CFL·Analysis

CFL Power Rankings: Stampeders on top as West is best

Calgary reclaims top spot as season proving to be a tale of two divisions.

There's a clear line between the CFL's 2 divisions

Bo Levi, right, and the Calgary Stampeders are keeping their opponents at bay. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

Here's how I rank the Canadian Football League teams heading into Week 11.

1. Calgary Stampeders (up from 2)

  • Record: 7-1-1
  • Streak: Won 5
  • Next: Edmonton

Do your reconnaissance, identify your target, eliminate it as a threat. Defensive coordinator DeVone Claybrooks watched film, saw how well Ricky Ray was connecting with veteran receiver S.J. Green and went after them. His unit threw a shutout against Toronto (the seven points were on a pick six and convert), in great measure because Green had 10 balls thrown his way, and only four of them were completed for 49 yards plus just one extra after catch. Green was himself called for pass interference. All this was done without star Charleston Hughes on the defensive line. QB Bo Mitchell struggled to find points in the first half against the improving Argo defenders; six times the Stamps punted and a seventh was the interception for a score. Two key drives in the second half provided enough points to win.

Game Wrap: Stampeders shut down Argos offence in win

5 years ago
Duration 1:22
Calgary took over top spot in the Western Conference with a 23-7 win over Toronto.

2. Winnipeg Blue Bombers (down from 1)

  • Record: 7-2
  • Streak: Won 5
  • Next: At Saskatchewan

Got away with that one, didn't you Big Blue? Leading by 10 with less than five minutes left in Montreal, you allowed the home side to tie it up on a four-play drive for a major, then an eight-play version for a field goal. After a TD and two point convert in overtime, you let Montreal march down for their own eight points. Still won, on a Chris Randle pick the next OT drive, and a Justin Medlock field goal. Pack up, make the plane, get out of town with the two points. QB Matt Nichols had a solid game, completing 26 for 227 yards, three majors and a pick. RB Andrew Harris, best player in the league right now, combined for 106 yards running and passing, Clarence Denmark caught two TDs. Huge back-to-back with the Riders ahead.

Game Wrap: Blue Bombers beat Alouettes in OT

5 years ago
Duration 2:10
Winnipeg wins 34-31, Montreal's Nik Lewis becomes CFL's all-time receptions leader.

3. Edmonton Eskimos (unchanged)

  • Record: 7-2
  • Streak: Lost 2
  • Next: At Calgary

All those weird things that were apparently supposed to affect your dog during the eclipse actually hit the Eskimos at practice this week. How else to explain how poorly these guys played at home against the Riders, a club that hadn't won a road game in the west for almost three seasons. Yes, the injuries have been ridiculous (over 70 players have appeared in a game so far), but how to explain two pick six tosses by QB Mike Reilly? Or a blocked punt for a touchdown? Or being down 26-6 at half time? The team hasn't played well for five games, and yes, it's fair to point to the injuries. But the veterans in uniform also have to play up to their own standards. Now, key players are ready to come back, and they'll be fine. Surely.

4. Saskatchewan Roughriders (up from 5)

  • Record: 4-4
  • Streak: Won 2
  • Next: Winnipeg

A rollicking, exciting, interesting, enthusiastic crushing of the Eskimos has put the Riders into the thick of things with the Labour Day Classic and Banjo Bowl games vs. Winnipeg coming up. The defence gave up just 126 net yards through the first three quarters, and they did it on the road where wins have been a rumour. They had two pick sixes against QB Mike Reilly, and have suddenly learned how to amass turnovers after doing almost nothing there for the first half-dozen games. Green and White had 37 points off three forced fumbles and the pair of interceptions, and that's a great total. Much fun watching Duron Carter run a missed convert back for two points the other way. That kind of effort is infusing the entire team right now. Momentum can carry a long way.

Game Wrap: Roughriders dominate Eskimos with great defence

5 years ago
Duration 1:49
Saskatchewan beats Edmonton 54-31 for 1st road win.

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

  • Record: 5-5
  • Streak: Lost 3
  • Next: Bye

Travis Lulay has been quietly professional since losing his starting job to young pivot Jonathon Jennings at the beginning of 2016. Always positive, helpful, ready when needed to run short yardage. Now he has the job back, following an excellent second half in Ottawa that almost pulled back a game that seemed long lost. Coach Wally Buono, with three straight losses by Jennings, took about 20 minutes after the game to announce the change. It's the right thing, especially since the younger man hasn't looked the same since coming back from an injury. Down 31-7, Lulay produced 21 points in the fourth. From halftime he was 18-for-23, 202 yards, two TDs and an unfortunate deflected pick while driving for a miracle victory in the last minute. Defence allowed 396 yards, 158 after catches.

6. Ottawa Redblacks (up from 8)

  • Record: 3-6-1
  • Streak: Won 2
  • Next: At Montreal

If you don't put your cleats on the neck of a downed opponent, they will get up and hammer you. The Redblacks have had trouble with this all year, and against B.C. it almost resulted in blowing a 31-7 lead. Enough spanking. Ottawa needed a win and faced a tough West opponent, so mission accomplished. QB Trevor Harris went 30-for-45, 329 yards, one TD and two picks, one of them a late effort that never should have been thrown. The offensive line did a good job protecting him. You have to question why Harris and the offence were asked to run low-percentage, high-risk plays in the fourth quarter instead of using the running backs to eat the clock and pick up first downs. Especially since the defence had forced Lulay to use a lot of time himself moving B.C. Back in the playoff spot despite everything.

Ottawa Redblacks' quarterback Trevor Harris (7) went 30-for-45 for 329 yards in a win over the B.C. Lions. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

7. Toronto Argonauts (down from 6)

  • Record: 4-6
  • Streak: Lost 1
  • Next: At Hamilton

Cliches? We have cliches: No matter how good your defence, if you leave it on the field all night against Calgary, they'll find a way to beat it. If you're going to take that many poorly timed penalties against any team, you'll lose. If you can't release your main receiver (S.J. Green with just four catches on 10 targets), and you can't find anyone else, it's not going to go well. And on like that. Cliches are such, of course, because they are based in fact, and the fact is Calgary is a better team right now. QB Ricky Ray was under attack most of the night and produced just 219 net yards while being shut out, resulting in 11 punts and three turnovers on downs. Still, the defence competed hard, showing again it's on the way to being a real good one. Must beat Hamilton in the Labour Day Classic for momentum.

8. Montreal Alouettes (down from 7)

  • Record: 3-6
  • Streak: Lost 2
  • Next: Ottawa

Scratching, clawing, pecking away at leads, the Larks bounced back from humiliation last week to take the Bombers to overtime. And they lost again. Shame, since they earned the shot at a win in the extra frame, before Darian Durant threw his second pass of the game to Chris Randle, who happens to wear a different uniform. The rest of this is for Nik Lewis, who caught 10 passes for 88 yards and is now the CFL's career yardage leader. His 13,620 yards pass the superb Geroy Simon. Watching Lewis is always fun because his personality is top gear, he hurdles players like a tank clearing a fence, and he's a Hall of Fame talent. He spent 11 great seasons in Calgary and is in his third in Montreal where he continues to lead by example in and out of the dressing room. Congrats.

9. Hamilton Tiger-Cats (unchanged — bye)               

  • Record: 0-8
  • Streak: Lost 8
  • Next: Toronto

Kent Austin fired himself this week (under pressure, it says here), and will concentrate on building the roster while June Jones takes over on the sidelines. First decision: there will not be a No. 1 quarterback in Tigertown, meaning Zach Collaros and Jeremiah Masoli will share the spot as Jones watches and learns about both. All the men who take over a club halfway through a season say the same thing — they want to rebuild the confidence in the dressing room. Beating Toronto at the Drive Through on Labour Day would go a long way toward that goal. This is a team with a scoring differential of minus-162, and that's a big-time number in just eight games. If you're looking for a light, however, Cats fans would point out they've only played two games vs. the weaker East.

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