Category Archives: CFL

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CFL Studs and Duds Weeks 13 through 16

CFL action in the month of September featured a ton of pick-sixes, perfect Canadian kickers, a halftime show announcement, questionable coaching, a logo controversy, and a bad day for CFL games.
CFL Studs
Battle of Alberta
In Week 13 the Calgary Stampeders and Edmonton Eskimos combined to score 90 points from 1,073 yards of offence. The Eskimos prevailed 48-42, escaping a near Juwan Brescacin Hail Mary walk-off touchdown. Romar Morris scored four touchdowns, three receivers went over 100 yards and Bo Levi Mitchell set a new career-high for passing yards with 491.
Bo Levi Mitchell
Speaking about Mitchell, the star quarterback threw for 1,068 yards in his last three games, tossing eight touchdowns. Mitchell set a career-high in passing yards (mentioned above), which was previously set in Week 11 this year (452 vs Winnipeg). Mitchell’s efforts have allowed the Stamps to clinch a playoff spot before October, and keep Calgary atop our power rankings week-in-week-out.
Pick-sixes
There were an abnormal amount of pick-sixes in the past four weeks. Defenders across the CFL recorded 10 interceptions for touchdowns, highlighted by the three pick-sixes in the Banjo Bowl. Saskatchewan’s Willie Jefferson’s absurd 97-yard return was the most memorable of the 10.

Willie Jefferson (@Stmn_Willie_Bmn) takes the scenic route to the end zone while completing a PICK SIX for the @sskroughriders.#CFLGameDay pic.twitter.com/q0k4UfjHOa
— CFL on TSN (@CFLonTSN) September 8, 2018
Cabbing back to a football game
Blue Bombers receiver Kenbrell Thompkins took a nasty hit from Ed Gainey in the first quarter of the Banjo Bowl. Thompkins was stretchered off and taken to the nearest hospital. Typically getting rushed to the hospital indicates a serious injury and the end of the individual’s day. Although Thompkins did not go back on the field, he actually took a cab back to Investors Group Field and was on the sidelines in full uniform for the third quarter.
Canadian kickers
Redblacks’ rookie kicker Lewis Ward and the Roughriders’ Brett Lauther have continued their unbelievable seasons during the past four weeks. During the last four weeks, Ward went 10/10 (he’s made 37 straight) and Lauther went 12/12. Both Canadian kickers are converting over 90% of the field goals and are the likely nominees for Most Outstanding Special Teams Player. Lauther’s 56-yard kick gave Saskatchewan a much-needed win over Toronto in Week 15.

Brett Lauther nails a 56-yard field goal to put the @sskroughriders up 30-28 with 1:14 remaining in the game.#LiveMic #CFLGameDay pic.twitter.com/4YEfIlIoI8
— CFL on TSN (@CFLonTSN) September 23, 2018
Alessia Cara
On Saturday the CFL announced that Alessia Cara will be headlining the halftime show at the 106th Grey Cup in Edmonton. Cara, 22, was born in Brampton, Ontario and is a growing star in the pop music genre. She’s known for songs such as Here, Wild Things, Scars To Your Beautiful, Stay, and 1-800-273-8255. Cara is a great get for the CFL.
John Rush
The second-year Bombers fullback chopped off his luscious hair two weeks ago and transitioned to a Walter White-esque look. Multiple people in Rush’s family carry a gene that puts them at an increased risk of getting breast cancer. As a result, Rush grew his hair out for three years and is donating his now-cut hair to someone going through chemotherapy treatments. Rush’s story can be viewed here.

Shoutout to @Wpg_BlueBombers @cancersociety and everyone who supported me and made this happen! Hopefully we were able to make it a little easier for someone battling cancer! 💙💛 pic.twitter.com/LeXyxBu9nS
— John Rush 🏈🇨🇦 (@JohnRushAthlete) September 20, 2018
CFL Duds
Toronto Argonauts
The Argos were 3-7 going into Week 13 and still had a legitimate shot at making the playoffs. After losing three straight in the past four weeks, the defending Grey Cup champions will likely miss the post-season. In a nine-team league that has 66% of the teams make the playoffs, the Argos’ 2018 season is even more depressing. McLeod Bethel-Thompson has been decent at quarterback, but Toronto’s issues exist throughout their whole roster.
Respecting the logo
Last week, controversy arose when the B.C. Lions Twitter account posted a video of several Lions dancing on the Hamilton Tiger-Cats logo on the field at Tim Hortons Field. Respecting/honouring your logo is important. That being said, stepping on a team’s logo in the locker room isn’t cool. Stepping on a team’s logo on their football field is not a big deal. The Ti-Cats didn’t win by 30 because of the Lions dancing on their logo. They won by 30 because they’re a better team than B.C., and were likely looking to avenge their loss at B.C. This story was way overblown. The Ti-Cats Twitter handled the situation well, though.

Thanks for stopping by, @BCLions. Safe trip home!
🕺💃🕺💃🕺💃🕺💃🕺💃🕺💃🕺 pic.twitter.com/oMeMCD36t9

— Hamilton Tiger-Cats (@Ticats) September 29, 2018
Fall Sunday games
Sunday CFL games before September are fine. But once the CFL schedules games (aside from the playoffs) head-to-head with the NFL, they lose mass amounts of viewers. The Alouettes hosted Saskatchewan last Sunday, and host the Argonauts in Week 20 on a Sunday. Even I will watch NFL over a meaningless Alouettes game. Regular season fall Sunday games should not be a thing; I’d even suggest the CFL move the playoff games and the Grey Cup to Saturdays.
Darian Durant
Darian Durant’s decision to retire before the 2018 season, and after collecting a $70,000 signing bonus, is in the past. The near-weekly news regarding Durant’s possible comeback is just silly. Durant’s playing ability spiraled downwards after he left Saskatchewan – I was even skeptical of the Bombers signing him at the time. At this point in the season, no teams could realistically use Durant.
June Jones punting
Jones infamous decision to punt from B.C.’s 37-yard line while up seven points with 59 seconds left cost his team a win. Lirim Hjarullhau likely makes that kick, and if not Chris Rainey unlikely turns a missed kick into points the other way. Instead, Jones seemed to punt for a rouge on purpose, the Lions came back to tie the game on the last play of regulation and then win in double overtime.
B.J. Cunningham
In the month of September, the Alouettes number one receiver caught five passes for 53 yards. You could debate that Cunningham is talented enough to be an elite CFL receiver, but 53 yards over three games says otherwise. Cunningham is Montreal’s go-to guy; he needs to put up better numbers.
Edmonton Eskimos non-offensive scoring
Week 17 is approaching, and so far every single Eskimos touchdown in 2018 has come from their offence. That being said, I don’t doubt that Mike Reilly can do it all, but a little help for the reigning Most Outstanding Player would likely be appreciated by him. Despite ranking second in interceptions and third in sacks, no Eskimos defender has found the end zone. Edmonton’s return game has been dreadful though, ranking last in both kick and punt return average.

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CFL Week 16 Power Rankings – Edmonton Eskimos Find Rock Bottom

After a weekend filled with blowouts here is where the CFL Week 16 Power Rankings stand with the Edmonton Eskimos discovering rock bottom just as the Western Division playoff race begins to really heat up.
1. Calgary Stampeders
Bo Levi Mitchell and the Calgary Stampeders remain in an echelon of their own as they improved to 11-2 last weekend. Despite losing yet another rising star in Reggie Begelton Mitchell found a way to eclipse 300 yards with a pair of touchdowns and no interceptions. The Stampeders continue to fight their way through injuries for wins. They will travel to Montreal to face the Alouettes this Monday.

Last week: 1
2. Saskatchewan Roughriders
Another win in the books for Chris Jones and the Roughriders although this time, it was not all thanks to their defence. Zach Collaros put together his best outing of the season throwing for nearly 400 yards with a touchdown with a single interception. The Riders offence looked promising and will need to continue that form going forward if they want to be serious contenders come November.

Last week: 2
3. Ottawa Redblacks
The Redblacks watched their closest divisional opponent creep a little bit closer on their weekend off. They will host the Winnipeg Blue Bombers this Friday looking to regain a four-point lead in the Eastern Division

Last week: 3
4. Hamilton Tiger-Cats
The Hamilton-Tiger Cats bounced back in a big way last Saturday against the Lions. Jeremiah Masoli threw for under 200 yards and the offence produced just 315 as a unit. This was mainly thanks to a pair of defensive touchdowns and overall good field position. The Ti-Cats will get a week off before heading to Toronto looking to sweep their season series with the Argonauts.

Last week: 6
5. Winnipeg Blue Bombers
After beating the Montreal Alouettes people were still doubting the Winnipeg Blue Bombers but that doubt will surely be gone after the thrashing they handed Edmonton at Commonwealth. The Bombers defence was what won them this game generating three interceptions and recovering three fumbles. However, their offence will need to pick it up next week after producing just 254 yards of total offence. That is if they hope to keep pace with the red-hot Redblacks.

Last week: 7
6. B.C Lions
Jonathan Jennings threw a pair of touchdowns last weekend in Hamilton. Both of which were to the Tiger-Cats. Jennings returned to his true form opening up the door for Cody Fajardo who came in and threw for 69 yards, a touchdown, and most importantly, no interceptions. The Lions have an important decision to make at QB going down the stretch. They are still very much in the Western Division playoff race with a game in hand on both the teams they are narrowly trailing. Keeping their playoff hopes intact will start with a win at home against the Argonauts this weekend.

Last week: 5
7. Edmonton Eskimos
Mike Reilly and the Edmonton Eskimos got beat down 30-3 in front of their home fans last weekend finishing September at 1-3. Even Reilly said himself “after a game like that there is nowhere to go but up” and that stands true given their recent results and new position in the CFL Power Rankings. Things don’t get much easier for Edmonton as they will have to regroup and travel to Regina to face the Saskatchewan Roughriders this Monday.

Last week: 4
8. Toronto Argonauts
A fifth consecutive loss for the Argos this time at the hands of the Calgary Stampeders. James Franklin produced Toronto’s only touchdown again this week while McLeod Bethel-Thompson continues to play just well enough to not get benched, but not good enough to win. Toronto will look to stop their skid as they will look to play spoiler in B.C this Saturday against the Lions.

Last week: 8
9. Montreal Alouettes
Johnny Manziel threw a pair of touchdowns and no interceptions en route to another Montreal Alouettes loss. With four games left in the season, Montreal will be looking to get their franchise quarterback his first CFL win. Otherwise, the last month is simply academic for the Als at this point.

Last week: 9

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Saskatchewan Roughriders Final Stretch

The Saskatchewan Roughriders (9-5) find themselves four points back of first with two crucial divisional matchups against the Edmonton Eskimos and Winnipeg Blue Bombers ahead before a date at McMahon Stadium with the Calgary Stampeders October 20th. The Saskatchewan Roughriders final stretch proves to be no easy task. However, it’s hard not to look ahead at that matchup and get excited for what it potentially means. The Roughriders are winners of six of their last seven games finishing up their final matchup against an Eastern Division opponent this past Sunday. A 34-29 victory over the Montreal Alouettes helped the Riders finish with a record 5-3 against Eastern opponents. Two of their most notable losses came at the hands of the Ottawa Redblacks.
A Look Ahead
Edmonton
Thanksgiving Monday could give the Roughriders and their fans a little extra to be thankful for. With a win over the struggling Eskimos and a Bombers loss, the Riders would clinch a playoff spot. Edmonton is trying to right the ship after appearing to have a stranglehold on second in the West mid-season. The Eskimos falling 30-3 at home against the Bombers doesn’t invite much confidence for this group going forward. However, any team with Mike Reilly under center should be taken seriously, regardless of recent performances. Reilly leads the league in passing yards with 4,383 and is currently second in passing touchdowns with 27. His favourite target, Duke Williams, leads the league in receiving yards (1,337) and receiving touchdowns (10).
Winnipeg
After a favourable 5-3 start, the Bombers have found themselves in a tailspin themselves going 2-4 since. At 7-7, the Bombers are in the middle of a dogfight for their playoff lives along with the Eskimos (7-7) and BC Lions (6-7). Three of these four teams will make the playoffs. One of which will be crossing over into the East to visit either the Hamilton Tiger-Cats or the Ottawa Redblacks. Nichols has maintained his starting job since standing on shaky ground post-Banjo Bowl, posting an 80% completion rate against Edmonton last week. For all their flaws, the Bombers will be another difficult test for this Roughriders squad that continues to squeeze out victories.
Calgary
Finally, the matchup that is sure to be circled on many fans’ calendars is the tilt on October 20th against the surging Stampeders. There is still an outside chance this game will have implications on first place in the West. However, the Riders have a number of factors working against them. The first being that the Stampeders are currently four games up on the Roughriders with a game in hand. Moreover, Calgary’s next two games are far more favourable than what the Riders are up against. While Saskatchewan will be playing the two aforementioned playoff-hungry teams, Calgary will be travelling to the 3-11 Alouettes and then host the hot and cold Lions a week later. It’s not a stretch of the imagination to suggest that Calgary could be 13-2 going into Week 19’s matchup. Even if the Riders go 2-0 as well, that still places them at 11-5 with just one game to play.
The Last Word
The Roughriders, however, have a slight advantage thanks in part to those who put together the 2018 CFL schedule. The Riders have their third and final bye on the last weekend of the regular season (Week 21). Regardless if the Riders finish second, third, or crossover to the East, they will have a bye week to prepare for whoever they match up against. There has been plenty of debate surrounding the benefits of bye weeks heading into the playoffs. Some view it as an opportunity to get a head-start in preparation on their opponent while others see it as the resting team developing “rust”. First place being out of reach may be of benefit for the Roughriders. If they were able to miraculously leapfrog the Stampeders, they would have two weeks off before the West Final. This is something Ottawa fans feared last season though it never came to fruition.

It’s difficult to not look ahead and get excited for all the potential playoff scenarios that exist for Saskatchewan. However, it starts with Monday’s game against a desperate Eskimos football club. If the Riders don’t respond with the same sense of urgency, as if their season is on the line (and it mathematically still is) then these scenarios become a lot less fun in the weeks to come.

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Takeaways: Hamilton Tiger-Cats Stomp B.C. Lions in High-stakes Revenge Game

The B.C. Lions were completely dominated on both sides of the ball in Week 16.

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats were primed and ready, and from the first possession on, held the edge throughout.

It what ended a 40-10 win, it still seemed like much more.
Adding Fuel to the Fire
On Friday, the Lions decided to film themselves performing a dance-off on the Ti-cats home logo at Tim Hortons Field.

Bustin moves in the 🔨
First up: David Mackie 🤣🤣 pic.twitter.com/jla6G8Wm6Z

— BC Lions (@BCLions) September 28, 2018
That set the Ti-cats off.

Before the game, the team was standing at midfield protecting the logo, while chirping Lions players who had been dancing a day previous.

After the game, Brandon Banks let the Lions know that the dancing wasn’t cool with TSN’s Mathew Sciannitti.
Jonathon Jennings has a Day to Forget
On the first offensive play of the game for the Lions, Jonathon Jennings threw a gift-wrapped pick-six for Don Unamba Jr.

It didn’t get much better from there on. Jennings threw three interceptions in total on the night, with another of them being returned to the house.

Jennings was pulled near the end of the 3rd quarter and finished with a stat-line of 146 yards passing with three interceptions and zero touchdowns.

Cody Fajardo performed mop-up duty in the 4th quarter. The former Argo threw for 69 yards on 7/12 passing.

Fajardo also used his legs, rushing for 27 yards.

With Travis Lulay still nursing a sore shoulder, you have to wonder if Wally Buono considers giving Fajardo the next start.
Looking Ahead
With Winnipeg getting the best of Edmonton on Saturday, the Lions are now 6-7 and are last in the West Division.

They have a game in hand on both the Bombers and Eskimos and will have to put it to good use next Saturday when they host the Argos in an afternoon match at B.C. Place.

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What to Watch For in Toronto Argonauts Final Games

It’s been a bit of a surprise at how poorly the Toronto Argonauts season has gone to this point. Perhaps one could make the argument that they wouldn’t be as good as 2017 as soon as Ricky Ray went down. The counterpoint to that would be the two quarterbacks behind Ray in James Franklin and McLeod Bethel-Thompson. Franklin made four starts after Ray was knocked out for the year and Bethel-Thompson has been the starter since August 2nd. While both showed flashes at times, it simply hasn’t been enough.

The 3-9 Toronto Argonauts are playing the rest of the season out for pride as well as jobs in 2019 at this point. If that’s the case, there are some things Argos fans need to see down the stretch to keep some optimism for 2019.
4. More Duron Carter
The Toronto Argonauts have been without a legitimate third weapon for all three quarterbacks almost all season long. It’s mainly been only S.J. Green and Armanti Edwards. The Argos tried Bryan Tyms early on and that ended quickly. They circulated through others like Rodney Smith, Malcolm Williams, and Mario Alford. None showed much of anything.

Duron Carter signed with Toronto back in late August before Labour Day. Carter has only played in two games to this point and has yet to catch a football. Marc Trestman stated this week that Carter’s reps would increase. S.J. Green and Armanti Edwards are both back in 2019. The final set of games for the Argonauts will be key to get Carter integrated into the offence and end 2018 on a high note. This trio could do some big things in 2019 if they stay healthy.
3. Signs of Life in the Pass Rush
The 2017 Argonauts defence was quite good and a major reason for their second-half dominance to win the East. It’s been an entirely different story under first-year defensive coordinator Mike Archer. Archer has a ton of CFL experience and talent at linebacker and in the secondary, but they’ve been overworked and torched by opposing offences. Perhaps a part of that is due to little to no pass rush this entire season.

The Argonauts have 13 sacks in 2018. That’s barely over a sack a game. The Edmonton Eskimos have 34 sacks, which averages to over two and a half sacks per game. Shawn Lemon was the best pass rusher but was moved to the B.C. Lions early in 2018. Since, the defensive line was largely been anchored by Frank Beltre, Dylan Wynn, Cleyon Laing, and Troy Davis. Laing has four sacks, Wynn and Beltre have two each and Davis has one. That simply isn’t good enough. There will need to be an off-season move to address this, but Beltre and Davis are playing for jobs in 2019.
2. James Wilder Jr.
James Wilder Jr. took the CFL by storm after he took the starting job away from Brandon Whitaker in 2017 when Whitaker went down with an injury. Many thought Wilder could be the first 1000-1000 running back in CFL history and that it be between him and Andrew Harris for the rushing title. While Wilder hasn’t been as explosive in 2018 as evidenced by his 4.7 yards per carry compared to 7.1 in 2017, he’s been quietly steady.

Wilder has 665 rushing yards with three touchdowns and has 521 receiving yards with one touchdown. The Argonauts have six games left this season. Perhaps if James Wilder can catch fire and find his explosive 2017 form for a few games, the Argonauts could make a last gasp charge in the standings to prevent a crossover. In no way is this suggesting Wilder hasn’t been good, but his impact in 2017 hasn’t felt the same in 2018. Argos fans would love to see Wilder close the season out strong like 2017, even if it’s not for the post-season run like last year.
1. James Franklin
Now that the Toronto Argonauts season is 95% closed and there will not be a chance to repeat as Grey Cup champions, the Argonauts should take the reins off of McLeod Bethel-Thompson to see what James Franklin can do as the season winds down. Bethel-Thompson has posted some good numbers and doesn’t deserve to lose his starting job, but Franklin is still considered the quarterback of the future.

It would be nice for the Argonauts to head into the off-season with Bethel-Thompson and James Franklin ending their seasons on high notes. If they end Bethel-Thompson’s season soon, he ends feeling pretty good about his play despite it not translating into wins. Franklin could once again have a chance to show why many feel he’s the next great CFL quarterback. If he ends high, the Argos have two legit options at quarterback in 2019 and perhaps the loser of the job in camp gets dealt for an area of need. Regardless, it’s time to see what James Franklin can do again as this is likely the biggest key for the Argonauts in 2019, having a franchise quarterback to officially take over from Ricky Ray.

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