Week 5 CFL Preview
Calgary Stampeders (3-0) at Ottawa Redblacks (2-1)
Keys of the Game:
Ottawa- Protect the ball:
In their previous matchup against Calgary, the Stampeders made the Redblacks pay dearly for turning the ball over, converting several Ottawa turnovers into touchdowns. Calgary’s defense doesn’t give up much, so when you’re able to get something going and march into scoring position, capitalizing on it is crucial. Turn the ball over? Bo Levi Mitchell will often make you regret it, quickly marching down the field to score. Protecting the football and minimizing turnovers is a huge key for the Redblacks if they’re going to win this game.
Calgary- Get Pressure on the QB:
While Trevor Harris is certainly one of the top quarterbacks in the CFL, he’s often criticized for being inconsistent. Harris struggled in the previous meeting with Calgary, completing just 44.8% of his passes for 135 yards. He bounced back this past week against Montreal with a very good performance, going 28/42 for 342 yards and 3 TDs. Harris is not known for being a mobile quarterback, with just 4 carries for 16 yards so far this year. If the Stampeders can get intense pressure on him and force him out of the pocket, it could cause some headaches for Ottawa’s offense. If they do so early, they have the potential to get Trevor Harris off his game before he can get into a groove.
One has to think Calgary’s stout defense will crack eventually. Perhaps an Ottawa offense that features the league’s leading rusher in William Powell, game-breaking receivers in Greg Ellingson and Diontae Spencer, and the reliable Brad Sinopoli who had a monster game of his own this past week, is able to find a way to crack it this week. After all, a lot of their offensive struggles in their previous meeting with Calgary came from sloppy play on their own part, with their big name receivers dropping several passes they normally wouldn’t, and several Trevor Harris throws being off the mark. That being said, Calgary is coming off a bye and are known for being very good in the first game after a week off. They’re undefeated on the season, their defense is playing as good as ever, and even when their offense struggles during parts of the game, they seemingly always come alive in the 4th Quarter and do what they need to in order to pull out the win. I’m expecting a more high scoring game this time around, with both clubs cleaning up some of that sloppiness, but at the end of the day I think Calgary gets it done again, with the defense coming up with a big play late in the game, allowing Bo Levi Mitchell to march his offense down the field for the game-winning touchdown in the final minutes.
Toronto Argonauts (1-2) at Edmonton Eskimos (2-2)
Keys of The Game:
Edmonton- Fix early game issues:
The past 2 weeks the Eskimos have found themselves in a hole early in games, quickly falling down 11-0 two weeks ago against BC, and 12-0 this past week against the Argos. Both those rough starts involved turning the ball over on their first offensive play, and inability to stop the run on defense. While they were able to get their feet under them and get into a rhythm in both those games, one has to wonder how many times they can start like this before it comes back to bite them. Shutting down dynamic Toronto running back James Wilder Jr. early on in this game is the biggest key, as an inability to do so could cause a long night for Edmonton.
Toronto- Find consistency on offense:
James Franklin’s first start as an Argo couldn’t have begun much better this past week against the Eskimos, leading his team to a quick 12-0 lead just 6 minutes into the game. The problem is, they failed to put any more points up on the board until they came up with a game-winning touchdown drive with just under 3 minutes remaining. While it was certainly an impressive start and impressive finish to the game for Franklin and the offense in the Argos’ first win of the season, they need to find a way to put forth a full 60 minute effort on offense and find some consistency. Through 3 games this season, they’ve managed to put just 46 points on the board. That needs to improve for them to find success this year, and with another matchup against an Edmonton defense that has had it’s struggles, they have a great opportunity to do so this week.
These 2 teams complete their home-and-home series this week, and sweeping back-to-back games against the same club is no easy task. The Eskimos return home this week and you have to think they’re pissed off after last week’s loss despite arguably dominating the game for the most part. Meanwhile, I’m still trying to figure out what to make of the 2018 Toronto Argonauts. I had high hopes for them coming into the year, but very lackluster performances against Saskatchewan and Calgary to start the year, along with the loss of QB Ricky Ray to injury, left me questioning a lot of things with this team. They found a way to win this past week against Edmonton, and I’m interested to see how James Franklin follows up his first start as an Argo while facing his former club for the second consecutive week. Both these teams have outstanding running backs in CJ Gable (EDM) and James Wilder Jr. (TOR), and whichever team can utilize theirs most effectively might be the team that comes out on top. I can’t imagine this Edmonton offense only putting up 17 points again this week, and not sure Toronto can keep pace if this game turns into a shootout. I’ll take the Eskimos to bounce back at home with a win in the rematch.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers (2-2) at BC Lions (1-2)
Keys of the Game:
BC- Get Arceneaux and Burnham going:
BC has struggled in the passing game so far this season, and those struggles are very evident in their inability to get their two best receivers, Manny Arceneaux and Bryan Burnham, heavily involved in the offense. They’ve combined for just 19 catches and 220 yards through 3 games; much lower numbers than what we’ve come to expect from these guys. There’s been questions as to whether QB Jonathan Jennings can get it done, or whether it’s time for a quarterback switch in BC with Travis Lulay soon to be back from injury. This past week against the Bombers, Jennings seemed to hardly even look Burnham’s way, despite what on paper seems like a very favourable matchup for the dynamic receiver, as he was lining up against Bombers’ rookie DB Tyneil Cooper. At this point, it doesn’t appear that Wally Buono has named his starter for this week’s rematch. Whether Jennings gets another shot, or Lulay takes over, whoever is at QB this week has some great offensive weapons at their disposal and needs to find a way to get them involved.
Winnipeg- Don’t get cocky after the big win:
This game is a major trap game for the Bombers. They’re flying high after a dominant 41-19 win over the Lions this past week, and are facing the same team again this week. The danger in a situation like this, where you play the same team you just destroyed exactly one week later, is to get complacent and lazy in practice expecting another easy victory again the second time around. We saw this last year with the Lions, who beat Saskatchewan 30-15 in a dominant Week 7 win, but then got blown out 41-8 just a week later by the same Riders team. It’s a whole new ball game this week with the Lions looking to rebound and avenge last week’s loss, and the Bombers need to start strong and show that they’re just as ready as they were last week.
Once again, sweeping a home-and-home series is a tough task, one which the Bombers will try to do this week. The Lions certainly can’t be happy with how they played last week, and expect Wally to rally the troops and get them prepared for this one. There’s a lot on the line for BC’s starting quarterback this week, whoever it is. If it’s Jennings still, this may be his last shot to go out and prove he has what it takes to remain this team’s starter going forward. If it’s Lulay, it’s his opportunity to come out and show that he can still play at a high level after a long recovery from injury. The Bombers offense has done a great job of putting up touchdowns when in the redzone this season, and I expect them to continue to do so this week. That being said, I find it hard to believe Matt Nichols can go a second straight game without being touched at all by the opposing defense. While the Bombers’ defense came up Bighill (yes, pun intended) last week, preventing BC from getting anything going through the air and forcing a couple big turnovers, I’m still skeptical of whether they can play like that consistently. With this being the final meeting between these 2 teams this week, the Lions would need to win by 23 points in order to capture the season series with the Bombers, due to the point differential tie-breaker. That is no small feat, and expect a bit of urgency from the Lions in this one as they attempt to achieve it. It’s really tempting to take the Bombers again this week as I loved most of what I saw from them last game, but I’ll stick to my belief that sweeping a home-and-home is hard to do, along with my expectation of a bounce back week for BC, and I’m taking the Lions to win a close, high-scoring game.