CFL Previews - Week 2 - July 6-8Jul 4, 2012 - 3:50 PM Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
WINNIPEG BLUE BOMBERS (0-1) AT MONTREAL ALOUETTES (0-1)
DATE & TIME: Friday, July 6, 7:00 p.m. (et).
GAME NOTES: With the prospect of losing the first two games of the 2012 season a reality for one team this week, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and the Montreal Alouettes both try to put their best foot forward on Friday night at Stade Percival-Molson Stadium.
Winnipeg, which lost to British Columbia in the 99th Grey Cup last season at BC Place, was back in the same building to kick off the new season last week and unfortunately suffered a similar fate in a 33-16 setback to the Lions. Taking a loss is tough enough, but losing a starting quarterback less than 30 minutes into the season might be even more troubling, and that was the case for the Bombers and Buck Pierce.
Even though he finished with more interceptions (18) than passing touchdowns (14) last season as he connected on 63.5 percent of his attempts, Pierce was supposed to be the guy that the Blue Bombers were going to lean on all season long. However, late in the second quarter against BC he suffered a lower-leg injury and never returned.
Up until that point, Pierce had been largely ineffective as he completed just three of his nine pass attempts for a total of 11 yards, while being sacked four times. Backup Alex Brink came on and finished the night 14-of-26 for 121 yards and a couple of touchdowns, but by then the Lions were running on all cylinders and were not going to be caught.
Pierce and Brink combined for 42 of their team's 72 rushing yards, but you can be sure that head coach Paul LaPolice will try to keep his quarterback, whomever that might be, out of harm's way for the time being.
It was assumed that even though Montreal quarterback Anthony Calvillo had not played a significant role in the preseason games for the Alouettes, he would be more than ready to get the regular season off on the right foot, but that simply wasn't the case on Sunday. In fact, Calvillo connected on barely 50 percent (16-of-31) of his pass attempts and was limited to just 174 yards and a single major, compared to a pair of interceptions as he and the Als were dealt a 38-10 loss at Calgary.
Last season, Calvillo tossed a total of only eight picks and had more than one in just a single game, so already he is having to dig himself out of a statistical hole.
Jamel Richardson, the league's leading receiver from a year ago after putting up a staggering and career-best 112 catches for 1,777 yards and 11 touchdowns, finished with five grabs for 78 yards versus Calgary. The lone major for the Als in the opener came from Brian Bratton, who recorded two catches for 45 yards.
Working against the Alouettes as they get set to play their home opener is a short week in terms of practice and preparation. Head coach Marc Trestman also acknowledges that the roster is filled with new faces and they may take some time to gel together, something that was evident in the season opener.
If anyone can get ready in time to play it is Calvillo who has seen it all since joining the CFL's Las Vegas Posse back in 1994. It took a few years for Calvillo to get his footing in the league, but since 2000 he has thrown for less than 4,200 yards only twice. Granted, the league's all-time leader in passing yards (73,586) and touchdowns (419) did complete just 61.8 percent of his attempts a year ago, which was his lowest since 2003, but there is something to be said for being able to place your confidence in a proven winner and that's what the Als have going in their favor.
Dating back to 1946, and taking into account only regular season matchups, Montreal currently owns a 43-34-2 edge in the series against the Bombers, although Winnipeg has won two of the last three encounters, including a narrow 26-25 final in late October of last year.
The clubs have three more dates with each other remaining on the schedule after this week, the next coming on August 3 in Winnipeg.
The last time the Alouettes opened the season with a loss on the road was two years ago and the final result several months later was a win in the Grey Cup, so maybe shaking off the rust here early on isn't such a bad thing for Calvillo and Montreal.
Losing a game or two this early may not kill an entire season, but not knowing what is going on with your quarterback is not how you want to be moving forward, and that's where the Bombers are right now.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Montreal 32, Winnipeg 17.
HAMILTON TIGER-CATS (0-1) AT BRITISH COLUMBIA LIONS (1-0)
DATE & TIME: Friday, July 6, 10:00 p.m. (et).
GAME NOTES: Losers of eight straight CFL season openers, the Hamilton Tiger- Cats try to bounce back from a disappointing effort last week as they challenge the British Columbia Lions at BC Place on Friday night.
Hamilton is trying to get the job done in 2012 with a new starting quarterback in Henry Burris, most recently of the Calgary Stampeders, but his first game with his new squad didn't go nearly as well as he may have hoped.
The signal-caller converted 28-of-39 passes for 284 yards, but much too often he had drives stall when it appeared the Cats might have been building momentum. Burris, who had a down year in 2011 when he threw for just 3,687 yards after posting seven straight campaigns with at least 4,200 yards, likened his new situation to that of Rome not being built in a day as the squad suffered a lopsided 43-16 loss to Saskatchewan at home in the opener.
Running back Chevon Walker gave the hometown fans a glimpse of what could be the norm as he blasted over the left side and raced 89 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter. Walker, who was in for Avon Cobourne, finished his night with a game-high 132 yards on seven attempts, but that still wasn't enough to keep Hamilton close.
Receiver Chris Williams reeled in nine balls for 109 yards for the Ticats, but while he was finding holes in the Saskatchewan defense, the Roughriders were doing even more damage as they produced more than 500 yards of total offense.
As for the Lions, the defending Grey Cup Champions, they celebrated the start of the new season in grand style as they set down Winnipeg, the team they defeated in the 99th Grey Cup, by a score of 33-16 in front of the hometown crowd.
While picking up a victory is always the ultimate goal from week-to-week, British Columbia also had another item on the agenda and that was to get receiver Geroy Simon into the record books as the league's all-time leader in receiving yards.
Simon, who began his career with the Blue Bombers back in 1999, reeled in five passes for 105 yards to give him 15,192 yards for his career, eclipsing the mark of 15,153 yards set by Milt Stegall in 2008. The milestone came on a 56- yard pass from Travis Lulay in the fourth quarter, after which the game was stopped for a brief presentation to celebrate the accomplishment.
Lulay connected on 17-of-25 passes for 233 yards and a score, offsetting three sacks and an interception. He also kept the Winnipeg defense on its toes as he scored twice and accounted for 44 yards on eight rushing attempts.
Also playing a key role for the Lions was kicked Paul McCallum, who stepped up to finish off stalled drives by knocking through all four of his field goal attempts as he finished with 15 points. Last season, McCallum led the league in scoring with 203 points as he converted a staggering 94.3 percent of his field goal tries. Clearly, having McCallum coming in from the sidelines is often a safe bet that points will be scored.
The BC defense was all over the Bombers, limiting the visitors to just 204 yards of total offense and knocking out starting quarterback Buck Pierce with an apparent knee injury late in the first half.
British Columbia's defense last year was one of the best in the league, ranking second only to Winnipeg in yards allowed (318.0 ypg) and tops in points permitted (21.4 ppg), which is something that new head coach Mike Benevides would like to keep up.
With regard to the all-time, regular-season series dating back to 1954 between these two squads, BC owns a 46-32-3 advantage over the Ticats, even though it was Hamilton which won the most recent matchup, 42-10, at home in October and has claimed victory in five of the last six encounters.
The clubs have one other date on the calendar for this season, an October 12 matchup in Hamilton.
Burris has the talent around him to put up wins this season, but Hamilton has to learn how not to shoot itself in the foot and avoid costly penalties that not only halt drives, but also wear on a group's confidence. By all means, if the Tiger-Cats play a near-flawless game they could make it interesting, but they'll also have to get into the head of Lulay and Simon to come out on top.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: British Columbia 34, Hamilton 23.
CALGARY STAMPEDERS (1-0) AT TORONTO ARGONAUTS (0-1)
DATE & TIME: Saturday, July 7, 3:00 p.m. (et).
GAME NOTES: After taking care of business on both sides of the ball in the season opener on Sunday evening, the Calgary Stampeders aim for their second win in as many tries on Saturday afternoon as they tangle with the Toronto Argonauts on the road at Rogers Centre.
Not only were the Stampeders going up against Anthony Calvillo and the Montreal Alouettes from a defensive standpoint, the squad was also breaking in a new starting quarterback and Drew Tate rose to the occasion.
Tate, who took over the starting job from Henry Burris as the former league MVP moved to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats during the off-season, tossed a couple of interceptions, but still finished the outing 25-of-35 for 299 yards and a score in the lopsided 38-10 triumph over visiting Montreal.
Coming up with a game-high 12 receptions was Nik Lewis, who turned those catches into 105 yards and a major. Jon Cornish bulled his way for 86 yards and a pair of TDs on 18 rushing attempts, his efforts on the ground more than doubling those of the Als altogether as he was recognized as a top league performer earlier this week.
Considered one of the all-time great quarterbacks in CFL history, Calvillo was all but shut down by the Calgary defense, which allowed him to convert just 16- of-31 passes for 174 yards and a score, while also being picked off twice. Considering Calvillo threw a total of just eight interceptions all of last season, the Stamps should be pleased with their efforts through the first 60 minutes of action.
As for the Argonauts, they were held scoreless through the first quarter of action last Saturday as quarterback Ricky Ray returned to Edmonton to face his former teammates. Ray managed to hit Cory Boyd with a five-yard TD strike in the second quarter and finished the contest 29-of-39 for 298 yards, but was sacked three times as he and Toronto came out on the losing end of a 19-15 final.
Boyd stepped up with eight rushing attempts for 48 yards and was also tops among all players with 10 catches, but those resulted in a mere nine yards.
Kicker Noel Prefontaine generated eight points for his squad, but missed a couple of field goal tries which could have easily swung the game in Toronto's favor.
The good news for the Argos, if there is such a thing coming out of a loss, is that Chad Owens again showed why he is widely considered one of the most dangerous players in the league. Owens, who will be getting his number called more and more on offense as he lines up as a slotback, posted six receptions for 100 yards, including a long of 52, brought back seven punts for another 105 yards, and returned four kickoffs for an additional 111 yards. Unfortunately, even with all of his elusive efforts, the Argos were unable to capitalize enough to earn the victory.
Owens not only registered a new personal, single-game record for all-purpose yardage, but he also put himself in the CFL record books as just the third player in history to have at least 100-100-100 yards. Next for the sprite runner from Hawaii is gunning for the all-time, all-purpose yards record which sits at a staggering 474 yards set by Albert Johnson III of Winnipeg 12 years ago.
Obviously the Argonauts have a huge weapon in Owens and should be able to use his talents accordingly, but getting him on the same page with Ray might take a bit more time as this is a work in progress.
Toronto has won three straight regular season meetings between these two clubs, including a 31-29 final at home on October 14. However, as far as the all-time series goes, dating back to 1945, Calgary is clinging to a 41-39-1 advantage.
These clubs are destined to clash again once more during the regular season, with Calgary entertaining the Argos on August 18.
It might take some more time for Ray to get used to new schemes and get in-sync with his receivers, which is why, even at home this week, Toronto might be again trying to claw its way from behind.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Calgary 31, Toronto 20.
EDMONTON ESKIMOS (1-0) AT SASKATCHEWAN ROUGHRIDERS (1-0)
DATE & TIME: Sunday, July 8, 7:00 p.m. (et).
GAME NOTES: Making the most noise in the opening week of the 2012 CFL season were the Saskatchewan Roughriders, who this time around are poised to begin the home portion of their schedule on Sunday evening versus the Edmonton Eskimos at Mosaic Stadium.
Saskatchewan, which won a total of five games all of 2011 and scored more than 30 points only twice, began this year with a bang as it rewarded new head coach Corey Chamblin with a resounding 43-16 triumph over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats last Friday night.
The only quarterback in the league to throw for more than 300 yards, Saskatchewan signal-caller Darian Durant finished the night 25-of-34 for 390 yards and four touchdowns, all without a single interception as he was named the CFL's Offensive Player of the Week. By far, the favorite target for Durant was Weston Dressler who, with the addition of a 52-yard catch and run that could have easily been reversed on review, led the league with 13 receptions for 180 yards and three majors.
Chris Getzlaf tacked on three catches which he stretched into 96 yards and a score for the Riders. Running back Kory Sheets erupted for 80 yards and a touchdown on 12 rushing attempts for the victors as well.
For the Eskimos, their first week of action wasn't nearly as successful on offense, but still the team was able to rattle off a 19-15 home win against Toronto as former QB Ricky Ray returned to his old stomping grounds. New starting quarterback Steven Jyles was unable to log an aerial score for Edmonton, but he did convert 21-of-36 passes attempts for 236 yards nonetheless.
Running back Hugh Charles carried the ball 12 times for the hosts and gained no more than six yards on any one attempt, yet he still factored heavily into the win thanks to his four-yard TD run in the second quarter. Not to be overlooked was kicker Grant Shaw who knocked through all four of his field goal tries and finished with 13 points overall. For his efforts Shaw, who spent the previous two seasons with Toronto, was named the CFL Special Teams Player of the Week.
If there was one area that remained suspect for the Eskimos it was the level of attention they paid to Toronto's Chad Owens who generated at least 100 yards in three different areas (receiving, kickoff returns and punt returns).
However, there was some good news on the defensive side of the ball for Edmonton as linebacker J.C. Sherritt was named the Defensive Player of the Week in the league after posting 11 tackles and forcing a fumble. Considering the Eskimos had the added pressure of playing against their former quarterback in Ray, they seemed to put all the pieces together in the opening week.
Defense should be one of the strong suits for the Eskimos again this season, given that the team ranked second in the league in interceptions (24) and total takeaways (45) in 2011. Because the offense played well enough to turn the ball over just 29 times, fewest in the CFL, the team easily led the league in overall turnovers with a plus-16.
Unfortunately, for the Roughriders, if recent history is any indication, turnovers might be their undoing at some point this year. If there is any lingering issues from a season ago, Saskatchewan has to be careful not to fall into bad habits that saw the group tie Toronto for the worst turnover margin at minus-17. The biggest problem was turning the ball over on downs, which the program did a total of 19 times, something Durant will have to take ownership of moving forward.
Edmonton had taken three straight and five of the last six meetings between these two squads. The most recent triumph for the Eskimos was a narrow 23-20 final at home on November 4 of last season. Dating back to 1949 and taking into consideration only regular-season bouts, the Esks are ahead of Saskatchewan by a count of 111-81-2.
The Roughriders and Eskimos are slated to meet up at least two more times during the regular season, the squads meeting in Edmonton the second week of August and then playing on the home field of the Esks again on October 13.
Expecting Durant to have another near-flawless outing would be asking quite a bit this early in the season, but bringing home the victory shouldn't be as great a stretch.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Saskatchewan 31, Edmonton 22.
2012 Sports Network Predictions: 1-3. Last Week's Selections: 1-3.
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