CFL Previews - Week 8 - August 16-18
From The Sports Network
By Greg Xenakes, CFL Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - HAMILTON TIGER-CATS (2-4) at WINNIPEG BLUE BOMBERS (1-5)
DATE & TIME: Friday, August 16, 8:00 p.m. (et).
GAME NOTES: Losing football has become unacceptable in Winnipeg, so much so that the Blue Bombers are taking the field on Friday night at home against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats after making a series of changes off the field.
Last week the Bombers, who are all alone in last place in the Eastern Division standings with just a single win in six opportunities, fired general manager Joe Mack and also announced that Garth Buchko will no longer serve as CEO and will be replaced by Wade Miller. Unfortunately, as is often the case with administration taking too much of the blame for poor performances, the changes were made in hopes of shaking up a crumbling club.
Winnipeg's lone win on the campaign came during the second week against Montreal on the road, 19-11. Initially the victory was thought to be something the squad could build on, but now that the Alouettes are a disappointing 2-4 after six games, the victory holds less weight.
Since that favorable decision on July 4, the Bombers have dropped four straight outings, the latest coming on August 5 by a score of 27-20 at British Columbia. Winnipeg trailed by just a single point at the break, 17-16, but came out in the second half and scored just one and three points in the third and fourth quarters, respectively.
Justin Goltz got the start at quarterback for the Bombers, but he converted 13-of-28 passing for just 112 yards, was picked off once and sacked two times in the setback. Goltz did score a major on the ground in the first half however, as did Chad Simpson, who finished with 83 rushing yards on 19 carries.
In an effort to kick the Winnipeg offense into gear, head coach Tim Burke announced the appointment of Marcel Bellefeuille to the team's offensive coaching staff on Monday. The timing of the move is somewhat ironic, given that Bellefeuille's last job on the sidelines in the CFL was as the head coach for Hamilton between 2009-11.
One of the first orders of business for Burke and Bellefeuille was to announce that they had decided on yet another starting quarterback, installing Max Hall under center. Hall, a product of BYU and a one-time member of the Arizona Cardinals in the NFL, has yet to attempt a pass this season for the Blue Bombers.
As for the Tiger-Cats, the weakest team in the league in terms of scoring defense (31.2 ppg) and second-to-last in offense (21.5 ppg), they've got just two wins to their credit this season. However, a 2-4 start to the 2013 campaign is good enough for a tie for second place in the division standings with Montreal.
The most recent of those triumphs came during Week 6 action against Edmonton on the road in a narrow 30-29 final. The Cats led by double digits in the fourth quarter of the meeting but almost let it slip away in the final seconds. Luckily a 45-yard field goal attempt by Grant Shaw missed the mark.
Henry Burris converted all but six of his 26 pass attempts against the Eskimos, compiling 293 yards and two touchdowns, while also tossing an interception and being sacked three times. Greg Ellingson made just three catches in the meeting, but two of those went for majors, giving the wideout three TDs in the last two games.
Forcing Edmonton to use a total of three quarterbacks, the Ticats seemed to have the contest well in hand, but 12 penalties for 138 yards kept the other team in it.
Hamilton is now the third-most penalized team in the league with 63 infractions, yet the yardage lost (554) is four more than any other squad after six games.
Also working against the Tiger-Cats is a secondary which has allowed the most passing touchdowns on the season with 15, while the players closest to the line of scrimmage have also struggled, logging only 11 sacks which is tied for the fewest in the league. By comparison, Winnipeg is first in sacks with 24.
Another major issue for the Cats is that they've had to endure constant pressure in the backfield on offense, resulting in a league-high 29 sacks allowed. Even though Burris has taken the brunt of that, he still leads the CFL with 1,803 passing yards. As a team, Hamilton is first in the league in passing yards (1,842), while the Bombers are second from the bottom in that category with just 1,321 yards.
These two teams clashed during Week 3 action, with Hamilton taking a 25-20 home decision. In that contest, Burris survived seven sacks as he threw for 362 yards and two touchdowns for the victory, while Buck Pierce connected on just 15-of-26 passing for 186 yards and was taken down behind the line of scrimmage six times.
In addition to giving up 438 yards of total offense to the Ticats, Winnipeg torpedoed itself by committing a ridiculous 19 penalties for a loss of 161 yards.
Despite the win, their second in a row over Winnipeg, the Cats still trail in the all-time series by a count of 59-47, taking into consideration only regular-season meetings since 1961.
Neither one of these teams is living up to expectations, but it is clear that Winnipeg is at least trying to shake things up with changes in the front office and on the sidelines. Putting Hall in the cross hairs might not be the best option right now, but it really is a last resort for Winnipeg.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Hamilton 28, Winnipeg 24
MONTREAL ALOUETTES (2-4) at SASKATCHEWAN ROUGHRIDERS (5-1)
DATE & TIME: Saturday, August 17, 4:00 p.m. (et).
GAME NOTES: No longer the last undefeated team in the CFL, the Saskatchewan Roughriders turn their attention to handling the visiting Montreal Alouettes on Saturday afternoon.
Up until last Friday night Saskatchewan was riding high as the only team in the league without a defeat, but conference foe Calgary took care of that at home with a convincing 42-27 win, avenging a loss to the Riders during the second week of the campaign.
Saskatchewan trailed by a 16-0 margin in the second quarter and was never able to fully recover, even though the Roughriders actually outscored Calgary by a point the rest of the way. Quarterback Darian Durant was finally charged with his first turnover of the season (a fumble), yet still converted 20-of-32 passing for 278 yards and three touchdowns. Durant was credited with 32 rushing yards, but was also sacked four times.
Kory Sheets continued his pursuit of the record books as he gained 133 yards on 14 rushing attempts, but that was still second to Calgary rusher Jon Cornish, who carried the ball 16 times for 175 yards and four touchdowns.
Chris Getzlaf caught three passes from Durant, two of which put the receiver into the end zone.
Saskatchewan, now tied with Calgary for the top spot in the Western Division with a 5-1 record, was troubled by a weak run defense, turnovers and far too many penalties, a total of 10 flags that set the team back 116 yards.
As for the Alouettes, they began life without Dan Hawkins at the helm last Thursday night with a loss to Toronto, a 38-13 defeat at home. Montreal is now just 1-3 in front of the hometown crowd, while being outscored by an average of nine points per contest.
Now under the direction of Jim Popp, who has taken over for Hawkins and still serves as the club's VP, GM & Director of Football Operations and Player Personnel, the Als stumbled out of the gate against the Argonauts and struggled right up until the fourth quarter, with a mere three points over the course of three periods of play.
Quarterback Anthony Calvillo completed just 16 of his 30 pass attempts, leading to 202 yards and a touchdown, a 48-yard connection with Brandon London 34 seconds into the fourth quarter. Calvillo, who watched Tanner Marsh take a couple of snaps and complete both of his passes for 33 yards, was sacked once and had a pass picked off in yet another disappointing outcome.
Jerome Messam managed to gain a game-leading 90 yards on 14 rushing attempts, but even that effort was overshadowed by the fact that Montreal lost five fumbles and watched as former Alouette Chad Owens brought back a missed field goal for a thrilling 118-yard touchdown.
Not only was the game the first for the Alouettes without Hawkins this season, it also marked the first game for Calvillo without receiver Jamel Richardson who has been put on the nine-game injured list.
Tied with Hamilton for second place in the East Division standings, the Alouettes are a shell of their former selves, to the point where Calvillo is completing just 59 percent of his passes and has almost as many interceptions (five) as he does TDs (six). The league's all-time leading passer in several categories is in rare territory at the moment, saddled with an efficiency rating of only 78.3.
To put that last number in perspective, Calvillo, now in his 20th season in the CFL, has had just one campaign since 1998 where his efficiency rating has dipped below 93.6. Losing Richardson, a receiver with at least 1,000 yards in each of the last five seasons, is going to force Calvillo to extend himself even more.
While Calvillo and the Als try to sort out their issues, Durant and the Riders don't have such problems, especially with the signal-caller having tossed a league-high 15 TDs and still without a single INT over 139 attempts. Durant's impressive start is one thing, but add to that the performance of Sheets, now with six straight 100-yard rushing games, and the Roughriders seem like a nearly unbeatable force.
Despite reaching the end zone just four times on 132 carries, Sheets is by far the top rusher in the league at the moment with 845 yards, keeping his eye on the single-season CFL record set by Mike Pringle at 2,065 yards with Montreal back in 1998.
Since 2004, the Als have won 11 of the 18 meetings between the clubs, including two straight stemming from a 2012 sweep. Montreal captured a 28-17 win at home last September and then a little over a month later delivered a 34-28 triumph on the road as well.
With respect to the all-time series, taking into account only regular-season matchups dating back to 1961, Montreal holds a 37-28-1 advantage over the Riders.
As much as the Alouettes try to fix what's broken right now, the truth of the matter is they have lost a number of valuable players to injury and Calvillo is no longer a spry, youthful quarterback who can make big plays under pressure. Expect to see the Riders respond to their first loss of the season in a big way and take care of the Als with little trouble this week.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Saskatchewan 35, Montreal 21
CALGARY STAMPEDERS (5-1) at BRITISH COLUMBIA LIONS (4-2)
DATE & TIME: Saturday, August 17, 9:00 p.m. (et).
GAME NOTES: With three teams separated by just two points at the top of the West Division standings, the Calgary Stampeders try to keep the good times rolling on Saturday night as they tangle with the British Columbia Lions for the second time this season, this time at BC Place.
Since losing to Saskatchewan (36-21), the last of the undefeated teams in the league until last week, the Stampeders have hit a hot streak of their own with four straight wins. The latest victory came against those same Roughriders on August 9 at home in a 42-27 decision, tying the squads for first place in the division at 5-1.
The star of the game for Calgary was running back Jon Cornish, who powered his way to 175 yards and a staggering four touchdowns. Now second in the league in rushing yards (676) and yards from scrimmage (833), Cornish's yardage total from last week was the third-highest in his career, while the four majors were not only a personal best, they also marked the first time since Earl Lunsford in 1962 that a Stampeder registered at least a quartet of TDs on the ground.
First in the league with seven rushing scores and an average of 7.3 yards per carry, Cornish was not only named the top Canadian of the week, he was also named the CFL Offensive Player of the Week as well, the latter accolade marking the first time since 2010 that a native had captured the honor.
Managing the game for Saskatchewan was Kerry Glenn, as the quarterback hit on 21-of-28 passing for 218 yards and a touchdown. Nik Lewis, recipient of a 25- yard TD pass in the fourth quarter, caught seven balls for 96 yards, both game highs.
Lewis now has 31 catches for 381 yards and three TDs this season. With his most recent effort, Lewis moved past Tom Scott (10,837 yards) for 12th place on the CFL's all-time list for receiving yards.
Taking a back seat to the exploits of Cornish, kicker Rene Paredes continued to build upon his CFL record streak of consecutive field goals made, converting a pair to run the number to 36 in a row.
Ironically, the streak by Paredes snapped the previous record set by Paul McCallum a few years ago with British Columbia and during Week 6 action against Winnipeg, McCallum missed a lengthy field goal in the third quarter, snapping his consecutive streak of made field goals at 23 in a row, but still the Lions picked up the 27-20 home win versus the Blue Bombers.
Now 3-0 at home on the season, the Lions were led by Travis Lulay who converted 28-of-39 passing for 268 yards and three touchdowns, one each to Shawn Gore, Korey Williams, and Courtney Taylor. Also finding creases in the Winnipeg defense was wideout Emmanuel Arceneaux, who caught seven passes for a game-high 72 yards.
The BC defense was also at the top of its game as it limited the visitors to a paltry 227 yards of total offense.
There is no team better in the CFL right now in slowing down the competition than the Lions, as they yield just 282.0 ypg.
British Columbia's pass defense has been particularly aggressive, allowing only seven touchdowns through the air and an average of 192.8 ypg, both of which lead the league.
But as well as the Lions might play on that side of the ball, they also have to keep in mind that Calgary is the second-highest scoring team heading into this meeting, averaging 34.0 ppg, which is just a single point behind Saskatchewan.
In the season opener at McMahon Stadium, Drew Tate threw for 237 yards and three touchdowns for the Stamps, while Cornish carved up the BC defense for 172 yards and two majors on 24 carries as well.
Not to be overlooked, Lulay countered for the Lions with 283 yards and three touchdowns through the air, but he was also picked off once and sacked three times. Unfortunately, the Lions didn't do themselves any favors on the road, being flagged eight times for a collective 106 yards, almost twice as many yards as the hosts (54 yards).
In terms of the all-time series between the clubs, with respect to only regular season matchups going back to 1954, the Stampeders now own a 96-77-5 advantage over BC, thanks in part to back-to-back victories in the series. The last win for the Lions was a 27-22 home decision last October.
The squads are scheduled to meet two more times during the 2013 regular season, the next contest taking place in Calgary on Oct. 11, the other being the season finale on Nov. 1 back here in British Columbia.
Considering the Stamps had been chasing Saskatchewan in the standings ever since they lost to the Riders early on, Calgary might be in line for a let down this week. Also, with plenty of time to prepare for him, and considering the number of hits he has already taken, Cornish may not be as productive this time around.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: British Columbia 31, Calgary 27
EDMONTON ESKIMOS (1-5) at TORONTO ARGONAUTS (4-2)
DATE & TIME: Sunday, August 18, 7:00 p.m. (et).
GAME NOTES: With a four-point lead in the standings, the Toronto Argonauts try to put even more distance between themselves and the other clubs in the Eastern Division as they cross over and take on the Edmonton Eskimos on Sunday night at Rogers Centre.
Since losing back-to-back games against British Columbia and Saskatchewan in the second and third weeks of the season, respectively, Toronto has come on strong by scoring no less than 35 points in each of the last three outings. In fact, the Argos have taken care of the action on both sides of the ball during this three-game win streak, outscoring the competition by a combined 111-44 margin.
The Argos have not experienced this level of success over a three-game span in the regular season since posting a trio of victories in succession back in 2007.
Last week the Argonauts took advantage of a weakened Montreal squad, on the road no less, streaking out to a 31-0 lead before settling in for a 38-13 triumph. With the victory the team gave itself a slight cushion in the standings, now four points ahead of both the Alouettes and Hamilton Tiger- Cats.
Returning to action after missing time due to a knee injury, quarterback Ricky Ray connected with John Chiles on a pair of touchdown passes in the first quarter, but it wasn't until late in the period that the game really got exciting, as Chad Owens returned a missed field goal 118 yards for a score to give the Argos a 21-0 edge after 15 minutes of action. Ray finished the meeting 15-of-18 passing for 152 yards and three touchdowns, while backup Zach Collaros was also given time under center for the visitors, resulting in another 44 yards through the air and 31 on the ground.
Owens, perhaps the most exciting player in the league for the last several years, was named the CFL Special Teams Player of the Week as he finished with 247 all-purpose yards in the triumph.
Also earning league recognition was defensive back Alonzo Lawrence, who claimed CFL Defensive Player of the Week honors after forcing a fumble and recovering two more in the onslaught.
While the Argos pretty much had their meeting with Montreal in the bag after just one quarter of action, the Eskimos found themselves fighting right up until the final gun as they bowed to visiting Hamilton by a score of 30-29. Edmonton had a chance to snap what had been a three-game slide, but Grant Shaw's last-second field goal attempt missed the mark, extending the squad's run of defeats to four in a row.
All alone in last place in the Western Division, having won only once in six opportunities, Edmonton controlled the ball for just over 25 minutes and was unable to capitalize on a staggering 12 penalties for 138 yards assessed against the Ticats. Mike Reilly hit on 21-of-32 passing as the starting quarterback, resulting in 311 yards and a score, but that didn't stop Edmonton from also fielding Kerry Joseph and Jonathan Crompton at the position during the outing.
Running back Hugh Charles scored once on the ground for Edmonton, but gained a total of just 40 yards on nine attempts, while wideout Cary Koch was tops among receivers with eight catches for 112 yards.
Despite Reilly trying to carve out some space for himself on the Edmonton offense, the unit continues to have issues. Through six games, the Eskimos are last in the league in scoring with just 21.3 ppg, with much of that being the result of placing last in the CFL in both plays from scrimmage (435) and average time of possession (27:15).
On the defensive side of the ball Edmonton is in the middle of the pack with 28.2 ppg allowed. However, linebacker Damaso Munoz is currently second in the league in tackles with 41.
The Eskimos need Munoz and his teammates to apply as much pressure as they can at the line of scrimmage because trying to slow down Ray, a former Edmonton player himself, is not easy. Ray has completed a staggering 76.4 percent of his passes for 1,355 yards and 11 touchdowns, all without being picked off yet in 2013.
In addition to Ray's near perfection, the Argos also enjoy the exploits of Owens, who is first in the league in receiving with 43 catches for 470 yards and also tops in combined yards (1,154), as he aims to record yet another 3,000 yard campaign.
Since 2004 the teams have earned an even split of their 18 matchups, although Edmonton has had the upper hand in recent years with five straight victories, the latest triumph coming in August of last season when the Esks delivered a 26-17 win on the road. The last win for Toronto was three seasons ago on August 10 when the squad slipped by in a 29-28 final.
With their run of success of late, Edmonton now leads the all-time series, dating back to 1961 and taking into consideration only regular-season matchups, by a 45-38-1 mark.
The teams are also set to face each other in late September when the Argos visit Edmonton.
The close call for the Eskimos in their most recent game has done little to sway popular sentiment in their direction for this matchup. As long as Edmonton struggles with finding consistency at the quarterback position, winning games will be continue to be difficult.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Toronto 36, Edmonton 21
2013 Sports Network Predictions: 16-8; Last Week's Predictions: 1-1.
08/14 16:06:38 ET