Monday 15 October 2012

10 Things I Learned... In Week 16

The playoff field is starting to take shape with three weeks left in the season. Following in BC's footsteps last week, both the Calgary Stampeders and Montreal Alouettes have clinched playoff berths. That leaves three spots left for five teams. If I had to guess, the Argos, Riders and Esks will take those in the next couple of weeks. But I think that one of the three teams that have already clinched their spot in the tournament will be the one getting their names engraved on the Grey Cup at season's end.

(1) Ottawa is back
The best news of the week was finding out that Ottawa will be back in the CFL. It is still not entirely known if it will be in 2014 or 2015, but football will be returning to Ottawa soon. Now we just need to find out what the name will be. As a fan of history, I want the name to be Rough Riders, but that likely won't happen thanks to the other Roughriders (a decision that was both selfish and completely ridiculous). At the end of the day, what the team is called is pretty immaterial, but we can all celebrate that the CFL will once again have a team in our nation's capital.

(2) We got Pink, we need Brown
This week kicked off the second annual CFL Pink campaign. It is great that the CFL has gotten on board with raising awareness for women's cancers, but it is time the CFL take the lead at get on board the Movember train. With the vast majority of football fans being male, the CFL should do something during November to help raise awareness for men's cancers in the same way they do it for women's cancers. As far as I know, not sports league does anything for Movember and the CFL could set the trend rather than following the trend set by others. We have Pink, it is time for the CFL to add a little Brown.

(3) BC's time of possession
We all watched the Lions mauling of the Ti-Cats on Friday night and if you thought you saw a lot of the BC offense, you weren't mistaken. The Lions held the ball for almost 40 minutes (39:59 to be exact) and that is something I haven't seen since the NY Giants held the ball for a similar length against the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXV. The way to beat the Ti-Cats is to keep their potent offense off the field; the Lions did just that on Friday night.

(4) Winnipeg's unbelieveable point differential
Last year, the Blue Bombers rode a stout defense to a Grey Cup appearance, so to find out that the Bombers have given up 165 more points than they have scored so far this season was shocking. I know the team made a lot of changes, but they are giving up an average of 11 points more per game than they are scoring. It might sound simplistic, but that pretty much sums up why the team that went 10-8 and made the Grey Cup last year is 4-11 and on the verge of elimination just one season later.

(5) Esks take a huge step forward
When Kavis Reed demoted Marcus Crandell and named Kerry Joseph his starter for the remainder of the season, it sure seemed like they were giving up on this season. Reed had no history on offense, save for one year as a running backs coach, and Joseph is nearly 40. It sounded like a recipe for disaster. Instead, the Eskimos have rolled off two straight wins and are not only looking good for a playoff spot, but they might not even be the crossover team. The Esks are just one game back of the Saskatchewan Roughriders, who they manhandled on Saturday, and could very easily find themselves in Calgary on Semi-Final weekend. The Esks might be hitting their stride at just the right time.

(6) Gotta give Glenn props
Everyone knows that I am a Kevin Glenn fan, so it is nice to see him play well, even if he is no longer a member of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. But not even an ardent Glenn fan such as myself thought he'd have the type of season he is having right now. His numbers aren't otherworldly, save for one: completion percentage. Saturday's game against Winnipeg was the sixth time this season Glenn has surpassed the 70 per cent completion mark in a game. He has been incredibly accurate with the ball this season and that will bode well for the Stampeders when the weather gets cold in November and ball control becomes of the utmost importance.

(7) Boyd released again
Before the games got underway, the Eskimos made the not-so-surprising move to release veteran running back Cory Boyd. When the Argos did this back in the summer, it was met with derision from all because Boyd was leading the league in rushing at the time. But Boyd found himself as the odd-man out in Edmonton. Hugh Charles has established himself feature back, and Jerome Messam returned from the NFL just after Boyd was signed. At 27, Boyd's CFL career cannot be over; someone will take a chance on the him in the off-season (per CFL rules, he is ineligible to sign with another team at this point in the season). I don't know where that place will be, but I have to believe that Boyd will be on a roster when training camps open next June.

(8) Second place and under .500
Before the season started, many openly wondered if this was the year that an East Division team would cross over into the West. Instead, we have the possibility, and maybe even the certainty, of a West team crossing into the East. At this point in the season, only the Montreal Alouettes find themselves above .500; the Argos (7-8), Ti-Cats (5-10) and Bombers (4-11) could all finish under .500, with both the Ti-Cats and Bombers assured of doing so. So much for that power shift many thought was coming.

(9) Als still the Als
Sticking with the East, despite being a very flawed team, the Als are once again the class of the division. At 9-6, they are the lone team above the .500 mark and are looking like they will once again represent the East Division in the Grey Cup. Much like the belief that western dominance would come to an end, many thought the Als would take a step back this season. Instead, we get the same thing we've had for over a decade.

(10) Players of the Week
Hugh Charles ran over, under and around Roughrider defenders all night to the tune of 152 yards in a crucial win for the Eskimos. He may have had a little extra motivation playing against his former team, but Charles has put together a very good season in Edmonton and has already rushed for more yards this season than in his other four seasons combined. He was superb on Saturday night and is my offensive player of the week.

Get a pick six and chances are you'll find your name here, and Shea Emry got himself a pick six, so he is my defensive player of the week. The pick by Emry was the game-sealing play for the Alouettes, so the timing could not have been better. Emry was the best defender on any field this past weekend.

No highlight reel plays on special teams this week, but the best of the bunch was BC's Tim Brown. Brown returned three kicks for 104 yards, including a 77-yard scamper that set up a Lions touchdown. Brown didn't get much work because the Tiger-Cat offense didn't score much, but he made the most of his opportunity and is my special teams player of the week.

The battle for top Canadian is really heating up, but this week there was no contest. Andrew Harris was the top Canadian after putting up 121 total yards and two touchdowns in BC's win over Hamilton. Those 121 yards gave him 1,365 for the season, a new single-season record for yards from scrimmage by a Canadian player. Harris has been outstanding all season and was so once again on Friday night.

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