Canadian Football League

CFL Previews - Week 2 - July 4-7
From The Sports Network

By Greg Xenakes, CFL Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -


DATE & TIME: Thursday, July 4, 7 p.m. (ET).

GAME NOTES: Trying to live up to the excitement of the season opener last week might be tough, but Winnipeg and Montreal will give it a shot when the two teams clash for the second time in as many weeks, this time at Percival Molson Memorial Stadium on Thursday night.

Last Thursday, these two teams kicked off the 2013 campaign against each other, with Montreal responding late in the contest in order to secure a 38-33 victory on the road. Less than five minutes into the first quarter, the Als owned a 14-0 lead over Winnipeg which was opening a new stadium, but Montreal needed to rally with 14 unanswered points in the final frame to come away with the victory, the first for new head coach Dan Hawkins in his CFL debut.

One would think that with 38 points scored that Anthony Calvillo, the league's all-time leading passer, would have had a huge game, but in truth he completed 20-of-35 passes for 264 yards and just a single touchdown. Calvillo, who also had one pass intercepted on a deflection, was sacked four times which prevented him from getting into a rhythm.

S.J. Green had a strong effort for the Als as he reeled in five passes for 119 yards and a major, while running back Noel Devine carried the ball 12 times for 58 yards and Chris Jennings scored the first points of the night on a three-yard run early in the first quarter.

Devine was filling the void left by an injured Brandon Whitaker, the team's top rusher from a year ago (656 yards, four TDs), who is still not yet confirmed for action this time around either.

Special teams were also clutch for Montreal as Tyron Carrier returned a punt 78 yards for a score in the first quarter, and kicker Sean Whyte knocked through all five of his field goal attempts and finished with 18 points.

The Montreal defense also got in on the act as the unit registered three interceptions and forced five turnovers by Winnipeg overall.

The Blue Bombers, who opened Investors Group Field on a sour note, saw quarterback Buck Pierce hobble on more than one occasion, the signal-caller connecting on 19-of-34 pass attempts for 258 yards and a couple of majors. However Pierce, who lost significant weight since last season, tossed three picks and was sacked three times, in addition to being hit several times at the end of plays.

Chris Matthews, who was questionable due to an ankle injury, stepped up with a team-best four catches for 41 yards and a score, his touchdown coming late in the first quarter on a short three-yard toss.

Winnipeg had 20 fewer offensive snaps than the Als, and gained a mere 38 rushing yards on 10 attempts, but still the hosts took the lead in the second half when they outscored Montreal by a 20-1 margin in the third period. Unfortunately, the Bombers failed to show up in the final frame, squandering an opportunity to get the season off on the right foot.

A major concern for Winnipeg moving forward has to be the team's inability to run the ball. Last season, the squad was in the middle of the pack with 106.8 ypg on the ground, but still finished last in rushing TDs with just 33. Then again, the Blue Bombers were also last in passing TDs (16) and were the lowest-scoring club in the CFL with only 20.9 ppg.

Montreal, which was tied for the most TDs scored in 2012 (51), is a team driven by Calvillo almost exclusively and why would you expect anything else from the most successful quarterback in the history of professional football? Having players like Green and Jamel Richardson, not to mention Arland Bruce this year, to throw to sometimes makes the job that much easier for Calvillo.

Dating back to 1946 and only taking into consideration meetings that have taken place during the regular season, Montreal now owns a record of 46-36-2 versus the Bombers following last week's triumph. Winnipeg had won back-to- back decisions against the Als prior to opening up the 2013 campaign.

The next time these clubs clash will be the second week of October, right back here in Montreal.

Based on the action from last week, clearly both of these teams have issues to clean up on the defensive side of the ball. On offense, each also has positive aspects as well, although Calvillo and the Als are a bit more polished and experienced.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Montreal 33, Winnipeg 24


DATE & TIME: Thursday, July 4, 10 p.m. (ET).

GAME NOTES: The British Columbia Lions try to extend their home win streak to seven games on Thursday night as they host the defending Grey Cup Champion Toronto Argonauts at BC Place.

Preparing to play the 1,000th regular-season game in franchise history, the Lions are trying to bounce back from a season-opening loss to Calgary on the road last week, 44-32. BC fell behind in that matchup by 16 points in the first quarter and never recovered, even though the squad outscored the hosts by a 26-13 margin in the second half in order to make things interesting.

Quarterback Travis Lulay not only converted 21-of-36 passes for 283 yards and three touchdowns, but he also led the Lions on the ground with 55 yards on four rushing attempts, his one run of 23 yards representing more than everyone else on the team combined. However, Lulay was sacked three times and had one pass picked off in the loss.

Defensively, the Lions were ripped apart by a Calgary group which gained 200 yards on the ground and close to 450 yards overall. There was one bright spot for the BC defense however, as Cord Parks picked off a pass in the third frame and returned it 45 yards for a major.

As for the Argonauts, their 39-34 home win against Hamilton in the opener wasn't pretty, but at least the squad was able to extend its win streak to six games overall, which includes the 2012 postseason.

Toronto, which began both the first and second halves with successful TD drives, was led by Ricky Ray as he threw for 368 yards and four touchdowns. Ray, who joined the Argos in 2012 after spending years with Edmonton, avoided being sacked and intercepted as he was named the CFL Offensive Player of the Week.

Also having a strong outing was running back Chad Kackert who needed just 10 carries to generate a game-high 112 rushing yards, 57 of those coming on a TD run down the left sideline to open the second quarter.

Just prior to Kackert's major, superstar Chad Owens took a vicious hit late in the first frame. With just under four minutes remaining in the first quarter, Owens streaked across the field and went up for a catch but nearly had his head taken off by the defense, giving him more than enough reason to take a break on the sidelines.

Owens did return though, finishing with nine receptions for 95 yards, four punt returns which brought in 48 yards, and four kickoff returns for an additional 92 yards. Even though he is a marked man, after being named the top performer in the league last season, Owens is dead set on logging yet another 3,000-yard campaign.

Toronto kicker Swayze Waters went down with injury as he kicked off the second half. Waters came back late in the contest to attempt a PAT, but he again came up lame during the successful conversion that gave the Eskimos a five-point edge with about five minutes remaining in regulation.

Because of the injury to Waters, the Argos had to improvise and use both Alexander Robinson, a fullback, and wide receiver Spencer Watt to kickoff. Watt, who knocked through an extra point in the third quarter, did so after scoring the touchdown himself on a 20-yard pass from Ray.

While the Lions are trying to bounce back from the season-opening loss, the good news for the squad is that the active roster should become a bit more solid with the return of both linebacker Solomon Elimimian and veteran kicker Paul McCallum.

Elimimian missed the opener with an ankle injury, although he had planned on being in on the action before taking a seat. McCallum was sidelined with a groin injury, but head coach Mike Benevides has every reason to believe the kicker will be back on the field this week.

While getting back both Elimimian and McCallum in all likelihood, center Angus Reid is probably not going to make the cut, which means the offense will miss his leadership while second-year man Matt Norman tries to fill the void.

Dating back to the 1961 season, the Lions lead the series with Toronto by a count of 51-31-2, thanks in part to a pair of wins in 2012. The first of those came in the middle of August in Toronto, with BC doubling-up the nine points registered by the Argos.

The second meeting took place a month later, but this time the Toronto offense responded by losing by only five points, 28-23.

The Lions are set to travel to Rogers Centre at the end of the month to complete the season series.

Being at home should give the Lions a boost for sure, but that doesn't mean they'll be able to overcome the dominating play of Ray and Owens this time around.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Toronto 38, British Columbia 27


DATE & TIME: Friday, July 5, 9 p.m. (ET).

GAME NOTES: The only game of the week featuring a pair of teams that won their season openers takes place on Friday night in Saskatchewan, as the Roughriders entertain the Calgary Stampeders at Mosaic Stadium.

For the Stampeders, their 44-32 home victory over British Columbia was further enhanced by the generosity of the fans who helped raise money to support the flood-ravaged area in Calgary. While there is still plenty of work to be done in the region, the rest of the CFL also kicked in as well, which goes to show that the sport is more than just a game.

Stamps running back Jon Cornish, last year's Most Outstanding Canadian, put his money where his mouth is -- on the field at McMahon Stadium last week, promising to donate $10.00 for every yard he gained against the Lions. Needless to say, Cornish had to reach deep into his pockets after just 30 minutes of action as he raced for 109 yards and a score.

Cornish finished the contest with a whopping 172 yards and a pair of TDs on the ground on 24 carries, adding a 20-yard reception for good measure in the double-digit victory.

While Cornish, who was named the top Canadian in Week 1, was carving up the BC defense on the ground, quarterback Drew Tate was easily handling the aerial attack as he converted 19-of-27 passes for 237 yards and three more scores, against only one interception.

Maurice Price caught a game-high six passes for 77 yards and a score, while Joe West turned his five receptions into 51 yards and two TDs.

Granted, the Lions did come up with 32 points in the meeting, but there was still at least one shining star on the Calgary defense in Charleston Hughes who delivered three sacks on just four total tackles. Last year, Hughes ranked second in the league in sacks with a total of 11.

For his efforts, Hughes was named the CFL's Defensive Player of the Week.

As for the Roughriders, their battle with Edmonton last Saturday afternoon was not nearly as competitive as the other three contests during the first week of the season. In fact, with 14 unanswered points in the first quarter and a lopsided 22-1 advantage at the break, Saskatchewan was barely challenged during the 39-18 affair.

The win for the Riders was their first at Commonwealth Stadium since posting a 23-20 final back on Sept. 26, 2009.

Like Cornish for the Stampeders, Saskatchewan running back Kory Sheets ripped through the Edmonton defense for 131 yards and a score on 17 carries in the comfortable road victory.

Quarterback Darian Durant threw for just 171 yards on 14-of-22 passing, but three of those completions did find their way into the end zone. Durant could stand to get off to a strong start to the campaign since last year he threw just 20 TDs and had 12 passes picked off.

In news off the field Tuesday, the Roughriders decided to release receiver Greg Carr who caught on pass for five yards in the opener.

As great as the performance by the Saskatchewan offense may have been in the opener, cornerback Dwight Anderson managed to steal away quite a bit of their thunder by being issued a pair of objectionable conduct penalties on the same play. Anderson was initially flagged for having motioned a "choke" sign to the Edmonton bench, and then after being hit with the penalty the defensive back went ballistic.

Coaches and players tried to calm Anderson down and get him off the field, giving him and his dramatic overtures far more attention than needed. Like a petulant child, Anderson has already had Hamilton, Calgary and Montreal turn their backs on him so now it is just a waiting game to see how long he lasts with the Riders.

In 2012, the Stampeders won two of the three regular-season encounters, the first of which went to overtime in Week 4 and was decided on a 16-yard TD strike from Kevin Glenn to Nik Lewis. A month later Calgary posted a 17-10 victory at home, but in late September the Riders managed to come up with a 30-25 triumph at home.

Calgary managed to bounce back from that defeat however, taking down the Riders in the semifinals of the playoffs, 36-30, coming alive with a 19-point second quarter after being shut out in the first frame.

These clubs are also slated to compete against each other on Aug. 9 in Calgary, and then again in Week 18 on the home field of the Stamps as well.

Clearly, defense was not exactly a primary focal point for any team in the league last week, but considering the Stamps have Hughes at their disposal and not someone as disruptive as Anderson, Calgary probably stands a good chance at coming out on top in this meeting.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Calgary 37, Saskatchewan 28


DATE & TIME: Sunday, July 7, 5 p.m. (ET).

GAME NOTES: With one team destined to be winless after the first two games of the 2013 CFL campaign, both the Edmonton Eskimos and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats try to prevent that from happening on Sunday evening when they get together at Guelph Alumni Stadium.

Granted, there is a possibility that the teams could play to a tie this weekend, but that hasn't happened in a number of years now and shouldn't be much of a possibility given how wild the scoring opportunities were during the first week of the season. In fact, the 277 points scored in the four games during the first week, an average of just over 69 per game, made it the third- highest Week 1 scoring effort in league history.

The Ticats played a major role in the scoring outburst, putting up 34 points against Toronto on the road, but even that was not enough to upset the defending Grey Cup Champions in their own building. Hamilton ended up suffering the five-point loss mainly because the offense went to sleep in the second half, scoring a grand total of just three points.

The league's leading passer from a year ago, Henry Burris, who was coming off a campaign in which he completed close to 65 percent of his passes for 5,367 yards and 43 touchdowns, tried to pick up where he left off by hitting 24- of-37 passes for 361 yards and three touchdowns, but it simply wasn't enough to keep the team from falling into the loss column.

But you can't fault the signal-caller for his efforts because, with only seconds to play down the stretch he nearly pulled off a remarkable win. Burris initially thought his desperation pass at the end of regulation was completed for what could have been the game-winning touchdown, but clearly the ball bounced off the turf and into the hands of Andy Fantuz.

Despite not coming up with the critical reception, Fantuz still had a standout performance with 10 catches for 155 yards and a score, while C.J. Gable turned his four grabs into 30 yards and a couple of majors as well.

Hamilton kick returner Lindsey Lamar was named the special teams player of the week in the CFL after posting 224 yards -- including a 104-yard TD return -- on six kickoffs along with four punt returns for 18 yards. Lamar's scoring run came just minutes into the first quarter, part of a 21-point eruption by the Ticats in the frame.

Hamilton was one of three teams to go without a turnover in the first week of play, the others being Toronto and Saskatchewan. However, what made the Ticats stand out is that they bucked the trend that says clubs that are error-free should come out on top more than 88 percent of the time since 1996.

As mentioned earlier, the first week of action in the CFL was heavily offensive by nature, but the one team that didn't follow suit was Edmonton. Had it not been for a 12-point burst in the final 15 minutes, the Eskimos would have been left with single digits for the contest.

Edmonton, which is trying to find a worthy and deserving starting quarterback, put Mike Reilly in the cross hairs in the first week and the result was less than favorable. Reilly finished the meeting against Saskatchewan, a 39-18 defeat, 17-of-35 for 259 yards and a score, but he was also picked off three times and suffered three sacks.

The Eskimos brought in second-stringer Jonathan Crompton, a product of Tennessee, and he responded by going 6-of-11 for 70 yards.

Edmonton scored just a single major, a 19-yard pass to Fred Stamps. Kicker Grant Shaw did all he could for the club by hitting three of his four field goal attempts.

The Esks managed to generate 417 yards of total offense but turnovers, as well as 15 penalties for a loss of 90 yards, didn't help matters.

On a positive note for Edmonton, JC Sherritt came out and showed that his record-setting performance from last season was no fluke as he tallied a game- high seven stops and registered a sack in the losing cause. Sherritt, who logged a record 130 defensive tackles a year ago, is now 16th on the team's all-time tackles list with 206 stops.

Dating back to 1950 and taking into account only games that have been played during the regular season, Edmonton owns a 53-29-1 advantage over the Ticats. The Eskimos won the most recent meeting last Oct. 5 by a final of 35-20 at home, which means the club has now taken three of the last four and five of the last seven matchups overall.

The squads will face off against each other in Edmonton on Aug. 2.

With Sherritt on the attack for Edmonton, Burris and the rest of the Tiger- Cats need to be keenly aware of his location at all times in order to keep from making too many mistakes. Unfortunately for the Esks' defense, it is the offense which is a concern and will continue to be so until the right quarterback is found.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Edmonton 35, Hamilton 24

2013 Sports Network Predictions: 4-0; Last Week's Predictions: 4-0.

07/03 11:25:16 ET

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