Continuing with the CFL Talking Points series, Last Word On Canadian Football writer Thomas Gunther is back to cover the latest match-up between the Saskatchewan Roughriders and the Toronto Argonauts. The Argos entered the match desperately needing a win to keep their name in the playoff race while the Riders were riding a three game winning streak. Despite the urgency, Toronto was over-matched from the start as the Riders steamrolled their way to a 29-11 win. Gunther addresses the big questions raised by the game as well as his overall impression of each team. For last week’s recap, you can click here. Let’s get started with the key takeaways in the CFL Week 17 Talking Points.
CFL Week 17 Talking Points
Questions and Takeaways
1) The Saskatchewan Roughriders look like world-beaters after putting up their fourth win in a row. What stood out for the Riders in their best game of the season?
Thomas Gunther: The first thing that jumped out was the dynamic running game Saskatchewan unleashed on the Argos headed by Joe McKnight. Repeatedly gashing Toronto play after play, McKnight provided excellent balance for Darian Durant as the Riders put up 20 points by halftime. Another key factor was the intensity that the Rider’s defence showed off while blanketing the Argo’s offence for three quarters. Head coach Chris Jones has clearly gotten his team playing hard despite the Riders now being officially out of the playoff race.
2) It only took three weeks of Drew Willy at the helm for the Toronto Argonauts to pull the embattled passer. With this and many more issues cropping up, what is the state of the Argos as a team?
TG: The Argos are a team that looks woefully overwhelmed in every aspect of the CFL game. From blown special teams coverages to poor run defence and ill-timed penalties, the Argos made mistake after mistake and never seemed to be fully invested in the game. And that is not even including an anemic offence that is devoid of consistent play-makers outside of Brandon Whitaker. The Argo’s move to obtain Willy was a complete overreaction and the jettisoning of their receiving core was a confounding move for a team with playoff aspirations.
3) At the season’s start it was the Riders who looked hopeless while the Argos stood tall at 4-2. What has caused the two franchises to swap places as the season progressed?
TG: Strangely enough the Argos most recent moves (mentioned above) do eerily mirror the Roughriders actions from earlier this year. The Riders were quick to move players that either didn’t buy in or fit the team that Jones was trying to rebuild in Saskatchewan, and the franchise has continued that thinking well into the season. The difference here is that the Argos have been playoff contenders all season long, but their recent string of player shuffling is more in line with a team that has given up on the year than one trying to get itself ready for the postseason. Should the Argos fail to make the playoffs, a much more likely possibility after tonight, head coach Scott Milanovich and general manager Jim Barker will rightly assume the lions share of the blame.
4) Top Takeaway for the Toronto Argonauts…
TG: Next week will determine the fate of the Toronto Argonauts. With only five wins on the year the Boatmen absolutely must win their next match to have any hope at all of advancing to the postseason. The problem? Next week has the Argos traveling to face the juggernaut Calgary Stampeders in McMahon Stadium. While anything can happen in the CFL, the Argos will have to play their best football of the season to eke out a win and keep pace with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Ottawa Redblacks. It’s not over yet for Toronto, but one more mistake will doom the season for the Argos.
5) Top Takeaway for the Saskatchewan Roughriders…
TG: The future is bright in Riderville. A four game winning streak has shown off a budding defence and an offence that still scores despite it’s litany of injured starters. While the team will not be playing meaningful football in November, the Roughriders will be one of the most intriguing teams to watch this offseason. A brand new stadium and a solid core of players to build on will make the Saskatchewan a top destination in free agency. Couple that with another offseason for Jones to implement his schemes and personnel, and the Roughriders could easily come out of the gates on fire in 2017.
TG: Tonight’s Top Performers were Dionte Spencer and Joe McKnight. Spencer had two huge returns that put the Argos in excellent position and was playing hard long after some of his teammates had checked out. McKnight absolutely tore up the Argo defence with massive chunk plays on route to 150 yards on the ground. The former New York Jets running back looked right at home on the larger Canadian field and could be a key piece for the Riders going forward.
Have some thoughts or comments on the game? Leave a comment below!