CFL Previews - Week 8 - August 15-17
From The Sports Network
By Scott Haynes/Nick DeLorenzo/Phil Neuffer, CFL Editors
Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) -
EDMONTON ESKIMOS (5-1) AT OTTAWA REDBLACKS (1-5)
DATE & TIME: Friday, August 15, 7:30 p.m. (ET).
GAME NOTES: The Edmonton Eskimos continue their strong start to the 2014 CFL season, as they take on the expansion Ottawa RedBlacks on Friday evening at TD Place.
The Eskimos are 5-1 on the season and sit atop the Western Division standings with Calgary.
Edmonton's lone loss came on July 24 against Stampeders (26-22), but after a bye week, the team got back to its winning ways last week with a 33-23 win at Montreal.
Winning has not come easy for the RedBlacks, who are just 1-5 on the campaign. The good news however, is that the team is still very much in the hunt in the East Division standings, as Toronto (3-4) holds just a game and a half lead after Tuesday's big win over Winnipeg.
The RedBlacks' lone win came on July 18 against the Argonauts, as the team enters this contest with a three-game losing streak in tow, including last week's 38-17 setback at Calgary.
Edmonton showed no rust following a week off, as the Esks blew the doors off the Alouettes early on, scoring 30 first-half points and cruising to a 33-23 victory at Percival Molson Stadium.
Quarterback Mike Reilly completed 15-of-22 passes, for 208 yards and two touchdowns. John White made the most of his touches, as he carried the ball just seven times, but amassed 102 yards and one touchdown. Fellow running back Kendial Lawrence was productive as well, rushing for 55 yards on five carries, while catching four balls, for 68 yards and a score. Wide receiver Adarius Bowman continued his strong season with seven receptions, for 81 yards and a touchdown. Bowman came into the week as the CFL's leading receiver with 440 yards on 35 receptions, with five TDs.
The Edmonton offense has been strong this season, coming into the week ranking third in the CFL at 352.3 yards per game. Some of the credit to the fast start has to go to a league-leading defensive effort as well, with Edmonton sitting atop the CFL in total defense, allowing just 286 yards per game, while ranking second in both rush defense (87.0 ypg) and pass defense (199.0 ypg).
Defensive tackle Almondo Sewell has been a force in the middle of the line, leading the team and tied and second in the league in sacks with six. Defensive end Odell Willis is right behind him with five.
While the Eskimos have flourished on both sides of the football, Ottawa has languished. The RedBlacks ranks seventh in the league in total offense at 335.2 ypg, and are dead last in total defense, yielding an unforgiving 417.6 ypg.
Quarterback Henry Burris has played to mixed reviews with Ottawa, completing 58.1 percent of his passes, for 1,379 yards, with five touchdowns against five interceptions.
In the lopsided loss to Calgary last week, Burris was an effective 20-of-29 passing for 281 yards, but he had just one TD pass and two interceptions. Most of that production went to wide receiver Wallace Miles, who caught five balls, for 102 yards and a touchdown.
The defensive effort was once again lacking, as Calgary QB Bo Levi Mitchell passed for 289 yards and three TDs in the game. One bright spot defensively for the RedBlacks was the play of linebacker Jasper Simmons, who finished with nine tackles and one interception.
Edmonton has won four straight meetings with teams from Ottawa and now holds a 38-21-2 record in regular-season matchups since 1961. That includes a 27-11 victory back on July 11.
Not much has changed for either team since that first meeting. Expect the Eskimos to once again make light work of the RedBlacks behind strong efforts on both sides of the ball.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Edmonton 31, Ottawa 13.
CALGARY STAMPEDERS (5-1) AT HAMILTON TIGER-CATS (1-5)
DATE & TIME: Saturday, August 16, 3 p.m. (ET).
GAME NOTES: The Calgary Stampeders will attempt keep pace atop the West Division standings on Saturday afternoon when they travel to Ron Joyce Stadium to take on the struggling Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
The Stamps have come storming out of the gate this season with wins in five of their first six games, which has them tied for first place in the West with Edmonton. After suffering its first loss of the season on Aug. 1, Calgary bounced back at home last Saturday with an easy 38-17 victory over Ottawa, and now it heads back out on the road looking to win its third straight away game.
Hamilton has undoubtedly been one of the most disappointing teams in the CFL this season. A season removed from an appearance in the Grey Cup Final, the Ticats have floundered, opening up just 1-5. Their 36-29 loss to British Columbia on Aug. 8 was their second consecutive setback (and their fourth this season coming by seven points or fewer), but the silver lining is that they are situated in the much-inferior East Division, where they are only a game and a half behind Toronto (3-4) for first place.
The teams squared off in Calgary back on July 18, with a fourth-quarter field goal lifting the Stamps to a 10-7 victory, their fifth straight win over the Ticats.
Calgary won last week's contest fairly easily behind another outstanding performance from Bo Levi Mitchell, who threw for 289 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for another major. The third-year signal caller has been excellent this year, completing 62.8 percent of his passes for 1,421 yards. He's also tied for the league lead in touchdown passes (11) and has tossed only two interceptions.
Marquay McDaniel was Mitchell's preferred receiving target last week, hauling in nine passes for 117 yards and a touchdown. McDaniel now has 24 receptions for 308 yards and three scores on the season, and he and Jeff Fuller (23 receptions, 307 yards, four TDs) make up a formidable receiving duo.
The Stamps do not feature a true lead back but instead get solid production from a rotation of rushers. Matt Walter (139 yards) and Jock Sanders (136 yards) have earned the most work, while Martell Mallett (132 yards) has been the most explosive with 7.8 yards per carry.
While Calgary's offensive production ranks in the middle of the CFL pack (341.2 ypg), it has shined on the defensive side of the ball, ranking third in allowing just 321.6 ypg, which includes the top-ranked passing defense (198.2 ypg).
Brandon Smith anchors the unit in the defensive backfield, as he ranks second in the CFL in tackles with 32. Linebacker Juwan Simpson has also been a solid stopper with 22 tackles.
Joining Smith in arguably the league's most talented secondary are Joshua Bell and Fred Bennett, who have both collected a pair of interceptions on the young season.
Leading the pass-rush is Charleston Hughes, whose six sacks ranks second in the league behind only John Chick of the Roughriders (nine). Freddie Bishop III, Micah Johnson and Simpson also have multiple sacks.
Hamilton's lackluster season has been well-represented in the league standings, as its total offense (331.5 ypg) and total defense (374.2 ypg) both rank eighth in the league.
Dan LeFevour was solid under center in last week's loss, completing 23-of-34 passes for 298 yards, while also turning nine carries into 103 yards and a touchdown. The Ticats appear to have found their answer at quarterback after Jeremiah Masoli (14-of-35, 225 yards, TD, two INTs) and Zach Collaros (23- of-41, 212 yards, TD, two INTs) both struggled early in the season. LeFevour also has more interceptions (three) than touchdown passes (two), but he has completed more than 67 percent of his passes is an outstanding threat out of the pocket with 272 rushing yards and four majors.
Samuel Giguere showed outstanding big-play ability last week by racking up 130 yards on just three receptions, upping his yearly totals to 16 catches for 248 yards in the process. Rounding out the deep group of pass-catchers are C.J. Gable (30 receptions, 138 yards, two TDs), Luke Tasker (17 receptions, 208 yards, TD) and Cary Koch (13 receptions, 199 yards).
The Ticats' running backs were lost in the gameplan against BC their last time out, rushing just three times for -3 yards. Gable is typically a solid rusher, as he's added 30 carries for 138 yards and two scores to his impressive receiving totals.
Defensively, Hamilton has allowed 28.6 ppg in the three contests since allowing only 10 points to Calgary last month.
Simoni Lawrence is in the midst of a breakout campaign at linebacker, as his 31 tackles ranks third in the league and is already more than halfway to his career high of 52 set last season. Rico Murray has also been solid at linebacker, collecting 18 tackles while picking off two passes.
Hamilton's pass-rush has been virtually non-existent. The defense has just three sacks in six games, with Bryan Hall recording two of those.
As the last line of defense, Brandon Stewart (22 tackles) and Emanuel Davis (20 tackles) have been put to the test on a defense that gives up the most passing yards per game (278.8).
After the Hamilton nearly downed the Stamps in Calgary last month, it will carry some confidence into this matchup on its home turf, but the Stamps have stepped up their play on the road this season with strong wins at Toronto (34-15) and Edmonton (26-22). Inserting LeFevour as the full-time starting quarterback should allow the Ticats to improve as the season goes on, but Calgary is the more talented team in this matchup and should once again overcome its road surroundings.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Calgary 28, Hamilton 24.
MONTREAL ALOUETTES (1-5) AT SASKATCHEWAN ROUGHRIDERS (4-2)
DATE & TIME: Saturday, August 16, 7 p.m. (ET)
GAME NOTES: With just a single win on the season, the Montreal Alouettes will challenge the defending Grey Cup champion Saskatchewan Roughriders in a clash of East and West Division squads at Mosaic Stadium.
Interestingly enough, the Alouettes hold a better positioning in their division than the Roughriders, although the records would not indicate it. The West's absolute dominance over the East, has all five teams in the group with a record above .500, with the Roughriders sitting in third place at 4-2. Meanwhile, over in the East Division, which is led by 3-4 Toronto, Montreal is tied for second place with Hamilton and Ottawa.
The Alouettes dropped their fourth straight game this past Friday, falling 33-23 to Edmonton, despite a mad rush in the second half. Montreal trailed 30-8 at halftime, but outscored the Eskimos 15-3 in the final two quarters, including a 12-point eruption in the fourth quarter. It was not enough for the squad, which is last in the CFL in total offense (274.7 ypg).
The Troy Smith experiment continued last Friday for Montreal, with the former Ohio State standout completing 20-of-45 pass attempts for 231 yards and a touchdown to match an interception. This season, the second of Smith's CFL career, has gone poorly as he has completed only 47.7 percent of his pass attempts for 989 yards, while throwing as many touchdowns as interceptions (four). Smith's troubles leave Montreal as the worst passing team in the entire league (177.7 ypg).
That has called for a change, as Montreal has made some changes in regards to the offense. Former NFL quarterback Jeff Garcia has moved from consultant to quarterbacks coach, while former Boise State quarterback Ryan Dinwiddie is the new offensive coordinator. On the field, Smith will be replaced by Alex Brink under center for Saturday's game.
Running the ball has come a bit easier for the Alouettes. Spearheaded by Brandon Whitaker, who is second in the CFL in rushing yards (378), Montreal ranks fourth in the CFL in yards on the ground (97 pg). Whitaker racked up 79 yards on 15 carries against Edmonton. The six-year veteran also brought in three passes for 48 yards and a touchdown.
Duron Carter also had a standout game against Edmonton. A former Buckeye himself, Carter hauled in 10 passes for 112 yards, both game-highs, as he more than doubled his production from the first five games of the year. Kenny Stafford (16 receptions, 202 yards, TD) has been the primary target most weeks, although Carter now leads the team in receptions with 17.
Defensively speaking, the Alouettes are not the worst team in the league, but they certainly don't put up enough of a barrier to opposing offenses. The team is seventh in the CFL in total defense (369.3 ypg), primarily due to their inability to stop the run. They are the only team in the CFL to be letting up more than 110 rushing yards per game.
John Bowman has done his part, especially on the pass rush, totaling five sacks to go with 16 tackles. Bowman has had at least 11 sacks in four of the last five seasons and looks well on his way to adding to that total. Chip Cox (29), Kyries Hebert (25), Geoff Tisdale (25) and Marc-Olivier Brouillette all have more than 20 tackles on the campaign.
The second half was also kind to Saskatchewan in its last contest, Facing Winnipeg last Thursday, the Roughriders scored 20 of their 23 points after halftime en route to a 23-17 triumph. The key score of the game came when Terrell Maze intercepted Winnipeg's Drew Willy and returned the ball 28 yards for a touchdown with just over two minutes left in regulation.
The big defensive play made up for a rather sorry offensive game for the Roughriders, who were only able to squeeze out 301 yards of total offense. Of course, Saskatchewan is not a team built on offensive brilliance, grabbing four wins in six games despite ranking sixth in the league in total offense (339.3 ypg).
Darian Durant has not been asked to do too much this season. He is guilty of five interceptions and is completing less than 60 percent of his pass attempts (.595), but he has six touchdown passes and 1,186 passing yards. He only had 115 yards passing against Winnipeg, but he completed a solid 13-of-21 of his attempts.
Durant hasn't needed to make exceptional plays with his arm due to the Roughriders' dedication to the running game. Led by the three-headed backfield of Anthony Allen (241 yards, TD), Will Ford (226 yards, five TDs) and Jerome Messam (140 yards), Saskatchewan is ranked at the very top of the CFL in rushing yards (135.7 ypg). It is one of only three teams that is averaging more than 100 yards per game on the ground. Messam had his best game of the season against Winnipeg, tallying 126 yards on 19 carries.
If running the ball is the offense's strength, then stopping it is the defense's for the Roughriders. They are the third best team in the league in terms of rushing yards allowed (94.2 ypg). However, their passing defense has been much more suspect, as they let up 273.5 yards per game, which ranks eighth in the CFL. Creating mistakes helped them overcome the 303 yards they allowed to Winnipeg, as Maze's pick was one of three the team had in the victory.
Mark LeGree had two of those interceptions and is now the CFL leader in the category with three on the campaign. As a team the Roughriders have forced 14 turnovers this season.
Getting pressure on the quarterback has certainly helped in that regard. Led by CFL-leader John Chick, who has nine sacks this season, the Roughriders have an astounding 26 quarterback takedowns. Tearrius George (five), Ricky Foley (four) and Derek Walker (three) are all dangerous on the pass rush as well.
Although Montreal is currently the lower team in terms of record, it has been the dominant squad between these two teams all-time, with a record of 38-29-1 against the Roughriders. The Alouettes have also won three of the last four meetings, including a season sweep in 2012.
Saskatchewan plays a style of football that lives up to its namesake, with the team playing tough defense and grinding out yards on the ground. While it is not flashy, it certainly has led to positive results. Expect the Roughriders' ball-hawking and pressure-heavy defense to wreak havoc and be the driving force in an easy victory.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Saskatchewan 31, Montreal 13.
BRITISH COLUMBIA LIONS (4-3) AT TORONTO ARGONAUTS (3-4)
DATE & TIME: Sunday, August 17, 7:30 p.m. (ET).
GAME NOTES: For the second time in five days, the Toronto Argonauts will take the field at Rogers Centre, as they play host to the British Columbia Lions on Sunday evening.
The Argos, who were idle last week, have made up for lost time, as they opened week 8 play in the CFL this past Tuesday by upending the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, 38-21. In the process, the Boatmen avenged an earlier loss to Winnipeg and moved to 3-4 overall, increasing their lead atop the Eastern Division standings.
Despite having a better overall record at 4-3, British Columbia sits in last place in the Western Division standings. However, the Lions enter with a bit of momentum, as they have posted consecutive wins over Calgary (25-24) and most recently, Hamilton (36-29).
The Argonauts scored all of their points in bunches on Tuesday, with 21 points in the second quarter and 17 unanswered points in the fourth frame to blow by the Blue Bombers.
Strong offensive play is nothing new for Toronto, which leads the league in total offense at a hefty 405.9 yards per game.
Toronto quarterback Ricky Ray kept that going and had a huge game against Winnipeg, torching the Blue Bombers for 297 yards and four TD passes, on 26- of-33 passing on Tuesday. Ray spread the ball around to 10 different receivers, four of which hauled in the TD strikes.
Running back Curtis Steele provided some balance with his work out of the backfield, amassing 92 yards and one major on just 10 carries, while adding another score via the pass.
Defensively, the team kept the pressure on Winnipeg, recording five sacks. Defensive back Dwight Anderson had a big game, leading the team with eight total tackles, including a pair of sacks.
In a game that featured several momentum swings, it was the Lions that prevailed last week, holding on for a 36-29 shootout win over Hamilton at BC Place. British Columbia, which trailed 17-3 at the half, rallied, thanks to the play of quarterback Kevin Glenn, who went 22-of-36 passing, for 407 yards and one TD, while rushing for another score. For his efforts, Glenn was named the Offensive Player of the Week.
The Lions had two receivers eclipse the 100-yard mark in the win, with Shawn Gore hauling in five balls, for 117 yards and Emmanuel Arceneaux grabbing four balls, for 103 yards and a score.
Defensive back Ronnie Yell led the team with eight tackles in the win, while half of defensive tackle Alex Bazzie's four stops where sacks. In his first season in the league, Bazzie has already recorded six sacks, ranking second in the league in that category.
On the season, BC ranks second in the league in total defense, yielding just 316.4 yards per game and has been particularly stout against the pass, allowing a mere 206.7 yards per outing (second in the CFL).
Toronto came up huge against the Blue Bombers and hopes to ride that momentum into Sunday's clash with the Lions. However, British Columbia is well rested and that may be the deciding factor in this one.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: British Columbia 27, Toronto 21.
2014 Sports Network Predictions: 15-14. Last Week's Results: 3-2.
08/13 16:54:37 ET