Now watch how the CFL-centered media controls the narrative now. With the Clagary Stampeders’ loss at the Montreal Alouettes, all talk about comparing the 2916 Stamps to the league’s all-time great teams will be put on hold.
And now the narrative predictably shifts. The punditry and blogosphee will all be wringing hands over this cah-razy two weeks off given to QB Bo Levi Mitchell and other key starters. Of course, selling this storyline depends on a collective memory loss of last year’s playoffs.
Recall that the West-winning 2015 Edmonton Eskimos — a team the South dares say was not quite as good as this year’s Stampeders – were the subject of similar anxiety. In weeks 14-19, those Eskimos faced five teams with losing records and played three against last season’s bottom-feeders (Montreal, the Winnipeg Blue bombers and the Saskatchewan Roughriders). They topped the Stamps amidst a seven-game winning streak and ultimately established themselves as The Team To Beat.
Then a week 20 bye followed by an off week, followed by the semi-final round in which the Eskimos didn’t play. Gee, went the commentary, three weeks off? They’ll be rusty! An upset’s in the making!
Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand yet, no sirree, Bob. Those who considered the media hype were bamboozled by the Esks’ manhandling of the Stampeders, widely considered the CFL’s second-best team in 2015.
Don’t be fooled: The Stampeders must be considered heavy favorites in best the West Final and the Grey up game. Feel free to parlay the Stamps to win the Grey Cup (yesterday getting 5/7 odds at the sportsbook) with Hillary Clinton to win the US presidential election (1/3) and thank me later. With, say, 25% of your winnings.
So, yeah, Calgary lost. As for the rest of last week’s CFL games, the slate started with…
Edmonton Eskimos 29, Hamilton Tiger-Cats 26. The Ticats are suffering from the same problems they did at the end of the 2015 season They can’t hold a lead and they can’t come back from a deficit. Zach Collaros, upon whom this team’s hopes have been pinned since the preseason, was just 26-of-40 for 273 with one TD pass; combined with the disappearance of this team’s single advantage – special teams – thanks to the suspension of Brandon Banks, Hamilton simply did not have the answers in this one.
On the other side, Collaros’s counterpart Mike Reilly turned in a stat line that several CFL teams might like their QB to produce – 18-of-31 passing for 239 yards and two TDs –but seemed a slightly below average performance for him. Reilly’s ball distribution befuddling a holey seconday was quite nice: Late-season fantasy surprise Brandon Zylstra, Derel Walker, Adarius Bowman shared 17 receptions, but the real key to this offense has recently been the running game, sepcifically John White. White killed it again in this game, running up 132 yards on 15 carries.
See, this is what the four West playoff teams have in common and one reason why they’ve dominated the East this season (to be precise, the East is a pitiful 11-26-1 against the West): fantastic running games.
Poll: Riley vs. Keenum. This is included solely to give The South yet another opportunity to vent about my Los Angeles Rams. Mike Goodpaster, El Jefe here at The Grueling Truth, emphatically asserted to me that if Reilly were starting in L.A., the Rams would be a playoff contender. The masses, surprisingly, agreed. Sort of.
— Os on football (@CFLpass) October 27, 2016
Canadians in the NFL. The Detroit Lions are sneaking into contention on this side of the border, but the defense is getting little love. And who can blame anyone? The Lions’ D is dead last in third-down conversions allowed, and with defensive coordinator Tyrel Austin shuffling players on and off the front seven, continuity has been non-existent.
Nevertheless, a top four for the defensive line – for the short term, anyway – appears to have emerged, with Oshawa, Ontario’s Stefan Charles among them. The verdict from skeptical (they gotta be) Detroit sports journalists seems split from a somewhat unfair D+ assessment from the Detroit News to an “adequate” label from another ’News man.
Criticism aside, Charles must act quickly to impress folks in the NFL, as the Lions’ bigger-salaried heavy hitters – including Haloti Ngata – are getting set to return from injuries.
Ottawa Redblacks 23, Winnipeg Blue Bombers 10. Bombers fans cannot be feeling good about this game. The Ottawa offensive line manhandled the Winnipeg defensive front, most dramatically in The View From The South’s CFL Play of the Week (see below).
And shortly after TSN color commentators happily trotted out a statistic explaining the Bomber’s success since Matt Nichols took over at quarterback, i.e. just 10 turnovers in 11 games, those particular wheels fell off the bomber. Nichols was picked off three teams, capping a mediocre 35-of-46 (and what game plan calls for 46 passes in a game?) for just 289 yards, or just a hair over 6.5 yards per attempt, and one TD. It was enough for the TSN guys to proclaim more than once that “something is amiss with Matt Nichols.”
Perhaps. Or Nichols’s poor showing was merely in the natural order of things. As Rouge, White & Blue CFL Podcast co-host (and Bombers backer) Joe Pritchard put it, Nichols had yet to produce a clunker of a game this season, and this was it. Fair enough, one supposes.
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers have gone 2-3 after running off a seven-game winning streak, giving up 33 points a game during that spell. Next week, they’ll get these same RedBlacks; Ottawa is only 3-3 in their last six but have been averaging right around 30 points per in those games.
Just sayin’ is all.
BC Lions 24, Saskatchewan Roughriders 6. Surely even cheery-and-optimistic Roughriders fans (that may be redundant) must be a little disappointed with their team’s meek swansong at Taylor Field. Settign aside history and speaking pragmatically, this drubbing by BC served as another reminder that the Riders may have a ways to go yet to compete in the CFL.
Meanwhile, nice tuneup game for BC. Jeremiah Johnson – it’s the running game, man, the running game – looked especially good on the offensive side of the ball, with 16 carries and two catches for 137 total yards and one TD. Maddeningly still hot-and-cold QB Jonathan Jennings was … not great, but rather, let’s say, workmanlike: 19-of-32 for 241 yards and two TDS against one interception.
On the other hand, in a game were single-digit scoring per quarter is all that’s necessary, the foot comes off the pedal early anyway. At least Manny Arceneaux got some good fantasy points…
CFL Play(s) of the Week. Since The South is chasing a take on the BC Lions game with this bit, you might think Solomon Elimimian would be getting top props for this scary-ass, laughter-provoking (and, for Darien Durant, nightmare-inducing) sack in the first quarter:
This was also worthy of consideration, especially when factoring in the accomplishment of consecutive 1,000-yard seasons was clinched on the same play:
But no, no, no. The highlight of the week belongs to a dude who doesn’t even appear on the stat sheet. If ever you want to convince someone that line play in professional football more than choreographed shoving, call up this video and tell them to pay attention to Nolan MacMillen (actually you won’t need to call attention, because damn!) destroying two defensive linemen and allowing Moises Madu to romp 35 yards as though on a busted college play.
Madu will get statistical credit for those 35 yards, but MacMillen should be awarded a golden dagger prize or something…
Montreal Alouettes 17, Calgary Stampeders 8. As am Alouttes fan, I’m excited. This game showed that our defense is as awesome as ever. We’ve got a pair of capable young QBs who might develop into something – but at least they’re not making fatal mistakes. And our kicker Boris Bede is a deadshot, Mr. Consistent. We can really make a run this year, I’m telling ya…
Um, this is week five, right?
The glory and the shame. Rookie QB Shane Carden out of East Carolina saw the first CFL action of his career in the third quarter. Early on, Carden converted a third down with a two-yard plunge supplemented by a 15-yard penalty. So far so good.
When given the ball on the 1-yard line later in the period, howevet, Carden was stuffed so badly that, despite refusing to actually go down, the referee called the play dead after a gain of zero yards. Better luck next … whenever.
Weird Canadian News Story. With days to go before the US election, even non-human species are fleeing for Canada, it seems – and eerie things are happening off the coast.
Recently, fishermen in Igoolik have reported hearing a “Mysterious ‘ping’ sound from sea floor,” the origin of which remains unknown. And just days before, an equally mysterious creature was spotted in Alaska, presumably having originated somewhere off northwest Canada; those hard-hitting investigative journalists at the UK-based Telegraph have correctly surmised that the ostensibly “unknown” beastie is in fact Nessie the Loch Ness Monster. (How she got from a lake in Scotland and into the Pacific is another story for another time, it seems.)
Finally, and here’s where the conspiratorial forces of international media are exposed for their brazen attempt to hide the truth, was this reported by our friends at the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON). Damning evidence indeed are MUFON’s recently-obtained videos – subsequently wiped from YouTube; coincidence? Ha! – which clearly depict three UFOs in video captured by a drone camera above Hasse Lake in Alberta.
The answers are obvious. The Loch Ness Monster is actually an alien cyborg planted by intelligent extra-terrestrial life to wreak havoc where seen fit on our planet. No, really. I saw this episode of Doctor Who that was totally like that!
Meanwhile, back on Earth and/or Canada, there’s next week’s CFL games to consider.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers at Ottawa RedBlacks. Last week, The South reckoned that Henry Burris’s RedBlacks were capable of simply putting too many points on the ‘board for the Bombers to compete. To their credit (somewhat), the Winnipeg D “held” Ottawa to 23 points, the lowest total the RedBlacks have scored since week 11. Here’s to thinking that the RedBlacks will need a few more than that this week and, if they’re playing to take pride in running up, you know, a winning record, this’ll be a RedBlacks win.
Edit: It has been announced that Brock Jensen will start at quarterback for the RedBlacks, therby giving Burris the “dreaded” two-week break. Ah, to hell with it. I’ll be contrarian and reiterate: RedBlacks win.
Montreal Alouettes at Hamilton Tiger-Cats. The South is taking an Alouettes win here, thereby ending Montreal’s season on a most unlikely three-game winning streak. I make this prediction knowing full well that about 37 times in 2016 they’ve crushed fans’ optimism and brought expectations down to the minimum again. But how can anyone like the way the Ticats are playing recently…?
Statistic Of The Week That Makes The 2016 Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ Season Even More Nonsensical. With Zach Collaros as starting quarterback, the Ticats are 3-6. Without him there, they’re 4-4.
Obligatory Statistic Of The Week That Reaffirms Calgary’s Greatness. The Stampeders are the only team in the CFL with a winning record against the West – and they’re 9-1.
Toronto Argonauts at Edmonton Eskimos. Edmonton’s result becomes irrelevant here if Winnipeg wins, but let’s face it: Notre Dame could probably beat Toronto right now. For the Argonauts, this season’s already over, and the clock is ticking on signing Noel Thorpe as head coach. Eskimos win.
Saskatchewan Roughriders at BC Lions. Saskatchewan will certainly be the loosest team in the CFL this week: Few Riders are playing for their jobs, and the entire coaching staff will likely return; the Riders have nothing to play for except maybe a spoiler role and there’s no hullabaloo about stadiums. Having said that, a Bombers win means BC Lions must play this one out to get that home playoff date. On the other hand, the Lions’ second team could give the Riders a game. BC Lions win.
Next week: Donald Who?