Saskatchewan Roughriders (5-5) at Hamilton Tiger-Cats (2-8)
Prior to a loss in this year’s edition of the Banjo Bowl last week in Winnipeg, the Riders put up a very impressive 3 game win streak that saw them beat BC, Edmonton, and Winnipeg by a combined score of 133-63. The biggest key for the Riders over their 3 game win streak was their ability to force turnovers at an astronomical rate, which they failed to keep up against the Bombers last week. When the Riders’ defense is on their game, I like their chances in most matchups, and I’m expecting a nice bounce back game from them this week. While the Tiger-Cats appear to have possibly turned things around with 2 straight wins after an 0-8 start, in both wins they narrowly held on for the victory, including blowing a 17-1 lead against Ottawa last week before pulling out the 26-22 win. No doubt Hamilton has improved since June Jones took over as coach and Jeremiah Masoli took over as the starting quarterback, but I don’t see them making it 3 straight wins this week. The Riders have a stingy, ball-hawking defense, and an offense that loves to make big plays, which will be too much for the Ticats to handle this week.
Edmonton Eskimos (7-4) at Toronto Argonauts (4-7)
Despite what has to be a record number of injuries, the Edmonton Eskimos incredibly came out flying with a 7-0 start to the season. Since then, they’ve lost 4 straight games; all against teams in their own division. With the way the injuries were piling up, and they continue to do so, we all knew the Eskimos were going to fall eventually. They followed up their first loss of the season against the Bombers in Winnipeg, with a total shellacking at home against the Riders, before losing both games in a home and home series with the rival Calgary Stampeders. They nearly came close to beating the Stampeders this past week, and would’ve at least tied, if not won, if it wasn’t for a lack of discipline and then a last second missed field goal by Chris Milo. The Toronto Argonauts come off a bye week with a 4-7 record. To me, they are one of the hardest teams to figure out this year. Some games they’ve looked great, some games they’ve looked average at best. QB Ricky Ray, who’s having an outstanding season, always gives the Argos a chance to win, especially against an Eskimos’ defense that is missing some major pieces and has some big holes. That being said, the Eskimos are still a great team and you know they are angry after last week’s loss to Calgary, and the losing streak as a whole, and Jason Maas is gonna have his team fired up on Saturday.
BC Lions (6-5) at Calgary Stampeders (9-1-1)
The Lions announced Travis Lulay as their starting QB heading into their game with Montreal last week, after Jonathan Jennings had his fair share of struggles in the last couple weeks after returning from injury. And then a mere 2 plays in, Lulay suffered a torn ACL that will have him out the rest of the season. Now all of a sudden, just like that, this is Jennings’ team again. He had possibly his best game of the season as he lead the Lions to a 41-18 blowout win over an Alouettes team that has a lot of issues right now. He’ll have a tough test this week against the Stampeders, who have the best defense in the CFL, and it’ll be interesting to see if last week’s game was a breakthrough for him and if he can produce another strong outing. The Stampeders narrowly pulled out a 25-22 win over the Eskimos last week, and needed a late touchdown drive in the final minute to do so. QB Bo Levi Mitchell didn’t have his best game last week, as has been the case several times this year, but still managed to pull out that game winning drive in the final minute. That right there is a mark of a great quarterback. The Stampeders have shown why they’re the best team in the league, and given that they’re so dominant at home always, I see no reason not to continue picking them to win.
Ottawa Redblacks (4-7-1) at Montreal Alouettes (3-8)
Oh where do I begin with the Montreal Alouettes… This team has been a trainwreck the last few weeks. So much so that they decided to fire Head Coach Jacques Chapedelaine and Defensive Coordinator Noel Thorpe this week. The dismissal of Chapedelaine is no surprise to me, as the Alouettes sit at a 3-8 record, have been blown out in 3 of their last 4 games, and have an offense that has struggled greatly and can’t seem to piece things together. What’s shocking is the dismissal of Noel Thorpe, as his defense has been the backbone of this team for the last several years, and was one of the few bright spots for the Alouettes this season. While their defense has given up a lot of points lately, it’s hard to fault them when they’re spending the majority of the game on the field due to no relief from the offense. It remains to be seen what effect these changes will have on the team, and how soon the impact of them will be. The Ottawa Redblacks on the other hand, have been trending in the opposite direction. After starting out 1-6-1, with a handful of very close losses, the Redblacks picked up 3 straight wins, before falling to the Ticats this past week. They lost QB Trevor Harris to injury in that game, meaning it’s Drew Tate’s team for the next couple weeks. Tate looked good in finishing off last week’s game, and will get his first start as a Redblack this week. I’m not quite expecting Trevor Harris-like numbers from him, but with the excellent receivers at his disposal he should have a solid game. The Redblacks defense has slowly been getting better in recent weeks, and against a woeful Montreal offense, they should have a successful day.
Ryan Koop is the Co-host of The Canadian Football Countdown, a weekly CFL talk show airing live on MIKE FM Winnipeg each week. The show is also available on Soundcloud and iTunes, under The Canadian Football Countdown. Follow the show on Twitter at @CFConMikeFM and like it on Facebook at facebook.com/CFConMikeFM