CFL Previews - Week 6 - August 3-6Aug 1, 2012 - 2:56 PM Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
MONTREAL ALOUETTES (2-3) AT WINNIPEG BLUE BOMBERS (1-4)
DATE & TIME: Friday, August 3, 8:30 p.m. (et).
GAME NOTES: Having finally picked up their first win of the 2012 campaign, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers try to make it two in a row on Friday night as they host the Montreal Alouettes at Canad Inns Stadium.
The Blue Bombers, a team which matched up against British Columbia in last year's Grey Cup and fell to the Lions in that game at BC Place, were on the road for the first four weeks of this season and failed to catch a break at any of their stops.
Winnipeg dropped the first three outings all by double digits and then closed the gap in Week 4 versus Toronto in a 25-22 setback. Last Thursday night, the Bombers finally got over the hump with a narrow 23-22 final versus Edmonton in front of a favorable crowd for once.
The Bombers trailed by double digits in the second half last week, but they managed to put all the pieces together, particularly on defense as they limited the visitors to just a single in the final quarter to secure the much-needed victory.
In his second start of the season, Alex Brink connected on 26-of-38 passes for 294 yards and a touchdown, shaking off a couple of sacks and two interceptions along the way. Chad Simpson, who caught five balls for 49 yards, led the ground attack for Winnipeg as he produced 73 yards and a major on 14 carries.
While Winnipeg is hoping the tide has turned for the better, the Alouettes are trying to figure out why they've been so inconsistent through five weeks of action.
A 15-yard TD pass from quarterback Anthony Calvillo to Brandon London in the first quarter of Montreal's meeting with Toronto last week put the Als up after 15 minutes of action, but the offense floundered from there en route to a disappointing 23-20 home setback. With the loss, the team's second in as many games, Montreal dipped to 2-3 on the year.
Calvillo converted 25-of-42 pass attempts for 317 yards, but his one interception was thrown in the end zone near the end of the second quarter, an unfortunate turn of events for Montreal as it was closing in on tying the score at the time. The record-setting signal-caller also suffered his lone sack of the game late in the fourth frame, consequently forcing kicker Sean Whyte to attempt a 54-yard field goal which fell short as time expired.
London accounted for 102 yards on five receptions, one catch fewer than Jamel Richardson who rolled up 70 yards in the losing effort.
Gaining some recognition of his own was safety Daryl Townsend who was named the CFL Special Teams Player of the Week after posting a career-best and game- high four tackles on special teams. Townsend, now in his second CFL campaign, has made at least one special teams stop in every game this season.
While the Townsend story is nice, the real focus has to go back on Calvillo and the offense. The quarterback continues to lead the league in passing yards with 1,633 and is second in both passing TDs (11) and efficiency rating (101.1), but there are still times when the offensive line has been pushed a bit too far and exposed the signal-caller more than he would like. The problem is, the Montreal running game has yet to step up and make itself a threat, accounting for just two touchdowns over five games.
Montreal is last in the league in gaining first downs by running the ball, delivering a new set of downs just 20 times to this point. With a mere 317 yards on the ground, the Als are easily last in that department heading into the sixth game of the season, so it is easy to see why opposing defenses are charging so hard at Calvillo in the pocket.
Even though the Bombers have only one more rushing major than Montreal, the team has been much better at mixing up its offensive attack and is in the middle of the pack with its 458 yards over five games. While Winnipeg has lost a versatile quarterback in Buck Pierce to injury, someone who often took off and ran with the ball when he couldn't find a passing outlet, the team has certainly had to modify its attack in order to take some of the pressure off Brink.
Among starting quarterbacks, Brink has the lowest completion percentage (.500) and has twice as many interceptions (6) as passing scores (3), which explains why the offense is trying to add another dimension to its arsenal.
Heading into this season Montreal held a 43-34-2 advantage in the regular- season series versus the Bombers, dating back to 1946, and actually built on that edge with a 41-30 victory at Stade Percival-Molson Stadium on July 6, which means the Als have now taken six of the last eight matchups between the two.
In that first meeting, Calvillo converted all but eight of his 39 pass attempts, leading to 443 yards and three touchdowns for the hosts who controlled the action for the better part of 36 minutes. The score could have easily been even more lopsided, if not for the fact that Montreal was flagged for 13 penalties, costing the squad a total of 160 yards.
Guilty of the most turnovers in the league after five weeks with 19, Winnipeg has only been hurting itself as Brink tries to gain control of the offense and find his comfort zone. That's something Calvillo and the Als shouldn't have to worry about.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Montreal 31, Winnipeg 20
BRITISH COLUMBIA LIONS (3-2) AT TORONTO ARGONAUTS (3-2)
DATE & TIME: Monday, August 6, 5:00 p.m. (et).
GAME NOTES: Hitting the road for the second of two straight outings, the British Columbia Lions find themselves with plenty of time to prepare for their meeting with the Toronto Argonauts at Rogers Centre on Monday.
The Lions, winners of last year's Grey Cup, kicked off the 2012 season with back-to-back victories over Winnipeg and Hamilton, but then lost consecutive games versus Saskatchewan and Edmonton which brought them back to the rest of the pack in the West Division. Last weekend, the team thumped Calgary on the road, 34-8, representing its best defensive effort to date, and subsequently moved into a three-way tie for first place in the division.
Off to a bit of a slow start last Saturday night, the Lions went from a mere three points in the first quarter in Calgary to generating double digits in each of the final three frames to slow the Stampeders down to a crawl. The defense also came to play for the visitors as they kept Calgary out of the end zone for a full 60 minutes.
Travis Lulay connected on 30-of-37 passes for 315 yards and three touchdowns for the Lions, adding another 41 yards on six rushing attempts as BC controlled the action for close to two-thirds of the meeting.
Andrew Harris was the leading rusher for the group with a game-high 55 yards in nine attempts, not to mention turning himself into a valued receiver who caught five balls for 37 yards and crossed the goal line twice.
From a defensive standpoint, the Lions limited the home team to just 14 first downs and a mere 29 yards rushing.
As for the Argonauts, their meeting with Montreal last Friday was vastly different than BC's runaway victory. For the second game in a row and the third time in as many victories on the season, Toronto won by just three points with a 23-20 triumph versus the Alouettes.
In week 2, the Argos notched their first win of the season with a 39-36 final against visiting Calgary, and then two weeks ago it was Winnipeg that felt the sting of a close call, 25-22. In fact, all five games thus far for Toronto have been decided by single digits.
However, last week the Argos were rather lucky to have escaped Montreal with a win as the hosts missed on a lengthy field goal attempt at the end of regulation, and quarterback Anthony Calvillo tossed his only interception of the meeting in the end zone which ended what could have been a significant scoring drive for the hosts.
While Ricky Ray tends to grab the spotlight regularly now for his new team, converting 20-of-30 pass attempts for 280 yards and two touchdowns, former Montreal member Chad Owens put forth yet another fantastic all-around display for the visitors. Primarily a kick returner for the Argos the two previous seasons, Owens is now getting his chance to shine with the offense and on Friday did just that as he reeled in a game-high seven passes for 97 yards and a pair of scores. Add to that his six kickoff returns for 121 yards and four punt returns for 59 yards, and he is clearly becoming one of the most dangerous performers in the game.
Owens, who led the CFL in combined yards with more than 3,000 in each of the previous campaigns, is again on top in that category with a staggering 1,291 yards through five games. Setting a blistering pace for the rest of the league to witness, Owens is on pace to put up mind-boggling numbers once again if he can stay healthy.
Even though he might be prone to being separated from the ball from time to time, Owens is already fourth in the league in receiving yards (392) and has found the end zone three times in the last couple of weeks in order to help move Toronto into a tie with Hamilton for first place in the East Division at 3-2.
Because of the efforts of Owens, Toronto leads the league in kickoff return yards with 738 and that has helped give Ray a shorter field than the competition, and yet the signal-caller is still second in the CFL in total passing yards with 1,542.
However, Ray and the offensive line will have to be on the lookout for BC's Keron Williams who leads the league in sacks with six, a total that is more than half of his career-high of 11 that he managed for the Lions last season.
In terms of the all-time series between these two clubs, BC maintains a 49-31-2 edge in regular-season matchups dating back to 1954. The Lions won the most recent meeting last September by a score of 28-6 in Vancouver, which means the squad has now taken three in a row and all but one of the last 14 encounters.
The teams are slated to compete against each other once more during this regular season, matching up at BC Place in the middle of September.
With Owens capable of spreading the field on offense and creating havoc on kick returns, the BC defense and special teams will have its hands full trying to keep track of him. When given the time, Ray can carve up a defense as well as anyone, which should give the Argonauts the advantage in this meeting.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Toronto 20, British Columbia 17
2012 Sports Network Predictions: 7-13. Last Week's Selections: 1-3.
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