To be honest with ya, I didn’t catch too much of the CFL action last week. Of course I watched the Battle of Alberta, but between the opening of the Toronto International Film Fest and the start of the NFL season, I only saw bits and pieces of one other game–Saskatchewan vs. Winnipeg. That said, it looks like I didn’t miss too much, as both of Saturday’s contests weren’t all that close to begin with. Between the two of them, B.C. and Toronto put up a whopping 88 points while holding their respective opponents to just 41. B.C.’s defence turned in a particularly impressive performance by holding the Als to a mere 10 points after being torched for 30 by Montreal eight days prior. Thus, the Lions regain the top spot with the league’s best record, while my Stamps have quietly put together a three-game winning streak, easing themselves into sole possession of second place.
Week 11 Power Rankings
1. B.C. Lions (7-3) Last Week: 2. The B.C. Lions put in a full team effort on Saturday, holding a quality opponent to just 10 points while scoring a season-high 43. In fact, they managed to shut out Montreal for the final three quarters as they kept piling points on the board, including 16 in the final frame. Not only did they hold Anthony Calvillo under 300 yards passing for the first time this year, they even kept him below 200, giving up just 152 yards through the air. On the other hand, Travis Lulay threw for 262 and four TDs, even in the absence of Geroy Simon. These Lions have given up at least 24 fewer points than any other team in the league through Week 11, and a whopping 65 fewer than the East’s best defence in Toronto. Mind you, after their back-to-back meetings with Montreal, they’ve only played four games within their own division, posting a less-than-stellar 2-2 mark. There might be the potential for them to give up some games down the stretch, but it won’t necessarily happen this week, when they host the East-leading Argos. Hey, if the two teams match their point totals from last weekend, it should be an exciting game–although I’m expecting something more along the lines of B.C.’s 18-9 Week Six win.
2. Calgary Stampeders (6-4) Last Week: 3. Heading into Week Nine, the Stamps needed to beat Saskatchewan on the road to avoid sole possession of last place. But after holding on for a wind-aided 17-10 win and squeaking out a pair of victories over Edmonton, the Stamps now find themselves alone in second, not fourth. On that note, Calgary’s 4-1 record against Western opponents is equaled only by Toronto’s mark against the East. And should B.C. slip up against the Argos, the Stamps could easily move into a tie for first, as they host league doormat Winnipeg on Friday night. Did I mention that Drew Tate is eligible to return from the nine-game injured list after next week’s game? Things are certainly starting to look up for the Stampeders!
3. Toronto Argonauts (6-4) Last Week: 5. Toronto also got a big Argo bounce by sweeping Hamilton in their home-and-home series. Now the Ti-Cat defence is pretty terrible, giving up just less than 34 points per game, but scoring 45 is still a big offensive breakthrough for a team that averages 25 and a half, and had only topped 30 once until they met Hamilton on Labour Day. While Ricky Ray had a good game last week, 26-for-32, 331 yards passing, he didn’t throw a single TD pass. Instead, Chad Kackert led the way with a whopping 172 yards on the ground–over 10 per carry–and three rushing TDs. Guess they don’t miss Cory Boyd too much, eh?
4. Montreal Alouettes (6-4) Last Week: 1. When you go three quarters without so much as a rouge, you deserve to drop three spots in the rankings. The Als don’t tend to fare well in Vancouver, but this time, the time change wasn’t even a factor, as the game kicked off at 4 pm Eastern. If that was meant to be a Grey Cup preview, it looks like I’ll be turning the 100th edition off at halftime–that said, I still see Montreal as the team to beat in the East. They currently sit second by virtue of a Week Five loss to Toronto, and if the Argos beat them again, things could get interesting. In any case, I expect the Als to bounce back at home this week, where they boast a 4-1 record, against a Saskatchewan team facing a huge step up in competition after squeaking out a one-point win in Winnipeg. One shocking statistic jumps out in this matchup: through 10 games on the season, Montreal has given up 104 more points than Saskatchewan–including 56 of the 200 points the Winnipeg Blue Bombers have scored all year. Saskatchewan, lest we forget, shut out the Bombers on Labour Day Weekend. This game might be closer than we think…
5. Edmonton Eskimos (5-5) Last Week: 4. Sure, the Eskies only lost those two games against Calgary by a combined three points, but it’s not a good sign for your kicking game when you miss two last-second, game-winning field goals within one week. Likewise, when your defence holds an opponent to 20 points and you still lose–at home, no less–that’s discouraging. Alas, the Edmonton offence is last in the league in several key categories, and they’ve scored fewer points than anyone but Winnipeg. I’ve been saying this ever since they traded Ricky Ray, but it bears repeating that the Esks don’t have a capable quarterback. Whether it’s the beat-up body of career backup Stephen Jyles or the worn-out legs of 38-year-old Kerry Joseph, these guys just can’t get the job done. Edmonton should still make the playoffs, even if they have to cross over, but I can’t see them making a run unless one of their QBs channels Marcus Crandell circa 2001. Wait, isn’t Crandell their offensive coordinator? Can he still lace ‘em up?
6. Saskatchewan Roughriders (5-5) Last Week: 6. Sure, beating the Bombers back-to-back has sorta salvaged a lost season, but it’s clear that Winnipeg’s this year’s edition of the 2011 Roughriders, where it’s only news if you lose to them. Speaking of losses, it looks like Darian Durant won’t spend too much time on the shelf after leaving yesterday’s game in the second quarter. Word has it he’ll be ready for Montreal, but will the Riders’ defence? A win at Molson Stadium would definitely move this team up the charts, but for now, I’m keeping them at Number Six.
7. Hamilton Tiger-Cats (3-7) Last Week: 7. Y’know, it’s hard to believe I had Hamilton at Number One at the end of July, but after a decent start in which they won three straight games, the Tabbies haven’t won another won since, dropping five in a row. Amazingly, this remains the highest-scoring team in the CFL, but putting 29 points on the board doesn’t do much good when you give up an average of 34. Last weekend in Toronto, they exceeded their average with 31–but gave up 45 to the Argos for another ugly loss. It seems that every running back who faces the Ti-Cats turns into Walter Payton/Barry Sanders, with Chad Kackert being the latest exhibit. With that in mind, I expect Jerome Messam to rumble for 200 yards this Saturday–and finish second on the Eskimos in rushing. (Hey, it’s not like Edmonton has much of a passing game to speak of…)
8. Winnipeg Blue Bombers (2-8) Last Week: 8. Whether it’s by embarrassing blowout or heart-breaking last-second field-goal, the Bombers, like all bad teams, just keep finding ways to lose. The league’s worst offence didn’t even find the end zone last week, as the Blue-and-Gold scored a TD on a punt return and added 15 points on field goals. It’s not that the players they have are terrible, but they’re clearly missing that game-changer: an Anthony Calvillo or Ricky Ray who can drive his team down the field; a Nik Lewis or Geroy Simon who demands the ball to pick up the big first downs and make plays at critical junctures; a Jon Cornish or Andrew Harris who can run opposing defences into the ground. Mind you, Simon was cut by the Bombers 12 years ago and Harris, well, he’s actually from Winnipeg. But unless he’s got a brother who can really run, I can’t see who the Bombers can bring in that would salvage their season–although a trade for one of Edmonton’s three RBs might make sense. Hey, can Milt Stegall still catch the football? Can Dieter Brock still throw? What’s that–he’s 61? Uh, nevermind then…