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By Ted Michaels, CFL Editor - Archive - Email
Bye week breakdown
Hamilton, ON (Sports Network) - The bye week is usually a positive for football teams.

The players can heal up physically, go home and visit family and generally get a mental break from the game.

The coaches on the other hand, may take some time away from the office, but the upcoming game is never far from their minds, and if a team heads into the bye week with a loss, it's not a very restful time.

Hamilton, Saskatchewan, Edmonton and Calgary have the bye week off, so that means just two games in Week 6: Montreal at Winnipeg on Friday and BC at Toronto on Monday.

It also means it's a chance to see which teams are playing up to their potential, and which teams appear to be heading in the wrong direction.

First: BC Lions (3-2)

The defending Grey Cup champions were spinning their wheels a bit, heading into their game last week in Calgary. New head coach Mike Benevides was feeling the heat after two losses in a row, and some pundits were starting to wonder about his future.

They didn't have to wonder long.

The Lions totally dominated the Stampeders, 34-8, with Travis Lulay completing 30-of-37 passes for 315 yards and three touchdowns. The Lions chocked up 28 first downs and kept the ball for over 38 minutes.

In some ways, it was a statement game for the Lions.

General manager Wally Buono, who gave up the head coaching job after last season, and hand-picked Benevides as his successor, perhaps summed it up best.

"(Benevides) passed his first major test," Buono said after the game. "Ten years from now, you might look back and see that win was a defining moment in his career.

"You don't learn from wins. You learn from your adversities. How do (coaches) handle two or three losses? How do you handle it when you're getting kicked and nobody is helping you out? He prepared his team well, got his message across and they delivered."

And the rest of the league should take notice.

Second: Hamilton Tiger-Cats (3-2)

At the start of the season, this corner said that the Tiger-Cats would be a fun team to watch.

Offensively, they have a lot of weapons, and once they get rolling, they're tough to stop.

Case in point, last Saturday in Regina.

The Tiger-Cats hadn't won a game at Mosaic Stadium since 2000, so they were 0-11 heading into the game with the Roughriders.

Fighting back from a 33-14 deficit, the Tiger-Cats roared to a 35-34 win.

Quarterback Henry Burris, after a first half that saw him complete 9-of-15 passes for 103 yards, turned red hot in the second half, completing 19-of-23 passes for 252 yards and four touchdowns.

Hamilton has now scored the most points in the league (162), leads the CFL in passing touchdowns (15), and Burris leads all CFL quarterbacks with an efficiency rating of 118.3.

However, one area of concern remains the third quarter, where Hamilton has been outscored, 64-17. If the Tiger-Cats can clean up that department, they have the ability to be downright scary.

Third: Toronto Argonauts (3-2)

It wasn't pretty, but a win is a win.

New Toronto head coach Scott Milanovich went back to familiar territory last week. Milanovich spent five years in Montreal as an assistant coach, so to say the Argos' 23-20 win over the Alouettes was sweet would be an understatement.

Argos fans are starting to see the emergence of Chad Owens as potential CFL superstar.

Playing at slotback, he had seven catches for 92 yards and two touchdowns. He now has three TDs in his last two games after going 22 without catching a TD pass. He leads the CFL with 1,291 combined yards.

Quarterback Ricky Ray was 20-for-30 for 280 yards.

Still, there's room for improvement.

"We just can't seem to put two halves together," Milanovich said. "We played very well in the first half and then had breakdowns in the third quarter and let it get close.

"We need to get back to work and find a way to put a full game together."

They'll get a good indication of how far they've progressed when they play the Lions.

Fourth: Edmonton Eskimos (3-2)

You could see this one coming a mile away.

The Eskimos went into Winnipeg last week for the Blue Bombers' first regular- season home game after four straight road games. Winnipeg was winless and the pressure on the coaching staff was immense.

Edmonton fell just short, losing, 23-22. What was frustrating for the Eskimos was they had a chance to possibly win the game, but quarterback Steven Jyles fumbled with 43 seconds left at the Winnipeg 28 to end any hopes of a victory.

But after five weeks, what really jumps out is the Eskimos defense. It has allowed just 79 points, the best in the league. The Eskimos also lead the league in sacks with 14 and are tied for the league lead in interceptions with seven.

What's the adage, defense wins championships?

Fifth: Saskatchewan Roughriders (3-2)

It was called the strength of the Roughriders. It's rapidly becoming their Achilles heel.

Two weeks ago, the Roughriders had a 17-point lead on the Stampeders in Calgary, 35-18 with 5:17 left in the game.

They blew the lead and lost 41-38 in overtime.

Last Saturday, after the first play of the fourth quarter, Saskatchewan led Hamilton 33-14 at home. They lost, 35-34.

Perhaps the Roughriders' 3-0 start was an aberration. Maybe now, the real Roughriders are showing themselves.

Head coach Corey Chamblin admitted after the Hamilton loss, "It's always worrisome, to the point where we're defense and they get paid to stop people. That's what we do. We get paid to stop people."

If that's the case, it appears it's money wasted.

Sixth: Montreal Alouettes (2-3)

One gets the sense something is going to happen in Montreal, and soon.

The Alouettes suffered their first home loss of the year, 23-20 to the Argos.

Montreal's offense piled up 417 yards, but, as has been the case for the last few weeks, quarterback Anthony Calvillo continues to take more shots than he ever has in the past.

It's the other side of the ball that's causing a lot of angst in Montreal. Defensive coordinator Jeff Reinebold's defense continues to be burned by opposition quarterbacks.

The Als defense has allowed 74 percent of pass attempts, by far the worst in the league. The Als also are last in average yards allowed per pass, 9.5.

Is it Reinebold's scheme, the players or something else?

If the Als lose in Winnipeg, and the defense is ripped apart, look for some changes in their upcoming bye week.

Seventh: Calgary Stampeders (2-3)

The Stampeders appear to be a team on the verge of imploding.

After their 34-8 shellacking by BC last week, running back Jon Cornish clearly was not a happy man. He ended up with six carries for minus-1 yard, and collectively Calgary managed only 29 rushing yards compared to B.C.'s 161.

Cornish tore a strip off his offensive line, and when it came to his own performance, he said he was "very satisfied."

"It's particularly annoying from the running back position when you get the ball and get smacked in the face as soon as you get the ball," he told the Calgary Herald. "You either have holes or you don't. You either have push or you don't."

The next morning, he apologized for his comments on Twitter.

It's been a long bye week in Cowtown, and it could get even uglier.

The Stampeders' next game is Aug. 9, when they visit the surging Tiger-Cats, who just happen to be led by Henry Burris. He clearly didn't like the way he was treated by Stamps head coach John Hufnagel at the end of last season.

Eighth: Winnipeg Blue Bombers (1-4)

All is right with the Blue Bombers, at least for a week. The 23-22 win over Edmonton in front a loud, boisterous crowd at CanadInn Stadium, gave the Bombers their first win of the year.

But the Bombers admit there's a lot of work to do, including shoring up a defense that allowed the Eskimos to move downfield on the last drive of the game. Had it not been for Steven Jyles' fumble, the Blue Bombers could be looking at an 0-5 record.

With a win over Montreal Friday night, the Bombers are right back in the battle for third in the CFL East. A loss, and the cries to make changes will get loud, once again.

Ted Michaels is the host of the Fifth Quarter on AM900 CHML.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? ted@900chml.com


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