After an unbearably long offseason, the CFL season is finally underway. That means CFL teams are slowly beginning to show their true colours. So far in the season, there haven’t been many close games. Hopefully, this isn’t a trend.
Let’s take a look at each team, and what they’ve shown us so far.
In Week 1, the Lions faced the Montréal Alouettes in their season opener. To be frank, the offence looked, at best, decent, while the defence was superb in their showing, which is a far cry from where it was last year. In front of an announced crowd of 20,182, the Lions handily defeated the Alouettes 22-10.
The revamped defence containing many new acquisitions such as Odell Willis, Davon Coleman and Anthony Orange looks very impressive so far, giving up only ten points in the entire game, all of which came in the first quarter. Solomon Elimimian remains one of the best players in the CFL today and is continuing his surefire path into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame. Elimimian will continue to lead this Lions defence, but it’s clear that this year he’s going to have some more help doing so.
The offence was a tad bit disappointing, to be honest, but that’s also with the hindsight of now knowing what happened to the Alouettes this past week. Nevertheless, Jonathon Jennings looked very strong in his season debut, with a completion percentage of 83.3% (20/24) in the game to compliment his two touchdown passes. Jeremiah Johnson was solid, as to be expected, with a total of 52 yards on ten rushing attempts. The receiving corp lived up to the hype, but whether or not they do for the rest of the season is totally up to Jarious Jackson’s ability to coordinate this offence. The offensive line looks vastly improved so far. But consistency was the problem for them in 2017, and consistency is what Lions fans are going to be looking for from this offensive line in 2018.
All-in-all, the Lions look promising. But after Week 2, everything said above has a massive asterisk next to it because of who they were playing.
If what we’ve seen in the first two weeks keeps up, and CFL fans currently have no reason to believe that it won’t, the Montréal Alouettes are unquestionably the worst team in the Canadian Football League.
Alouettes fans at least had something resembling hope coming out of Week 1 against the Lions, but everything positive has atrophied to waste. There’s genuinely no point in focusing on how the Alouettes played in Week 1 because of what happened last week. The Alouettes have scored a total of 20 points on offence, and have allowed 78 points against on defence. “But wait!”, you say. “Didn’t the Lions only score 22 points against the Alouettes in Week 1? That means, if I’m doing my math right, the Alouettes lost 56-10 against the Blue Bombers!”
The Alouettes lost 56-10 against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
To say the Alouettes’ defence has been absolute garbage would be a massive understatement. The less said about the offence, the better. The only truly positive thing about the Alouettes, at the moment, has been Drew Willy. Willy has long deserved at least shot at running a CFL offence, and he seems to be relishing in it. Also, unlike most of the Alouettes, Willy had a decent game against the Blue Bombers. Nothing great. Nothing awe-inspiring. Not even that impressive when push comes to shove, but Willy was decent, and he deserves credit for at least that much.
Compared to other CFL teams this group is bad. Really bad. End of the story, for now.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers
Contrary to what some random writer said about the Bombers, this team has a perfect replacement for Matt Nichols for a few weeks. Chris Streveler was expected to compete for the third-string quarterback spot with Alex Ross not too long ago. Then Darian Durant retired and Matt Nichols got injured, and we’ve wound up here. Streveler looks legit. Currently, Streveler leads the CFL with six passing touchdowns, three more than Jeremiah Masoli and 2018 MOP Mike Reilly. This has been accomplished on an impressive 66% completion rate (37/56) with only two interceptions thrown. At only 23, if this keeps up, Streveler looks like he’s got a very bright future in the Canadian Football League.
But that’s not all. The Blue Bomber offence can also sprinkle in devastating rushing offence from Andrew Harris and Kienan Lafrance, and if that’s not good enough Streveler can keep the ball to himself. Speaking of Andrew Harris, Harris remains the best one-two punch for a quarterback in the league, dominating opposing defences with his rushing offence as well as his ability catching the ball. Add in some Adarius Bowman, Darvin Adams and Nic Demski to the mix and my god, you have an offence that has the potential to completely light the league on fire like we haven’t seen since Doug Flutie wreaked havoc on the CFL back in the 90s, and we haven’t even seen them with Matt Nichols yet this year.
On the defensive end, so far, they’ve been… fine. Against the Eskimos, they weren’t particularly great but almost got the job done. Against the Alouettes, much like the Lions, the defence was dominant in victory. The additions of Adam Bighill and Anthony Gaitor now look like brilliant acquisitions for the Bombers, as the two have led the Bombers on the defensive end in their two outings so far.
Unless everything falls apart in the coming weeks and these two were nothing but a fluke, Bombers fans have a whole lot to be optimistic about for this coming season, and the future as a whole.
In both victory and defeat, the Eskimos core has looked shaky to start the season. Against the Blue Bombers, the defence looked a bit shell-shocked at times. The same could be said of the offence during their game against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
Some were blaming the Eskimos defence for the teams’ loss against the Tiger-Cats, though this point should be rendered moot. The offence was not nearly good enough to come away with a win. The Tiger-Cats had 11 more first downs than the Eskimos (26-15) and 11 more minutes of possession in the game, which was a particularly crucial factor in the second half. Any defence is going to have issues when their offence keeps going three-and-out on their possessions.
Positive takeaways are the performance of their offence against the Blue Bombers. Mike Reilly is looking as good as ever while CJ Gable and Derel Walker are keeping up their strong form into the 2018 season.
For the Eskimos, consistency on both sides of the field is going to be what leads them to be among the top CFL teams. Whether or not they can get consistency (especially given these first two weeks) from their offence and defence remains to be seen.
To start the season, all eyes were on the Tiger-Cats because of their acquisition of Johnny Manziel. Manziel has garnered attention on both sides of the border, and rightfully so. But the person who really deserves the attention is Jeremiah Masoli. Masoli has carried his excellent form from last year into the 2018 campaign, and it shows. Behind centre, Masoli is a confident quarterback who throws accurately and quickly while being able to showcase his versatility on the ground to escape perilous situations. But that’s not all for this team.
Canadian running back Mercer Timmis has looked excellent in his debut as a CFL starter, against both the Stampeders and the Eskimos. On the receiving end, June Jones’ decision to include Brandon Banks more in the offence has paid off immensely. Despite it seeming like a fairly obvious decision to make. Luke Tasker remains a great wide receiver and coming off a career year in 2017, Tasker is likely motivated to continue the forward progress.
The Tiger-Cat defence against the Eskimos was suffocating, forcing the Eskimos to punt seven times throughout the game. The Tiger-Cats are lead by players like Larry Dean, an underrated linebacker who is able to pressure a passing offence and stop a rushing offence with great efficiency. If this performance can keep up or bleed into next week, this could be a defence worth fearing.
All-told, Tiger-Cats fans should be very optimistic about this year. With June Jones running the show from the get-go this year, along with a good offence and a very promising defence, the Tiger-Cats could become one of the top CFL teams and contenders to lift the Grey Cup in November.
Imagine, for a moment, that you walked into BMO Field for the Argos vs. Stampeders game this past week as a brand new fan with only the knowledge that this game was a championship rematch, but you didn’t know who was the champion. Walking out of the stadium, you would’ve thought it was the Calgary Stampeders. The Argonauts have not looked very good in their two outings, particularly (but certainly not exclusively) on the defensive side, where the absence of Bear Woods is being felt immensely by the rest of their defence.
James Franklin is likely going to be handed the starting job in Week 4 because of the unfortunate and scary circumstances surrounding the injury to Ricky Ray. Ray went down in the third quarter against the Stampeders with a neck injury. It has been announced by the Argonauts that he “has feeling in all extremities”, which is a massive relief for CFL fans everywhere.
However, even with Ray behind centre against the Stampeders and Roughriders, the Argonauts offence looks dazed and confused and is having a hard time producing at a rate that could be considered consistent. The defence hasn’t been much better, as they are tied with the Eskimos for seventh place in the CFL for points against, with 68 (ninth is the Alouettes with 78).
The Argos can turn it around if the defence tightens up immensely and the offence becomes more efficient. Nevertheless, they’ll likely have to do the latter without Ricky Ray, at least in Week 4.
Chris Jones’ ballclub looked good at home against the Argonauts and stunned on the road against the Redblacks. New quarterback Zach Collaros is the epitome of this statement, looking solid in the Roughriders’ home opener. However, he looked absolutely shell-shocked against the Redblacks, passing 18/25 and 4/10 respectively in both games.
The defence has looked both good and bad, again, in both outings respectively. Chris Jones’ decision to start Duron Carter as a defensive back against the Redblacks was an odd decision to make, and it cost them immensely. Carter is not a bad defensive back but is immeasurably more valuable as a receiver. Collaros and Brandon Bridge could’ve used his services on offence against the Redblacks much more than the defence needed him.
It’s hard to truly analyze the teams that have gone 1-1, but none more so than the Roughriders. They almost looked like two different teams against the Argonauts and the Redblacks. Roughriders and CFL fans are going to have to wait a few more weeks to truly be able to gauge how good this team is and how far it can go this season.
The Ottawa Redblacks looked very good on both ends on the field throughout the game. Trevor Harris looks to finally be truly comfortable and confident as the starter in Ottawa, and it showed. This is his gig.
The Ottawa receiving corp is an underrated one. Greg Ellingson, Brad Sinopoli, Diontae Spencer and occasional options like William Powell, this bunch has enough talent to tear up any defence on any given night.
Speaking of defence, they were awfully good against the Roughriders as well. Louchiez Purifoy and Kyries Hebert lead the way with many other notable contributors in this game, such as Jonathan Rose, who had one of the two team interceptions against the Riders.
There’s not much else to be said for this core. We already know that the Redblacks core is solid, but has consistency issues. Consistency is key for the Ottawa Redblacks, and if they can become a consistent football team they can also become one of the top CFL teams.
Speaking of top CFL teams, it’s finally time to talk about the top team in the CFL (at least when they’re not playing in the Grey Cup), the Calgary Stampeders.
There’s genuinely not much to be said. The Stampeders are the model of excellence and consistency in the CFL at the moment. They have the asterisk next to this great stretch of theirs because they haven’t won a Grey Cup. Rightfully so, but that doesn’t completely take away from what this team was and still is.
The offence is among the greatest in CFL history with Bo Levi Mitchell behind centre. Even though their current legacy is defined by their inability to win in big games, do not forget that Anthony Calvillo once held this legacy. A lot can change.
The defence is elite with names like Alex Singleton, Micah Johnson, Tre Roberson and more. Their ability to consistently suffocate opposing offences is unmatched by any team in the CFL and may be among the greatest defences in CFL history.
Saying these things have become routine when talking about the Stampeders, but it’s all true. Another Grey Cup appearance almost seems like an inevitability for the Stampeders this year, much like it did last year. But also like last year, anything but a Grey Cup victory will be considered a disappointment. This team should be more than capable of lifting the trophy over their heads come November as one of the top CFL teams.
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