Who's hot and who's not
Hamilton, ON (Sports Network) -
Two weeks of the CFL's regular season are in the books, so it's time to see which teams are real, which aren't and which should be better than their record.
First - BC Lions (2-0)
Yeah it was ugly, but a win is a win. That sums up the Leos' 39-36 victory over Hamilton last week in Vancouver. What turned the tide for the Lions took place late in the second quarter, when they scored 14 points in 20 seconds, one on a touchdown pass from Travis Lulay, then after the kickoff, a Henry Burris pass was intercepted and taken back for a touchdown.
The Lions offense did just enough to win the game, but what excites their fans is the contribution of the special teams. Tim Brown had a total of 296 returns yards, including an 81-yard punt return for a touchdown.
Right now, the defending Grey Cup champions are picking up where they left off, and, for the rest of the CFL, that's scary.
Second - Saskatchewan Roughriders (2-0)
All right, hands up, those of you who expected the Riders to be unbeaten after two games.
In a game that will never be mistaken for a classic, the Riders won their home opener, 17-1 over the Edmonton Eskimos on Sunday.
The defense was most notable in the win. Edmonton's offense was held to just 137 total yards, and part of the reason for that was the way the Riders defense swarmed both Edmonton quarterbacks. Steven Jyles and Kerry Joseph were sacked six times, and Saskatchewan also forced an interception and a fumble.
On the other side of the ball, last week's Offensive Player of the Week, quarterback Darian Durant, struggled early. The Riders punted eight times in their first nine possessions, then Durant became more effective, finishing 20- for-32 for 203 yards.
On Saturday, two unbeaten teams will meet at Mosaic Stadium, when the Riders host the BC Lions. It's obvious the enthusiasm of new head coach Corey Chamblin is contagious and his team is playing well because of it. Credit due.
Am I a believer? Not yet.
Third - Montreal Alouettes (1-1)
Coming off a 38-10, opening-week dismantling by the Calgary Stampeders, there was a lot of curiosity about the Alouettes when they hosted their home opener against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Much of it had to do with quarterback Anthony Calvillo and whether he could rebound from the loss.
So much for curiosity.
Calvillo, completed 31-of-39 passes for 443 yards, three touchdown passes and no interceptions in a 41-30 win over Winnipeg.
Running back Brandon Whitaker led Montreal's receivers with 11 catches for 137 yards and rushed for 98 yards. In total, Montreal racked up 551 yards of net offense.
But, there were a few other things that jumped out from this game.
First, the Als defense better learn how to cover receivers. They were flagged five times for pass interference, three of them taken by cornerback Wopamo Osaisai, who replaced injured Dwight Anderson.
Second, Calvillo again took more hits than he usually does. In fact, he's slated to have an MRI this week and may miss the upcoming game against Calgary.
Third, is the bloom off the rose in Montreal?
Yes, it was hot and steamy night, but only 21,016 fans showed up at Molson Stadium, a few thousand short of a sellout.
With the Als being perennial winners, one has to wonder what is going on.
Fourth - Calgary Stampeders (1-1)
It was d?j? vu for the Stampeders Saturday afternoon in Toronto. Starting quarterback Drew Tate dislocated his left shoulder, the same one that he hurt at the start of the 2011 season, which caused him to miss five of the first seven games.
Enter Kevin Glenn, who the Stamps picked up in an offseason trade with Hamilton. Glenn completed 15-of-19 passes for 172 yards and two touchdowns, in an exciting 39-36 loss to the Argonauts.
And speaking of exciting, Larry Taylor, Calgary's 5-foot-6 returner, racked up 441 all-purpose yards in the 39-26 loss to the Argos, the second-best single- game total in league history.
That total included a 125-yard touchdown run on a missed field goal to tie the game early in the fourth quarter and then a 64-yard punt return to set up another game-tying major late in the contest.
However, in addition to the injury to Tate, the Stamps may have lost defensive back Brandon Smith with a knee injury. Throw in the fact the Stamps are playing their second game in five days when they play in Montreal Thursday night, and the No. 4 ranking may not last long.
But, they've scored 79 points, the best in the league. If they continue to get great production from Taylor, that could give them a shot in Montreal
Fifth - Toronto Argonauts (1-1)
It was the performance Argos fans were waiting for. Ricky Ray completed 30- for-40 for 407 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions in the last-second win over Calgary.
Ray sprayed the ball around beautifully, with eight receivers getting at least one touch. The offensive line, which gave up three sacks in a Week 1 loss in Edmonton, only gave up one versus Calgary.
What was most notable, was the way the Argos fought back after Calgary tied the game 36-36. With about a minute left, Ray moved the team 52 yards in three plays to set up Noel Prefontaine's game-winning, 28-yard field goal.
The trade that sent Ray to the Argos from Edmonton for Steven Jyles looks like it's now starting to play dividends, especially because the other team involved all of a sudden looks vulnerable.
Sixth - Edmonton Eskimos (1-1)
The only reason the Eskimos are ranked sixth is because they won a game in Week 1.
Otherwise, they've regressed badly.
In a 17-1 loss in Saskatchewan, the offense was horrible. Jyles started the game, completed 3-of-10 passes for 26 yards, was replaced by Kerry Joseph, who was equally inefficient, then Jyles went back into the game, again to be replaced by Joseph. The total offensive output was 137 yards.
Eskimo fans are now worried that Edmonton general manager Eric Tillman got fleeced in the offseason trade that sent Ray to Toronto for Jyles. After the loss in Regina, Tillman faced the Edmonton media.
"After a loss like that, you know you're going to take heat," he said. "So put it on me until we right the ship. It's an 18-game season, but at this point it lies with me.
"Until we take a significant step forward and prove ourselves, it should be directed at me.
"We were atrocious on offense. The blame rests 100 percent on my shoulders.
"To say this was not a Picasso on offense would be the understatement of a lifetime."
Here's another understatement:
The Eskimos are in trouble.
Seventh - Winnipeg Blue Bombers (0-2)
While the Winnipeg Blue Bombers moved the ball in a 41-30 loss in Montreal, their defense was another story.
Buck Pierce completed 18-of-26 passes for 255 yards, a touchdown and an interception. However, the Bombers defense was burned for 455 passing yards and several bad penalties at bad times didn't help. Throw in a questionable gamble on 3rd-and-goal from the Montreal 6 with 5:23 to go in the fourth quarter that backfired, and it's no wonder the Blue Bombers lost.
They have a chance of getting their first win this Friday, when they play the Eskimos in Edmonton.
Eighth - Hamilton Tiger-Cats (0-2)
They made it close, but in the end, who cares?
The Tiger-Cats lost 39-36 in BC Friday night, giving up 14 points in 20 seconds, which in essence was the game. Head coach George Cortez pulled Burris late in the first half after his interception was taken back for a touchdown.
The body language suggested Burris wasn't pleased with the move, and if that was the case, he performed better in the second half, throwing for 212 yards and two touchdowns.
But, when it really counted, the Hamilton defense couldn't stop the Lions from advancing downfield, they didn't force a punt, and the Lions ran out the clock.
Hamilton's defense has one measly sack to date.
Up next, a critical home date against the Argos. If the Tiger-Cats can't pressure Ray, it will be a long night, they'll fall to 0-3 and the howls to make changes will begin.
SCRATCH ANOTHER CITY
With the Tiger-Cats ready to hit the road for 2013, because of renovations to Ivor Wynne Stadium, there were rumors that one possible destination would be Alumni Stadium at the University of Guelph, a 30-minute drive from Hamilton.
It appears that won't be the case.
In an e-mail to Inside the CFL, director of athletics Tom Kendall said, "The U of Guelph is not in talks with the Ti-Cats at this time and we do not expect that that will happen. We would love to host them, but we are limited in the resources required to do so."
Sources also said that talks between the Tiger-Cats and Western University in London are not going as well as was hoped.
Why do I get this feeling, cooler heads will prevail and the whole issue of playing at McMaster University will be revisited, and possibly solved?
Ted Michaels is the host of the Fifth Quarter on AM900 CHML.
Comments? Criticism? Applause?