CFL·Analysis

CFL Power Rankings: Week 7

The defending East Division champion Hamilton Tiger-Cats claw their way into the top spot in our weekly breakdown of the Canadian Football League.

Ticats claw their way to top spot

The Hamilton offence didn't have its best week, but Bakari Grant and company did enough to beat Winnipeg and raise their record to 4-2. (Peter Power/Canadian Press)

Here's how I rank the Canadian Football League teams after Week 7:

1. Hamilton Tiger-Cats (Up from 2)

Record: 4-2

Streak: Won 3

Next: vs. B.C.

Kitties (now 9-0 at Timmies Field) had some help from a messed-up Winnipeg team that led to a quick 21-0 lead inside eight minutes, but it really wasn't needed. Not with this defence. DC Orlondo Steinauer sends his rush from so many different angles, drops into so many different packages that it's hard to pick them up. They simply smothered the visitors this week. The offence wasn't great, taking advantage of a blocked punt, a recovery on a kickoff and a pick 6 to help put the points up, but Zach Collaros took care of business by throwing for three TDs when the opportunities arose. RB C.J. Gable and SB Andy Fantuz may be out for 2-3 months and that hurts. 

2. Edmonton Eskimos (Down from 1)

Record: 4-2

Streak: Lost 1

Next: at Montreal

This week we saw the good and bad of QB Matt Nichols, who has done a solid job filling in for Mike Reilly. He threw some nice balls, including two for TDs, moved the offence and put up 262 useful yards. He also skied some balls down the field that looked rather like punts, seeing two of them picked off and another saved by a spectacular Calvin McCarthy one-handed catch. Still, a loss to B.C. might at least have gone to overtime if Chris Jones hadn't outcoached himself (again) by not going for a late 48-yard field goal by Grant Shaw, who is 15-for-15 this year. Instead, they threw an interception.

3. Calgary Stampeders (Unchanged — Bye)

Record: 4-2

Streak: Won 1

Next: vs. Ottawa

Startling stat courtesy the Calgary Sun — the Stamps have been through 10 offensive linemen since camp because of injuries. That's two full units. Add the loss of RB Jon Cornish and the White Stallions may have to survive even longer with a below-average offence, one that's in the bottom half of most attack stat categories. Stamps' defence is strong against the run, not so much statistically vs. the pass. On the other hand, you can read that to mean opposing teams have to throw to move and thus are piling up extra yardage. Everything on this team reads average, but health will improve that.

4. Ottawa Redblacks (Up from 6)

Record: 4-2

Streak: Won 2

Next: at Calgary 

It's ragged sometimes, but no one really cares right now except the coaches as the Redblacks find ways to win in just their second season. While the strong defence went about its regular business of keeping the score close, the attack found a way against Montreal. Henry Burris (32 of 34, 323 yards, 2 TDs) led his club on a seven-play winning score from his own 35 with three minutes left, helped by a key pass interference call. Ottawa had over 400 yards in attack, but didn't come through until the wood chips were down and the game there for the taking. Note: This team isn't good enough yet to go for late fake field goals that look like unpracticed fire drills. Could have cost the win. 

5. Toronto Argonauts (Down from 4)

Record: 4-2

Streak: Won 1

Next: at Winnipeg

This contest with the Riders was as bad a football game as we've seen in many years, and that's a lot of contests. Yes, the league has to do something about all these penalties (43 total calls on this night was second most ALL TIME for one game), but that doesn't excuse how poorly the Double Blue played for three quarters. They took 19 penalties, ran the ball just five times into the fourth quarter and were lucky they were playing Team Disarray or it would have been a blowout. As they were saying in the dressing room, it's not the way you start, it's the way you finish. Not an excuse, however. 

6. B.C. Lions (Up from 8)

Record: 3-3

Streak: Won 1

Next: at Hamilton 

Travis Lulay's below-average season was stuttering along late in the Edmonton game when suddenly, there he was. The classic red head returned to lead a comeback victory. Overall, a 16-for-31, 195-yard outing (two picks, two TDs) wasn't great, but perhaps this was an omen. Lulay was helped along by RB Andrew Harris, who, when healthy and productive, is among the top five players in the league. Harris hauled in the winning score as part of a 20-for-118-yard rushing and 57-yard pass catching night. Lions' defence, also in and out so far, came up with a big late sack to help seal it. 

7. Montreal Alouettes (Down from 5)

Record: 2-4

Streak: Lost 2

Next: Edmonton 

Les Alouettes have lost four games by a total of 12 points. This either means they are close to being good, or too close to being bad. A problem emerging is young QB Rakeem Cato can produce yards but not points due to his own errors. Twice in deep against Ottawa he threw picks, once in the second quarter and once in the third, the latter because he didn't have enough on the ball. Larks didn't help themselves by taking a penalty on a Stefan Logan 102-yard punt return TD. Time before Labour Day to get this together, but doing it in Edmonton is going to be a trial. Oh, Michael Sam played

8. Winnipeg Blue Bombers (Down from 7)

Record: 3-4

Streak: Lost 1

Next: Toronto

Query of the week: How do you hold Hamilton to less than 300 yards offence, pick off the QB twice, sack him five times, give up just seven points in the second half on the road, yet still lose by 30 points? QB Drew Willy, now out for 6-8 weeks with a knee injury, tossed an early pick 6, the special teams allowed Hamilton to recover the subsequent kickoff that led to another TD one play later, and the defence let Collaros march for another score to make it 21-0 just 7:37 into the game. 31-0 at the half. Nice the defence came out with pride in the second half, but the Cats were in full cruise mode by that point. 

9. Saskatchewan Roughriders (Unchanged)

Record: 0-7

Streak: Lost 7

Next: Bye

To coach Corey Chamblin's credit, he came right out to see us after the Toronto game and did not make excuses. Didn't blame the refs. Did not point to wicked providence. How could he? Riders took 24 penalties against Toronto and embarrassed themselves in a game they should have won with 403 yards in total offence. Here's the season in three first quarter plays: Third string QB Brett Smith hits Rob Bagg for a nice 32-yard gain. Bagg was offside. On 2nd and 15, he finds Chris Getzlaf for a pretty 55-yard TD. Ryan Smith is offside. Next play, Brett Smith is sacked. Mind blowing. Getzlaf had two TDs called back by penalties. Next year has arrived. 

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