Nothing like a little round of the quarterback shuffle to keep things in the CFL interesting. Immediately following the week 12 games, a pair of two-team deals (essentially amounting to one three-team deal) saw the Winnipeg Blue Bombers grab Kevin Glenn to serve as human insurance policy – less than a month ago, Glenn tossed five TD passes in a game.
The Toronto Argonauts landed Drew Willy to serve as the next project for head coach Scott “The Quarterback Whisperer” Milanovich – as recently as the beginning of this season was Willy thought to be the Bombers’ quarterback of the future. Reportedly, these transactions had been agreed upon before kickoff of the Argos’ Sunday night game … you know, when Dan LeFevour pretty much turned in the best QB performance of week 12 after taking one snap in professional football in the past 18 months or so.
And Montreal? Well, the Alouettes started Rakeem Cato for the second time this season last week – not quite one year after his roller-coaster rookie season had plummeted to depths low enough to require a start from Tanner Marsh, not to mention about two months removed from the general assumption that Cato’s would be wearing another team’s uniform before week 6. The message here? Equal parts “Help, we’re in the seventh level of salary cap hell!” and “We’re not quite sure about this Vernon Adams Jr. fellow…”
Despite this swapping of (now) second-stringers, View From The South would definitely assert that this does shake things up a bit – if only because Winnipeg must now be feared as a contender coming down the stretch. Then again, the question of Harris’s injury is a doozy…
As for last week’s games…
BC Lions 38, Montreal Alouettes 22. The South’s been obsessed with some science that former CFL star/Grey Cup champion Robert Drummond dropped during last week’s CFL Pick ‘Em show: If one side of your team is dominant, the other side merely needs to do just enough not to lose. The Alouettes in week 12 were the quintessential example of what happens when the dominant side, i.e. the defense, has an off-game and no other side exists in any real sense.
During this game’s broadcast, we heard tell of a Duron Carter-Rakeem Cato dustup during practice, presumably over Duron Carter not getting the ball enough from Rakeem Cato (the last time they played together over the course of an entire game, Carter got three targets) – or perhaps Carter was holding Cato partially responsible for the Glenn’s then-imminent departure. One can freely assume that the five catches Carter managed in this one won’t necessary settle matters, either.
Meanwhile, the distinctly anti-soap operatic BC Lions took care of business: Jonathon Jennings was mighty impressive with his stat line of 24-for-33 passing, 341 yards and one TD. Brian Burnham continued his fantastic season with 138 yards on six catches; Manny Arceneaux added a TD.
The real stud, though, was Jeremiah Johnson: If the Montreal defense has shown weakness this season, it’s been against the run. After this game, the Als are statistically dead last in the category at 107.0 per game (8th worst are the Argonauts at 94.5) – and Johnson exploited this to the tune of 159 yards on 16 carries – that’s a crazy 9.9 yards per carry. Beattie Feathers numbers!
Winnipeg Blue Bombers 17, Saskatchewan Roughriders 10. Full disclosure: The is the first CFL game I’ve missed this season in its entirety. My Rouge, White & Blue CFL Podcast co-host Joe Pritchard assured me that I didn’t miss much beyond “a lot of mistakes, a lot of penalties.” Sheesh, 26 flags thrown? Uh, yeah … we’ll call this one Must Miss CFL.
The South also notes that after another pick-free game, Matt Nichols has thrown just *one* interception since taking over as starter and precipitating the Bombers’ current 6-0 run.
And the Andrew Harris injury. Ouch.
Weird Canadian News Story of the Week. Another story about disenfranchised American boat people came out of Canada this week, but all the weirdness in this weird story comes from Stateside. With an air mattress from Walmart and a 2×4, John Bennett of Maine attempted to cross the border into New Brunswick. The Mainiac was apparently motivated by a desire to reunite with his pregnant Canadian girlfriend who was reportedly being “threatened by her ex-boyfriend.”
Jokes and kidding aside, Bennett was last week sentenced in Canadian court to two months in jail. The point here, my fellow Americans, is that if you’re seeking to expatriate yourself to the Great White North, don’t be a potentially dangerous wacko.
Calgary Stampeders 34, Edmonton Eskimos 28. What can you say about these Calgary Stampeders? For the third time this season, an overtime game. For the bajillionth time this season, the Stamps ended up in the game of the week. Know this: These Stampeders can’t be bargained with. They can’t be reasoned with. And they absolutely will not stop until you are dead. Okay, that’s actually from The Terminator, but these guys are just about as unkillable as Schwarzenegger’s cyborg.
Seriously, the Edmonton Eskimos kept applying what appeared to be dagger after dagger to Calgary, but the terminator rose again. The Eskimos dominated the first half and controlled time of possession in the fourth quarter. Almando Sewell and Jabari Hunt’s crushing sack of Bo Levi Mitchell with 5½ minutes left would have eliminated lesser QBs. The final Esks drive over 1:15 wasn’t pretty, but effective enough to get Sean Whyte a long field goal. Even luck was on the Calgary side with a just-miss.
And the Esks even managed to take an 8-0 lead in the “mini-game” overtime format. Nope, that wasn’t enough, either.
Some folks may say they’re too machine-like, that they don’t have the flashy WRs (like Arceneaux or Carter) or the big names on defense (like the BC Lions), but damn if these guys don’t personify the CFL’s much-hyped “No Lead Is Safe” sloganry. Is there any better team to watch?
Toronto Argonauts 33, Hamilton Tiger-Cats 21. Again, the Ticats played one half – or rather, one quarter, with 20 of the team’s 21 points coming in the second quarter. Thus did the Toronto Argonauts pull off the upset over the uneven Tiger-Cats before reported attendance of 17,214 (read: Judging by the low-angle shots that TSN ran, probably not that many).
Among the oddities of the 2016 CFL season, Hamilton’s recent bizarre inability to string together four quarters of the sort of football we grew accustomed to in 2015. The South won’t muse further on this particular mystery – yet.
But, hey, giving credit where it’s due, the Toronto defense got things done in this one. The Argos have lived and died by the turnover this season and certainly did so in this game: Two interceptions plus three fumble recoveries can win most competent teams most games.
Argos fans (at least 17,000, right?) have been treated to some steady improvement on the defensive side, with the D going from the league’s most generous to 3rd worst in yardage allowed and entering this game giving up just about 389 total offensive yards. This week, the Argos allowed 356 from the Ticats, with only 300 passing from Zach Collaros, who was pressured all game. The stats say one sack? The stats fail to show the efficacy here.
On the offensive side, the Argonauts were led by backeup QB Dan LeFevour, who completed 75% of his passes to … no, I’m sorry. I just can’t get past this. Wasn’t this the guy who hasn’t won a game since July 2014? Who was knocked out of the 2015 season within Montreal’s first drive of the year? Who asked for his release from the Alouettes despite being the most talented among the lot out there to try his hand at something called Major League Football? How is this not a much bigger story?!?!?!?!
Also, Shawn Lemon is now certifiably a badass.
Stats OF The Week To Get Tiger-Cats Fans Calculating. Since Collaros’s return, Hamilton is 1-2 against the West. This season, they’re 2-4 against the West.
Since Collaros left the game in week 13 in 2015, the Ticats are 3-7 against the West and just 1-7 against West teams not named the Saskatchewan Roughriders; they’re 7-11 overall (8-12 including playoffs) in that span. Three of the Ticats’ final seven games are against West teams.
Not sure what all that adds up to, but, well, it is what it is and all that.
Rod Black’s Weekly Crime Against The English Language. Rather than review Mr. Black’s latest tongue-twisting, mind-bending malapropisms, the South would like to introduce those Americans not-in-the-know who are interested in both CFL football and accelerating cirrhosis of the liver to a swell little diversion involving alcohol.
Seemingly tweeted with every TSN broadcast of the CFL featuring ol’ Rod (and with good reason) is the Official Rod Black Drinking Game. Some variants are also known to exist, but the “Official” version is certainly the only way to follow all the rules after the first quarter.
Simply put, this thing is not only hilarious but guaranteed to get you wasted, hammered, ripped, destroyed, messed up, wrecked, intoxicated, inebriated, impaired, blitzed, blotto and hoo boy, do we have a lot aof synonyms for “drunk” in English.
At this point, The South might traditionally write some disclaimer advising to “always play the Rod Black Drinking Game responsibly,” but that must be impossible.
Canadians in the NFL. Props to DT David Onyemata, a top-three Canadian prospect going into the 2016 drafts. Onyemata didn’t start the game for the New Orleans Saints, as he’s listed behind Sheldon Rankins on the depth chart, but the former University of Manitoba Bison was on the field for nearly one-third of plays in the game against the Oakland Raiders, and tallied one tackle assist.
Meanwhile, Luke Willson of the Seattle Seahawks, perhaps Canada’s most well-known NFL player among US fans, made surprisingly little contribution in Seattle’s surprisingly low-watt 12-10 win over the Miami Dolphins, getting just four targets within Russell Wilson’s 43 attempts and nabbing two catches.
And as for next week’s CFL games…
Montreal Alouettes at Hamilton Tiger-Cats. You’d think that Toronto set the blueprint (so to speak) for beating Hamilton, i.e. lots of pass rush to keep Collaros’s feet unsteady while his weapons downfield are covered. And the Alouettes defense is definitely capable of playing that game. But that offense. That Glenn-less offense with starting QB and star WR clashing? Ugh. Hamilton wins.
My Favorite and Least-Favorite Fantasy Players (This Week). Not to rip on Hamilton any more, but c’mon, Zach Collaros, the pitiful Rouge, White & Blue fantasy team needs a lot more than 21 points out of you…
By contrast, The South sends kudos to Derel Walker, whose 164 yards receiving (and whoa, how about that game-opening 104-yarder?) and eight points scored translated out to 45 points in the Fantaseh format, more than enough to get my team past Pritchard’s in our CFL USA league.
Toronto Argonauts at Winnipeg Blue Bombers. A coin flip. Can the Argos squeeze a turnover out of the stingy Bombers? (With just 17 turnovers through 11 games, only the Stampeders with 13 have fewer.) Will Andrew Harris the workhorse play against a pretty porous Bombers run D? Can LeFevour reproduce last week’s results? The coin is flipped, the result is heads. Argonauts win.
Ottawa RedBlacks at Calgary Stampeders. Well, if anyone’s gonna beat Calgary, it’s gonna be the last team the 2016 Stampeders couldn’t beat, the RedBlacks, after a bye week – and armed with recent Calgary castoff Taylor Reed, no less. Sure, it’s possible, but The South is simply not getting off this horse. Calgary wins, but taking Ottawa plus 8½ points on a pointspread bet sounds pretty reasonable…
Edmonton Eskimos at Saskatchewan Roughriders. The Chris Jones bandwagon is just about empty at this point, and it feels as though the most the Riders might do in playing out the 2016 string is mess with Hamilton’s playoff spot (see Stat Of The Week above). So, yeah, Eskimos win.
However, Esks backers better enjoy this victory, because one seriously difficult stretch of schedule awaits. After this, it’s vs BC Lions, at Winnipeg, at Montreal, bye week, at BC Lions, at Hamilton and vs Toronto. Is it such a stretch to imagine a 7-10 mark going into what would be a very strange week 20 playoff-decider? Start sweating, Edmonton.
Next week: Toronto gets LeFevour and several other excruciating puns.