CFL Preview Week Two: Forging an Identity

Jonathan HamelinCorrespondent IJuly 8, 2009

TORONTO - NOVEMBER 25:  Kerry Joseph #4 of the Saskatchewan Rough Riders passes in the pocket against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers during the third quarter of the 95th Grey Cup on November 25, 2007 at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Week one of the CFL season has come and gone, and with it, we have begun to learn a bit more about each team.

In the pre-season, we only see a mere glimpse of what each team has to offer. This often leads to a few surprises in the first week. I also found it made some games a bit harder to predict because we hadn’t seen any team in action yet.

Some teams are happy with the first impressive they’ve made so far.

Others are hoping they just had opening day jitters.

Take the Hamilton Tiger Cats, for example. They opened the season with yet another disappointing loss, this one at the hands of the Toronto Argonauts. Hamilton needs to win this week to show fans that they aren’t the same Tiger Cats of old.

On the flip side, there are teams like the Toronto Argonauts and Saskatchewan Roughriders, out to prove that their week one wins weren’t flukes. A win in week two would make a strong case for either of these teams.

When week two comes to a close, we may get a better idea about how each team will fare in the upcoming season. Games this early in the season are crucial for teams looking to build a strong identity.

Some teams will fall in a hole early at 0-2, some will strike even at 1-1, and others will sit on their throne at 2-0.

Last week, I went 3-1 with my predictions, and this week I feel more confident. In fact, I would go so far as to guarantee I will be flawless this week.

Prediction Time
Every week I will predict the winners of each game. Disagree with my picks? Comment down below with your picks and see if you can do better.

Thursday July 9th
Game One: Montreal Alouettes vs. Edmonton Eskimos

In a battle of two 1-0 clubs, the winner of this game may sit alone atop the standings in their division.

Moreso, this game will feature two of the most dangerous quarterbacks in the league.

The veteran gunslinger Anthony Calvillo will look to continue his early season success. On the other side, Ricky Ray will look to play a little better than in week one, where he was by no means flawless.

Montreal ran over the Calgary Stampeders in their first game, using both the running and passing game effectively. The Als scored 17 unanswered points to start off the game. So how can Edmonton hope to stop Montreal on offense?

Luckily for Edmonton, they did look very impressive on defense in week one, especially their front seven. They generated a lot of sacks and tackles in the backfield against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

Usually, a defense tries to focus on one area of the opposing offense, but this would be a mistake against the Als. Edmonton needs to focus on playing smart all-around defense. They need to flow to Avon Cobourne whenever he runs the ball and gang tackle him. When Anthony Calvillo drops back to throw, Edmonton needs to generate pressure to throw the veteran pivot off of his game.

Unfortunately, this is easier said than done.

Without Jesse Lumsden carrying the ball, the Eskimos will need to look to new means on the ground, whether it be Arkee Whitlock or Calvin McCarty. If the Eskimos are one-dimensional on offense they will struggle.

In the passing game, Ricky Ray needs to test Montreal deep. Edmonton was too complacent against the Bombers and they only scored 19 points.

Montreal, on the other hand, needs to continue what they’ve been doing on offense—score points in bunches. The only flaw in Montreal’s offense last week was that they lost some of their aggression as the game progressed.

On defense, Montreal should try and throw Ricky Ray off his game. If Montreal can force Ray to make some mistakes, it could mess up Edmonton’s offense.

Both teams desperately will want to go to 2-0, but there are a number of things going against the Eskimos in this game. For one, they are playing away from home against one of the hottest teams in the CFL. Throw in the question marks in their running game, and the odds don’t seem to favour the Eskimos this week.

My Pick: Montreal

Friday July 10th
Game One: Winnipeg Blue Bombers vs. Calgary Stampeders

Calgary’s “Grey Cup” part last week was spoiled by the visiting Montreal Alouettes. Montreal simply played with more intensity than the defending champs. The only thing worse for the Stampeders than losing at home in week one, would be falling to 0-2.

The “New Look” Bombers weren’t awful in week one. They only lost by two points to the Edmonton Eskimos, but the Bombers definitely need to improve their effort if they hope to stick with the Stampeders.

If Calgary hopes to avoid falling to 0-2, they will need to improve on offense. Calgary failed to develop a running game last week and their passing game was far from stellar.

If it wouldn’t have been for the solid play by Titus Ryan and the rest of the special teams, Calgary wouldn’t have had a chance in week one.

Establishing Joffrey Reynolds should be the biggest priority for the Stamps on offense. Every time Reynolds can burst out for a first down, it will put less pressure on Henry Burris. And of course, Calgary needs to take care of the ball.

On defense, Calgary should key on Bomber’s running back Fred Reid. Reid was solid in week one and could be a game changer for the Bombers. They should also look to put pressure on Stefan Lefors.

Winnipeg showed a lot of creativity in their play calling in week one. This is fine, as long as they are able to move the ball consistently. The Bombers offense struggled in week one.

To improve their offense, the Bombers need to pound the ball with Fred Reid, who had success in week one. Success in the ground will take pressure off of Stefan Lefors.

Montreal had a lot of success against the Stampeders in week one when they got pressure on Henry Burris, and the Bombers should look to continue this trend.

While it would appear that the Stampders will win this game easily, people also said the same thing about the Bombers-Eskimos game last week, yet it was a close one. Winnipeg is at home and Calgary struggled in week one. However, they were playing a tough Montreal team, and I have some faith in the defending champs.

My Pick: Calgary

Game Two:  BC Lions vs. Hamilton Tiger Cats

The second game of the double-header also features two more win-less teams. In week one, BC suffered a lot of turnovers in their loss against the Saskatchewan Roughriders, whereas the Hamilton Tiger Cats simply were out played by the Toronto Argonauts.

Both teams will look to avoid going 0-2.

The obvious key on offense for the BC Lions is to avoid turnovers. The Lions had six turnovers against the Riders, and will struggle a lot if they do so against the Hamilton Tiger Cats.

I liked what I saw out of Lions running back Martel Mallet. Mallet ran the ball hard against the Saskatchewan Roughriders, and the Lions should continue to use him against the Hamilton Tiger Cats.

The offensive line needs to protect Buck Pierce better this week, so he has a chance to get the ball out to Paris Jackson and Geroy Simon.

On defense, BC should key on Hamilton’s biggest star, Prechae Rodriquez.

Hamilton couldn’t get the job done at home, and now they will have to travel to the confines of BC Place.

Quinton Porter had some success for the Tabbies in week one, but he will need to be better in week two. Hamilton should try to utilize the running game against the Lions.

Much like the Riders got pressure on Buck Pierce in week one, the Tiger Cats should also try to throw Pierce off of his game.

Both teams will be desperate to get their first win of the season. Hamilton needs to give the fans something to cheer about. Unfortunately, it will be tough to get a win at BC. The Lions struggle last week against a tough Riders defense, but should find success against the Hamilton Tiger Cats

My Pick: BC

Saturday July 11th    
*Game of the Week*
*Game One: Toronto Argonauts vs. Saskatchewan Roughriders*

The Saturday tilt between the Argos and Riders is intriguing enough to be this weeks game of the week.

Both teams will hope to improve to 2-0. Kerry Joseph will face his former team once again, and the Riders will travel to the place where they won the Grey Cup in 2007 and play against the quarterback who got them there.

In week one, the only flaw in the Riders performance was the turnovers. Darian Durant showed that he has the potential to be the Riders starting quarterback. He moved the ball effectively when he didn’t turn it over.

Against the Argos, the Riders will need to take care of the football. The offensive line will also need to give Darian Durant protection so he can get the ball out to his playmakers. Hugh Charles also showed success on the ground last week and the Riders would be smart to use him often.

On defense, the riders need to contain Kerry Joseph, who can always hurt a team with his legs. They will also need to keep an eye on player of the week Jamal Robertson. Robertson ran wild against the Hamilton Tiger Cats in week one. Saskatchewan’s defense generated a lot of pressure against the Lions, and should continue to do so against the Argos.

Toronto executed their offense effectively in week one, and they didn’t even have to rely on Kerry Joseph running the ball. Toronto should continue to pound the ball with running back Jamal Robertson.

On defense, Toronto needs to put pressure on Darian Durant. We saw last week that if Darian Durant has pressure on him, he may make mistakes. This could lead to turnovers.

Both teams had success in week one. Toronto was merely flawless and Saskatchewan was stellar besides their turnovers. Toronto may feel confident at home this week, but they need to realize they aren’t playing against the Tiger Cats any more.

My Pick: Saskatchewan

My Record 3-1 (75%)

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