CBC Sports football contributor Malcolm Kelly breaks down the balance of power in the Canadian Football League on a weekly basis:
|1. CALGARY STAMPEDERS [Unchanged] |
Overall record: 14-3
Streak: Won 5
The hyped showdown between running backs Jon Cornish and Kory Sheets (109 to 42 yards in favour of the former) turned into an old-fashioned, 1960s snot-knocker of a contest that featured both club's defences. Truth to tell, if the Stampeders defence hadn't been so stalwart in the first half, those three fumbles the White Stallions committed in their own end would have ended this game early. Overall, they had seven sacks. Calgary came out of this one with a huge advantage, thanks to an 11-of-16 performance by QB Drew Tate in second-half relief of Kevin Glenn (11-17, 1 TD, 1 INT). This means head coach John Hufnagel, who honestly couldn't give a damn if the media and fans want to call this a "controversy," can leave who starts up in the air heading for the West Division final, forcing the opposition to prepare for both men. And if one isn't going well, the other can come in.
|2. SASKATCHEWAN ROUGHRIDERS [Unchanged]|
Overall record: 11-6
Streak: Lost 1
Boy, some of these Roughriders have loud mouths. First, Kory Sheets pronounced himself the best RB in the league (giving Jon Cornish extra motivation), then publicly dressed down offensive co-ordinator George Cortez on the sidelines when he wasn't getting the ball in the first half. After they lost, DB Dwight Anderson, who never met a verbal stop sign he wouldn't run, told reporters his club is the better team and would come back to southern Alberta and beat Calgary, for sure, in the West final. I wonder if the B.C. Lions read that. All this after the guys in green gave up an 80-yard touchdown drive in the dying minutes of a terrific game that allowed the Stamps to clinch first overall and home-field advantage in the West. Not to mention the six sacks allowed. Or the lack of finish from the offence.
|3. TORONTO ARGONAUTS [Unchanged]|
Overall record: 11-6
Streak: Won 2
After beating Winnipeg, Argonauts head coach Scott Milanovich said post-game that his club had been insulted that week by the criticism it was taking for losing two straight games to Hamilton and not blowing out Winnipeg. Too bad. You're the defending Grey Cup champs and expected to be playing well right now. Thanks to incandescent QB Ricky Ray (505 yards passing, team record 21-straight completions), the Argos clinched first in the East and will host the division final. But they still need to be better. Drop less balls. Make fewer mistakes on defence. Milanovich, raised by [former CFL head coach] Marc Trestman in Montreal, ended any speculation by saying Ray will not play - he won't even dress - against the Alouettes in a meaningless Week 19 contest. Welcome back WR Chad Owens, who had 226 combined yards after an injury-marred season. If he's rolling again, a trip to Regina for this year's Grey Cup is a brighter prospect.
|4. HAMILTON TIGER-CATS [Unchanged]|
Overall record: 9-8
Streak: Won 1
Credit the Tiger-Cats for bouncing back from last week's horrid outing by playing a solid game that wrapped up home field for the East semifinal. But they have to do this again in two weeks against a team that gives them lots of trouble. Ticats head coach Kent Austin used all three QBs in this one, realizing he had to find a running game somehow or there was no chance, so he let the field generals do it. Third-string QB Jeremiah Masoli had 61 of the Kitties' 148 rushing yards overall. WR Brandon Banks was excellent all day (169 combined yards) and the score on the carry was a great call. RB C.J. Gable couldn't do a thing out of the backfield against the Als, so instead the Cats are rolling him out. WR Andy Fantuz earned the game ball by sucking a defender into a key pass interference penalty in the final minute.
|5. B.C. LIONS [Unchanged] |
Overall record: 10-7
Streak: Won 1
Buck Pierce? THE Buck Pierce? The guy Winnipeg gave up on? The one we keep saying should have retired by now because of the hits he's taken? The third-string QB, traded back to the Left Coast in mid-season, came off the bench and threw for three TDs against an Eskimos defence battered and bruised by one of the best running games from the Lions this year. Stefan Logan had 121 yards (on his way to 260 combined) and Andrew Harris had 76 as the Lions had 220 overall. If they could get even 100 yards on the ground in the West semifinal, they'll have a shot. Pierce is going to be important now because Travis (Two More Weeks) Lulay is being spoken about in hushed tones, as though his season may be over due to that shoulder injury.
|6. MONTREAL ALOUETTES [Unchanged] |
Overall record: 7-10
Streak: Lost 1
For 36 minutes of their most important game of the year, the Larks held Hamilton to just three points. Combined with the opener of the home-and-home, that was eight points in 96 minutes. Great. Then, this disappointing season took another dip, thanks to 24 points in 24 minutes. The clock is ticking on the Als, who now travel back to the Guelph Erector Set for the East semifinal in two weeks. Still, this team can beat that other team in that game because: it has a strong defence; a newfound power arm in QB Troy Smith, who is just passing page 10 in the playbook, so two more weeks can make a big difference; and a pair of weapons at receiver in old-timer S.J. Green (check out that one-handed catch) and rookie Duron Carter, who has 818 yards in 10 games. All could be wiped out, however, by little things, such as messing up the snap and hold on two key field goals that might have won you the game. And blown special-teams coverage. And dumb penalties at the wrong time.
|7. WINNIPEG BLUE BOMBERS [Unchanged]|
Overall record: 3-14
Streak: Lost 2
Training Camp 2014 Notebook: WR Mike Sims-Walker was not available this week, due to a swollen knee thing. But Wallace Miles looked good in his place. QB Max Hall played OK in the exhibition versus Toronto, tossing for 257 yards and a pair of TDs. RB Will Ford (nine carries, 32 yards) needs more yards than that on the ground. Winnipeg should be thinking 15-18 carries a game. On the highly negative side, the Blue Bombers allowed almost 600 total yards to Ray and the Argos and they'll have to get the defence sorted out before the regular season begins on Canada Day. And more of a pass rush would be nice. But there's lots of time.
|8. EDMONTON ESKIMOS [Unchanged]|
Overall record: 3-14
Streak: Lost 5
Checklist for 2014 - Quarterback: Mike Reilly's fine, thanks. Running back: Nope. Offensive line: Please. Receivers: Don't touch anything. Defence: Need about six new guys. Kicking: Only if he shaves that beard and finds some consistency. Head coach: New one. Uniforms: Keep them. 50-50 draw: Best in the league by a country mile. New seats: Getting to like them, actually. Winter: Long and cold with a gradual warming towards spring, when hope is eternal.
Follow Malcolm Kelly on Twitter @sportsnag
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