CFL Previews - Week 5 - July 26-28Jul 25, 2012 - 2:53 PM Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
EDMONTON ESKIMOS (3-1) AT WINNIPEG BLUE BOMBERS (0-4)
DATE & TIME: Thursday, July 26, 8:30 p.m. (et).
GAME NOTES: It may be hard to believe, but only a few months ago the Winnipeg Blue Bombers were sizing up the British Columbia Lions in the 99th Grey Cup, and now the club stands as the only winless squad entering Week 5 of the CFL's 2012 campaign. The Bombers hope they can get on track this Thursday night when they finally open the home portion of their schedule at Canad Inns Stadium against the Edmonton Eskimos.
Winnipeg has been hit hard with injuries already, particularly at the quarterback position where first-stringer Buck Pierce suffered torn ligaments and a torn muscle in his left foot, and backup Alex Brink has also missed some action due to taking a few too many hits.
The Blue Bombers tried yet again to work their way into the win column last week and came very close before suffering a 25-22 setback at Toronto.
Brink was largely ineffective versus the Argonauts as he completed just 9-of-34 passes for 185 yards and was picked off twice. The signal-caller did hit the end zone on a one-yard run in the second quarter to cap a drive of slightly more than 50 yards, but other than that there was little to cheer about from the Winnipeg offense.
Bombers kicker Justin Palardy certainly made things interesting as he converted all five of his field goal attempts on his way to capturing CFL Special Teams Player of the Week honors. But at the same time, the Winnipeg defense proved to be too lenient in giving up nearly 400 yards of offense to the hosts and folding late in the fourth quarter when a victory was still possible.
As for the Eskimos, they are the team that has been unexpectedly successful thus far, registering three wins in four tries as they break in a new starting quarterback.
Last Friday night, Edmonton started out slow against British Columbia on the road at BC Place, scoring just six points through the first 30 minutes of action, but with the defense limiting the scoring opportunities for the Lions, the Eskimos were able to register a 27-14 victory.
Edmonton quarterback Steven Jyles, who took a shot to the head late in the third quarter and was knocked out of the game, had little to do with the victory as he completed 10-of-16 passes for 150 yards and an interception before exiting. Backup Kerry Joseph hit on 4-of-6 tosses for 60 yards but he too had a pass picked off.
Running back Hugh Charles was crucial as he gained a game-high 118 yards and scored on a five-yard effort early in the second half.
Edmonton scored 14 unanswered points to close out the meeting thanks to a couple of field goals by Grant Shaw, he booted a total of four in the meeting, and an interception returned 108 yards for a major by Joe Burnett, with the latter subsequently being named the CFL Defensive Player of the Week for his efforts.
Now at 3-1, the Eskimos are tied with Saskatchewan for the best record in the West Division and the CFL overall for that matter, somehow making it happen despite ranking next-to-last in the league in scoring with a mere 22.3 ppg.
While it may seem as though Edmonton is getting the job done with smoke and mirrors, the reality is that the defense for the Eskimos has been shouldering much of the burden through the first four games. Opponents have been limited to a mere 14.0 ppg, by far the best mark in the league, 5.5 ppg ahead of second-place Saskatchewan as the teams enter play this week.
Edmonton is getting the job done in spite of the efforts of Jyles who is completing passes at just 57.1 percent and has an efficiency ranking of 72.2 due to the fact that he has just a single TD pass and three interceptions.
Unfortunately for the Bombers, their troubles at quarterback have been well documented already and they need Brink to somehow get in gear and become a leader immediately. As a team, Winnipeg is by far the weakest passing program with a mere 49.3 percent on completions and an awful 60.4 efficiency, having tossed almost twice as many INTs (seven) as TDs (three).
As much as Winnipeg needs Brink to beef up his numbers, the signal-caller has been absolutely brutal when standing in the pocket, hitting on just 41.5 percent of his throws.
It also doesn't help that Winnipeg is by far the most lenient team in terms of points allowed, giving up a hefty 35.3 ppg.
In terms of the all-time, regular-season series between these two programs, Edmonton owns a 92-79-3 advantage dating back to 1949, thanks in part to a 42-10 romp at home over the Bombers just two weeks ago. The Esks have now taken two straight and three of the last four encounters overall.
Perhaps finally getting to play in front of a favorable crowd will buoy the hopes of the Bombers, but being the only team in the CFL that has yet to win a game has still placed them in a deep hole at this early stage nevertheless.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Edmonton 31, Winnipeg 16
TORONTO ARGONAUTS (2-2) AT MONTREAL ALOUETTES (2-2)
DATE & TIME: Friday, July 27, 8:30 p.m. (et).
GAME NOTES: Undefeated in two home games thus far in 2012, the Montreal Alouettes try to keep the ball rolling as they entertain the Toronto Argonauts in an East Division showdown at Stade Percival-Molson Stadium on Friday night.
Montreal head coach Marc Trestman was rewarded with a contract extension following his 50th win a couple of weeks back, but he was unable to celebrate his new riches as the Als bowed to Hamilton in Week 4 by a score of 39-24 on the road.
The Montreal offense started off slowly against the Tiger-Cats in the last outing, but it picked up some momentum in the third quarter before completely shutting down en route to the double-digit setback.
Quarterback Anthony Calvillo converted 24-of-39 passes for 374 yards and three touchdowns, but he was sacked twice and nearly had his one interception returned for a touchdown by the Hamilton defense. Calvillo spread the ball to seven receivers, with S.J. Green stretching his six catches into 110 yards thanks in large part to his 54-yard effort down the middle of the field at one point.
The so-called running attack was ineffective for the Als as they generated just 67 yards on 12 attempts.
The pass defense for the visitors had trouble slowing down Hamilton's Henry Burris, as the signal-caller missed on a mere three throws and generated both 360 yards and four touchdowns.
As for the Argonauts, a team which has come up empty in two road dates so far in 2012, they managed to slip by a winless Winnipeg squad last Wednesday with a narrow 25-22 triumph at home in order to tie both Montreal and Hamilton for first place in the East Division at 2-2.
It wasn't pretty by any means, but quarterback Ricky Ray stepped up big when he needed to the most, combining with Jason Barnes on a 37-yard TD strike with just over two minutes remaining in regulation to give the hosts the victory. Ray hit on 23-of-34 passes for 325 yards and three touchdowns, fighting through a couple of sacks and an interception along the way.
Chad Owens, the league leader in combined yards each of the last two years, had an up and down game as he reeled in a 37-yard TD strike from Ray late in the second quarter, but also fumbled once following a catch and muffed a punt which turned the ball back over to the Blue Bombers as well. Owens finished the meeting with four catches for 63 yards, and he tacked on another 132 yards on kickoff returns.
Now a more viable option on offense, Owens is second on the team and seventh in the league in receiving with 21 receptions for 295 yards. Ahead of him in that department is Andre Durie who has 28 grabs for 357 yards (third in the CFL), and yet Durie is the only receiver in the top-10 without a major to this point in the campaign.
Second in the league in combined yards with 1,010 after four games, Owens is obviously a player that opponents like Montreal have to plan for, but the sprite receiver/returner from Hawaii can also be his own worst enemy, attempting to make his next move on the field without fully securing possession of the ball. Should that trend continue, Owens could play himself right out of the Toronto attack.
Ray continues to round himself into his new role as the starter for the Argonauts after spending so many years with Edmonton. Ray is second in the league in passing yards (1,262) and has completed close to 70 percent of his attempts, although he still has just two more passing scores (six) than he does interceptions (four).
The only quarterback ahead of Ray in passing yards is Calvillo (1,316) after four games and while the Montreal signal-caller is second in the league in passing TDs (10) and efficiency rating (106.8), his completion percentage (.639) is a bit sub par compared to previous years for the all-time leader in passing yards for professional football.
As far as this season's schedule is concerned, these teams are set to meet again in Montreal on September 23 and then a few weeks later the Argonauts are slated to host the Als in the third and final regular-season matchup.
In terms of the all-time, regular-season series between the squads, Montreal owns a 106-82-3 edge stretching back to 1946. The Als delivered a 29-19 win at home in the most recent matchup last October and have posted three straight triumphs and 11 in the last 13 contests with Toronto.
With both defenses giving up considerable points thus far, this could be one of those wild, offensive outings that has both Calvillo and Ray reaching a little bit deeper in order to out-duel the other. The game could come down to one of the final possessions, in which case Calvillo and the Als hold the edge.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Montreal 38, Edmonton 34
HAMILTON TIGER-CATS (2-2) AT SASKATCHEWAN ROUGHRIDERS (3-1)
DATE & TIME: Saturday, July 28, 6:00 p.m. (et).
Last year at this time the Saskatchewan Roughriders were staring at a 1-3 record, en route to a miserable 1-7 start to the 2011 campaign and a dismal five-win season overall. The 2012 campaign has the Riders at the other end of the spectrum, tied for the best record in the CFL after four weeks as they get ready to challenge the Hamilton Tiger-Cats at Mosaic Stadium.
In fact, Saskatchewan was the last of the unbeatens for this season before being caught up in a wild overtime affair last week versus Calgary and bowing to the Stampeders on the road, 41-38. The 41 points allowed were more than the 37 given up by the Riders through the first three games of the campaign, so clearly it was not the norm for the squad.
One of the most productive running backs in the league thus far, Kory Sheets ran for a game-high 72 yards and scored twice for the Roughriders, giving him at least one major in every game this season, but it still wasn't enough to keep the Riders from falling into the loss column for the first time this year.
Quarterback Darian Durant completed just over half of his pass attempts (19- of-37) for 219 yards and two touchdowns, but he was also sacked three times and intercepted once by the Calgary defense. Backup signal-caller Drew Willy completed his lone pass attempt to Neal Hughes for a two-yard TD in the second quarter as well.
Unfortunately for the Roughriders, even though the offense was consistently putting points on the board, the defense could not stop Calgary receiver Nik Lewis who reeled in seven passes for 98 yards and a total of three scores, including the game-winner from 16 yards out in the overtime session.
While Saskatchewan tries to recover from its first loss of 2012, the 'Cats hope to build on their impressive 39-24 home win over Montreal on Saturday. With the victory, Hamilton created a log-jam at the top of the East Division standings as it is tied with both the Alouettes and Toronto Argonauts for first place with a 2-2 record.
Ahead by a score of 32-10 at the break last weekend, Hamilton's offense nearly disappeared completely in the second half, save for a 26-yard TD pass from Henry Burris to Andy Fantuz. Burris had an incredible game for the hosts as he completed all but three of his 30 pass attempts, leading to 360 yards and four touchdowns. The 90.0 percent completion rate was the highest in CFL history with at least 30 attempts and for that Burris was named the CFL Offensive Player of the Week.
Burris spread the ball to eight different receivers with half of them reaching the end zone. Like Burris, Andy Fantuz is another new addition to the Hamilton lineup and put on a strong display last week as he posted game highs with eight catches for 135 yards and one score, en route to being named the CFL Canadian Player of the Week.
Chris Williams tacked on seven receptions for 115 yards but, as well as he played on offense, he also showed some poor judgement on special teams. In the second quarter Williams appeared to be well on his way to a touchdown, but near the end of what should have been a 117-yard major following a failed field goal at the other end, Williams began to showboat and was taken down short of the goal line.
Running back Chevon Walker took the ball into the end zone on the first play from scrimmage following the folly by Williams, the running back finishing the meeting with a game-high 80 yards on 19 attempts.
A former league MVP, Burris, who is in his first season with the Tiger-Cats after spending the previous seven campaigns with Calgary, now leads the league in TD strikes with 11 and is carrying the best efficiency rating (113.9) into Week 5 action. The signal-caller is well on his way to eclipsing his TD pass total from all of last year when he tossed just 20, his lowest total since 2003 when he attempted a total of just 24 passes to begin with.
Also working well for the 'Cats is the progress of Walker who is third in the league with 315 yards on the ground.
With Burris finding his groove in the pocket, the next step for the Tiger-Cats is for the defense to saddle up and become a little less lenient, seeing as how the team is third from the bottom in points allowed at the moment (33.3 ppg) and has a mere five takeaways through the first four games of 2012.
Saskatchewan's defense has been much tighter, thanks in large part to a front line that discourages opponents from running the ball. Through four games the Roughriders have defended a league-low 59 rushing plays. It also doesn't hurt that the unit has forced nine turnovers and easily has the best turnover margin with a plus-eight at this stage.
The teams split their two meetings last season with the Roughriders picking up a 19-3 win at home on October 29 after being blown away in Week 3 action on the road, 33-3.
Dating back to 1950 and taking into consideration only regular-season meetings, Saskatchewan owns a 40-37-4 advantage in the series with the Ti-cats. The Roughriders won this year's season opener on the road, 43-16, which means they've taken two in a row and 15 of the last 17 matchups with Hamilton.
Both of these teams are scoring in excess of 30 ppg at the moment, which means it will be a bigger challenge for the Tiger-Cats to keep up, considering their defense has been much weaker through the first four weeks of action.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Saskatchewan 38, Hamilton 27
BRITISH COLUMBIA LIONS (2-2) AT CALGARY STAMPEDERS (2-2)
DATE & TIME: Saturday, July 28, 9:00 p.m. (et).
GAME NOTES: While it is still very early in the 2012 season, British Columbia, the defending Grey Cup Champion, finds itself tied with Calgary for third place in the West Division standings as the two squads try to push the other deeper into the basement as they clash on Saturday night at McMahon Stadium.
The Lions started off the campaign well, with back-to-back victories over Winnipeg and Hamilton, but a setback versus Saskatchewan on July 14 was followed six days later with a 27-14 defeat at the hands of Edmonton at home.
British Columbia put the first points on the board against the Esks in the first quarter, as quarterback Travis Lulay locked up with Marco Iannuzzi on a five-yard TD strike, but after that the BC offense struggled to finish drives.
Lulay finished the meeting 28-of-38 for 360 yards, was sacked once and picked off two times for a squad that generated a hefty 451 yards on 68 snaps, but still landed in the loss column. One of the interceptions thrown by Lulay was returned 108 yards for a touchdown by Edmonton's Joe Burnett as the Eskimos scored the final 14 points of the contest.
Andrew Harris was responsible for a two-yard TD run for the Lions in the third frame, he finished the meeting with 65 yards rushing on nine carries and also logged game highs in receiving with 11 catches for 120 yards.
If not for the defensive touchdown and the four field goals converted by Edmonton's Grant Shaw the outcome could have easily gone in favor of BC.
As for the Stamps, they managed to snap a brief two-game slide on July 19 with a thrilling 41-38 overtime decision against Saskatchewan at home, preventing the Roughriders from remaining undefeated after four weeks of action.
After scoring just three points in both the first and third quarters against a consistent Saskatchewan squad, the Stamps ramped up in the fourth frame and posted 17 unanswered points, the final three coming on a late 17-yard field goal by Rene Paredes to force overtime.
In the extra session the Calgary defense yielded a 50-yard field goal by Chris Milo before quarterback Kevin Glenn hooked up with Nik Lewis on a 16-yard TD strike to win the game.
Although he didn't take player of the week honors, Lewis certainly made it tough on the voters as he turned seven receptions into 98 yards and three touchdowns. Glenn was solid as well, as he completed 27-of-42 attempts for 385 yards and four scores.
Because of all the back-and-forth scoring, kick returner Larry Taylor beefed up his season numbers with six kickoff returns for 110 yards, eight punt returns for another 117 yards and two receptions for 24 yards and one crucial major.
Taylor has been a stat machine for the Stampeders this season, not only leading the team but also pacing the entire league in combined yards with 1,046 over four games.
Glenn, in his first season with the Stampeders after being traded away from Hamilton, is off to a solid start to the 2012 campaign, compared to what he posted last season with the Tiger-Cats when he threw for just under 4,000 yards and has almost as many picks (17) as he did TDs (19). Already this year Glenn has six aerial majors and is completing his passes at a 71.0 percent clip, the latter number being the highest among active starters.
Aside from teammate Drew Tate, who is now out with an injury, Glenn has the top completion percentage in the CFL entering Week 5 action, hitting on an impressive 71 percent of his throws. Glenn is also sporting the third-best efficiency rating (104.7) to this point as well, even though his longest completion is just 39 yards and that ranks last among the regular starter right now.
Lulay is one of four QBs to have thrown for more than 1,000 yards, posting 1,116 to be exact, but among those signal-callers he has the lowest completion rate (.634) and efficiency rating (89.0) because he has nearly as many interceptions (five) as he does TDs (six) and that's something that needs to change in a hurry if the Lions are going to climb to the top of the mountain once more.
British Columbia is set to host the Stamps for the one and only time during the regular season on October 6, while three weeks later Calgary will entertain the Lions to complete the three-game series.
In terms of the all-time, regular-season series, Calgary is ahead by a count of 94-75-5 dating back to the 1954 campaign. However, BC won the most recent meeting in October, 33-31, and has now claimed victory in two straight and four of the last five encounters.
If the BC defense can rattle Glenn just enough this week, expect to see the Lions land in the win column once again.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: British Columbia 27, Calgary 20
2012 Sports Network Predictions: 6-10. Last Week's Selections: 1-3.
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