Category Archives: CFL West Division

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The Race for First in the CFL West Division

The CFL West Division continues to be the cream of the crop year after year. And while the East finally has two legitimate contenders heading into the last five games of the season, the West still holds all the cards.

Winnipeg, Calgary and Saskatchewan are all vying for the number one seed in the CFL West Division and if this season has been any indication, it’ll likely come down to the final two-three weeks. Let’s take a look at who has the most difficult and easiest path to the top seed.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers
Remaining Games:
Vs Hamilton

@ Saskatchewan

Vs Montreal

@ Calgary

Vs Calgary

The final five games of the Bombers schedule make the blown leads against the Argonauts and Alouettes that much more painful. At 9-4, the Bombers don’t play a team with a losing record to close out the season.

Chris Streveler has been formidable in the starting role for the Bombers, he’ll need to be even better with Matt Nichols officially out for the season. There is absolutely no clarity with the tie-breakers. Winnipeg is 1-0 versus Calgary but has a home and home to close out the season with them.

After trouncing the Roughriders at the Banjo Bowl, the season-series hangs in the balance next week but they’ll have to go to Saskatchewan to seal the deal there. When it’s all said and done, Winnipeg likely has the most difficult path to first place, despite currently holding that position. I predict two tough losses to Hamilton and Saskatchewan but a strong finish with a victory over Montreal and a split with Calgary.

Final record prediction: 11-7
Calgary Stampeders
Remaining Games:
Bye Week

@ Montreal

Vs Saskatchewan

Vs Winnipeg

@ Winnipeg

@BC

What many (wrongfully) thought would be a down year for Calgary. They’ve proved once again why they’ve been the best-run franchise in the CFL for the better part of a decade. After losing an onslaught of contributors from the 2018 Championship winning team, having Bo Levi Mitchell miss seven games as well as battling injuries at other key positions, Calgary is still right in the thick of it for first in the West.

Similar to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, the Calgary Stampeders do not have an easy path to finish in first. Thankfully for them, their commanding 37-10 win over Saskatchewan early in the season gives them the upper hand heading into that Week 18 matchup. Calgary has historically struggled in Montreal. Since 2014, the Stampeders are 1-4 in games at McGill Stadium. Is that necessarily indicative of how this next matchup will go? No, but it’s something worth considering, and Vernon Adams Jr. will be back for this matchup.

With a split with Winnipeg already predicted above, I reckon the Stampeders will drop their game in Montreal, win a tightly contested game against Saskatchewan and finish the season strong against the underachieving BC Lions.

Final record prediction: 12-6
Saskatchewan Roughriders:
Remaining Games:
@ Toronto

Vs Winnipeg

@ Calgary

@BC

@ Edmonton

Vs Edmonton

At 8-4 the Roughriders have had one of the more interesting paths to contention. After starting the season 1-3, the Riders rallied to win six straight before being blown out by Winnipeg and winning a nail biter against Montreal. In that time, their strength of competition came under fire as many pointed that during their six-game winning streak, two of those came against the aforementioned Lions, the basement-dwelling Argos and the rebuilding Redblacks. (There’s also that one game that didn’t finish because of lightning but I digress).

While the Riders can’t control who they play, they took care of business against teams that they were expected to. Their remaining schedule appears to be the easiest with two games against a struggling Edmonton team, one more against BC and a matchup in Toronto.  However, the one thing the Riders have working against them is where their games are being played. Currently, Saskatchewan has a 2-3 record on the road. Four of their last six games will also be played on the road, if Saskatchewan is to land a home playoff game (where they are currently 6-1), they’ll have to take care of business outside of Regina.

A win in Toronto should be expected, the Riders having home-field against the Bombers in the tie-breaker game gives them the edge in that one as well. I predict a loss in Calgary but a quick bounce-back victory against BC before splitting with Edmonton to close out the season (assuming Trevor Harris is back).

Final record prediction: 12-6
Edmonton Eskimos
Remaining games:
@ Ottawa

@ Hamilton

Vs BC

Vs Saskatchewan

@ Saskatchewan

Apologies in advance to Edmonton fans, there’s simply too much up in the air with Trevor Harris being inactive. Assuming Edmonton defeats Ottawa, that would put them at 7-7 with games against Hamilton, BC and Saskatchewan (x2) remaining. For the optimists’ sake, let’s imagine that they drop their game in Hamilton but defeat BC and split with Saskatchewan. A 9-9 record will be good enough for the crossover in 2019 (unlike last season), but that would mean they have to go to Montreal and Hamilton to battle their way back to Calgary for the 107th Grey Cup

Final record prediction: 9-9
Final Predicted CFL West Division Standings
Calgary Stampeders: 12-6

Saskatchewan Roughriders: 12-6

Winnipeg Blue Bombers: 11-7

Edmonton Eskimos: 9-9

BC Lions: 5-13
Final Thoughts
Regardless if these predictions turn out or not, the good news for CFL fans everywhere is that they’ll be treated to “playoff atmosphere” football long before November 10th. Calgary, Winnipeg and Saskatchewan’s matchups against one another down the final stretch of the regular season should offer fireworks and some of the best football CFL fans have seen this season.

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Each CFL West Division Team’s Biggest Obstacle

We are oh-so-close to the kick-off of the 2019 regular season. Prediction articles are well underway, overreactions to pre-season games have Twitter flooded with hot takes from every fanbase but the general mood is that of excitement. The entire league received a facelift (not just the New Era uniforms) as many players found new homes during free agency in February.

The West Division appears to be an even more difficult gauntlet than it was in years past if that was even possible. With the addition of Trevor Harris to the Edmonton Eskimos, one could make the argument that the three best quarterbacks reside in the West (depending on how you feel about Jeremiah Masoli). Below are each West Division team’s biggest obstacle from finishing first in the CFL West Division
BC Lions
Expectations
Call it an obscure answer if you must but this Lions team is entering the season with likely the highest of expectations. More than the defending Grey Cup Champion Calgary Stampeders, that’s saying something. Hiring the most sought after head coach in DeVone Claybrooks and signing the most sought after quarterback in Mike Reilly would’ve been enough to raise expectations on the west coast. However, it didn’t stop there.

Duron Carter, John White, Chris Edwards, Aaron Grymes, Lemar Durant, Sukh Chungh all made their way to British Columbia. At the same time, the Lions were able to retain Bryan Burnham, TJ Lee and Hunter Steward. What does this all mean? The Lions have a long way to fall if this doesn’t translate to immediate success. Could one make reference to the 2011 Philadelphia Eagles “dream team”? They could, but I’m not sure if someone would want to take it that far.

Nevertheless, hosting a home playoff game should be the lowest the bar goes, with a new coach, culture and quarterback time will tell how quickly this team is able to pull it together and make a run for their first Grey Cup since 2011.
Saskatchewan Roughriders
Quarterback/Offence
For the sake of not rehashing the same storyline that has dominated Saskatchewan over the past season, we’ll put it out there that the offence needs to be better. That starts with the quarterback, Zach Collaros. After striking out on Bo Levi Mitchell, Trevor Harris and Mike Reilly, the Riders brought back the veteran pivot and invested the remaining cap they had into the interior defence with Micah Johnson and Solomon Elimimian.

Make no mistake, despite the loss of Chris Jones, the defence on paper could be just as dominant as last season. But what will it mean if the offence struggles to put up points again? And that is precisely why you’re seeing a majority of predictions having the Riders finish last in the West. Saskatchewan did invest into its offence as well, bringing in star running back, William Powell. As well as offensive lineman Dakoda Shepley and going heavy on receivers early in the 2019 Draft.

For the Riders to prove their detractors wrong, it will start with Zach Collaros staying healthy, then producing. Nine touchdowns and a negative TD:INT ratio won’t get them 12 wins this year, not with Trevor Harris, Bo Levi Mitchell and Mike Reilly in the division.
Calgary Stampeders
Chemistry
While it’s often in professional sports that the championship team is raided of its talent. The Stampeders endured loses at the coaching and player level this past off-season. Calgary’s first and likely greatest loss was their defensive coordinator of the past three seasons, DeVone Claybrooks. However, the hits didn’t stop there with the defensive losses. Linebackers Alex Singleton and Jameer Thurman moved on to the NFL and Ja’Gared Davis signed with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Ciante Evans made a run at the AAF but quickly signed back in the CFL with the Montreal Alouettes,

Of course, the biggest loss may have been to the division rival Saskatchewan Roughriders. Micah Johnson, arguably the best defensive player in the CFL moved one province over to team up with another former Stampeder Charleston Hughes. On the offensive side of the ball, losses at receiver were the biggest talking point with Marken Michel, Chris Matthews, DaVaris Daniels and Lemar Durant all no longer with the squad.

The saving grace in all of this is that the Stampeders were able to retain prized quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell on a four-year deal. That and the Stampeders ability to produce homegrown talent may be enough to stay competitive in the CFL’s West Division.

🔊 “Talent is definitely one of the first words,”
Bo Levi Mitchell on what comes to mind when he thinks of the 🇨🇦 receiving group! pic.twitter.com/gWW4tYpj3W

— Calgary Stampeders (@calstampeders) June 9, 2019

Edmonton Eskimos
Coaching
No matter how high you are on Trevor Harris, the Edmonton Eskimos got worse at quarterback in 2019. As hard as that is to say, with their last quarterback being Mike Reilly, that’s just the fact of the matter. However, that’s not the biggest roadblock for a successful 2019 season in the CFL West Division for Edmonton. It’s coaching. As some may remember Jason Maas found himself on the hot seat towards the end of 2018 after a disappointing 9-9 campaign ended without a playoff appearance.

Fellow Last Word on Canadian Football writer, Jeff Burns broke down the Eskimos discipline issues mid-season last year. The results were quite telling. From 2016 up-to-the halfway mark of the season in 2018, Edmonton has led the league in average penalties per game. If the Eskimos are going to overcome their downgrade at quarterback and injury at left tackle, they’ll have to play much more disciplined football to stay in the race.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers
Quarterback Play
This isn’t so much a shot at Matt Nichols as it is an observation. Nichols is a fine quarterback who has proven he can make big plays when called upon and typically limits his mistakes. However, the Bombers can ill-afford for Nichols to have a stretch of games as bad as last season that saw Winnipeg lose four straight. In those games, Nichols threw for just four touchdowns to eight interceptions and averaged just 220 passing yards per game with a 58.85% completion rate.

While Chris Streveler provides some insurance, one has to assume that Winnipeg would likely want to avoid any quarterback controversy in 2019, especially with the CFL West Division as stacked as it is. If Nichols can stay consistent as he has throughout the majority of his career, the Bombers have a great shot at securing first place in the CFL West Division.
The Last Word
I’m sure this will go over like a lead balloon but the 2019 off-season has set up what could be the most competitive West Division we’ve ever seen. Whether that means the first and second place teams finishing with 13-5 records or a three-way tie for first at 11-7. Either way, it’s almost unpredictable. Every team listed has the potential to finish first but not every team will clear these obstacles and that means there will be West Division teams falling well short of their pre-season expectations.

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