CFL Power Rankings: Blue Bombers dethrone Eskimos

Here’s how I rank the Canadian Football League teams heading into Week 10:

  • Record: 6-2
  • Streak: Won 4
  • Next: at Montreal

Per Ardua ad Astra, meaning “Through adversity to the stars,” was the traditional latin motto for the Royal Canadian Air Force; after this week, the Bombers may not have reached the stars yet, but adversity seems to be safely behind them. QB Matt Nichols knew he had to keep producing points after a 17-3 opening half lead against the Eskimos, and understood where to go for it. This was the Andrew Harris Show, in front of an appreciative audience of more than 30,000. An 11 carry, 105-yard effort on the ground would have been strong, but he also had eight catches for 120 yards. Nichols (80 per cent completion rate, 180 yards after catch by the receiving corps) could go anywhere he wanted with everyone keying on the running back, and he did for an astonishing 538 total yards. Good times off Kenny Ploen Way. Will these heights make Big Blue dizzy?

Game Wrap: Blue Bombers hand Eskimos first loss of season1:53

  • Record: 6-1-1
  • Streak: Won 4
  • Next: vs. Toronto

On a night when the defences kicked the snot out of each other for 60 minutes, the game went to the team that made the fewest small errors. It didn’t look that way on the first play from scrimmage when QB Bo Mitchell found Marken Michel behind the B.C. secondary and the receiver flat out dropped it. An early score might have changed the look of the whole contest, instead the Stamps had to claw and scratch for everything. Mitchell was only 15-for-31, 237 yards, though two were for more than 30-yard gains and that helped kicker Rene Paredes, who was 5-for-5 on field goals. LB Alex Singleton was terrific with eight tackles, a quarterback pressure and a key interception. Far too many penalties, 15 for 150 yards. Can’t do that often in the West.

Stampeders defeat Lions, move to 2nd in West1:01

  • Record: 7-1
  • Streak: Lost 1
  • Next: vs. Saskatchewan

Winning streak is over, there are more injuries to deal with and the aircraft broke so everyone had to stay in Winnipeg an extra night. This loss has been building for some weeks as too many penalties, trouble finishing drives and a lot of pressure on the defenders to hold while the attack worked things out finally caught up against the Bombers. While QB Mike Reilly’s offence had nothing in the first half and improved in the second, the defence was bad all evening. You can’t give up 538 net yards and expect to win. That’s poor. Six more injuries this week is no excuse for taking three flags for too many men. Coach Jason Maas now has something to kick his about about at practice. A good thing. 

  • Record: 5-4
  • Streak: Lost 2
  • Next: at Ottawa

When your defence plays well, it behooves an offence to provide some points and not make crucial errors. This did not happen at home vs. Calgary where the Leos rolled out without Bryan Burnham and Nick Moore (1,002 yards between them) to catch ball — a difficult hill to climb. They might have made it if not for a bungled route in the final seconds that brought the ball up a yard short on third down and desperation. QB Jonathon Jennings (26-38, 240 yards 1 TD, 2 picks, sacked twice) didn’t have much for three quarters. The defenders held Calgary to just one TD, turning five good Stamps’ drives into field goals instead. Solomon Elimimian continued his drive for the Hall of Fame with 10 total tackles, three of them for loss. Coach Wally Buono was angry with his offence afterwards. Improvement needed. 

  • Record: 3-4
  • Streak: Won 1
  • Next: at Edmonton

If you want to convince people the West race includes five teams, then the goal for the Riders this week is to win a divisional game on the road. Rob Vanstone, of the Leader-Post, pointed out that since the last road victory at Winnipeg (Sept. 7, 2014), there have been three solar eclipses. So shine a little light on the fan base by taking advantage of an injury depleted Edmonton side that just lost for the first time and really hasn’t played well for three weeks. This can happen if the defence plays as it did in the blowout of B.C. prior to the bye. QB Kevin Glenn needs a game plan that features another balanced attack. If the Green and White are still in the race after the next three (Edmonton, two with Winnipeg), they’ll have to be taken seriously. 

  • Record: 4-5
  • Streak: Won 1
  • Next: at Calgary

Before we get to QB Ricky Ray and receiver S.J. Green, let’s praise the defence. Over the final six quarters of the back- to-back vs. Montreal, Corey Chamblin’s group allowed just three points. This week, they gave up only nine first downs and 138 yards net. This is a team with six good defensive linemen to choose from that only rushes the front four most of the time and still clouted the opposition for three sacks and 13 quarterback pressures. How does Ray’s 35-43, 377 yards and four TDs catch your fancy against a good defence? Green had nine catches for 145 yards, many of the snags at the top of a vertical leap to beat the secondary. Ray has now thrown 100 TD passes for Toronto (on top of 210 with Edmonton). No other pivot in league history has topped 100 with two teams. 

Game Wrap: Ricky Ray returns and leads Argos to top spot in East over Al’s2:12

  • Record: 3-5
  • Streak: Lost 1
  • Next: vs. Winnipeg

Skylark’s offence has flown the coop, as it were. (I’m here every week). Or another way, the Alouettes’ defence has outscored their offence 6-3 in the last six quarters. Fortunately the club came out of the home and home with Toronto 1-1, still second in the East. Darian Durant led one decent drive all night, an 11 play effort that ended in a bad interception on the Argo one-yard line. After that, zero. Their six points were from the defence. While the offensive problem is bad, what happened to the defenders this week was a shock. They had no pressure at all on Ricky Ray, to the point he was left in there the entire game despite a huge lead because nobody thought he was in any danger. They were right. Regroup for red-hot Winnipeg, at home. Cohérence, please. 

  • Record: 2-6-1
  • Streak: Won 1
  • Next: vs B.C.

Those wondering what beating a terrible team such as Hamilton actually tells you about the Redblacks are wandering through the wrong forest. It’s a win. Ottawa has five points, one back of second place Montreal, though the Als have a game in hand. QB Trevor Harris completed 36 for 394 yards and produced 418 net. Receivers Greg Ellingson (155 yards) and Brad Sinopoli (78 yards) came through and kicker Brett Maher nailed six field goals on six tries. Bothersome information? Two long drives totalling 22 plays in the opening half produced just two three-pointers, so finishing drives remains concerning. Defensively, allowing just 206 net was excellent for this group, and they produced a major of their own on a fumble recovery. After B.C. this week, it’s three straight in the East. 

Game Wrap: Tiger-Cats fall to Redblacks, losing streak reaches 82:05

  • Record: 0-8
  • Streak: Lost 8
  • Next: Bye

At some point this week, one wouldn’t have been surprised if the entire offence stood up and yelled “Hey Laaaaeeeddddyyy!!!”* Down 18-10 late in the third vs. Ottawa, Cats ran a nice misdirection, bringing Jeremiah Masoli in to QB second and one. Instead of a dive play, he found a streaking Brandon Banks behind the defence and put a pretty pass into the receiver’s hands. Bobble. Drop. About five minutes later, the Kitty D let Greg Ellingson behind them on the last play of the third … caught … touchdown. Game. Awful. They had 12 first downs. Neither starter Zach Collaros, nor Masoli, could get anything going. The defence tried, but was out there for 73 plays against Ottawa’s 44. With NFL teams cutting down you may see new names for the Labour Day game vs. Toronto.

*In loving tribute to the great comedian, director and philanthropist Jerry Lewis. 

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