Category Archives: Saskatchewan Roughriders

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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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CFL Week 4 Power Rankings

With Week 4 officially in the books, it’s time to update my CFL power rankings. Week 4 brought its own uniqueness to the CFL season with a little bit of everything. From a controversial rouge for the win to a dominating victory for the defending champs, the week was once again filled with intrigue.

This week will see quite a bit of movement in the power rankings from last week. So without further ado, here are the CFL Week 4 power rankings;
CFL Power Rankings After Week 3
1) Winnipeg Blue Bombers (3-0)
     Last Week Ranking: 1
Is anyone going to beat the Bombers? This team has looked unbeatable in the early stages of the season. With a convincing 29-14 victory over the previously undefeated Ottawa Redblacks, the Bombers are getting it done in all phases of the game.
2) Edmonton Eskimos (2-1)
     Last Week Ranking: 3
Typically, I don’t like moving a team up or down on their bye week. However, thanks to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats underwhelming performance in Montreal last week, this move had to happen. This isn’t to say the Eskimos don’t deserve the number two spot, because they most certainly do based on their play so far this season.
3) Hamilton Tiger-Cats (3-1)
    Last Week Ranking: 2
After crushing the Montreal Alouettes 41-10 in Week 3, there was no way the Tiger-Cats would lose to the Alouettes in Week 4 right? Right? Wrong. While the Alouettes played their best game of the season, the Tiger-Cats certainly played their worst. Not only did thy fall 39-26 in the game, but even worse, they also fell one spot in these power rankings.
4) Calgary Stampeders (2-1)
     Last Week Ranking: 6
With a massive off-season overhaul and multiple key injuries, the Stampeders have no business being a good team. Yet here we are. Again. A blowout win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders in Regina’s Mosaic Stadium vaults the Stamps a couple of spots on this list.
5) Ottawa Redblacks (2-1)
     Last Week Ranking: 4
The Ottawa Redblacks are much better than most people thought they would be at this point of the season. A tough 29-14 loss last week against the Blue Bombers knocks the Redblacks down one spot in this weeks power rankings. However, the Redblacks still appear to be a team to be reckoned with in 2019.
6) Montreal Alouettes (1-2)
    Last Week Ranking: 8
As mentioned, the Alouettes played their best game of this young season in last week’s victory. The Als have had their share of difficulties this year but have actually looked pretty good in two of their three games this season. Could they push Ottawa for second in the CFL East? They just might.
7) Saskatchewan Roughriders (1-3)
     Last Week Ranking: 5
The Saskatchewan Roughriders take a two-spot tumble in this week’s rankings thanks to a 37-10 thrashing at the hands of the Calgary Stampeders. The Roughriders head into their bye week with a lot of questions that need to be answered. Inconsistency has been the theme so far this season, can the Riders rebound and fix their issues? They desperately need to, or this season could be lost quite quickly.
8) BC Lions (1-3)
     Last Week Ranking: 7
I know, I know. The Lions dropped a spot on this week’s rankings despite winning their first game of the season. The Lions defeated the Argonauts 18-17 in a “thriller” at BMO Field in Toronto. Despite their first victory of the season, the Lions still have much work to do. However, with a veteran group and an excellent coaching staff, one could see this Lions team turning their season around soon.
9) Toronto Argonauts (0-3)
     Last Week Ranking: 9
The Argonauts are firmly planted in last place in the CFL and on this list. The good news is the Argos weren’t blown out again this week but this team just looks disconnected. With the Winnipeg Blue Bombers up next on the schedule, it would be a safe bet to see this team at the bottom of the list next week as well.
The Last Word
As promised, there was a lot of movement this week on the power rankings. However, based on the results of the games in Week 4, the movements seem justified.

CFL Week 5 has many intriguing match-ups on the docket and we could see a lot of movement once again in the standings. Not to mention on this list as well.

As always, would love to hear your thoughts on these rankings and feel free to tell me yours. Enjoy Week 5.

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CFL Week 3 Power Rankings

It is time once again for the CFL power rankings, Week 3 edition. Let’s take this opportunity to reflect on the past week and take a look at how each team stacks up moving forward.

Week 3 of the CFL season did not disappoint. From a premier match-up to an improbable comeback, to summer storms, this week had everything. As is per usual in the CFL, the entertainment was off the charts. But how does each team rank heading into Week 4? Glad you asked, let’s take a look.
CFL Power Rankings After Week 3
1) Winnipeg Blue Bombers (3-0)
     Last Week Ranking: 1

In what was labelled as the premier match-up in Week 3, the Blue Bombers were able to hold off Sean Whyte and the Eskimos. Although the Bombers didn’t play their best game of the season, it was enough to knock off the second place Eskimos. Therefore, the Bombers remain number one on this list.
2) Hamilton Tiger-Cats (3-0)
  Last Week Ranking: 3

In the last two weeks, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats have outscored their opponents 105-24. Yes, they have played arguably the CFL’s two worst teams, but impressive scores nonetheless. The Tiger-Cats look to be in mid-season form already and deserve to be second on this list.
3) Edmonton Eskimos (2-1)
Last Week Ranking: 2

After starting the season at 2-0, the Eskimos seemed to have met their match in Week 3. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers held Trevor Harris and the Eskimos to exactly zero offensive touchdowns. Harris had thrown for six touchdowns in two games prior to this one, but couldn’t find the end zone in this contest. The Eskimos found themselves on the wrong end of a 28-21 decision and have dropped one spot in this week’s rankings.
4) Ottawa Redblacks (2-0)
Last Week Ranking: 4

The Redblacks hang in at the number four spot thanks to their Week 3 bye.
5) Saskatchewan Roughriders (1-2)
Last Week Ranking: 7

The Saskatchewan Roughriders have moved up two spots in this week’s rankings. This ranking is largely based on the play of back-up quarterback Cody Fajardo as well as the rebound game for the Riders defence. The Riders amassed over 500 yards total offence against the Argonauts, while the defence held them to just seven points in a 32-7 victory.
6) Calgary Stampeders (1-1)
Last Week Ranking: 5

The Stampeders are a difficult team to get a read on. Yes, they are 1-1 but have not looked great in either of their games. A late fourth-quarter victory in Week 3 while impressive, left a lot more questions than answers. Many key injuries combined with what seems to be some holes in the line-up, it is difficult to know what Calgary truly is. We should learn a lot from them in Week 4 when they play their first road game of the year in Regina.
7) BC Lions  (0-3)
Last Week Ranking: 7

The BC Lions gave up a substantial late fourth-quarter lead to the Calgary Stampeders in Week 3. The Lions played fairly well for most of the game and should have walked out of Calgary with a win. But they didn’t, and now have an 0-3 record to start the season. The Lions need to find consistency in their play in order to turn their season around.
8) Montreal Alouettes (0-2)
Last Week Ranking: 8

The Montreal Alouettes franchise seems to be in disarray both on and of the field. A strong effort in week one had cause for optimism in Montreal, but a 41-10 loss after their bye week left a lot to be desired. The Alouettes need to find their way, and quickly.
9) Toronto Argonauts (0-2)
Last Week Ranking: 9

The ranking here might be a little high considering what we have seen from the Argos so far in 2019. Outscored in their two games by a combined total of 96-21, the Argonauts look absolutely terrible in all aspects of their game.
The Last Word
While we are only three weeks into the season, some of the story-lines playing out will be interesting to follow. How long will the Bombers hold the number one spot? Are the Tiger-Cats for real? Will the Roughriders continue to ride their hot quarterback?

There are a lot of questions left to be answered in the early going. Looking forward to it all playing out.

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Beware of the “Trap Game” for the Saskatchewan Roughriders and Toronto Argonauts

Many Saskatchewan Roughriders fans are optimistic despite their 0-2 start. After a toe-to-toe battle with the upstart Ottawa Redblacks, the Riders offence was clicking on cylinders, the problem was, they were trailing the entire game. Fajardo gave fans a reason to believe after posting impressive numbers of 27/34 completion, 360 yards, two touchdowns to zero interceptions.

Cody Fajardo connects with Shaq Evans in the end zone to cut into the Redblacks’ lead before halftime! #CFLKickoff pic.twitter.com/Huctyfbci3
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) June 21, 2019

It’s the most balanced the Riders offence had looked in years. Marcus Thigpen and William Powell combined for 20 carries for 102 yards and two touchdowns. Fajardo added one of his own as well. Whether it was because the team was trailing at key points during the game or if that was the gameplan going in, it’s the best this Saskatchewan offence has looked in a while. However, as good as Fajardo was, Dominque Davis and the Redblacks offence was even better. Rider fans witnessed one of the more poor performances from this defence in a number of seasons.

Here are some key things to keep an eye on for Canada Day’s tilt between the Argonauts and Roughriders.
Toronto Argonauts Offence
The Argos, on the other hand, is coming off an embarrassing loss in their home opener to their vaunted rival Hamilton Tiger-Cats. A 64-14 spanking was not how Corey Chamblin and company imagined their season kicking-off. It’s hard to point to one particular section of the team that a fan could pin the loss on, the Argos were severely outmatched in all three phases of the game.

James Franklin was 16/26, 211 yards and an interception. By no means horrible but obviously not enough to keep up with a potent Hamilton offence. On the other hand, the Argonauts failed to get any traction in the run game. James Wilder Jr. had just 12 yards on six carries and Chris Rainey never had a carry or reception. For all the hype surrounding the depth at that position this off-season, there simply weren’t enough looks to those two players last game.

If Franklin is going to get comfortable in this offence, Jacques Chapdelaine will have to lean on playmakers such as Wilder, Rainey, SJ Green, Derel Walker and Armanti Edwards.
Saskatchewan Roughriders Secondary
All eyes will be on Nick Marshall and how he responds after being picked on by Dominique Rhymes in Ottawa a little over a week ago. The Riders have no shortage of big names in their secondary from Ed Gainey to Loucheiz Purifoy and Mike Edem. It’ll take a collective effort to ensure Franklin doesn’t have a bounce-back game. As previously mentioned, the Argos boast their own weapons on the offensive side of the ball, it’s a matter of execution on their end.

Derrick Moncrief and Cameron Judge will also be vital in ensuring the Argos don’t get too creative with their stable of running backs. If the front four can generate a pass rush like last week and produce four sacks again, perhaps this won’t have to be the nailbiter that many fear it may be.
Special Teams
Both the Argos and Riders struggled to contain their opponents return game in Week 2. Brandon Banks made Toronto pay for a missed field goal at the start of the fourth quarter while Ryan Lankford of Ottawa had four punt returns for 100 yards and five kick returns for 95 yards, with 42 and 36-yard returns included in each of those respectively.

Brandon Banks returns one to the house and shows why he’s one of the most electric players in the league 😱 @Ticats#CFLGameDay pic.twitter.com/3fQiARX6A2
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) June 22, 2019
While Brett Lauther has been nearly automatic for the Saskatchewan Roughriders since taking over, it’ll be key for the Riders to keep contain on kickoffs and punts. The Riders can ill-afford to give a desperate Argos team any momentum in this phase of the game. Field position will play a big factor in how Saskatchewan’s defence responds.
Matchup to Keep an Eye On
Micah Johnson versus first-overall pick Shane Richards
Richards will face one of the most difficult tests of his career, in just his second game. Johnson has yet to hit the stat sheet with sacks but he’s been key in opening up the lanes for Charleston Hughes and A.C. Leonard who had a combined three sacks last week. It remains to be seen if Toronto will keep an extra running back to help protect Franklin however, look for the Riders to generate significant pressure if Richards can’t hold his own against Johnson.
Happy Canada Day Weekend
From everyone here at Last Word on Canadian Football, enjoy your time with friends, family and football! Make sure you’re following us on Twitter and Facebook for all our latest articles, analysis pieces and predictions!

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Saskatchewan Roughriders Quarterback Dilemma

One week in and the Saskatchewan Roughriders quarterback dilemma is well underway. Which, if you’ve been following for the last decade is par for the course. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. After testing the waters on Bo Levi Mitchell and Mike Reilly, the Riders turned back to Collaros and made him the starter.

This was a smart decision for a few reasons, after battling it out with Brandon Bridge last season, Collaros now didn’t have to look over his shoulder and could assume the role as QB1 with confidence. Secondly, with coaching turnover and a degree of roster turnover, Collaros’ leadership was desperately needed. Now, after being placed on the six-game injured list, the Riders find themselves at a crossroads. Do they sign a veteran quarterback like Kevin Glenn? Or do they see what they have in Cody Fajardo, Isaac Harker and now Bryan Bennett? Who will be the next Saskatchewan Roughriders quarterback?
Option One: Bring in a Veteran
Why it’s a good idea
As mentioned plenty of times leading up to the 2019 season, the West Division is loaded. To stay competitive, the Roughriders will need to be efficient on offence and not rely on the defence to carry the weight as they did in a 12-win campaign in 2018. Luring Glenn out of retirement provides that option. In 2017, Glenn was able to put up more than respectable numbers with 25 touchdowns to 14 interceptions and 4,038 yards. That season also saw three Roughriders receivers go for over 1,000 yards.

Craig Dickenson would ideally like to start his first head coaching gig on the right foot, by being a competitive football team in a tough division and potentially vying for a home playoff date, one year before hosting the Grey Cup. By signing Glenn, the Riders would likely be in the thick of the race well past labour day. However, long-term it doesn’t set them up for success.
Why it’s a bad idea
It’s quite simply too short term thinking. By bringing in a veteran “stop-gap” quarterback (we’ll stop picking on Glenn though Saskatchewan reached out to him), the Riders are merely pushing the problem into the next season. Let’s assume a veteran quarterback swoops in and saves the day for the Riders, hauling them to a crossover spot in the gauntlet West Division. Is one playoff appearance enough to compensate a complete lack of contingency plan going into the 2020 season? Many would be wise enough to say, no.
Option Two: Roll with Fajardo and Harker
Why it’s a good idea
By sticking with Cody Fajardo (27), Isaac Harker (23) and Bryan Bennett (27), the Riders can properly evaluate what they have now and for the future. Fajardo hasn’t had much of an opportunity to display his talents in his three years in the CFL. With Toronto and BC, Fajardo was used primarily as a short-yardage specialist. That didn’t stop him from rushing for 437 yards and 13 touchdowns over his first three seasons. By sticking with Fajardo, he can fully display his mobility in the offence (Fajardo ran a 4.63 at the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine).

Harker, on the other hand, enters the league as an even bigger question mark. The 6’0 Indiana product attended Colorado School of Mines College in 2018 having prior went to Indiana State from 2014-2017. With Colorado, he threw for 39 touchdowns, 12 interceptions, 3,858 yards and 67% completion.

Here’s a look at the TD pass to Bob Pugh from Isaac Harker. It’s the second 60+ yard TD for Pugh this season. #MarchOn pic.twitter.com/5hoMZ7C9M9
— Sycamore Football (@IndStFB) October 21, 2017

It’s not often we see quarterbacks come straight from US programs and have immediate success but it appears as though he has earned his spot, beating out former Saskatchewan Roughrider quarterback David Watford for the third string spot in training camp.
Why it’s a bad idea
For all the upside, these two players could end up being Brett Smith 2.0 (no disrespect to Brett). Smith showed flashes in his 2015 campaign, throwing for 15 touchdowns to nine interceptions. Many thought he was a lock for the backup spot in 2016. However, a poor showing in pre-season led to his release. The difference in Smith receiving those meaningful snaps in 2015 was that the Riders were 0-5, the season was already looking like a write-off. Glenn and Darian Durant were both injured as well. The Riders were able to afford to see what they had in Smith as there wasn’t much to lose.

2019 is different, the Riders are 0-1 with 17 games to play in the regular season. There are players on the defensive side of the ball who are either in their primes (Micah Johnson, Ed Gainey, Loucheiz Purifoy & Zach Evans) or the twilight of their careers (Charleston Hughes, Solomon Elimimian). Is it in Saskatchewan’s best interest to start one of two inexperienced quarterbacks with these players on the roster? The Riders aren’t exactly a rebuilding team as they boast the oldest average age in the CFL.

The Riders have the CFL’s oldest roster heading into 2019 at 28.2 years per player – the CFL average is 27.3 years of age.
— Rider Radio 620 CKRM (@CKRMRiders) June 13, 2019

Flip a coin
It appears as this article was being written, the Roughriders have elected to go with the two-quarterback system for Thursday’s game in Ottawa. This same formula drew the ire of Rider Nation last season when Chris Jones deployed both Bridge and Watford throughout a series of games with little success. Depending on how this version of events goes, the Riders will have a decision on their hands. To try and save their season with a proven veteran or roll the dice with the young guns.

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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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Saskatchewan Roughriders Training Camp Battles

After a very long off-season that consisted of everything from a wild free agency period, a tutorial in provincial labour laws thanks to the CBA negotiations and everything in between, football season is almost here. Saskatchewan Roughriders training camp battles will be the consuming the headlines in the weeks to come, below is a primer of who will be competing at what positions before week one. Under the watch of new head coach Craig Dickenson, there will be plenty of positions up for grabs.
Back-up Quarterback
Last season around this time, it was a battle for the starting quarterback position that was dominating headlines. Zach Collaros and Brandon Bridge duked it out for the starting spot. Collaros ended up winning out but Bridge saw plenty of time in Collaros’ absence, including the West Semi-Final.

That brings us to 2019, after striking out on Bo Levi Mitchell, Mike Reilly and Trevor Harris, the Riders brought back veteran pivot, Collaros. But it didn’t stop there, Saskatchewan brought aboard journeyman quarterback Cody Fajardo to compete with David Watford. Many fans will remember Watford getting his reps during Chris Jones’ infamous quarterback carousel in Collaros’ absence.

Fajardo brings with him three years of CFL experience but just 414 yards passing to show for it. His rushing stats are what stand out, however, with 437 yards and 13 touchdowns to show for his work.
Wide Receiver
The receiver position has overgone an overhaul over the last number of seasons. Back in 2017, Duron Carter, Bakari Grant and Naaman Roosevelt led the way. All three eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards that season. The up and coming Caleb Holley also put up 600 yards of his own. Now, two years later, just Roosevelt remains.

In the CFL’s off-season depth chart series, second-year player Shaq Evans appears to have the boundary receiver position held-down. However, opposite of him there’s a battle of Nationals at the field receiver position between Cory Watson and Mitch Picton. Watson was added this past free agency to provide a veteran presence on what is otherwise a young receiving corps.

Watson appeared in 18 games last season for the BC Lions, hauling in 38 catches for 408 yards and three touchdowns. Picton, on the other hand, has been biding his time on the Riders practice roster over the last two seasons. With Collaros firmly supplanted as the team’s starting pivot, both receivers should have equal opportunity to build rapport and prove their worth over camp and pre-season.
Offensive Line
The Riders have an interesting mix of young and old on the offensive line, which may come as a benefit. Left tackle is presumed to be anchored by Takoby Cofield, though Terran Vaughn started the first seven games of the 2018 season. At left guard, Brendon LaBatte will enter as the starter. However, it certainly helps that the Riders signed Dakoda Shepley who can step in if needed. Injuries hit the Riders offensive line in waves last season. Dan Clark will hold down the center position.

The most intriguing battle in the trenches may come at right guard. 33-year-old Philip Blake and former 11th overall pick in 2017 Dariusz Bladek appear to be vying for the starting spot. Both are nationals. At right tackle, Thaddeus Coleman will likely hold his spot as he did in 2018.
Cornerback
Again, citing the CFL’s off-season depth chart, it appears Crezdon Butler will be moving outside after spending a few seasons at defensive halfback. The emergence of Nick Marshall last season at least ensures one of the two cornerback spots are solidified. However, Murray McCormick of the Regina Leader-Post reported May 20th that slotback Kyran Moore was going up against Butler in various drills. Assuming Ed Gainey and Loucheiz Purifoy hold onto their spots, Butler with his experience would be a good fit opposite of Marshall.
Middle Linebacker
Finally, at middle linebacker, an interesting battle is taking place. Let’s pretend for a second that Solomon Elimimian is pencilled in at the weak-side linebacker spot and Derrick Moncrieff is on the strong side. That leaves Cameron Judge and Sam Hurl to compete for the middle linebacker position. Hurl has the experience of having been in the league since 2012 and has also been a major contributor on special teams. Judge, on the other hand, is a former second-overall selection from the 2017 draft. He burst on to the scene last season with 41 tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble. Both Hurl and Judge are nationals. This may be the most interesting battle at Saskatchewan Roughriders training camp.
The Last Word
Needless to say, there are plenty of more battles that are going to take place at the Saskatchewan Roughriders training camp. Players mentioned above may be surprise cuts or perhaps traded. Others may emerge as dark horses that many did not see coming, such as Marshall last season. No matter how you look at it, competition brings out the best in others and the Riders have plenty to offer in 2019’s training camp. Rider fans will hope it all translates to on-field play come kick-off June 13th against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

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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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