The twelfth week of the Canadian Football League is upon us and there are only seven weeks remaining until the playoffs, however the standings are far from locked up.
After leading the West for most of the season, the Edmonton Eskimos have slipped to second, overtaken by the Calgary Stampeders. The B.C. Lions are currently four points behind Edmonton and Saskatchewan is eying a cross-over spot.
Over in the East, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers feel the Montreal Alouettes on their doorstep, a game this Sunday afternoon that could start to determine how the East will finish out.
Hamilton is only two points from Montreal and a win over Edmonton pushes them that much closer. For Toronto however, they will likely finish the season last overall and secure a first round draft pick for the 2012 CFL Draft.
Edmonton Eskimos at Hamilton Tiger-Cats
Date: September 16, 2011
Time: 6:30PM CST
Team Record: 6-4 | Team Record: 5-5
Both teams enter the week on a losing streak after winning their Labour Day matchups. For Edmonton they were handed every opportunity to take the game over but were unable to capitalize.
Hamilton on the other hand was returned the favour of a beat-down following their 44-21 dribbling of the Montreal Alouettes on Labour Day. Avon Cobourne was held to just two yards on five carries.
Rookie receiver Chris Williams has been lights out for Kevin Glenn and the Tiger-Cats this season, with two back-to-back 100 yard plus receiving games but was held to just two catches for 41 yards Sunday afternoon.
For Edmonton, they received a boost to their receiving core with the return of Adarius Bowman, who caught four passes for 133 yards. Bowman gives Ricky Ray another quality option to throw to when Fred Stamps is unavailable.
Through the first six games, Ricky Ray was unstoppable, throwing for 1,718 yards, eleven touchdowns and only four interceptions. Since however, Ray has thrown for 802 yards and two touchdowns in four games with three interceptions.
For Edmonton, they will enter the game against the league-leading Hamilton defense that has given up 309.70 yards a game this season, while Edmonton is fifth at 274.70.
For Jerome Messam, he hasn’t put up the production that Edmonton would have liked this season, actually losing yards against Montreal and B.C. Lucky for Messam, Hamilton has given up just under a 100 yards per game on the ground.
If Hamilton wants to win this game, they will need to split the duties through the air and ground. Keep Kevin Glenn in the pocket and allow him time to make plays. Avon Cobourne will need to work his step once again and find the holes. If they can do that, they have a good shot at winning.
On Edmonton’s side, Ricky Ray needs to find his magic from the start of the season. For a short period he was without his top receiver Fred Stamps and then lost Adarius Bowman. Both receivers are back and in the lineup so the excuses won’t be there. Execute through the air and keep Messam involved even if it’s short gains.
The upcoming schedule for Hamilton has them at home for four of their last eight games, three of the next five against Eastern teams. Their destiny simply lies in their own hands. As for Edmonton, their next three of five are against Eastern teams and will be crucial wins in helping their quest for a playoff spot.
Through the last six games in Hamilton, Edmonton has won one contest back in 2008. Edmonton already won at home 28-10 in week two and will look to complete the season sweep, which last happened in 2008. Ricky Ray and the Eskimos are closing in on second place and will likely turn things around starting in Hamilton.
Toronto Argonauts at Saskatchewan Roughriders
Date: Saturday, September 17, 2011
Time: 3:00PM CST
Team Record: 2-8 | Team Record: 3-7
The Saskatchewan Roughriders are on a two-game winning streak since the return of Ken Miller, Darian Durant is playing some of his best football this season and the Roughriders have Andy Fantuz back in the line-up. All is well in Riderville.
The Roughriders felt disrespected through the season and matters were only made worse with the talk of ‘Swaggerville’ out of Winnipeg. Their first step towards returning to their better days was defeating Winnipeg, and they did so with dominant fashion.
Through the first eight games, Darian Durant had ten touchdowns to nine interceptions. Problems continued to pile up for Durant as he struggled with consistency. Then Doug Berry was fired following their loss to Toronto.
With head coach Greg Marshall also given his walking papers, Ken Miller returned to the sidelines and gave the reigns to Durant. The last two weeks Durant has thrown for over 600 yards, seven touchdowns and only one interception.
On the Toronto side, they’re moving forward in their post-Lemon era as Steven Jyles made his return last week in their loss to the B.C. Lions. In his return, Jyles completed 18 of 33 and had 220 yards on the day but no touchdowns. Jyles has been out of action for over a year and has a long way to go before the ship will turn.
Injuries are slowly piling up for the Argonauts as it’s expected the team will lose offensive tackle Rob Murphy for the season and several players are banged up. To help with depth the team signed recently released receiver, Prechae Rodriguez isn’t expected to play this week.
Five of their next eight games for Toronto are against Eastern teams and already at 2-8, they will have a large hole to climb out of. Both wins this season have been against Western opponents and a cross-over seems largely out of reach with the recent surge from the B.C. Lions.
With a loss to Saskatchewan, it’s possible the team may look towards playing more of their rookies and secondary depth players in an attempt to look toward the 2012 season.
With Saskatchewan at home and the addition of Andy Fantuz and Ken Miller at the helm and Darian Durant’s resurgence, I don’t see how any of this stacks in Toronto’s favour.
B.C. Lions at Calgary Stampeders
Date: Saturday, September 17, 2011
Time: 6:00PM CST
Team Record: 4-6 | Team Record: 7-3
The B.C. Lions have entered September on a three game win streak after a 1-6 start to the season. Travis Lulay has continued to progress as the Lions starter and the addition of Arland Bruce with Geroy Simon has been money.
Shawn Gore receiver for the B.C. Lions has been consistent for Travis Lulay as a threat down deep with an average of 23.8 yards per longest catch. Between the two games against Toronto, Gore received the ball five times for 108 yards.
When Travis Lulay is unable to find a receiver in the end zone, they call upon their kicker Paul McCallum and why not? McCallum on the season so far is 27 for 29 and has made his last 56 of 73 attempts, 76.7 percent.
Henry Burris and the Calgary Stampeders have found themselves atop the Western division for the first time this season after their early season struggles. Henry Burris appears to have put those behind him as he is second behind Anthony Calvillo at 2,910 yards.
Following their 35-7 loss at home in which the fans began booing the team, which saw Burris respond with a swing through the air, the Stampeders responded in style in Edmonton with a 30-20 win although they struggled to find the end zone more than twice.
Therefore the win was put on kicker Rene Paredes who joined the squad after Rob Maver went down early in the season. Paredes has been clutch for the Stampeders and as such has won the kicking job for now from Maver.
A win for B.C. will be a huge momentum booster as the Lions continue to look at third place and a playoff spot in November, while Calgary would like to continue their hold on first place over Edmonton.
If Travis Lulay can continue building with his receivers, I see B.C. taking this in a close battle.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers at Montreal Alouettes
Date: Sunday, September 18, 2011
Time: 12:00PM CST
Team Record: 7-3 | Team Record: 6-4
During the course of the season with Winnipeg’s success many contributors picked this game to be the Eastern division final. However some question if that is still the case with the resurgence of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and the slow fall of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
After their 7-1 start the Bombers faced a rejuvenated Saskatchewan Roughrider team and I find that no matter who played them a loss was guaranteed. The time for panicking is not yet abound but a loss to Montreal could put changes into motion.
The club was also presented with a big blow to their defense as middle linebacker Joe Lobendahn suffered an ACL injury in their loss Sunday afternoon and will be gone for the season. This will likely move Marcellus Bowman back to middle linebacker.
As well, Buck Pierce appeared to have suffered bruised ribs in the first quarter and is listed as day-to-day. It’s expected that he’ll start Sunday against Montreal regardless.
Looking at the Winnipeg defense, they’ve allowed had two games in which the opposition ran for over a 100 yards, tied with Montreal. However, they lead the league in total average yards per game and have allowed only two games over the average passing yards per game.
Anthony Calvillo will enter Sunday’s matchup with the only 1,000 yard receiver in Jamel Richardson and is coming off a 400+ yard passing game against Hamilton. Montreal will be at home and has won there eight of the last ten games.
So far this season, the receivers for Winnipeg have been Cory Watson and Terrence Edwards. Clarence Denmark showed signs of excellent play but has struggled the last few games.
The ground attack by Winnipeg has been stale this season as Fred Reid has suffered dramatically when unable to find a hole from the offensive line. At the same time Buck Pierce has taken several big shots this season and the offensive line can attribute to that issue.
Several players are nicked up and Joe Lobendahn is out for the season. Buck Pierce will need to be on top of his game and will need more than two targets to throw to on Sunday.
I cannot see anything that will help bring Winnipeg their eight win of the season as Anthony Calvillo has been barely pressured this season and has had many targets every game, including his new favourite in Jamel Richardson. Montreal takes this with ease as they look to regain their spot at the top of the East division.