CFL Power Rankings: Bombers soar into showdown vs. Eskimos

Winnipeg has won three straight, and risen to No. 3 in our rankings, but the Blue Bombers must prove they're capable of more than just bullying the weak East as undefeated Edmonton rolls into town.

Winnipeg on 3-game win streak as unbeaten Edmonton comes to town

With help from the running game, Winnipeg quarterback Matt Nichols had a big night against Hamilton, but a tougher test awaits in the 7-0 Eskimos. (Aaron Lynett/Canadian Press)

Here's how I rank the Canadian Football League teams heading into Week 9:

1. Edmonton Eskimos (unchanged)

  • Record: 7-0
  • Streak: Won 7
  • Next: at Winnipeg

When the offence shut down at Ottawa, the defence went into shutdown mode. Thus, a team-record seven straight victories to start the season. Considering the honoured history of this franchise, that's saying something. QB Mike Reilly was the story on this night, completing 27 passes for 384 yards and running 11 times for 51 more. The latter might not thrill coach Jason Maas, who wants a healthy pivot, but it's exciting for everyone else. RB Ladarius Perkins, the third at that position this year due to injury, ran for 51 yards, caught for 56 and opened the game with a nice rumble into the end zone off a Reilly delivery. After Ottawa went up in the third quarter, the defenders gave up nothing more. Great night of kicking from Hugh O'Neill. Love the no long beard look.

Edmonton wins 27-20 over Ottawa, improves record to 7-0. 1:21

2. Calgary Stampeders (unchanged — bye)

  • Record: 5-1-1
  • Streak: Won 3
  • Next: at B.C.

The red-hot West mostly turns within itself over the next six weeks as we head towards the Labour Day weekend classics and the real race for the line. It's hard to bet against the White Stallions through that stretch because they have the top offence, the best defence and a balanced attack that can hit you by land and air. This week's stats show the top four running teams in the league are Edmonton, Calgary, B.C., and Montreal. There is a lesson there — these days, winning means you have to run and pass. Coming out of the bye we find that Lemar Durant, who has had a great first seven games, is now out indefinitely at receiver thanks to an ACL injury. Canadian DT Junior Turner is set to return from his own hurts and that helps the National-International balance.

3. Winnipeg Blue Bombers (up from 4)

  • Record: 5-2
  • Streak: Won 3
  • Next: vs. Edmonton

Rollin', rollin', rollin' ... see Big Blue a-rollin'. A little Frankie Laine as the Bombers have the rawhide in their teeth, staying right in the herd out in the ol' West. QB Matt Nicholls said following the win in Hamilton the key moving ahead was "playing our game." Edmonton is up this week so they'd better be ready with a good one as Peg is only 1-2 in its own division, 4-0 vs. the East. Nicholls went 25-for-35, 267 yards and two majors, helped tremendously again by RB Andrew Harris, who carried 14 times for 107. A concern moving ahead is that super leg Justin Medlock had another six field goals (including a massive 57-yarder), one week after pounding half a dozen. That means 12 drives have come up short in two games. Can't do that against the other top-division teams and expect to win.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers rode on past the Hamilton Tiger-Cats winning 39-12 on Saturday night. 1:46

4. B.C. Lions (down from 3)

  • Record: 5-3
  • Streak: Lost 1
  • Next: vs. Calgary

Wally knows. This is why he's a legend. Coach Buono was seen in the dressing room before the Rider game giving everyone that "I'm seriously disappointed" look because his Leos were not paying attention. Out they went to be spanked by 33 points. B.C. came in all hat and no cattle, convinced last week's domination of the green and white meant the return match was in the saddle bags. They were awful. As in only 14 first downs, five picks and seven total giveaways awful. Embarrassed on national television awful. Favourite stat on the game was six penalties taken on special teams, including three on coverage and three on return. Just not there. They will bounce back for this week against Calgary at home. Because Wally knows what to do next.

5. Saskatchewan Roughriders (up from 6)

  • Record: 3-4
  • Streak: Won 1
  • Next: Bye

Sing a song of Ed Gainey, his pocket full of picks. Four of them, as a matter of fact, including one run back for a touchdown in the rout of the Lions. Those four were a team record, and only nine players in league history have done it. The defence came out roaring, picking up four sacks, 14 quarterback pressures (B.C. had  two), 12 hits on the opposing pivots and six total interceptions. Quarterback Kevin Glenn, whom a few of the under-informed calling into local sports radio wanted to run out of town on a CP rail after last week, ran a tight and balanced offence, threw for 320 yards (including a trio of more than 30 yards) and three TDs. They caught the Leos on a siesta, so let's not send these guys to the playoffs yet. They are, however, back in the hunt.

The Saskatchewan Roughriders beat down on the BC Lions at home winning by a final of 41-8. 2:07

6. Montreal Alouettes (up from 8)

  • Record: 3-4
  • Streak: Won 1
  • Next: at Toronto

Larks are tied for first in the East with a game in hand, feature the second-best defence by points allowed in the league and are the only team to have beaten Calgary. On the other hand, they struggled in the second half of their win over Toronto, coming up with just three points, and allowed two long Argo drives that turned out alright due to bad penalties by the visitors. And they gave up 173 yards on the ground, so the tackling has to be better in the rematch this week. QB Darian Durant was 18-for-27, 237 yards, two TDs and zero picks. Only 77 of those yards were in the second half. LB Kyries Hebert had eight tackles and played well, but that hit to the head on QB Cody Fajardo at a key moment was selfish. Could have turned the game. Best team in the East right now.

Montreal defeats Toronto 21-9, Darian Durant throws 2 touchdowns. 1:22

7. Toronto Argonauts (down from 5)

  • Record: 3-5
  • Streak: Lost 3
  • Next: vs. Montreal

Without injured QB Ricky Ray, the Double Blue offence had trouble moving the ball all night but still could have provided enough to beat Montreal if they hadn't insisted on defeating themselves. Cody Fajardo replaced Jeff Mathews under centre to start the second half and the ball began moving. Slowly, but it was moving. A 14-play, 83-yard drive came up short when the Argos were caught without an end. Turnover on downs. A 13-play, 57-yarder for a TD came back on illegal hands to the face. Zero points. And there was a dropped pass for a touchdown as well. Who starts this week? Says Fajardo here if Ray can't go, and we'd be surprised if Old No. 15 can. Defence was very good despite spending most of the first half on the field. Return match is a showdown for first place.

8. Ottawa Redblacks (down from 7)

  • Record: 1-6-1
  • Streak: Lost 3
  • Next: at Hamilton

Retired QB Henry Burris said last week the problem with the RBs is they've lost so much leadership since the Grey Cup team. More like they've lost so much talent, especially at receiver, where the best five-man catching staff in the league is now simply average. That leaves QB Trevor Harris with much less choice than the last two years. They have two of them left in Greg Ellingson and Brad Sinopoli, who are doing well. Up a single point in the third against Edmonton, Ottawa produced four punts and a last-second desperation pick to the final gun. The ball never advanced further than their own 36. Tackling: Add 102 yards rushing allowed to a terrible 155 yards after the catch given up and that's 257 you can improve on simply by bringing people down.

9. Hamilton Tiger-Cats (unchanged)

  • Record: 0-7
  • Streak: Lost 7
  • Next: vs. Ottawa

If you aren't going to protect QB Zach Collaros, you can't expect him to be successful. Simple statement. Difficult to fix. Five sacks this week by Winnipeg, plus 10 pressures, is not optimal. That's 15 times he was under fire on a night when the Kitties only ran 44 plays (or 33 per cent). June Jones has been added to the coaching staff and there's word he will start calling plays this week. A quick positive change would be running the ball, something head coach Kent Austin has been forever loathe to do. Those five sacks took 59 yards off the overall net, leaving 188. On the other side of the ground game, the defence allowed 396 net and 27 first downs. This is the fourth-worst start in team history (worst was 0-12 in 2003), but the fans are hanging in right.  


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