Continuing with the CFL Talking Points series, Last Word On Canadian Football writer Thomas Gunther is back with a special edition of Talking Points. This week, Gunther provides his takeaways from all four CFL games and as well as the Top Performer for each side. For last week’s recap on the Saskatchewan Roughriders and Toronto Argonauts game, you can click here. Let’s get started with the CFL Week 18 Talking Points.
CFL Week 18 Talking Points
Hamilton Tiger-Cats vs Ottawa Redblacks
Key Takeaways: The Tiger-Cats may not be done after all. The Redblacks made the right move going with Henry Burris.
With an injury list that is nearly bursting with key players, including starting quarterback Zach Collaros, the Tiger-Cats got even more bad news last week that All-Star return man Brandon Banks would miss two games due to a failed drug test. Going into a tough TD Place Stadium to play the Redblacks, it was hard to see the Ticats putting up much of a fight as the season slipped away. Yet that was not the case as the Tabbies planted their feet and went shot for shot with the top team in the East, eventually forcing and winning in Overtime to pull within 1 point of the Division lead. With a defence that can still ball out and one of the most exciting backups in the CFL in Jeremiah Masoli, Hamilton may not be done making noise in 2016.
Despite losing to the Ticats it had to be good for the Redblacks to see their offence getting sharper and sharper by the week. While it was questioned at the time, the move to switch from Trevor Harris to Henry Burris two weeks ago has lit a fire that could carry into the playoffs. Burris boasts experience and leadership that will be invaluable come the postseason, and it would be foolish to discount the major chip he has on his shoulder. The Redblacks will be Harris’ team in 2017, but Ottawa is looking to give Burris one last shot at the title.
Top Performers: John Chick (5 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumbler) and Antoine Pruneau (10 tackles, 1 interception).
Toronto Argonauts vs Calgary Stampeders
Key Takeaways: The Argos should have toughed it out with Ricky Ray and their receivers. The Stamps are set to make CFL history.
If you haven’t heard by now, the Toronto Argonauts have been the talk of the CFL for their blockbuster trade for Drew Willy and subsequent housecleaning of their receiving core. It’s understandable why the Argos made the moves they did, they needed a young quarterback and there was dissension between the team’s leadership and Kevin Elliot, Vidal Hazelton, and Tori Gurely. The problem is when the moves were made, late in the season with the playoffs well within reach. The Argos essentially threw in the white towel with their actions when sticking with what they had would likely have gotten them to the postseason (even if they would have exited quickly). Now the Argos are entering next year without a high draft pick, proven receivers, and likely general manager Jim Barker and head coach Scott Milanovich.
The Stampeders now sit one victory away from the best regular season in CFL history. The previous mark of 16-2 (held by the 1989 Edmonton Eskimos) will likely fall next week when the nigh-unbeatable Stamps take on Montreal at Percival-Molson Stadium. It’s easy to forget that entering this season there were many who predicted a decline in Calgary with new head coach Dave Dickenson taking over and multiple All-Star players (Jon Cornish, Eric Rogers) no longer on the team. It hasn’t mattered one bit as the Stamps surge towards the record books and home field advantage in the postseason. Yet for all the accolades Calgary has rightly earned in 2016, they would do well to remember that none of it matters when it’s win or go home in the playoffs.
Top Performers: Dionte Spencer (5 catches, 64 receiving yards, 49 return yards) and DaVaris Daniels (3 catches, 94 yards, 2 touchdowns)
Montreal Alouettes vs Saskatchewan Roughriders
Key Takeaways: The Als may have something in Vernon Adams Jr. to build on. The Riders still have a ways to go for next year.
There was plenty of excitement leading up to the debut game for Montreal’s newest quarterback, Vernon Adams Jr., and rightly so considering the high price the Als paid to get him. While Adam’s numbers were quite poor (177 yards at a 45.8% completion rate) he showed a strong arm and an exciting ability to shed tacklers in the pocket. Adams also suffered mightily from some terrible drops by his receivers and relentless pressure from the Riders. All things considered, Adams showed promise and gave a frustrated fan base some hope for the future.
Across the field, the Riders crashed back down to earth as the Green and White finally came up against a team that could apply some serious pressure to their battered offensive line. Darian Durant was knocked around on seemingly every play while his receiving core did nothing to help. The ground game under Joe McKnight was largely ignored despite the rainy conditions and Montreal’s aggressive pass rush. While there is a lot to like about the Riders for next year, this game served as a reminder that the team deserves it’s place in the standings and outside the playoffs.
Top Performers: Jovon Johnson (6 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble) and Joe McKnight (62 rushing yards and 81 receiving Yards).
Edmonton Eskimos vs British Columbia Lions
Key Takeaways: Edmonton could make waves in the playoffs. Lions need to finish season strong.
It’s official, the Edmonton Eskimos will have a shot to defend their title as the team locked up a playoff berth despite losing to the BC Lions this past week. While the loss snapped a three game winning streak, the Esks will enter the playoffs with a surprisingly balanced team. Mike Reilly has already established himself as a top level passer while John White, Adarius Bowman, and Derel Walker are all elite play makers. On the defence Deon Lacy and JC Sherritt lead a unit that has gotten a boost from recently signed Phillip Hunt. The Esks may have to play the crossover to have a shot at the Grey Cup, but don’t be surprised if they end up making it all the way back for the second straight year.
The B.C. Lions are going to the playoffs, but they would really love to do it at home. With the Winnipeg Blue Bombers holding the tie breaker (due to winning the season series) the Lions will need to finish with more wins than the Bombers to give their fans a home playoff game. The Lions have the second best home record in the CFL and a postseason match at BC Place would surely go a long way towards propelling the Lions to their first playoff win since 2011. With the feisty Riders on the docket for the final two weeks of the season the Lions will need to finish strong to give themselves the edge come November.
Top Performers: John White (76 rushing yards, 37 receiving yards, 1 touchdown) and Emmanuel Arceneaux (8 catches, 132 yards, 2 touchdowns).
Have some thoughts or comments on this week’s games? Leave a comment below!