have checked out after the last minute Riders TD but instead they just went for it. Lulay is supposed to be out for two games, could be a touch longer, but if he finds this team in front of him when he returns the Lions are back to being a serious contender. Leos have been looking all year for consistency from all facets of the game and still aren't really there (where is the running attack?), but they're hanging in with heart.
|4. SASKATCHEWAN ROUGHRIDERS [Down from 3]|
Streak: Lost 3
With star running Kory Sheets out with a knee bruise for at least a week, the offence is off-balance. Chris Garrett is a nice pick up as a fill-in, but he's still learning where to be at what time. Still, it's fair to say Darian Durant and the attack did as well as can be expected given no running game. So this loss has to be on the defence. They gave an inexperienced QB in his first pro start a chance to shine instead of burying him. That last sequence, allowing a third down pass out of field goal range that set up the winning kick, was awful. Yes, the D is beaten up right now, but everyone's going through it. Since starting 8-1, the Riders have lost three in a row, two of them against clubs fielding back-up pivots, and the third against Winnipeg. Getting home field advantage in the post-season, and skipping the semi-final, is going to key in the West. This team can do it if it pulls together.
|5. HAMILTON TIGER-CATS [Unchanged]|
Streak: Won 1
Jeff Reinebold, the coaching lifer who handles the special teams, has done a strong job with his unit this year (save for last week's bad outing) and Saturday against Montreal, in Moncton, was an example of what that has meant. The specials bounced right back, holding the Larks in check, pulling off a nice return, and running a fab little fake field goal that resulted in a touchdown. Brett Lauther stepped in as the new kicker, replacing Luca Congi, going four-for-four and showing off after the last of them. Head coach Kent Austin, doubtless, had a chat with him about that because afterwards the youngster apologized. Cats have been at 6-6 three times in the last four seasons and finished 9-9, 9-9 and 8-10 (2009-2011). To win the East, they'll have to be 11-7, it says here, including both against Toronto.
|6. MONTREAL ALOUETTES [Unchanged] |
Overall record: 4-8
Streak: Lost 3
Instead of pounding away on what the Larks don't have, let's have a look at what they do. They have Duron Carter, one of the year's best pickups. Being the son of NFL Hall of Famer Cris and part of a big sports family, you come with football instincts that the rookie receiver is showing week after week. He had nine catches for 112 yards, totaling now 23 for 377 in five games. Carter is a keeper for next year, until he heads to the NFL in 2015. With your No. 1 (Anthony Calvillo) and No. 2 (Tanner Marsh) starters on the injured list, Jim Popp went to Josh Neiswander and that worked out all right (26-of-36, 294 yards, 2 TD). A toss to Carter for a late major was a nice thing to watch. Now back to the season at hand. Als have one in Edmonton they must win to crush the faint Eskimos hopes, and two with Hamilton still to take a late run at second. Kind of a stretch, that last one, but you never know.
|7. EDMONTON ESKIMOS [Unchanged]|
Overall record: 3-9
Streak: Won 2
Something we saw this week confirmed the Eskimos are together as a team and able to tune out distractions (such as the GM). After fighting back from 27-11 down to force overtime, Mike Reilly handed the ball to Hugh Charles at the 10 and he powered in for what would be the winner. The QB almost beat his RB into the end zone, he was so excited, and the two then stood mask to mask and shared a moment of happiness. We've said all year, don't panic (that means you, Ed Hervey), there's something building here, even if the fruit isn't ripe until next season. Two wins over Winnipeg doesn't move you up in the rankings much but if you hadn't noticed before the Eskies are now two games back of a cross-over playoff spot with six to go. Tough, but possible. Especially with Montreal coming in on Oct. 5.
|8. WINNIPEG BLUE BOMBERS [Unchanged]|
Overall record: 2-10
Streak: Lost 2
Each week, fans of the Bombers look for any flotsam or jetsam that might have falling off the sinking ship as they cling to hopes of rescue before the cold of winter storms takes them. QB Max Hall looked pretty good against Edmonton, until he was hurt late and Justin Goltz (whose confidence looks shot) came in, ending any chance of scoring in overtime. The defence was solid in the first three quarters before exhaustion and some rotten luck on a deflection that the Esks' Fred Stamps finally grabbed, did them in. Winnipeg had to replace both starting offensive tackles with guys who had been in camp for four days, and they weren't bad. Overall, however, it's bad. Two losses to Edmonton. Geez. Among the highlights coming up are B.C., Calgary and two with the Argos.
Follow Malcolm Kelly on Twitter @sportsnag
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