It’s the start of a new week in the Canadian Football League, where anything can and most certainly will happen.
It’s beginning to become crunch time for certain teams who are currently looking from the outside in as they make that last push towards securing a playoff spot.
At the same time, several teams have put themselves in the position to either tie or overtake first place within their division and will look towards the weekend for that spark.
Last week we witnessed the team at the top of the league, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers lose two running backs for the season in Fred Reid and backup Carl Volny. To make matters worse, the team may be without the services of both quarterbacks Buck Pierce and Alex Brink this coming Friday night against the Montreal Alouettes.
This latest news prompted the club to bring in several new faces after the practice roster expanded. Players were spread out among different positions, but the most notable signing was that of quarterback Michael Bishop.
Many fans remember Michael Bishop when he suited up for the Bombers back in 2009 under the Mike Kelly regime, throwing for over 3,000 yards( the most in his career), 15 touchdowns and 20 interceptions.
However, this change was a temporary act, and Bishop would later be released. As the possibility that Alex Brink and Buck Pierce are unable to play this week, Michael Bishop was simply signed for insurance purposes.
Should either quarterback go down during the game, Michael Bishop will give the team their best opportunity at winning given his past CFL experience that both Brandon Summers and Justin Goltz currently lack.
Elsewhere on the team, running back Chris Garrett will make his 2011 debut as he suits up for his first time as the starting running back for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. It’s expected that newly signed running back Bloi-Dei Dorzon will back up Garrett during the game.
Going up against one of the stronger defensive units in the league, Winnipeg will need to manage its game and involve its receivers early and often. The time for simple routes and short passes will simply not be enough to defeat the defending Grey Cup champions.
On Montreal’s side of the ball, it is all but confirmed that quarterback Anthony Calvillo will be behind center come Friday night. Anthony suffered a concussion during the game against Edmonton but should be cleared and ready to go before kickoff.
With the loss of Doug Brown at defensive tackle, it is Montreal’s opportunity to gain by exploiting the holes the offensive line will look to make as they set Brandon Whitaker free. Whitaker was Offensive Player of the Week following his three touchdowns and 177 combined yards in the game.
During Winnipeg’s win over Montreal in Week 12, receiver Jamel Richardson was unable to get involved until late in the game. Expect Montreal to review the tapes, make the right adjustments and exploit the defensive injuries currently plaguing Winnipeg.
The good news is Winnipeg already won one game against Montreal and simply needs to win one of the remaining two games to win the season series over Montreal but that will be a difficult task given the pile of injuries the club is currently suffering.
The second game of the doubleheader Friday night sees the B.C. Lions play under their new home at the renovated B.C. Place as the Lions host the Edmonton Eskimos in a divisional matchup with playoff implications on the line.
The B.C. Lions have done their job turning their season around and building themselves back up as legit Grey Cup contenders, winning five straight and six of their last seven games, pulling them within two points of first place.
Meanwhile for Edmonton, the Eskimos will need to rebound quickly if they wish to keep pace with Calgary. They were given that opportunity several times against Montreal to win the game and take a seat at sole possession in the West, but late turnovers were the key in their demise.
Ricky Ray will need to make smarter and quicker choices during the passing game if he wishes to keep his offense on the field, as evident when he threw a costly pick late in the game following a turnover of their own.
For the second straight week Ray will have his starting receiving core at his disposal and will need to find ways to incorporate them more if they want a shot at beating B.C.
The defensive unit as a whole has been solid the last month and will look to pressure Ricky Ray much like Montreal did a few weeks ago.
As it currently stands right now B.C. is the sixth and final team to make the playoffs if the season were to end today, and their schedule has four of their last six games against Western opponents.
Their future definitely rests in the hands of quarterback Travis Lulay and his decision making. Lulay is all the capable of making those right decisions to lead his team to secure a play-off spot.
Unfortunately B.C. hasn’t had the success at home that they’d like since late 2007, but it will look towards their new home and its amped-up crowd for inspiration and grind out a win as it continues a quest towards a playoff spot.
Looking at Saturday, the league will feature a doubleheader as well, first with the Saskatchewan Roughriders visiting the Calgary Stampeders, who are on the verge of losing the season series if Calgary is to win.
Through the last four games at home however, Calgary has lost two of the four games. This season, they have won both road games and will look to clinch the season series Saturday afternoon.
So far this season, Saskatchewan has been outscored by 14 points even with Darian Durant putting up big offensive numbers. Unfortunately, nothing went right last Saturday as Durant had two interceptions, with an offensive fumble and B.C. terrorized the Roughriders for 60 minutes.
Defensively Saskatchewan has given up the fourth-most yards per game and will face a defense that is second in the league overall at 350 combined yards per game and 95 yards on the ground. For Saskatchewan it will need to put pressure against Henry Burris and rattle him. Successful at that task, they may very well see a quarterback change with Drew Tate coming in for relief.
For Calgary, the Stampeders are still waiting for its first 1,000-yard receiver. Nik Lewis is closing in, down 104 yards, and will need to be on his game and an option for Henry Burris as Saskatchewan looks to rebound from its 42-5 dribbling at home last week.
Calgary this week will continue to try and build on its season and distance itself from B.C., and Saskatchewan will be trying to keep pace with first place against Edmonton.
Unfortunately if there is a team that knows how to rebound and play with adversity, Saskatchewan is that team. Last week Calgary entered the week having not lost on the road, and that streak was ended.
This week Saskatchewan has yet to defeat a divisional opponent, a streak that I find will likely end come Saturday.
Completing the week the fans will see both the Toronto Argonauts, hot off a win over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, play the Hamilton Tiger-Cats at home once again.
Toronto will essentially need to win out the season if it wishes to have any shot at a crossover spot, never mind make the playoffs, from within its own division.
Steven Jyles will play his third straight game since coming in for Cleo Lemon and will need to be offensively more productive if Toronto wishes to beat Hamilton.
During the win over Winnipeg, Jyles completed 11 passes for a sultry 88 yards. This stat will need to inflate big time if Toronto wants to get another home win.
This game will also feature both teams that have given up the most yards offensively, combined at 827 yards per game this season.
Cory Boyd was able to rattle off another 100-yard game only the second time this season since Week 1.
Meanwhile, Hamilton has been bumpy the last month, splitting its last four games.
Kevin Glenn will need to stay focused and continue to find ways to include his receivers, something that hasn’t worked well in recent weeks.
Toronto and Steven Jyles struggled hard Saturday evening but ended up with the win and the two points. Going up against a team that kept Calgary guessing and offensively putting up the most points all season from any team will not be an easy task.
Since 2008 however, Toronto has won only one of the last three contests at home. With playoff implications hanging in the balance during this game, the Argonauts will most likely be fired up and ready to play.
Cory Boyd will once again be required to utilize his speed and break tackles as he did against Winnipeg, rushing for 109 yards. Toronto’s defensive unit will need to find an answer to Marcus Thigpen, who lit up Calgary last week for 139 yards and two touchdowns.
Both teams will want that two points and keep pace in the East. However, I see Kevin Glenn continuing to build from last week and will be tough to stop.