Interesting week of CFL action coming off the final bye week of the year. We are just a couple of weeks away from Labour Day which is the unofficial start to the march to the playoffs. With one 5-2 team, three 4-3 teams, three 3-4 teams and one 2-5 team, this could end up being the tightest season in regards to final records as any we've ever seen. Whoever gets hot around the middle of October might be the team you want to bet on come the end of November.
(1) Every team that came off a bye won
Four teams came off byes in Week 8 and all four of those teams won. I don't think that is coincidence. Teams coming off a bye have a competitive advantage that teams who played the week before do not, and I don't just mean the players. The coaches for the Bombers, Als, Argos and Lions had two weeks to prepare for their Week 8 opponents, while the Ti-Cats, Eskimos, Stampeders and Roughriders had half that time. Next year, the league should make sure that bye teams play bye teams and non-bye teams play non-bye teams. To once again do it like they did this year would be a tad unfair.
(2) BC's defense is on a major roll
While everyone, myself included, was gushing over the Edmonton Eskimo defense, the BC Lion defense is putting together one heckuva run. The Lion D has not allowed a touchdown since early in the third quarter of their Week 4 loss to the Eskimos, and in the last three games, BC opponents have managed to score 8, 8 and 5 points. This is a streak of excellence that I will be keeping my eye on for as long as it goes.
(3) The Als are back
Maybe I'm jumping the gun a bit here, but that sure looked like the Als of old on Friday night in Edmonton. Before you could blink, the Als were up 28-0 and they dominated from start to finish. If this was the start of them turning the corner, the rest of the East Division is in a lot of trouble.
(4) No one should be surprised the Argos beat the Stamps
In one of the odder stats that I found out about this week, the Toronto Argonauts are pretty much kryptonite to the Calgary Stampeders. The Argos have won the last five meetings between the two teams, including twice in Calgary. They've also done it with three different starting quarterbacks (Ricky Ray, Steven Jyles and Cleo Lemon) and against three different starting quarterbacks (Kevin Glenn, Drew Tate and Henry Burris). When the Argos play the Stamps next year, I'm putting my money of the Boatmen.
(5) Little-known Canadians get some face time
Three seldom-used Canuck players got the chance to make some big plays this week. Montreal's Patrick Lavoie, and Hamilton's Darly Stephenson and Darcy Brown all contributed with big plays for their teams this past weekend. Lavoie caught another touchdown, his fourth of the season, while both Stephenson and Brown made long catch-and-run plays for the Tiger-Cats. It is always nice to see young Canadian players do well for themselves.
(6) Elliott shines... with an asterisk
It was a very impressive start for Winnipeg's Joey Elliott. The former Purdue Boilermaker threw for 406 yards in Winnipeg's win over Hamilton. He looked unafraid to make plays, which bodes well for his future in the Manitoba capital. That said, he did this against what is arguably the worst defense in the league right now and he also benefited from a couple of dropped interceptions. I'm not saying that Elliott can't be the player Bomber fans are raving about – I think he can and I actually like Elliott more than Brink or Pierce – but that we should wait for a couple of weeks before anointing him as a QB saviour.
(7) Riders losing streak not a surprise
When the Riders started the season 3-0, people were stunned. Now they've lost their last four and are once again in the basement of the West Division. But Saskatchewan's current record should not be a surprise. This was a bad football team last year and one off-season wasn't going to turn them into Grey Cup champions. They have a young team with a new coaching staff; coming together as a group will take a little longer. The team doesn't look great now, but Rider fans will probably be looking at a pretty good squad in 2013.
(8) Chad Simpson latest running back to run over Tiger-Cats
Chad Simpson couldn't get much going early on, but in the fourth quarter he piled up the yards against the Ti-Cats. He didn't cross the century mark, but his hard running helped the Bombers eat up clock and get the win. Simpson is proving to be a more than adequate replacement for Chris Garrett and there is going to be a fierce battle between these two players in training camp next year.
(9) Lions own Durant
I have known for a while that Ryan Phillips has owned Darian Durant during his career. Phillips has nine interceptions against Durant since he became the starter in Saskatchewan. But it is not just Phillips that feasts on Durant; BC as a whole has 20 interceptions of Durant over the course of his career. That's 29 per cent of his picks coming against one team. That's a pretty amazing stat. I don't know what it is about BC that just makes Durant throw up picks, but whatever they are doing should be copied by the other six teams.
(10) Players of the Week
I know what Calvillo did against Edmonton, and I wouldn't be surprised if he won the award, but it is hard not to recognize a player who throws for over 400 yards in his first start in almost two years. My top offensive player was Winnipeg's Joey Elliott.
For the second straight week the top Canadian will also take home another award, in this instance it is Defensive Player of the Week. BC Lion defensive back Cauchy Muamba picked off Darian Durant twice in BC's 24-5 win on Sunday night, and for that he is the top defensive player and top Canadian player for Week 8.
Who else but Chris Williams could be the top special teamer for Week 8? Williams scored another return touchdown, this time it was of the punt return variety. He now has four return touchdowns on the season, which ties Earl Winfield for the Tiger-Cat record, and is one off the league record of five shared by Henry "Gizmo" Williams, Bashir Levingston and Keith Stokes. He is the most dangerous player on any field he plays on and he proved that once again last Thursday in Winnipeg. Williams is a no-brainer here.