Tuesday, 26 June 2012

CFL West Division Preview

With the CFL season kicking off on Friday, there is no better time to take a look at what could be in store in 2012. Today, it is a look at the West Division.

This division might as well be called the BC Lions and everyone else. After starting 0-5 last year, the Lions lost just one more time the entire season en route to winning the franchises Xth Grey Cup. Travis Lulay came of age, winning MOP and Grey Cup MVP, and solidifed himself as the next great CFL quarterback. BC returns with a loaded lineup in the hopes of repeating as champs. With Wally Buono doing his best Ron Swanson and gobbling up all the available defensive backs, the Lions look like the class of the West and arguably the class of the entire CFL.

For Edmonton, who lost the West Final to the Lions last year, the biggest question they have is at quarterback. Gone is Ricky Ray, dealt to the Argos for a bag of balls package that included quarterback Steven Jyles, kicker Grant Shaw and a 2012 first-round draft pick. It's a classic Eric Tillman move. The Eskies will sink or swim on that decision. My guess is they sink quite a bit in 2012. A playoff berth is possible, but another 11-win season is probably out of the question. The lucky things for Edmonton is that aside from BC, the other teams in the West have major question marks as well.

The Calgary Stampeders underwent their own massive overhaul in the off-season, with Henry Burris, Joffrey Reynolds and Ken-Yon Rambo, key contributors to the championship team in 2008, all no longer in Cowtown. Burris is now the starter in Hamilton after a January trade, Reynolds is out of work after his release and Rambo is looking to join the Argos when he is healthy enough to resume his career. This offense will be lead by quarterback Drew Tate and running back Jon Cornish. The Stamps have a little more continuity than their division rivals in Edmonton and Regina, so the Stamps probably have the inside track to a playoff spot.

Last year was nothing short of an unmitigated disaster for the Saskatchewan Roughriders. They hired a coach and fired him before the summer was over. The Riders did nothing last season and finished with a league-worst 5-13 record. While a repeat of the 2011 disaster is probably not going to happen, the top end for this team is probably a 9-9 record, and that only happens if everything goes right.

Five Bold Predictions (aka What I'll be Wrong Probably Be Wrong About)
  • BC will win the West, Calgary will finish second, Saskatchewan third and Edmonton fourth. The biggest threat to the Riders' playoff chances won't come from Edmonton, but from the East. The fourth-place team in the East could find a way to finally cross over into the West.
  • Travis Lulay will once again be the division's MOP, but Jon Cornish will give him a run for his money.
  • Cornish seems like the obvious candidate to be named the division's top Canadian, but a pair of BC Lions in Andrew Harris and Shawn Gore could make some noise as well.
  • As much as I like Drew Tate and think he can be a great CFL quarterback, at some point this season I think he will be benched in favour of Kevin Glenn.
  • Darian Durant will lead the league in interceptions and fans will be calling for his job by the middle of September.

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