Although the top spot remains unchanged, what with B.C. turning in another impressive defensive effort this evening, twas otherwise a lousy week for the West, with both Alberta teams suffering ugly losses at home. The team that really asserted itself to rise in the rankings was definitely Montreal, with an impressive 38-point performance in Edmonton. Meanwhile, where the heck do I stick the Argos? One thing is certain–they belong ahead of Calgary. The Boatmen have now won five straight against the Stamps… (Yikes!)
Week 8 Power Rankings
1. B.C. Lions (5-2) Last Week: 1. With the win tonight on their home turf, the Lions have now reeled off three straight–and they’ve been doing it with defence. B.C. has given up just 22 points since Week Five in beating the Stamps, Argos and Riders, whereas every other team except Toronto allowed at least that many in Week Eight alone. The Lions’ offence hasn’t exactly been firing on all cylinders (they’ve only scored 42 points over their last two games), but when you hold opponents under 10, you take a lotta pressure off of your playmakers, that’s for sure. In fact, B.C. held the Riders to just three points (coming off a turnover, at that) until Paul McCallum conceded a two-point safety with seconds to go. Still, a 24-5 win is nothing to sneeze at.
2. Montreal Alouettes (4-3) Last Week: 4. Faites du bruit and make some noise, cuz the Als are back, baby! The best CFL team of the 21st century looked like the Alouettes of old in running their old nemeses in Edmonton out of their own building. Up by 20 at the half, Calvillo and co stretched it to 38-11 after three quarters before the Esks added a couple TDs in garbage time to make the score more respectable. The Amazing Anthony turned in another 300-yard, four-TD performance, while backup running back Victor Anderson gained 100 on the ground in his first CFL start. All this on the road against a team that had given up the fewest points in the league going into Week Eight. Talk about a statement win!
3. Toronto Argonauts (4-3) Last Week: 7. I really hesitated before moving the Argos this high. I don’t think they’re the third-best team in the CFL right now, even if they are technically on top of the East Division (by virtue of beating Montreal in Week 5). That said, while Toronto’s offensive struggles continue, settling for five field goals against the Stamps, this is by far the best defensive team in the East Division. And their win last night in Calgary was also their second road victory of the season; the only other squads with two road wins occupy the top two spots in this ranking. So maybe the Argos do belong after all. Though they lost an 18-9 snoozefest to the Lions a couple weeks back, they did beat Montreal by 3 at Percival Molson…
4. Calgary Stampeders (3-4) Last Week: 2. Granted, both B.C. and Toronto boast stout defences, arguably the two toughest in the league. But to go almost two full games without scoring a touchdown on your home turf is pretty embarrassing. Though they remain the highest-scoring team in the West, the Stamps are only a plus-four in point differential, while all their division rivals–yes, even Saskatchewan–are at +15 or better. The CFL’s cardiac kids just couldn’t come up with a comeback last night. Even if Quincy Butler had gotten both hands on that onside kick, it still would’ve taken a perfect throw–plus an ensuing two-point conversion–to tie the game. Now it’ll take a road win in Regina to avoid the West Division cellar. Methinks it’s time for Jon Cornish to call out his blockers again…
5. Edmonton Eskimos (4-3) Last Week: 3. As ugly as Calgary’s loss to Toronto was last night, I think Edmonton’s loss to Montreal was even worse. The Als came into Commonwealth and shattered the illusion of the unbreakable Eskimo defence, both running and throwing the ball down their throats. Offensively, Edmonton’s two QBs barely completed 50 per cent of their passes, while tossing three INTs to just one TD. And even with the addition of Cory Boyd in the ground game, the team rushed for just 54 yards–though to be fair, they really had to turn to the pass due to being down so many points. (Mind you, they didn’t deliver in that facet of the offense, either…) For what it’s worth, I still think the Stamps can beat ‘em on Labour Day, and that’s why Calgary’s one spot ahead of Edmonton in my rankings.
6. Winnipeg Blue Bombers (2-5) Last Week: 8. Call me crazy, but I’m moving Winnipeg out of the doghouse this week. Considering that the Bombers now sit just two points out of a playoff spot, in spite of their 2-5 record, and that they A) aren’t in the midst of a four-game losing streak and B) beat on the Cats with an impressive offensive outburst last week, I think it’s time for them to discover some uncharted territory–all the way up in sixth place! Granted, the Ti-Cats don’t have a very good defence, but it seems Winnipeg might have found a starting QB in Joey Elliott, who threw for 400 yards while completing over 75 per cent of his passes last Thursday. Throw in two rushing touchdowns, a pair of 100-yard receivers and five freakin’ forced fumbles on defence, and you’ve got a pretty decent overall effort, even if they only won by seven. Kudos to the Bomber fans for selling out the stadium despite their team’s struggles–they’ll be in for a real tough test when they host the Lions on Friday!
7. Hamilton Tiger-Cats (3-4) Last Week: 6. The Ti-Cats dropped all the way from first with Week Seven’s home loss to Calgary, and losing to the bottom-feeding Bombers has cost them another spot in the rankings this week. Admittedly, I left home halfway through the second quarter on Thursday, when it looked like Hamilton had things in hand, although the score suggested that Winnipeg might hang around. Suffice to say they hung around–and then some. On paper, it looked like Henry Burris had an excellent game–17-for-25, 368 yards, two TDs–until you get to the right-hand column, where it says he fumbled four times, losing three of them. One of those turnovers came on the goal line, which certainly made a difference in what ended up as a seven-point loss. With the worst scoring defence in the CFL, this team needs to put more than 25 points on the board in order to win games. Their -23 differential thus far shows that they aren’t always able to do so.
8. Saskatchewan Roughriders (3-4) Last Week: 5. Though the Riders had lost their last three games before tonight, I had kept them around the middle of the pack on the basis that they hadn’t lost by much to Calgary or Hamilton, and that they fell to Edmonton on the road, trying to put a positive spin on things for a team that started 3-0. But there aren’t any positives that can be gleaned from their performance tonight in Vancouver. Birthday boy Darian Durant threw for just 170 yards and three picks, they gained just 54 yards on the ground, and their only points outside of their opening “drive” came when B.C. kicker Paul McCallum took a knee in the end zone. Before the season started, I had Saskatchewan pegged as a seven-win team, and they’ve certainly started to look like it of late. Interestingly enough, the Riders host Calgary on Saturday with the loser taking sole possession of last place in the West. We might have a new mainstay at the bottom of these rankings if Saskatchewan doesn’t win that one…