CFL Power Rankings: Stampeders keep the throttle down

With Week 3 complete, Malcolm Kelly breaks down the balance of power in the Canadian Football League.

1. Calgary Stampeders (unchanged)

  • Record: 2-0-1
  • Streak: Unbeaten in 3
  • Last: Won at Winnipeg, 29-10
  • Next: At Montreal

The rest of the league won’t like this, but the White Stallions are unbeaten in three and still have yet to put a full game together. This time the offence took a half to get untracked, while the defence did enough to keep the score down. A few orange slices and a little rest and the machine found it for the final 30 minutes, outscoring Winnipeg 20-0 and leaving little hope for any comeback. LB Maleki Harris had his second defensive touchdown in two games, this time a terrific pick 6 that saw him read QB Matt Nichols like a Dr. Seuss book (Go Dog Go). Calgary pivot Bo Mitchell rolled up 400 yards in net offence, used Kamar Jorden (six catches, 97 yards) as this week’s favourite receiver, and improved his regular-season mark to 45-7-2.

Game Wrap: Stampeders hand Winnipeg first loss of season.1:48

2. Edmonton Eskimos (unchanged)

  • Record: 2-0
  • Streak: Won 2
  • Last: Bye
  • Next: Ottawa

With two linebackers (J.C. Sherritt, Cory Greenwood) and the top running back (John White) out for the year, the Eskimos spent an off-week swapping players in and out as they prepare for an ego-bruised Ottawa. Travon Van moves into the top RB spot, and behind him will be Kendial Lawrence (also handling returns), re-signed after being released following training camp. In a league where kicking is so important, the biggest weapon for this team right now is Sean Whyte, 6-for-6 in field goals so far and on a club-record 24-straight run. QB Mike Reilly needs his receivers to hang on to the footballs and those fellas have a reputation for doing that, so no worry right now.

3. B.C. Lions (up from 4)

  • Record: 2-1
  • Streak: Won 2
  • Last: Won at Montreal, 23-16
  • Next: At Hamilton

Going 2-0 so far on a tough three-game East trip is more than enough without criticizing style, as it buys time in the early going to find some consistency. Wally’s Men relied on the defence again, led by the extraordinary Solomon Elimimian’s 15 tackles. He brought everybody down in Montreal, other than the opposing water boy, a gendarme and sideline reporter John Lu. Tied 16-16 with 6:30 to go, QB Jonathon Jennings (28-39, 288 yards, one TD, 0 picks) took his offence on the winning drive, a balanced four-pass, four-run effort for the victory. As in Toronto the week before, the attack was in fits and starts, but found the latter when most needed. Leos had five receivers with at least 30 yards in catches, but completed only one pass longer than 30 yards. Need more vertical.

Game Wrap: Lions score late to top Alouettes1:43

4. Toronto Argonauts (up from 6)

  • Record: 2-1
  • Streak: Won 1
  • Last: Won at Ottawa, 26-25
  • Next: At Winnipeg

Ask not what your team did for you in the first half, ask what the other team gave you in the second. A big win in Ottawa against the Grey Cup champs was handed to them on a platter and the Double Blue played well enough to take it. The Argos were awful early (six penalties in the opening eight minutes including four on defence), but a few disappointed looks from coach Marc Trestman (those can be devastating) and they started pulling it together. QB Ricky Ray to SB S.J. Green produced 210 yards and a nice touchdown as Toronto came back on the road. Defensive end Victor Butler, the former Dallas Cowboy, had three sacks (he leads the league with seven in just three games) and eight total tackles. Overall this developing defence had five sacks and six pass knockdowns.

5. Ottawa Redblacks (down from 3)

  • Record: 0-2-1
  • Streak: Winless in 3
  • Last: Lost to Toronto, 26-25
  • Next: At Edmonton

A bumbling quick-kick call that went wrong did not lose Ottawa this game. Nor did that missed extra point on a bobbled snap at the end. Or the snap that went over QB Trevor Harris’s head for a Toronto touchdown. Or the five sacks and multiple hurries on Harris. It was a team effort all the way. A sellout crowd of 24,347 came convinced the Grey Cup champs only needed to play someone other than Calgary and things would be fine. No dice. For the second week, those unforced errors did the RBs in. Let’s remind ourselves Ottawa won the East in 2016 with a less than .500 record, buoyed by a weak division that couldn’t match it. You can’t count on that this time around. Harris produced 356 yards net, and hit Greg Ellingson for 170. That should have been enough. Now, three games in 11 days (Edmonton, Montreal and Toronto).

Game Wrap: Toronto Argos prevail over Ottawa in seesaw battle2:03

6. Saskatchewan Roughriders (up from 8)

  • Record: 1-2
  • Streak: Won 1
  • Last: Won over Hamilton, 37-20
  • Next: Bye

From the moment Naaman Roosevelt caught his first pass of the game, jumped up out of bounds and patted Gainer the Gopher on the nose, you knew it was going to be his night. QB Kevin Glenn found him with 10 balls for 167 yards in an effort that illuminated why the Riders won their first in new Mosaic Stadium, over Hamilton. Glenn tossed for 380 overall to a host of willing hands, with a full 122 yards coming after the catch. It’s one thing to haul it in, another to go Yackety Yak (Don’t Look Back). Great effort. Glenn shocked everyone by scampering in himself from six yards out, and then added another later on a sneak. Fine defensive effort – a sea of green held the Kitties to just 195 yards net. Shame they have a bye after that quality game.

Game Wrap: Blue Bombers spoil party in new Mosaic Stadium opener2:03

7. Winnipeg Blue Bombers (down from 5)

  • Record: 1-1
  • Streak: Lost 1
  • Last: Lost to Calgary, 29-10
  • Next: Toronto

Of all the gin joints in all the world … the Bombers had to open at home against Calgary. And another loss makes it 17 out of the last 18 games ending sadly versus the Stamps. This should not mean we’re letting Big Blue away with anything, because they did this to themselves in front of an excellent crowd of 30,165. QB Matt Nichols led a fine early drive and then threw a pick in the end zone. Ryan Lankford ran a missed field goal back more than 50 yards, enthralling the gathered throng, and promptly fumbled the ball. The defence held Calgary first and goal from the one(ish) three times, took a dumb penalty, then held twice more before the sixth try went over for a major. Nichols threw a pick 6 in a second-half performance that produced zero points. Too many mistakes.

8. Montreal Alouettes (down from 7)

  • Record: 1-2
  • Streak: Lost 2
  • Last: Lost to B.C., 23-16
  • Next: Calgary

Seems to be some disappointment in Montreal at the way Larks have begun the season. But it seems here there are enough positives to think better days are ahead. The defence is playing well, giving the attack a chance to get untracked. With good blocking from the offensive line (zero sacks in three games), new QB Darian Durant has some time back there, but finding consistency is still a problem. A little finish would be nice. Durant was 24-36, 245 yards, 0 TDs and one pick, piling up 334 yards in total attack and that should produce more. Given time, it will come, especially when that 45 per cent in second down conversions improves. Kicker Boris Bede was perfect on three field goals, so last year’s awful run seems to be behind him.

9. Hamilton Tiger-Cats (unchanged)                         

  • Record: 0-2
  • Streak: Lost 2
  • Last: Lost at Saskatchewan, 37-20
  • Next: B.C.

Too early to panic, but never too early to preach a little discipline. Kent Austin’s men opened the game with five straight penalties and then did it again to start the second half. Overall Hamilton saw 15 flags, and that’s a lot when the officials have obviously been told to keep the flags in their pockets unless it’s obvious. And what was LB Will Hill thinking when he put his hands on an official after taking exception to a call? That’s going to be a game or two. As in game one against the Argos, Kitties saw their secondary, especially the corners, ripped too often and then added to the trouble with poor tackling after the catch. QB Zach Collaros’s all-pass, no-run attack produced 195 yards net for just 23:39 in possession. That’s a tired Lions team coming in this week. Must take advantage. 

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