Here's how I rank the Canadian Football League teams after Week 11:
Streak: Won 5
Next: at Edmonton
Two ways of looking at the Alberta version of the Labour Day Classic Magical Mystery Tour: One, what if you put two good teams, a set of cheerleaders and 35,400 people into a stadium for a big game and … nothing much happened. Or, how about those defences? We'll go with two. Bo Mitchell had a decent day (24 of 36, 251 yards) but only broke through for one major score, adding a trio of field goals for 16 points. All that was needed thanks to Charleston Hughes (five tackles and two sacks) and the rest of the well-built fortress defending the goal line. Now 12 wins in a row over Edmonton.
Streak: Won 1
Next: at Toronto
Well, that was pretty darn impressive. QB Zach Collaros turned his old team inside out on the way to 26 completions for 400 yards in the air, 502 yards net, and four touchdowns. He was almost at 300 yards passing in the first half. Terrell Sinkfield and Luke Tasker combined for 12 catches and 215 yards while the former had two scores. Defence held hated Toronto to five first downs, 76 yards net, and a single point in the first half. The last 30 minutes was a cruise. Losing to Montreal at home the week before was just what the Kitties needed to get refocused on the goal — November in Winnipeg.
Streak: Lost 1
Next: vs. Calgary
The fourth quarter began, the curtains parted, and out to centre stage strode QB Mike Reilly, back for the first time since Week 1. His teammates did a nice job in winning six of 10 games without the starter, but now we see how much of a difference the star makes. The league caught up to young James Franklin, as it always does to rookie QBs who look good in their debuts. Enough film means proper defensive preparation, and that resulted in 91 passing yards through three quarters. Defensively, the Eskimos were strong again, spending much of the day in QB Bo Mitchell's face and keeping him from moving the Stamps.
Streak: Lost 2
Next: vs. Hamilton
The worst pass defence in the league was torn to pieces in Hamilton and the Argos went straight into the Labour Day dunk tank. It's one thing to cede first place to your rival, another to simply surrender it. Something has to change in DC Casey Creehan's defence, either the approach or the players, and after looking at the film it seems like both. Offensively, with QB Ricky Ray (automatic Hall of Famer) back healthy again there was talk Trevor Harris might not keep his job this week. That's not fair, Harris has been good, and his role isn't to cover receivers, it's to throw to them.
Streak: Lost 1
Tanner Marsh, handed a chance to impress with rookie QB Rakeem Cato home on a personal matter, tossed it away with five interceptions and just 103 yards in the air. And you can't claim he didn't have help along the ground, because the Larks had 123 yards there. The defence can't play both sides of the ball — it allowed 216 in total offence, picked off two balls, running one back for a score, and held the Lions to just eight points in the second half. Boos rained down from on high at McGill Stadium, and rightly so. Can't move down only because this column's rule is a team on a bye (Ottawa) keeps its place.
Streak: Won 1
Next: at B.C.
Le Rouge et Noir went for a well-deserved vacation after a strong first half, especially for a club that just arrived last season. When you parse that record, what pops out first is how good Ottawa is at home (4-1). They'll need to keep it up to grab a playoff spot, especially with a 1-3 mark on the road and five more games away from the Nation's Capital. Aged QB Henry Burris may not run the best attack in the loop, but he keeps drives going and is No. 1 in possession time. That helps a competitive defence stay fresh. That unit is first in sacks and especially good against the pass (yes, the two absolutely go hand-in-hand).
Streak: Won 1
Next: vs. Ottawa
QB Travis Lulay went down 10 minutes into the game and he's out 3-6 weeks at a time when the Lions are fighting for a playoff spot. In comes John Beck, who is 34, has played for five pro teams and will have to carry the load for a while. His 14-for-22, 114 yards, two picks and two TDs weren't terrific, but he found a way to win a big one. Against a big set of defenders. Pardon us for pointing out some problems, however, such as the fact the Leos ran the ball 27 times and only gained 91 yards. That's just 3.3 a carry. Great effort from the defence, and that was the real difference in this one.
Streak: Lost 4
Next: vs. Saskatchewan
QB Brian Brohm is not the answer. Robert Marve is not ready to be asked the question. So now the query may be how long does it take for Matt Nichols, traded in from Edmonton, to learn the offence? Bombers had the ball for just 22 minutes and punted nine times. Yes, the defence gave up 26 first downs and over 300 yards offence, but it also sacked Riders' Brett Smith four times. But the Blue took 17 penalties for 140 yards. There were nine roughing penalties in this game so the Banjo Bowl return match this week may be a little nasty.
Streak: Won 1
Next: at Winnipeg
What a nice Labour Day present for Bob Dyce, the interim head coach in his first game. And great to give the melon heads some cheer as they head into harvest season. Having fired the coach and the GM (still not sure about the GM), Dyce had his team up and ready in front of a rowdy 33,427 in Regina. QB Brett Smith, who had apologized for snapping at the coaches when pulled the week before, was 19-of-25, 211 yards and a score. He also made some good decisions around when not to throw. The defence allowed only 230 yards. Great watching Nic Demski scamper for a 60-yard punt score. How about another win? Make it a trend.