See, Joe? It wasn’t that difficult: You went 4-0 in picking these week’s slate of games, your team won and you still had fun (maybe aside from during that Lions-Argos game).
A little context here. My fellow Grueling Truther and Rouge, White & Blue CFL Podcast co-host Joe Pritchard had the cajones to call this very column out on Twitter for factual inaccuracy. So sayeth the Joe:
— Joe Pritchard (@usfltecmo) June 29, 2017
As it turns out, all the would-be CFL Nostradamus needed to do in week 2 was adjust those expectations shattered and/or simply brought down to Earth in the openers. Not a lot, just a little. This week, View from the South learned not to overrate the extent to which Darien Durant can carry a rather uneven Montreal Alouettes team, for example. And hey, Mike Reilly and the Edmonton Eskimos won the Grey Cup just two seasons ago, right?
After a couple of games, the Stampeders still look like Canadian football’s alpha dogs, but clearly the race to the playoffs will be a lot tighter than in 2016…
Calgary Stampeders 43, Ottawa RedBlacks 39. On the RedBlacks’ first play from scrimmage (and one week after this performance), Trevor Harris connected with Greg Ellingson on an 80-yard touchdown strike. Not long thereafter, Harris fumbled deep in his own territory to set up an Alex Singleton TD. Both of these playes were nullified – the former on a holding penalty, the latter ruled an incomplete pass – which would be a tremendous bummer in any other football game, and surely no one missed these plays on what became a highlight reel of a game.
Once again, Calgary-Ottawa was once again a showcase on everything exciting about Canadian football – #NoLeadIsSafe and all that – for which many individual efforts may be justly lauded: Those of Bo Levi Mitchell (295 yards, 3 TDs, zero picks), Lemar Durant (six catches for 126 yards), Kamar Jorden (two TDs) and Tunde Adeleke (a 71-yeard punt return TD) for the Stamps, Trevor Harris (77%-plus completion rate, 425 yards, 2 TDs, zero picks), the three-headed monster of Ellingson/Sinopoli/Spencer (17 catches for 351 yard), Diontae Spencer again (a *96*-yard punt return TD) and Brett Mahar (4-for-4 in FG attempts) hwere a few who helped make up the prolonged “best of” clip for this game.
Notice any absences from that list? While the Stamps’ herd and the RedBlack Nation may rest assured that their teams will be around come playoff time, should there be some concern for the defenses of these two squads? After all, each has given up at least 70 points and both have *combined* for five turnovers in the two games.
In the “entire” history of these RedBlacks, defense has never been a priority until this offseason. And sure, Khalil Bass led Ottawa in tackles in this game with six, but he was nearly invisible against this same offense in week 1. Such scoreboard-spinning may be nothing new to the RedBlacks, but keeping pace with the Bo Levis of the CFL has already proven to be quite a chore.
The Stampeders are meanwhile already contending with injuries on the defensive side. As of this writing, no word has been released as to whether James Vaughters and Adam Thibault, both knocked out of this game, will return in week 3. They may or may not join a list which already includes DLs Ja’Gared Davis, Cordarro Law, Junior Turner, LBs Beau Landry, Deron Mayo and DB Brandon Smith.
It’s a good thing Bo & Co. can run up the points because they’ll be giving up points in the short-term future…
What Diontae Spencer said. After finishing off a 65-yard reception in the fourth quarter – what would end up as the last points scored in the game – Spencer got some face time on TSN.
Said Diontae: “If you ain’t had a large popcorn, go back to the concession stand and get you another one. Grab you a large drink. Tell you what: It’s a show in Calgary. We’re gonna win this thing, man.”
Absolutely. Except for that very last bit, technically…
BC Lions 28, Toronto Argonauts 15. In diametric opposition to the week’s opener was the BC-Toronto game, a game with no flow, no rhythm, no tempo, all those music-y words we fans use to describe football. The South dares say that BC Lions might have lost to a better team on that day.
On the other side, pity poor Toronto. After a flukey game 1 featuring career days from future CFL Hall of Famers Ricky Ray and S.J. Green, sports fans in the league’s biggest market are already (already!) tuning out for 2017 – this despite the fact that the Blue Jays may as well mail in the rest of their season, as should the Raptors with the NBA free-agency period.
Attendance for this game was listed at just over 11,200, which is a perfectly fine gate – for 1947. For those of you keeping score at home, Toronto is apparently a city of 6.4 million with an average household income of over $68,000 who can’t be bothered to buy one of the CFL’s cheapest tickets in the spiffy new BMO Field. Seriously? What is it, the long recent winning history of the Jays, Maple Leafs and Raptors? Is it the blinding lure of the “home” Buffalo Bills? What?
The Adventures of Jon Jennings, Gunslinger. Cue theme music!
BC Lions fans, you’re gonna have to come to grips with a difficult truth: Your starting quarterback, talented as though he is, is a gunslinger. I know: It’s exciting to have a dude who can improvise at a moment’s notice, who can so effortlessly throw in the run, who is a prime specimen of an *athlete*. And when things are going well, no fan could ask for more than a quarterback at the helm who’s capable of throwing the game-sealing bomb from anywhere behind the line of scrimmage.
When things are going bad, though – and saddled with an OL that’s given up nine sacks total in games against the Eskimos and Argos, two teams not necessarily known for their pass rush – it’s heart attack city, baby.
So Jennings strapped on the holster and six-shooter a couple of time in this game. On the bad side of the “good, bad, ugly” dynamic was an egregious attempt to slip a pass into what looks like triple ocverage that might otherwise have taken the Lions all the way to about 25 yards outside of max field goal range with 13 seconds to go until halftime; check out from 2:50 in this video.
But hey, there’s a positive side to the gunslinger, too. And despite The South’s contention that this one shouldn’t have even been close, who can argue with two drives engineered in the fourth to provide the margin of victory?
Edmonton Eskimos 23, Montreal Alouettes 19. It’s Slowtime!, a.k.a. the Alouettes offense in year 2017. Check out the ratio of 18 rushing attempts to just 24 pass attempts/dropbacks. This strategy could well be dead on arrival in this CFL, however: The result was just 25½ minutes of possession time, a shagged-out fourth-quarter defense and, of course, the loss.
All due credit to the Eskimos D as well. With defensive co-captain LB J.C. Sherritt out due to injury, the Esks were more than happy to let the game come to them, to respond to the Alouettes attack. Note that not a single sack or interception was recorded by the unit in the game.
And then there’s Mike Reilly. For three years, Reilly has schooled us all with one lesson: If you leave him alone, he’ll turn in a performance of, likesay, 27-of-36 for 286 yards performance with zero interceptions, the go-ahead fourth-quarter TD pass and, of course, the win. In the much-publicized 2017 CFL Top 50 voted on by the players, Reilly was listed at no. 2, second only to Bo Levi Mitchell. The South, for one, would like to see that final vote tally; like, how close was it? And were Russian hackers involved? I don’t know for sure, just a lot of people are saying…
Rod Black’s (and Glen Suitor’s!) Crimes against the English Language. During the RedBlacks-Stampeders game, The South gave way to delusions that perhaps someone had tipped off Rod to this column and that he’d decided to be a little more conscientious of his English usage. For throughout the excitement of the week 2 opener, Rod managed to keep his sentences in reasonable order, although the back-and-forth bloviating and metaphor-stretching by he and booth partner Glen Suitor’s was excruciating, through a stream-of-consciouness strewn with stuff about This Rivalry, Marquay McDaniel’s “office” (o wow did that get old superquickly), and “OMG it’s a tie!!!!!1!!1!!11”
Nevertheless, Suitor (or “Suits” as “Rodz” sometimes calls him) was there to mangle the language for the smooth-talking (yeah, surrrrrre) Black while also making us thankful he did not become a doctor:
“I’m not seeing any ill effect on the sore throwing hand and wrist area forearm from Trevor Harris.”
As for Rod, he couldn’t keep up the façade for long and he was calling the Eskimos-Argonauts game the following night. Maybe CFL football isn’t quite as predictable as The South sometimes thinks, but certain predictions are easy.
So Rod Black kept his English-language violations to an admirable minimum last night, but back-to-back games? This could be rough … #CFL
— Os on football (@CFLpass) June 30, 2017
Sure enough! Here’s Rod at the start (the start!) of the ESPN3 edit of the TSN broadcast:
“For the Als, this team won after Saskatchewan missed a field goal in week one. Jason Maas’s team won after they made a field goal. Sean Whyte, who kicks it off here tonight, against BC last week.”
Um … preposition much, Rod?
By the fourth quarter, The South had long given up jotting down Rod’s verbal tomfoolery, so a tip of the hat to @Dave_MSS for immortalizing Rod’s reaction to Travon Van getting stuffed six yards behind the line late in the third quarter.
— Dave (@Dave_MSS) July 1, 2017
Blue Bombers 43, Saskatchewan Roughriders 40 (OT). Wait a second … how did the Riders put up 40 points (37 in regular time)? I’m ready to self-answer that one with “smoke and mirrors.” Kevin Glenn piled up a nice stat line of 36-of-49 for 377 yards and four TDs – yet his long was just 36. Glenn’s average completion in the game went for just under 8 yards (7.92, to be exact). And it’s not like the Bombers couldn’t have known the (short) pass was coming: The Riders managed an incomprehensible eight carries for 13 total yards!
Impressive was the battalion of WRs these Riders have. Just for starters, Glenn was able to distribute to Nic Demski and Bakari Grant (seven receptions each), Namaan Roosevelt and Duron Carter (six each), and Caleb Holly (five). The problem of course is that these guys – and more – are now counted on to play a (predictable) short-field passing game in which they extend plays. Of the five mentioned above, only Demski and Holly are true short-range receivers. The South can only imagine what this group will be like when James Franklin signs next year…
Despite the one side of the ball allowing a shocking 40 points, whoa, that Winnipeg offense sure looked good and composed, not to mention loaded with about a bajillion fantasy-football pickups. Matt Nichols went 23-of-36 for 331 with four TDs against one interceptCion; Weston Dressler and Darvin adams waccounted for 201 of those yards and three of the TDs.
The South knows it’s only one game, but Winnipeg fans need to rejoice. After years of futility, the front office has finally gotten this right, folks, and you’re suddenly supporting a team with eight of the league’s top 50 – more than any other team except Calgary (!).
See, this is the difference between the Blue Bombers, who exceeded expectations and made the playoffs for the first time in, well, long enough, last season, and certain other teams that have caught a wave of way-too-early hype. The Bombers have been built through free-agents and drafting and trading — a mini-Process if you will — unlike the Alouettes and Argonauts who may turn in respectable seasons with slapped-together teams through smarts and veteran talent, but for the Bombers the future is now.
Weird Canadian news story of the week. The nation of Canada celebrated its 150th anniversary over the past weekend, and the sesquicentennial fun seemed to go off without a hitch – or even much weirdness. In fact, the main oddity of this 150th Canada Day was a distinctly non-Canadian item that somehow the Ottawa government deemed deserving of great prominence (and $150,000) during the festivities and throughout 2017.
The “floating sculpture” is a work by artist Florentijn Hofman, who is from the Netherlands, depicting a six-storey rubber duck ot the story originally designed and sold in the 1940s by Peter Ganine, who was a Russian émigré to America.
O, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau forgot Alberta was a thing. At least he didn’t declare it a fake province. #FakeProvince #Sad.
The View From the South CFL power rankings. After week two, The South reckons it the table looks like this:
— Os on football (@CFLpass) July 4, 2017
Can you guess where The South’s going on the Hamilton-Saskatchewan game? Onto that and the rest of next week’s games!
BC Lions (-3) at Montreal Alouettes. Yes, BC Lions are 1-1, but The South sees a lot of negatives still. The same old badly-timed turnovers have joined an offensive line getting owned, a defense clearly missing Adam Bighill, and a special-teams unit that has returned two of 15 punts for more than 10 yards. The South likes Montreal to win; take the points. Bonus prediction: Jonathon Mincy takes advantage of a Jon Jennings miscue.
Calgary Stampeders (-3.5) at Winnipeg Blue Bombers. The Stamps had better not go to sleep against this Bombers offense, but with so many injuries to the defense, what can Calgary do against the Winnipeg armada out there? The South is going with a Stampeders win here, but not with a lot of confidence. An upset would hardly be shocking here.
Toronto Argonauts (+5) at Ottawa RedBlacks. Here’s the thinking the Ottawa defense will be happy to line up across a different 12 this week, especially one with far fewer options in the passing game. The Argos of game 2 were not the Argos of game 1: Ricky Ray (or as Rod Black and most of his compadres at TSN call him, Rickyray) went from 500+ yards against the Tiger-Cats to 327 against the Lions; his WRs went from 172 YA to 113. Rickyray may still be Rickyray, but not even Rickyray can succeed without weapons. This might get ugly. RedBlacks win big.
Hamilton Tiger-Cats (even) at Saskatchewan Roughriders. It’s only been two weeks, it’s only been two weeks goes the mantra implanted in my consciousness by Robert Drummond over at the Grueling Truth CFL Pick ‘Em Show.
Fair enough. But still. Many us agree that the 2017 Hamilton Tiger-Cats just don’t look that good, no?
The South believes that some outside of Rider Nation are going to be unjustifiably surprised – the pointspread offered on this game varies from “pick ‘em” to Hamilton +2, unheard of in modern football betting. Watch Kevin Glenn, who’d rather throw short, get to do exactly that against a Ticat defense that can’t pass rush, can’t drop into coverage and can’t tackle. Zach Collaros – and isn’t it interesting how this name comes up less and less often week to week – may be able to manufacture some drives against a cushy Riders D, but opportunities may be limited. The South says the Roughriders will score points (take the over) and they’ll win significantly.
Next week: View From the South takes a bye week. Hey, this is the CFL. I can do that this early in…