CFL Power Rankings: Esks, Stamps don't have to be perfect

CFL Power Rankings: Esks, Stamps don't have to be perfect

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Here’s how I rank the Canadian Football League teams heading into Week 8:

  • Record: 6-0
  • Streak: Won 6
  • Next: at Ottawa

Still unbeaten in six is impressive given the lengthy injury list, but this victory over Hamilton (they of the single point against Calgary) came within a play of going the other way. Eskimos outplayed the Kitties every which way for most of this game, before loosening up by sending in the bench. QB Mike Reilly was running all night, and came up with 317 yards on a pair of majors and no picks. His last six drives were punt, punt, TD, punt, fumble and a turnover on downs with :46 left on the 55. Why didn’t they punt? Eskies also took 10 penalties in the second half, against none by the visitors. Bryant Mitchell stepped up and caught eight for 121 yards in his first game. And LaDarius Perkins for 105 yards on 19 carries in his starting debut at running back.

Game Wrap: Eskimos stay undefeated with win over Tiger-Cats1:55

  • Record: 5-1-1
  • Streak: Won 3
  • Next: Bye

QB Bo Mitchell was chatting after the game about how tough the West is this year, and thus the importance of keeping the pedal down. As they did in two games vs. Eastern teams that produced a pair of victories with a combined score of 101-25. A joke going around on Twitter pointed out the Argos had scored 24 times the points of Hamilton. Stamps were far from perfect in Toronto, starting with six sacks allowed. Yes, the Double Blue have the best front four in the game right now, but six? Did Mitchell say something untoward in practice? Calgary also fumbled the ball four times, fortunately getting two of them back. And there was the 222 yards allowed in returns. So there is a lot for coach Dave Dickenson to work on during the bye week.

Game Wrap: Stampeders beat Argonauts, take over 1st in West1:50

  • Record: 5-2
  • Streak: Won 1
  • Next: at Saskatchewan

Total domination from start to when the game was really finished by the end of the third quarter. Leos blitzed the visiting Riders (and thanks for the jump in crowd size, Saskatchewan fans — 23,415), leaving nought but a couple of pride TDs to wreck the shutout. QB Travis Lulay, who will be back on the bench soon when Jonathon Jennings is ready to go again, threw for 338 yards and watched his running backs pile up 202, for a 535 net. Backup Alex Ross played the last three series. Receiver Chris Williams made his debut after an off-season signing and then injury, and he caught three for 75 yards. Bryan Burnham had five for 131 in his so-far brilliant year. Defenders were stouthearted men until the backups came in to play.

Game Wrap: Lions double up Roughriders1:22

  • Record: 4-2
  • Streak: Won 2
  • Next: at Hamilton

A belief held over 50 years of watching says the two most vital cogs on a CFL team are the quarterback and the kicker. An inconsistent hoofer can cost you a game in missed field goals and poor punting. A good one on a roll is worth his weight in Nucci’s gelato. Five times Big Blue’s offence came up short on second half drives, and five times Justin Medlock came away with three points (six total on the night), including the winner at the death. He also pounded a 90-yard rouge on a kickoff with under three to go that brought Peg within a field goal. Medlock had struggled a bit in the early going this year, but he’s back on form and a major weapon. This was two big final-minutes comeback victories in a row for an increasingly confident blue and gold group.

Game Wrap: Blue Bombers rally to beat Redblacks1:41

  • Record: 3-4
  • Streak: Lost 2
  • Next: at Montreal

Things we learned from the Calgary game: Argos aren’t good enough to compete with a league elite at this point. QB Ricky Ray, sacked for the 20th time this year, is now trying to come back from a shoulder injury to face Montreal this week. If he can’t go, it’ll be Cody Fajardo under centre and he can run, which is a good thing as this offensive line has to be fixed. The defence requires men for the secondary who can tackle, as 131 yards after the catch will not cut it. You can’t expect to keep kick returns under control if everyone crowds into the same five-yard circumference and nobody stays in their coverage lanes. Toronto has three key East matchups in the next five outings, including back-to-back with Montreal, and these problems must be fixed. Attendance on a non-bobblehead night was 11,616.

  • Record: 2-4
  • Streak: Lost 1
  • Next: vs. B.C.

Back to the drawing board, four points back of the surging West field. That offensive game plan needs rethinking before the second half of the back-to-back with B.C. this week because it wasn’t going anywhere on the coast until the Lions put in their second- and third-stringers. The first 10 of 12 possessions produced seven punts, two picks and a fumble as the Leo front seven roared after QB Kevin Glenn. Backup Brandon Bridge came in late to go 6-for-6, 114 yards, 2 TDs, setting off a ridiculous “controversy” among post-game callers on the prairie. Glenn is the pivot as long as making the playoffs is the goal. When next year moves to the top (if it does) then you can look at Bridge. Duron Carter led the receivers again with five catches for 83 yards.

  • Record: 1-5-1
  • Streak: Lost 2
  • Next: vs. Edmonton

Out came the RB offence on a rainy night by the Rideau Canal — biff, boff, pow and a 12-play opening-drive touchdown. What happened next encapsulates a team that can’t find any consistency as Winnipeg’s first play from scrimmage was a 79-yard catch-and-run score. Ottawa has now lost five times by a total of 13 points (the last two on field goals with :00 on the clock) and in each there are mistakes that cost plenty. RB William Powell, trying for the extra few inches on a first half carry, had the ball stripped and run back the other way for a score. He would scamper 52 yards for his own TD later, but that merely made things even. We’re going to keep saying this until time runs out — Ottawa will be back. Sure of it. Well, pretty sure. 

  • Record: 2-4
  • Streak: Lost 2
  • Next: vs. Toronto

Here’s some things to keep in mind as the Larks go into the first of back-to-backs with Toronto this week. In the six games that produced two wins, only one of those games has been against an East opponent. Yep, the Easy East is about to get its first real look at the only team that has been competitive against the West (2-3, the rest are 0-12-1). Montreal melted in the late going at Winnipeg but has had two weeks to lick the wounds and plan for an attack on QB Ricky Ray (if he starts despite a shoulder injury). Getting an overwhelming rush is the key as the Argo line has a habit of being overwhelmed. Darian Durant’s offence is mid-league in almost every offensive category but it must learn to finish drives. Two wins and the Larks are in first place.

  • Record: 0-6
  • Streak: Lost 6
  • Next: vs. Winnipeg

Pardon me for finding positives. One week after the 60-point humiliation in Calgary, the Cats’ defence and special teams hunkered down and played better, keeping the black and gold in a game they would not have been. As noted above, in Edmonton’s final six possessions, the defenders gave up just the one score, picked up a fumble and then yanked up their socks, stacked up the pile and held on third and one with under a minute to go. None of this saved Jeff Reinebold’s job as he was fired as defensive coordinator. Hamilton’s offensive line has the same pass-blocking problem as Toronto’s — it can’t. QB Zach Collaros was running for his life all night, and could have won it on the last play. Of note, the Kitties have played once against the East.

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