With the CFL's playoff picture already set with one week remaining in the
season, the six teams that will advance into the post-season have an
extra week to prepare themselves for what looks to be an exciting
Several starters will be either sitting this week, or will have their playing time restricted.
Argos coach Scott Milanovich has already stated that quarterback Ricky Ray will not be playing in this week's game against Montreal. It will be interesting to see if Ray shows any rust when he steps on the field in the East final, which the Argos will host but is still more than two weeks away.
This week will help several players get the rest they need to get healthy, and will be a great opportunity for teams to audition players that have just arrived and to take some extra reps to develop certain aspects of their game -- or maybe even introduce some film to confuse their upcoming opponents.
Toronto is last in the CFL in rushing the football. I thought that the Argos would have gotten better at this aspect of their game while Ray was recovering from his injury, but this is still a potential weakness.
The pass rush that we have seen emerge in the second half of the season from teams such as Montreal, Saskatchewan and Calgary should have the Argos concerned. The team that can get pressure with only four defensive linemen will have success against the Argos. It will be difficult for the Argos to have offensive success if Ray is flat on his back.Als lean on pass rush
Montreal defensive coordinator Noel Thorpe should be recognized for turning the worst defence in the CFL last year into one that is now carrying the team this season. Only Calgary and Saskatchewan have more quarterback sacks than the Als. A very good secondary, which leads the CFL in interceptions, has enabled the Als to add linebackers to the pass rush. Montreal's blitz package has been tough for teams to handle.
If the key to beating the Argos is getting pressure on Ray, I would say that Montreal has a better chance of beating Toronto than Hamilton, which is Montreal's opponent in next week's East semifinal in Guelph, Ont.
The problem with Montreal is that they have been beating themselves all season. Not only have they turned the ball over more times than any other team, they are also the team that has been penalized the most.
After being fairly critical of Troy Smith's performance
in Week 17, I have to admit that the Montreal QB looked like the real deal against Hamilton last week. Although the Als lost the game
, Smith was still able to throw for 340 yards and two touchdowns. If Smith can protect the football, Montreal has a very good chance of advancing to the East final.
Hamilton's rushing attack has completely vanished over the past two weeks, and Henry Burris has not been seeing the field well at all, throwing for only 163 yards last week. Hamilton should be concerned about their poor performance late in the season. If Kent Austin doesn't get his team in the right frame of mind quickly, it may be a very disappointing finish for them.Riders must protect Durant
The Roughriders are another team that needs to use this final week of the regular season to sharpen their skills.
It's no secret that the success they have had this year offensively has been set up by their ability to rush the football. Kory Sheets was held to 42 yards
this past week by the Stamps and was visibly frustrated as he had words with offensive co-ordinator George Cortez on the sideline.
The Stampeders have shown that their pass rush on second and long is too much for Saskatchewan to handle, which resulted in Darian Durant being sacked seven times. If the Riders can't figure out how to be successful on first down, they will struggle against the Stamps should Saskatchewan beat B.C. next week and advance to the West final.
I believe that a great strategy to slow down a fast, athletic defence is to get the defender thinking about adjustments during a play by giving him a lot of offensive movement prior to the snap of the football.
The Riders' offensive line has not shown that they can go toe to toe with the Stamps' defence. Likewise, the Lions have not shown that they can go blow for blow with the Riders. If either of these two teams wants to advance to the Grey Cup, I believe that they are going to have to get create offensively and show something different.
Saskatchewan's Jock Sanders and B.C.'s Stefan Logan are two versatile backs that should be introduced into the rushing attack on first down. It will be interesting to see if we see these two teams start to insert some new wrinkles into the rushing attack this week in preparation of the playoffs.
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