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CFL Check-In: Season Review through Week 8

CFL Check-In: Season Review Through Week Eight ... It is time for another LWOS CFL check-in to review some of the headlines up to this point in the season.

We have reached Week 8 in the 2016 CFL season and things are just as exciting as ever. With the rapid rise and fall of teams in both divisions, controversy on the field (and off), and the playoff picture starting to coming into focus the there is plenty to break down. After a Week 4 CFL Check-in, full of predictions, and surprises, it’s time to look back and make more predictions in CFL Check-in Week 8.

CFL Check-In: Season Review Through Week 8

What We Thought Would Happen (Our Week 4 Predictions)

Hamilton Gets its Groove Back…

Much like the Hamilton Tiger-Cats season, this prediction is hard to quantify. After record setting win, a bye-week, a loss after the longest weather delay in recent memory, and a comeback for the ages that came oh-so-close, the Tiger-Cats now sit third in the East and can no longer rely on missing Zach Collaros as an excuse for their inconsistent play. If Collaros is indeed back to his old ways, there is no reason to count the Ticats as anything but Grey Cup contenders. Perhaps the prediction made four weeks ago came a little too early, as Hamilton’s real season starts now.

Calgary will Ride On…

This prediction was spot on when it came to how the Calgary Stampeders would come out of an uneven start to the CFL season. After going 1-1-1 after four weeks the Stampeders have gone 4-0 and have taken the lead in the West Division. Bo Levi Mitchell is playing at an MOP level, Jerome Messam is bowling his way through opposing linebackers, and the Stamps defence has taken off with an excellent mix of veterans and ascending young talent. Rookie head coach Dave Dickenson has done an admirable job guiding his team through injuries and controversy all while keeping Calgary among the leagues elite.

The Search begins in Montreal…

There is likely many Montreal Alouettes fans who are disappointed that this prediction did not come true. Rather than spending the last four weeks auditioning their bursting stable of young, promising quarterbacks the Als have instead stuck with the”safe“option in Kevin Glenn. In fact, Montreal has slimmed down it’s depth at quarterback with the recent release of Brandon Bridge. This course of action would have been understandable had the Alouettes put forth a competitive team over the past four weeks, yet despite Glenn’s supposed veteran edge the team has gone 1-3 and is in the conversation for worst team in the CFL. It makes little sense to continue with Glenn at this point and Als fans have to hope that head coach/general manager Jim Popp elects to give Rakeem Cato and Vernon Adams Jr. more reps going forward.

What Surprised Us

Blue Bombers Taking Off…

Raise your hand if you thought that the Winnipeg Blue Bombers would be three points away from first place in the West Division four weeks ago. With the exception of devil-may-care Bomber fans there were few, if any, who saw Winnipeg pulling a turn-around like the one they have pulled off. Whether it was a major move like starting Matt Nichols over the struggling Drew Willy, or a combination of smaller moves like inserting Travis Bond into the starting offensive line or bringing back veteran Clarence Denmark, the Bombers have a different feel about them going into week 9. With the defence bringing it’s “A” game in recent weeks its anyone’s guess how far the Bombers can go.

Rough Ride In The Prairies…

Unless you have been living under a rock for the past four weeks you may have heard that all is not well with the Saskatchewan Roughriders or their embattled head coach/general manager/supreme overlord Chris Jones. Without getting into too much detail this year’s Riders team looks worse than last year’s 3-15 unit while their off-field image has taken a beating in the past two weeks.

The problem isn’t a bad record, as most Saskatchewan fans anticipated a sub .500 record especially in the early going. The problem lies in the lack of any progress being made… anywhere. The offence has regressed, the defence has possibly gotten worse (only one team has scored less than 29 points against the Riders), and for every one young player brought in the team is hit with two mistakes on game day. Jones has the pedigree and unlimited power to turn the Riders around, but whether he will or not is no longer a certainty.

Red Hot Ottawa Cooling off…

The Ottawa Redblacks are a good team, the problem is that they are no longer the best team. When Henry Burris went down with an injury in Week 1 back-up Trevor Harris came in and lit the CFL on fire. The team raced to the top of the standings and the scoreboards as records seemed sure to be broken by the Eastern juggernaut. Perhaps this set the bar too high, the hype too out of control as Ottawa leveled out when an injury to Harris sidelined the assumed MOP. The Redblacks have since played above average football and maintain a hold on first place in the East, but who is really scared of Ottawa right now? Even with Burris back at the controls there is a sense that the Redblacks are vulnerable, and in the CFL that can be dangerous.

Predictions For The Next Four Weeks

The Pride of the Lions…

Four weeks ago many were surprised when newly returned head coach Wally Buono led the B.C. Lions to an impressive start right out of the gate. The Lions have not let up and remain tightly locked with the Calgary Stampeders for first in the West Division. The time has come to give the Lions the respect they deserve as the CFL’s most exciting team to watch (Five games with 28+ points scored) and a clear contender for the ultimate prize come November. With the electric Jonathon Jennings at the helm and the indomitable Buono watching from the sidelines the Lions will hold first place in the West four weeks from now.

Argos Run Aground…

The Toronto Argonauts currently sit second in the East Division through eight weeks and yet there is a sense of unease around BMO Field, and it’s not just the failing attendance. The Argos were passable on offence with long time veteran Ricky Ray in the fold but since his injury in Week 5 things have darkened considerably. It’s not just the quarterback that should be a concern for Argo fans, the offensive line has given up 19 sacks and the run game has stagnated with leading rusher Brandon Whitaker having cleared 70 rushing yards in a game just once. Even if Ray returns to the starting lineup sooner than expected the Argos are set to fall to third place in the East Division and likely remain there.

The (Eskimos) Empire Strikes Back…

Any Edmonton Eskimos fan that tells you they are happy with their team right now is lying, the defending Grey Cup champions have gone from confusing to outright disappointing in the past four weeks. With a 1-3 record over that span – and that lone win coming against the woeful Alouettes – the Eskimos have yet to discover their identity as a team. That said, there is every reason to give head coach Jason Maas and reigning Grey Cup MOP Mike Reilly the benefit of the doubt. With an ultra-talented offence lead by Reilly and the CFL’s top two wide-outs in Adarius Bowman and Derel Walker, the Eskimos will get their issues sorted out and be back in the playoff hunt come Week 12.

Have your own predictions for your favourite team over the next four weeks? Feel free to post them in the comments below!

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