CFL Previews - Week 16 - October 11-14
From The Sports Network
By Gregg Xenakes, CFL Editor
Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) -
BRITISH COLUMBIA LIONS (9-5) AT CALGARY STAMPEDERS (11-3)
DATE & TIME: Friday, October 11, 9 p.m. (ET).
GAME NOTES: There is much still to be determined when it comes to postseason positioning for the 101st Grey Cup Playoffs, which is why the meeting between the British Columbia Lions and the Calgary Stampeders at McMahon Stadium on Friday night is so crucial.
Both clubs have already locked up postseason berths, but at the moment Calgary is in the driver's seat with the best overall record in the league and a four- point advantage over both BC and Saskatchewan in the West Division standings. A combination of a Calgary win and a Saskatchewan loss this week would give the Stamps a home playoff game, but a matchup between these two squads in Week 19 to close out the regular season could still have major postseason implications.
Neither one of these teams has bowed in back-to-back games here in 2013, but that stat will be in jeopardy on Friday given that the Lions were taken out by Saskatchewan last week in a 31-17 final.
In having their three-game win streak snapped, the Lions watched Thomas DeMarco complete 19-of-36 pass attempts for 286 yards and a score, but he was intercepted three times and sacked on five occasions. DeMarco actually ended up as the second-leading rusher for BC with 25 net yards on three carries.
Nick Moore caught five passes for 92 yards, including a 15-yard TD in the second half, but in all honesty there was no way the Lions were going to overcome 13 penalties for a loss of 138 yards. Granted, Saskatchewan also punished itself with seven infractions for 118 yards, but the Roughriders didn't have the turnover issues as well.
Calgary, a winner in two straight and six of the last seven, came up big against Winnipeg last week in a 38-11 final at home. An impressive 6-1 on their own field this season, the Stampeders led 25-4 at the break and never looked back thanks to the efforts of running back Jon Cornish who erupted for 208 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, adding another 24 yards on two receptions.
Now the league's leading rusher with 1,415 yards on 200 attempts, leading to 10 touchdowns which ties him with Kory Sheets for the lead in that department, Cornish was not only named the Canadian Player of the Week, he also garnered Offensive Player of the Week honors as well.
Cornish is also the league leader in terms of yards from scrimmage with an even 1,700 at the moment.
While Cornish was beating up on the Blue Bombers on the ground, Kerry Glenn was going after defenders through the air as he completed all but eight of his 29 pass attempts, leading to 320 yards and two touchdowns. Marquay McDaniel caught five passes for 123 yards and a score, while Joe West turned his eight receptions into 120 yards for the victors.
And let's not forget Calgary kicker Rene Paredes who made good on all three of his field goal attempts and finished with 13 points the last time out. Paredes, who earlier this season set the CFL record for consecutive field goals made, continues to lead the league in scoring with 166 points, 21 ahead of his closest competitor.
Because Glenn didn't throw any interceptions and the Stamps didn't fumble the ball away, the team is still the best in the business when it comes to turnover margin through 15 games. Tied for third in takeaways with 39, Calgary is the best when it comes to not giving the ball up in the first place, suffering just 21 turnovers which means the team's plus-18 in that category outweighs every other program at the moment.
Due to the fact that they limit their mistakes and capitalize on the misfortunes of others, the Stampeders are first in the league in time of possession (32:44 per game), and that has helped them to generate a CFL-best 31.9 ppg.
These teams, scheduled to play each other a total of four times during the 2013 regular season, have split their first two encounters. Calgary captured a 44-32 victory in the season opener back in late June and BC returned the favor in the middle of August with a 26-22 triumph at home.
With those results the Stamps now lead the all-time series by a count of 96-78-5, taking into account only regular-season meetings going back to 1954. Calgary has won two of the last three matchups, but BC has taken five of the last seven.
Hitting on all cylinders throughout the season, this is not the time for the Stamps to take their foot off the gas. In fact, going full throttle for the next couple of weeks and coming away with victories would more than likely earn them some much-needed time to rest before the important games come into play, so that should be all the motivation they need this week.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Calgary 31, British Columbia 22.
EDMONTON ESKIMOS (3-11) AT SASKATCHEWAN ROUGHRIDERS (9-5)
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 12, 4:30 p.m. (ET).
GAME NOTES: With their four-game slide finally behind them, the Saskatchewan Roughriders can now focus their attention on the Edmonton Eskimos as the teams meet up at Mosaic Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The most dominant team in the CFL through the first two months of the season, Saskatchewan came out of the gate with five straight wins and was 8-1 after nine games before hitting the skids. The team had just one win in five chances during the month of September, but managed to put an end to the rough patch with a 31-17 victory over British Columbia last week.
Already locked into the playoffs, the Riders are tied with BC for second place in the West Division standings, four points off the pace set by Calgary, although there is still much to be determined in terms of playoff positioning.
The good news for the Riders is that they were able to get Kory Sheets back onto the field versus BC, the running back gaining a game-high 80 yards and scoring a pair of majors in the victory. Quarterback Darian Durant connected on 21-of-31 pass attempts for 234 yards and a score, with six completions going to Sheets who added another 41 yards through the air.
The appearance at BC Place by the Roughriders brought back the league's all- time leading pass catcher, Geroy Simon, to the place he once called home for 12 seasons. Simon caught just one pass for 13 yards in the outing.
Penalties played a major role in the contest on both sides, with Saskatchewan being flagged seven times for a loss of 118 yards, and the Lions losing 138 yards on 13 infractions.
As for the Eskimos, a team which has had very little to cheer about this season, they figured to have a fighting chance during their home date with Montreal during Week 15 action, but in the end Edmonton was blown away in a 47-24 final. Victorious just three times in 2013, Edmonton has dropped two straight after winning back-to-back decisions against Winnipeg in a span of six days last month.
Against the Alouettes, Edmonton fell behind 14-0 in the first quarter and was down 31-3 at intermission before coming up with 21 points in the fourth period. Unfortunately for the Esks, Montreal tallied 15 points in the final frame to keep from being challenged.
After being knocked out of the game against Toronto a week earlier with a head injury, it wasn't until just hours before kickoff that Mike Reilly was announced as the starting quarterback for the Eskimos. Reilly completed 13- of-21 passes for 180 yards, but he was picked off twice and did not return in the second half as he gave way to backup Jonathan Crompton.
The reserve signal caller entered the game with little pressure and managed to show some fight in the fourth quarter as he threw touchdowns to Shamawd Chambers (two) and Fred Stamps, but at the same time he also tossed three interceptions which effectively ended any real threat to Montreal. Crompton completed half of his 26 attempts for 204 yards.
Unlike Montreal which gained 188 yards and scored twice on the ground, the Eskimos did little in the way of running the football with just 11 attempts for 45 yards. Then again, much of that can be attributed to the fact that Edmonton was playing from behind and could not waste time with minimal gains.
Chambers finished the meeting with five catches for 87 yards, while Adarius Bowman matched his season high with seven receptions for a game-high 111 yards.
Edmonton's trouble with producing on the ground was not limited to last week however, seeing as how the group is last in the league with just nine rushing touchdowns. Then again, the Eskimos are third in the CFL with 99.1 ypg rushing, so something's just not right for a group that is second-to-last in scoring with only 24.3 ppg.
Despite their recent slump, the Riders are still one of the top offensive teams in the league this season, having run more plays (1,144) than any other team and placing second in scoring (29.9 ppg) behind only Calgary.
Edmonton leads the all-time series by a count of 113-84-2, taking into account only regular-season matchups dating back to 1950, but it was Saskatchewan that won the most recent encounter two months ago, 30-27, on the road and has now taken two straight and three of the last five overall.
The squads are also slated to meet in the regular-season finale on Nov. 2 back here in Regina.
With still much to be determined when it comes to playoff seedings and matchups, this is the sort of opportunity that the Roughriders cannot let slip away. Edmonton might have the luxury of playing without any real pressure, but this is the time for Saskatchewan to show its real potential for 2013.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Saskatchewan 34, Edmonton 22.
WINNIPEG BLUE BOMBERS (2-12) AT MONTREAL ALOUETTES (6-8)
DATE & TIME: Monday, October 14, 1 p.m. (ET).
GAME NOTES: Despite all the struggles they've gone through this season, the Montreal Alouettes have a chance to lock up a spot in the 101st Grey Cup Playoffs when they tangle with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Monday afternoon at Molson Stadium.
Even before losing star quarterback Anthony Calvillo to injury the Als were experiencing sub par performances, to the point where they let go first-year head coach Dan Hawkins just weeks into the campaign. The squad suffered through a stretch where they lost five of six games and have twice built three-game slides.
Nevertheless, with the way that the rest of the league has played there is still a chance for Montreal to get into the postseason, thanks in part to a current two-game win streak. The squad followed up a 17-12 victory over Saskatchewan on Sept. 29 with a surprising 47-24 romp over Edmonton last week in order to put themselves in position for a potential playoff appearance.
Josh Neiswander picked up his second win as the quarterback for the Alouettes when he guided the team to an overwhelming win at Commonwealth Stadium. Neiswander converted 15-of-25 pass attempts for 251 yards and four touchdowns, managing the game to the point where he was sacked just once and tossed only a single interception.
Arland Bruce showed signs of life as he reeled in four passes for 101 yards and two scores, the other two aerial majors going to S.J. Green who has three receptions for 30 yards during the impressive victory.
Taking some of the pressure off Neiswander was a rushing attack that generated 188 yards and two TDs on 25 carries, the touchdowns coming from Tyrell Sutton and backup quarterback Troy Smith.
Montreal is still two games under .500 overall and sitting in third place in the East Division standings, but because both Winnipeg and Edmonton have been so brutal this season, it is looking more and more like the Alouettes will be playing beyond the conclusion of the regular season.
As for the Blue Bombers, they had no answer for Calgary running back Jon Cornish during Week 15 action as the ball carrier posted 208 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries during a commanding 38-11 victory for the Stampeders.
Winnipeg's offense made very little impact in the outing, the team's fourth straight setback and the 11th in the last 12 decisions overall for the group, in fact the only touchdown for the Bombers came courtesy of Will Ford who brought back a kickoff 100 yards in the third quarter.
Ford did have some nifty moves coming out of the backfield as well, rolling up 156 yards on just 11 carries, thanks to one 70-yard scamper, but in the end it made little difference for a team which is buried at the bottom of the standings with a mere two wins overall in 14 opportunities.
Quarterback Max Hall did very little to establish himself as a viable option at the position moving beyond this season as he converted just 15 of his 34 passes for 147 yards, tossing one interception and being sacked once. But perhaps more of a concern should be the manner in which the Winnipeg defense surrendered a whopping 622 yards of total offense to the Stampeders.
A day after yet another monumental loss, the Blue Bombers announced that they had traded defensive end Alex Hall to the Saskatchewan Roughriders for offensive tackle Patrick Neufeld and a 4th-round pick in the 2015 CFL Draft. One of only a handful of players who could command any real value as a trade commodity, Hall heads to Saskatchewan as the league leader in sacks this season with 15, one of only three players in the league with double-digit quarterback takedowns at this stage.
With Hall out the door, the next best pass rusher for the Blue Bombers is Bryant Turner who has less than half the number of sacks with just seven.
From a defensive standpoint, Winnipeg is already last in the league in how often they allow opponents to complete passes (68 percent) and the number of points they are giving up (32.8 ppg) on a regular basis, so you have to assume that those numbers will not improve now that Hall has been moved.
With respect to the all-time series between these two squads, one that takes into account only regular-season matchups dating back to 1961, Montreal owns a 46-37-2 edge over the Bombers. However, it was Winnipeg that won the most recent encounter on July 4 in a 19-11 final on the road.
Winnipeg has won three of the last four encounters, but the squads have split the last six meetings overall.
The trade of Hall is a clear indication that Winnipeg is looking beyond this season already. Sure, the Bombers don't have a bright outlook with only a few weeks remaining in the regular season, but they've essentially thrown in the towel and Montreal should jump all over that, given how much is on the line for the Alouettes this week.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Montreal 31, Winnipeg 20.
TORONTO ARGONAUTS (9-5) AT HAMILTON TIGER-CATS (7-7)
DATE & TIME: Monday, October 14, 4:30 p.m. (ET).
GAME NOTES: The race for the top spot in the Eastern Division standings gets a boost on Monday, as the Toronto Argonauts tangle with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats at Alumni Stadium at the University of Guelph.
Both of these teams have already locked up spots in the 101st Grey Cup Playoffs, but with only a handful of games remaining in the regular season there is still much to be decided between these two squads, which just met last week at Rogers Centre.
Hamilton, which built a 22-3 lead in the first half of that meeting, ended up with a 33-19 road win, moving the team to an impressive 5-1 in the division which is the best mark in the CFL. Due to the results of last week, the 'Cats gave themselves a chance to challenge for the division lead with four games remaining, although a victory for Toronto this week would assure the Argos a home playoff game and a win coupled with a Montreal loss would clinch first place in the standings, so the Tiger-Cats have their work cut out for them.
On Oct. 4, Henry Burris stepped up and took control for Hamilton as he completed 19-of-31 passes for 274 yards and two touchdowns, shaking off one sack and an interception during the double-digit win on the road. The victory continued a trend of alternating wins and losses by the 'Cats over the last seven games.
Bakari Grant and Andy Fantuz both caught five passes, generating 93 and 43 yards, respectively, but only the former made his way into the end zone. The other receiving touchdown was notched by Luke Tasker on a 24-yard effort to begin the game's scoring in the first quarter.
C.J. Gable racked up a game-high 96 rushing yards and a score on 16 carries, the Tiger-Cats scoring twice on the ground as they ran the ball 25 times which helped them maintain possession of the ball for more than 35 minutes.
From a defensive standpoint, former Toronto linebacker Brandon Isaac was more than happy to see his old teammates as he came up with two sacks during the encounter. Isaac had been with the Argonauts until July 23 when he was released and signed the next day by Hamilton.
Over on the other side Toronto, which was coming off four consecutive wins in as many chances away from home to establish a new CFL record, Zach Collaros managed to convert 21 of his 32 pass attempts for 277 yards, but not a single one of those completions made it into the end zone. In addition, he was sacked five times and intercepted once.
However, Collaros did put up points with his legs, thanks to a one-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.
After missing a month due to injury, Chad Owens finally made his return to the lineup for the Argos versus Hamilton, but the CFL's 2012 Most Outstanding Player eased his way back into the action as he recorded six catches for 52 yards and returned three punts for a combined 19 yards. Owens, who is a threat to score each and every time he touches the ball, did not return kickoffs nor was he credited with any rushing attempts while getting back into a rhythm.
While Owens was easing his way back into the action, another welcomed sight for the Argonauts was the return of quarterback Ricky Ray to the sidelines in uniform. Ray had been out since suffering a shoulder injury during Week 9 play, but his presence as the team's third-string quarterback last week doesn't mean he's ready to jump back into the starting job this time around.
Toronto head coach Scott Milanovich is well aware of what's on the line in terms of the playoffs over the next few weeks, but he's made it clear that he is in no hurry to rush Ray back onto the field.
In terms of the all-time series between these teams, one that takes into account only regular season bouts dating back to 1950, the Ticats own a 124-91-2 advantage. Hamilton may have won last week's battle, halting what had been a four-game win streak for the Argos, but still Toronto has taken five of the last seven matchups overall.
The most recent victory for the Argonauts came in the season opener in a 39-34 final at home.
Clearly there's a lot riding on this game for both sides, but still there are several games to be played even before the postseason begins so now is not the time to take risks. Having just played each other, each team knows what to look for so it might come down to preparation and adjustments made by the respective coaching staffs, just as much as the execution by the players on the field.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Toronto 27, Hamilton 22.
2013 Sports Network Predictions: 31-25; Last Week's Predictions: 1-3.
10/09 12:57:08 ET