CFL Previews - Week 10 - August 29-September 1
From The Sports Network
By Gregg Xenakes, CFL Editor
Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) -
OTTAWA REDBLACKS (1-7) AT MONTREAL ALOUETTES (1-7)
DATE & TIME: Friday, August 29, 7:30 p.m. (ET).
GAME NOTES: A couple of teams with a combined two victories entering Week 10 action get together at Percival Molson Stadium on Friday night, as the Montreal Alouettes entertain the expansion Ottawa RedBlacks.
The RedBlacks were expected to have some growing pains this season, but Montreal wasn't supposed to be this bad as both clubs hold down last place in the East Division at a mere 1-7. Funny thing is, even with such poor ledgers to this point in the campaign, the teams are just four points out of first in a very disappointing division.
Montreal, which has dropped six in a row since defeating British Columbia by a score of 24-9 at home in early July, was defeated by Winnipeg for the second time this season last Friday, 24-16.
With quarterback Troy Smith making a trip to the six-game injured list, the Als called on Alex Brink to lead them against the Blue Bombers, but he soon found himself on the bench after converting 5-of-7 passes for a mere 14 yards. The Als then inserted Jonathan Crompton into the game and he too struggled to get the offense into gear.
Crompton managed to hit on 18-of-29 passes for 266 yards, but he was sacked two times and had three interceptions. Outside of a one-yard TD run by quarterback Tanner Marsh in the third quarter, the 371 yards of offense produced by Montreal were largely empty. Kicker Sean Whyte tried to give the team a fighting chance as he converted 3-of-4 field goals and finished with 10 points in yet another losing effort.
In the case of the RedBlacks, they hosted Calgary over the weekend and at least got off on the right foot when Jonathan Williams returned an interception 35 yards for a major less than two minutes into the first quarter to account for the first points of the contest. Unfortunately, Ottawa was never heard from offensively, as the club produced a mere 197 yards, while being flagged 11 times for a loss of 92 yards.
Quarterback Henry Burris connected on 12-of-23 passes for a mere 113 yards, was picked off once and sacked three times as he aimed to work his way up the CFL's all-time passing list. Burris, who was credited with a mere 39 passing yards in the first half, hit Dobson Collins on a slant for 15 yards to midfield on the final play of the third quarter, sending the signal caller into third place on the all-time CFL passing list. The Temple product, now with 53,273 passing yards, trails only Anthony Calvillo (79,816 yards) and Damon Allen (72,381) in CFL history.
The glory for Burris was short-lived as he took a bench in the fourth quarter in favor of backup Thomas DeMarco, but that experiment had dire consequences. DeMarco, who proceeded to misfire on several passes, was subjected to a low hit to his left leg with just over a minute remaining in regulation and was subsequently carted off.
On Monday it was announced DeMarco was done for the season and was in need of surgery to fix an ACL injury to his left knee.
As if all of that were not enough for the RedBlacks, defensive tackle Keith Shologan also left Sunday's game with a knee injury and is being listed as questionable for the meeting with Montreal.
After eight games, Ottawa is scoring a mere 15.8 ppg and while that sounds absolutely dreadful in a league that is built around giving offenses plenty of advantages, the number leaves the RedBlacks next-to-last in that department. The only team worse at scoring points at the moment is Montreal with just 15.6 ppg.
Unfortunately for Ottawa, it is currently combining one of the weakest offenses with the most porous defense, giving up 28.9 ppg. Again, the RedBlacks are not that far removed from where the Als are in that category, with Montreal surrendering 27.1 ppg.
While the RedBlacks are new to the league this year, there have been previous CFL teams that called Ottawa home, which is why there is a history between these two cities on the football field. Dating back to 1946 and taking into consideration only regular-season meetings, Ottawa owns an 87-70-4 edge in the all-time series with the Als.
However, Montreal has won two straight and seven of the last eight clashes, including a 43-23 victory in Ottawa back on Oct. 29, 2005.
The teams are set to meet two more times during the 2014 regular season, with Ottawa hosting the Als on Sept. 26 and then again a month later during Week 18 play.
With so many questions about both of these teams less than midway through the season, there's no telling how this meeting might turn out. But at least the RedBlacks know that Burris is capable of bouncing back and being a reliable contributor again, at least as much as he needs to be in order to defeat this week's hosts.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Ottawa 23, Montreal 20.
WINNIPEG BLUE BOMBERS (6-3) AT SASKATCHEWAN ROUGHRIDERS (6-2)
DATE & TIME: Sunday, August 31, 4 p.m. (ET).
GAME NOTES: In the highly-competitive West Division of the CFL there is very little room for error, something both the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Saskatchewan Roughriders are keenly aware of as they do battle at Mosaic Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Both teams have amassed 12 points in the standings thanks to six wins, although the Blue Bombers have played one more game than Saskatchewan. Both squads are trailing Edmonton and Calgary which are tied for first in the division with records of 7-1, although they are set to face off against each other in Week 10 action as well.
Since falling to Toronto and British Columbia in the second and third games of the season, respectively, the Riders have rebounded and picked up some momentum, thanks in part to a 20-16 victory over the Lions last Sunday. Against a team whose president (Dennis Skulsky) guaranteed a win or would offer free tickets to a future game to all in attendance, it was offensive lineman Dan Clark who played the hero for the Riders as he caught a one-yard touchdown pass from Tino Sunseri for the game-winning score.
Sunseri, who finished the meeting 8-of-13 for 86 yards, came on in relief of starting quarterback Darian Durant after the later experienced an apparent injury to his throwing hand and took a seat on the bench. Durant was 9-of-15 for 104 yards through the air. On the ground, it was Will Ford who ran for a game-high 108 yards on 10 carries as the Riders put up 228 yards on 31 attempts, compared to just 56 yards for the Lions.
Defensively, Saskatchewan limited the hosts to a mere 229 yards of total offense and watched BC suffered 12 penalties for a loss of 104 yards. The Riders got the job done even while John Chick was being double-teamed most of the day. The league leader in sacks with 12, was limited to just a single tackle in the match.
It was slow going for the Blue Bombers in the first half against Montreal last Friday night, as the hosts scored just a single point on a 46-yard kick by Lirim Hajrullahu in the first quarter. The squad began to show signs of life in the third quarter thanks to a one-yard punt block return for a touchdown by Don Unamba, putting them on the road to a 24-16 victory at home.
Nic Grigsby added a 26-yard TD run in the fourth and Hajrullahu three successful field goals as Winnipeg secured the victory over a hapless Montreal squad.
Drew Willy converted a total of just 14 passes for 200 yards, was intercepted once and sacked three times.
The defense for the Bombers limited Alex Brink, the Montreal starting quarterback, to just 14 total yards on 5-of-7 passing. Because of that, the Als turned to Jonathan Crompton to finish out the meeting and Winnipeg ended up sacking him twice and picking off three of his pass attempts.
Willy didn't have his best game the last time out for the Bombers, but still he ranks second in the league in passing yards (2,358) and has an efficiency rating of 90.6, a mark that exceeds that of Durant (86.1) who has completed only 60.1 percent of his passes and has almost as many INTs (five) as TDs (seven).
Saskatchewan won the first meeting of the season earlier this month by a score of 23-17 on the road, which means the Riders have now taken six of the last seven matchups and 11 of 13 versus the Bombers overall.
In terms of a more detailed history between the clubs, Winnipeg is ahead by a count of 128-98-4 when tracing back regular-season matchups to 1936.
One of these teams will have a shot at revenge just seven days following this meeting as they get together in Winnipeg for the third and final regular- season clash.
This is a game that could easily hinge on the availability and level of play of Durant. Winnipeg's defense showed signs of life last week, but it should be noted that the strong play came against a woeful Montreal squad and not too much stock should be put into what the Bombers accomplished in that particular meeting. Still, at least Winnipeg didn't stumble against the Alouettes as it tries to keep pace in the division standings.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Winnipeg 23, Saskatchewan 18.
TORONTO ARGONAUTS (3-6) AT HAMILTON TIGER-CATS (1-6)
DATE & TIME: Monday, September 1, 1 p.m. (ET).
GAME NOTES: The Hamilton Tiger-Cats begin life without starting quarterback Dan LeFevour, as the team hosts Toronto at Tim Hortons Field on Monday afternoon.
Back on Aug. 16 as the 'Cats were hosting the Calgary Stampeders, LeFevour suffered a torn ACL in his left knee, exiting late as his team suffered the 30-20 setback. The loss was the third in a row for a Hamilton squad that, despite being a meager 1-6 on the campaign, is actually listed as the second- place team in the East Division behind a Toronto squad that has three victories in nine opportunities.
With LeFevour on the shelf, it appears as though Jeremiah Masoli will step up and direct the offense, although nothing is set in stone. The Ole Miss product did come on in relief two weeks ago, converting 7-of-10 passes for 68 yards, but he also tossed a costly interception late in the meeting that sealed Hamilton's fate.
Not only are the Ticats missing out on LeFevour's arm moving forward, as he was 67.8 percent accurate with his passes, they also lose one of the top running quarterbacks in the league who was responsible for 314 yards and four touchdowns on the ground.
In addition to Masoli, who has thrown for 305 yards and has more interceptions (three) than touchdowns (two) in his brief CFL career, the Tiger-Cats also have Stephen McGee on the active roster as an option at quarterback. However McGee, who was selected by the Dallas Cowboys in the fourth round of the 2009 NFL Draft, has yet to see any game action north of the border.
Last week, the Argonauts fell behind 31-10 at the half against Edmonton on the road and while they made a late push to make the score more respectable, the squad could not overcome costly turnovers in the 41-27 final. With the setback, the team's second straight, they have a mere six points on the season, yet that's still more than enough to keep them in first place in the division.
Ricky Ray, who was under constant pressure as he aimed to become the latest quarterback in CFL history to reach 50,000 passing yards for his career, finished 25-of-43 for 277 yards and two touchdowns. However Ray, who now needs 92 more passing yards to reach a milestone only five others have previously; Anthony Calvillo with 79,816 yards, Damon Allen (72,371), Ottawa's Henry Burris (53,273), Danny McManus (53,255) and Ron Lancaster (50,353), was sacked five times and had two of his three interceptions returned for touchdowns.
In addition to five total turnovers, Toronto did not do itself any favors by being flagged for 12 penalties, amounting to a loss of 94 yards.
Giving the Argos some measure of hope during the contest was kicker Swayze Waters who finished with 14 points as he made all four of his field goal chances and delivered an 80-yard single in the fourth frame.
The Argos got Chad Owens back on the field last Saturday, and he recorded seven catches for a game-high 92 yards and a major, but he was hit awkwardly in the opening moments of the fourth quarter and did not return. While an MRI found no serious damage to the knee of Owens, head coach Scott Milanovich doesn't expect the sprite superstar to suit up this week.
In addition to Owens not seeing the field for the Argos, the same goes for defensive back Dwight Anderson who was released earlier this week. Anderson, a CFL West All-Star in four of the last five seasons, had registered 27 tackles, including three sacks.
The Argos are hoping they can make some improvements on the defensive side of the ball with a series of recent cuts, a necessary evil if the program expects to do better than giving up 27.7 ppg (second-most in the league).
Over the long-term relationship between these two squads, Hamilton owns a 125-91-2 advantage in regular-season battles reaching back to 1950. The Tiger- Cats won the most recent meeting last October by a score of 24-18 in Guelph, giving them two straight triumphs versus Toronto.
The teams have two more meetings on the books this season, with Toronto hosting on both Oct. 10 and 25.
Even though Hamilton is playing at home and has had an extra week to prepare for this meeting, the change in quarterback and the uncertainty of the offense makes a win for the hosts highly unlikely.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Toronto 28, Hamilton 17.
EDMONTON ESKIMOS (7-1) AT CALGARY STAMPEDERS (7-1)
DATE & TIME: Monday, September 1, 4:30 p.m. (ET).
GAME NOTES: The Labour Day Classic takes on a whole new meaning this time around as the top two teams in the CFL battle it out for league supremacy when the Calgary Stampeders welcome the Edmonton Eskimos to McMahon Stadium on Monday afternoon.
For Edmonton, this will be an opportunity for revenge, given that the team's only loss thus far in 2014 came against the Stamps at home back on July 24 by a score of 26-22. Since that setback, Edmonton has rattled off three straight wins and is tied with Calgary for the best record in the league entering Week 10 action.
Last Friday, the Eskimos appeared to be well on their way to a comfortable win against visiting Toronto, putting up a 31-10 lead at the break, but the team was held scoreless in the third quarter and needed a late interception return for a touchdown to give them some breathing room in the 41-27 final.
Starting quarterback Mike Reilly, the main reason why Edmonton is off to such a strong start in 2014, suffered an apparent hand injury in the first quarter and never returned, leaving Matt Nichols to handle the passing responsibilities the rest of the way. Nichols completed 15-of-28 attempts for 178 yards and a score, was picked off twice and sacked three times.
Third-string quarterback Pat White, who also appeared on special teams, carried the ball four times for 23 yards and a score, while Kendial Lawrence responded with six carries for a game-high 91 yards and a major as well.
The defense for the Eskimos stepped up in a big way as they recorded three interceptions of Ricky Ray, two of which were returned for touchdowns, not to mention recovering two of three forced fumbles as well. Dexter McCoil had two picks and Odell Willis finished with one INT and two sacks for the Esks. For his efforts, McCoil was named the CFL Defensive Player of the Week.
For the Stamps, a team which fell to British Columbia by a single point (25-24) at home back on Aug. 1, they too are enjoying a three-game win streak at the moment, thanks to a 32-7 thumping of the expansion Ottawa RedBlacks last weekend.
Quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell, who has now won 10 of his first 11 CFL starts dating back to last season, converted 16-of-29 passes for 266 yards in the victory. The game also saw the return of running back Jon Cornish who ran for 74 yards on 16 carries. Joe West, playing with a heavy heart after learning of the death of his brother, accounted for four receptions for 129 yards on the day as well.
West was honored as the CFL's Offensive Player of the Week for his unwavering efforts on the field.
Also having a day to remember was Sederrick Cunningham who not only scored his first CFL major on a 20-yard run in the fourth quarter, but he followed that up minutes later with a 67-yard punt return for a score as well.
While the Calgary offense was generating a massive 458 yards, the defense was easily handling the RedBlacks, limiting the hosts to a mere 197 yards, sending starting quarterback Henry Burris to the bench and then taking out backup Thomas DeMarco with a season-ending ACL injury.
The Stamps are at the top of the CFL scoring list currently with 27.9 ppg, but not that far behind is second-place Edmonton with 26.8 ppg. Obviously, both programs know how to put points on the board, so it could come down to which defense makes the bigger plays this week.
Both sides are giving up less than 300 ypg, with the Esks leading the league in that department with just 273.6 ypg surrendered. Another key stat to keep in mind is turnovers, with Calgary being one of two teams (Saskatchewan) that is in double digits in terms of turnover margin, with a plus-11. Not to be overlooked is an aggressive pass defense for the Eskimos that has produced a league-high 13 interceptions, thanks in large part to McCoil and his recent exploits.
On the offensive side of things, Mitchell is currently fourth in the league in passing yards with 1,958, but thanks to 12 TDs and just four INTs, his 98.8 efficiency rating is tops among starters heading into action this week. Providing the signal caller with even more fire power is the return of receiver Maurice Price to the active roster after missing seven games with a broken hand.
As far as the all-time series between the clubs is concerned, Edmonton is ahead by a count of 123-90-3 in regular-season bouts dating back to 1949. However, Calgary has rattled off nine straight wins in the relationship and has come out victorious in 15 of the most recent 17 meetings.
The squads will be right back at it five days after this encounter, meeting in Edmonton on Sept. 6.
The big question this week is the status of Reilly for the Eskimos. Even if he is able to play, there's no guarantee that he will be operating at 100 percent, which is enough of a reason to lean towards the hosts this time around.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Calgary 27, Edmonton 21.
2014 Sports Network Predictions: 22-15. Last Week's Results: 3-1.
08/27 12:55:44 ET