CFL Previews - Week 4 - July 18-21Jul 18, 2012 - 4:58 PM Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
WINNIPEG BLUE BOMBERS (0-3) AT TORONTO ARGONAUTS (1-2)
DATE & TIME: Wednesday, July 18, 7:30 p.m. (ET).
GAME NOTES: As if being the lone winless team in the CFL after three weeks of action were not bad enough, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers are back out on the road with a very short week of preparation as they challenge the Toronto Argonauts on Wednesday night at Rogers Centre.
Having failed to climb into the win column thus far, it should come as little surprise that Winnipeg is ranked last in the league with a whopping 116 points allowed. However, perhaps even more painful is the recognition that the team has generated a mere 56 points thus far, fewest in the CFL as well.
A big part of the problem on offense has been the health of quarterbacks Buck Pierce and Alex Brink. Pierce, the starter heading into the 2012 campaign, suffered a foot injury in the lopsided 42-10 setback versus Edmonton last Friday, the third in four straight road dates to kick off the season for the Bombers.
Brink meanwhile, suffered what appeared to be a head injury in the losing effort as well, but all indications are that he will be ready to make the start against Toronto this week as he claims to have no real issues.
Needless to say, Winnipeg has had anything but an easy road in the early going this season, particularly against Edmonton last week as it gave up a season-high 42 points while registering a season-low 10.
Brink and Pierce combined to hit on 11-of-23 pass attempts for 136 yards, each tossing an interception, while third-string signal-caller Joey Elliott stepped in to convert 11-of-18 passes for 193 yards and the only major of the contest for the club in the fourth quarter of a game that had long been decided. While Elliott kept the Bombers from being left high and dry, his performance was still two steps behind getting the squad into the win column.
Late Monday it was determined that Pierce will be out indefinitely with torn ligaments and a torn muscle in his left foot.
Chris Matthews tried to give the visitors something to cheer about last week, as he recorded game highs with seven catches for 171 yards, including a long of 72, but it wasn't nearly enough to even make the final score respectable.
As for the Argonauts, they too came out on the short end of a 36-27 final versus Hamilton over the weekend. The issue with Toronto was that it surrendered 29 points in the first half, and while able to limit the home team to just a single major in the final 30 minutes of action, couldn't close the gap enough to sway the outcome.
Now 1-2 on the season, Toronto was paced by running back Cory Boyd who raced for a game-high 168 yards on 19 carries and scored once. Boyd, who has gained at least 1,100 yards on the ground in both of his first two seasons in the CFL, is now the league leader in rushing after three weeks with 317 yards, averaging a whopping 6.7 yards per attempt.
Quarterback Ricky Ray is still adjusting to his new surroundings and new teammates since being moved from Edmonton during the offseason. The signal- caller, currently second in the league in total passing yards (937), connected on 23-of-38 passes for 232 yards and was intercepted once by Hamilton in the loss last week.
Although his efforts were not enough to earn the Argos their second win of the campaign, Chad Owens continued to show why he is one of the most dangerous players in the league as he generated 112 yards on five kickoff returns, another 89 yards while bringing back punts and also caught four passes for 44 yards. Owens, who has registered at least 3,000 all-purpose yards in each of the last two seasons, is listed third in combined return yards at the moment with 560.
In addition to Owens becoming more of a key contributor for the Edmonton offense, slotback Andre Durie is also off to a fast start with his new quarterback. In the two previous seasons, Durie recorded 54 catches each year for 632 and 665 yards, respectively, and already he is on pace to crush those numbers as long as he and Ray continue to find each other.
Durie now has 23 catches for 266 yards, although he has yet to find the end zone which is also the case for Owens who is fifth in the league with 232 yards on 17 grabs. Then again, Durie and Owens are in good company when it comes to failing to post majors on receptions as the only other player in that category among the top 15 receivers in the league at this stage is British Columbia's Geroy Simon, who in the first game of the season became the league's all-time leader in receiving yards.
While the Bombers deal with the loss of their starting quarterback, Toronto is now about to start life without kicker Noel Prefontaine who landed on the IR with a hip injury. To take his spot, the team signed kicker Swayze Waters, who was a two-year starter at the University of Alabama-Birmingham.
These two teams met a total of four times last season, with Winnipeg capturing the first two encounters during July, and Toronto managing to split the series with victories in September and October, albeit by just a combined total of six points. They are slated to match up again in late September on Winnipeg's home field, and then three weeks later in Toronto as well.
Having to figure out the best approach for the quarterback position will not be easy for the Bombers right now, but at least it keeps Toronto guessing as well when it comes to schemes for the Argos defense. However, the home team still has the better man at that particular position at the moment so lean in favor of the Argonauts this time around.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Toronto 28, Winnipeg 13
SASKATCHEWAN ROUGHRIDERS (3-0) AT CALGARY STAMPEDERS (1-2)
DATE & TIME: Thursday, July 19, 9:00 p.m. (ET).
GAME NOTES: Injuries in the CFL are starting to mount and no team knows this better than the Calgary Stampeders who are being forced to go without their starting quarterback for the rest of the season. The Stamps get their first full taste of life without Drew Tate as they host the undefeated Saskatchewan Roughriders at McMahon Stadium on Thursday night.
Several teams have suffered significant injuries mere weeks into the season, and the Stamps are no different with Tate electing to undergo surgery on his non-throwing (left) shoulder which was dislocated in the meeting with Toronto on July 7. As a result, Tate is expected to miss the remainder of the season and that leaves Kevin Glenn heading up the depth chart for a team that is 1-2 for the first time since 2009.
Glenn nearly guided the Stampeders to a victory over Montreal on the road last week, but a late flurry by the Alouettes sent Calgary packing in a 33-32 loss. Glenn converted 26-of-36 passes for 267 yards and was intercepted once. Backup quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell registered a pair of one-yard TD runs for a team that has scored at least 32 points in each game thus far, and leads the league in scoring with 35.3 ppg.
Unfortunately, even though Calgary has been able to pile up the points, the defense has been mediocre at best. If not for the mere 10 points allowed to Montreal in the season opener, the numbers would appear even more dismal for the group after three weeks of action.
Saskatchewan, the last of the unbeatens after three weeks of action, captured a narrow 23-20 win over visiting British Columbia last Saturday. The offense for the Roughriders struggled to produce 266 yards overall and needed the help from the special teams unit to get them over the hump.
Kicker Chris Milo accounted for 11 points, converting three field goals and a pair of extra points, while Tristan Jackson electrified the crowd with a thrilling 129-yard missed field goal return for a touchdown which proved to be the difference in the outcome.
Quarterback Darian Durant hit on 18-of-28 passes for 172 yards and Kory Sheets accounted for the only other major for the team, that coming on a one-yard run in the second quarter, as he tallied a game-high 76 yards on 15 attempts for the hosts.
Durant hasn't been stealing the spotlight in the early going, but he's not making costly mistakes either. Through three games he is the only regular starter who has yet to throw an interception and his 106.0 efficiency rating is second only to Montreal's Anthony Calvillo. Because Durant has been cautious with the ball, the Riders have the best turnover margin in the league with a plus-eight, and everyone will tell you that turnovers can make or break a team depending on which side of that line they fall on.
Another positive for Saskatchewan that might not be jumping off the stat sheet is the fact that it is the least-penalized team at the moment with just 19 infractions, amounting to a loss of only 140 yards. No other club is surrendering fewer than 71 yards per game in penalties heading into the fourth week of the season.
Even though Glenn is one of the more accurate passers in the league with 75.9 percent success, the Stamps as a whole are one of the weaker teams in terms of turnovers at the moment, tied for sixth in the CFL at minus-four in the department. While the team gives the ball away a bit too frequently, it is hard to argue with a squad that is generating so many points per contest.
Glenn has to continue to play error-free football because even though Calgary is comfortable as the team with the second-most rushing attempts in the league (64), it is getting less-than-average results with just 4.3 yards per attempt, and that's no way to take the pressure off the quarterback.
Calgary swept the Riders in 2011, winning all four games played between the two. Calgary won the two games at McMahon by scores of 40-3 in Week 14 and 25-13 three weeks later. Saskatchewan actually went winless against the West in 2011, losing all 10 games played within the division, but already the club has two wins in as many opportunities versus the division this year.
There are times when it appears the Roughriders are getting the job done with smoke and mirrors, but by leading the league in points allowed (12.3 ppg), Saskatchewan is definitely doing something right and probably will again this week as it attacks a Calgary offense which is having to reorganize.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Saskatchewan 31, Calgary 23
EDMONTON ESKIMOS (2-1) AT BRITISH COLUMBIA LIONS (2-1)
DATE & TIME: Friday, July 20, 10:00 p.m. (ET).
GAME NOTES: Two teams fighting for sole possession of second place in the CFL's West Division get together on Friday night, as the Edmonton Eskimos pay a visit to the Lions of British Columbia at BC Place.
British Columbia, the reigning Grey Cup Champions, plans on leaving the roof open for this weekend's tilt given the favorable forecast as it attempts to stay perfect at home following two wins in as many tries at BC Place here in 2012.
Last week, the Lions hit the road for the first time this season and came up a bit short in a 23-20 setback to Saskatchewan. BC ran just two more offensive plays than the Roughriders, yet came up with 460 yards of total offense, compared to just 266 for the hosts.
The bigger issue for the Lions was quarterback Travis Lulay who, in spite of completing 23-of-40 passes for 345 yards and a pair of touchdowns and also led the squad in rushing with 58 yards on three carries, tossed a couple of costly interceptions.
Geroy Simon led all receivers with six catches for 75 yards, but again was held out of the end zone which is becoming a disturbing trend for the league's all-time leading receiver. Instead, it was Kierrie Johnson and Marco Iannuzzi who posted majors on receptions, they measuring 69 and 8 yards, respectively.
Where the Lions dropped the ball so-to-speak, was when they allowed Tristan Jackson to reel in a missed field goal, set up his blockers and race an incredible 129 yards to the other end zone for what proved to be the game- winning score in the fourth quarter.
As for the Eskimos, they looked like world-beaters last Friday as they generated a hefty 35-0 halftime lead at home against Winnipeg, and eventually cruised to the 42-10 final so they too could move to 2-1 on the young season.
Defense and special teams carried Edmonton in the early going, as Clint Kent returned a fumble 29 yards for a touchdown to open the game's scoring in the first frame, and then T.J. Hill intercepted a ball and brought it back 32 yards for a score. Kicker Grant Shaw piled on with a couple of field goals and a single, finishing the meeting with 12 points overall.
Starting quarterback Steven Jyles hit 15-of-27 passes for 272 yards and a score, but he also tossed a pair of picks before taking a seat on the bench. Backup Kerry Joseph made the most of his three pass attempts, with all going to an Edmonton receiver and two finishing in the end zone.
Late in the first half, Joseph found Shamawd Chambers on a four-yard TD strike to cap an eight-play, 97-yard drive which took less than two minutes to complete. In the fourth period, Joseph and Hugh Charles hooked up on a 76-yard TD to complete the game's scoring.
Charles finished the meeting with three receptions for 145 yards and was also first on the team in rushing with 51 yards on 14 carries, which kept the Winnipeg defense constantly guessing.
In addition to scoring a pair of TDs, the defense for the Eskimos also knocked out quarterbacks Buck Pierce and Alex Brink with injuries. During desperation time, the unit was exposed a bit by third-string QB Joey Elliott, but by then the outcome had already been decided.
Edmonton, which on defense has been led by linebacker JC Sherritt who paces the entire league in tackles with 24, has been getting away with a sub par passing attack which is last in the CFL with a completion percentage of only .563. Jyles, who has taken over for the departed Ricky Ray, has hit on just 56.1 percent of his attempts, and has only one passing score thus far -- the fewest among active starters in the league.
Oddly enough, the Lions are second-to-last in total passing yards with just 756, only slightly better than Edmonton which has generated 744 yards over three games in a pass-happy league. Lulay has produced five passing scores, but his accuracy is also in question at just 59.4 percent.
Dating back to 1954 and taking into consideration only regular season meetings, Edmonton owns a 102-71-4 advantage in the all-time series with BC. However, the Lions won the most recent matchup, 29-20, last October which means they've taken three in a row from the Esks.
Chances are the Eskimos don't have another defensive gem ready to go on the road this week, but one never really knows in the CFL. BC will enjoy the support of the hometown crowd and a consistent offense that is capable of playing just well enough to win.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: British Columbia 28, Edmonton 19
MONTREAL ALOUETTES (2-1) AT HAMILTON TIGER-CATS (1-2)
DATE & TIME: Saturday, July 21, 7:00 p.m. (ET).
GAME NOTES: Needing some late-game heroics to turn the tables against their most recent foes, the Montreal Alouettes now turn their attention to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Saturday as the squads collide at Ivor Wynne Stadium.
Montreal, which dropped the 2012 season opener against Calgary by a lopsided 38-10 score on the road, has responded with a win against Winnipeg (41-30) in Week 2 and also a clutch 33-32 triumph over the same Stampeders last Thursday in a game that could have easily gone the other way.
The only club in the East Division that is above .500 entering play this week, Montreal trailed by a score of 25-13 in the fourth quarter before the venerable Anthony Calvillo went to work. The all-time leader in passing yards in professional football, Calvillo helped lead the Als to three majors in the final period, including TD passes of 7 and 3 yards to S.J. Green and Patrick Lavoie in the final minutes to complete the comeback.
Calvillo, who was named the CFL Offensive Player of the Week for his efforts, converted 23-of-38 passes for 325 yards and three touchdowns for his squad, while shaking off four sacks. Even though the team came up with the victory, the Als can't exactly be thrilled with their effort on the ground as they managed a mere five net yards on eight attempts.
Although he missed some of the game due to injury, defensive back Jerald Brown was named the CFL Defensive Player of the Week as he logged a season-best five tackles and picked off a Kevin Glenn pass with less than two minutes remaining, returning it 33 yards to the one-yard line of Calgary. Shortly thereafter, Calvillo hit Patrick Lavoie with the game-winning score.
While the Alouettes are moving in the right direction, Hamilton recently made amends for an 0-2 start to the campaign by claiming a 36-27 win over Toronto last Saturday at home.
The Tiger-Cats appeared to be well on their way to a comfortable win versus visiting Toronto, but after pushing out to a 21-0 advantage in the second quarter, Hamilton had to hold on for a bumpy ride before capturing the nine- point decision.
The 'Cats recorded only 14 first downs and 293 yards of total offense, compared to 402 yards for the Argos who refused to go away quietly. Henry Burris converted just 12-of-27 passes for 181 yards, yet offset his one interception by throwing three touchdowns passes. Putting his stamp on the game was returner Chris Williams who brought back four punts for a total of 113 yards, including one for an 89-yard score.
Williams, who reeled in a 34-yard scoring strike from Burris to kick off the game's action in the first period, also electrified the crowd with a 119-yard missed field goal return for a score as he was named the CFL Special Teams Player of the Week.
As well as Williams has played thus far, he alone cannot compensate for the fact that Hamilton has allowed more points than any other team in the league (109). Part of the problem is that the squad's turnover margin is currently the worst in the CFL as well (minus-seven).
Hamilton is in the middle of the pack when it comes to slowing down opposing passing attacks, giving up 266.7 ypg through the air, but that's a number that will be challenged almost exclusively this week given how inept the Als are at running the ball. Obviously everyone knows that Montreal is only as good as Calvillo is from week to week, but with a so-called rushing attack that is last in the league with just 50 net yards per game, the Als are making it a bit easier for opponents like Hamilton to prepare for them.
Montreal, which will host the next meeting between the squads on August 23, leads the all-time, regular-season series dating back to 1950 by a count of 87-77-7. The Als captured a narrow 27-25 decision in the most recent matchup last October, giving them two straight wins and three in the last five during the regular season versus Hamilton.
Defense is the weak link for Montreal and has been since Calvillo took over the offense. Should Burris and Williams find a way to exploit that aspect of the game, the Tiger-Cats will have a fighting chance this week, although they'll need to put more than just a few hits on the Montreal signal-caller top ensure a tight game.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Montreal 27, Hamilton 20
2012 Sports Network Predictions: 5-7. Last Week's Selections: 1-3.
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