Upstart Eskimos and Bombers face stiff tests
We are headed into the third week of the 2014 CFL season with the 2-0 Edmonton Eskimos and 2-0 Winnipeg Blue Bombers tied for first place in the CFL West.
Suddenly pigs have sprouted wings and a state-of-the-art refrigeration unit has been installed in hell, or it is early in the 2014 CFL schedule. Either way, the Esks and Bombers are already better than last year. The big question is how much better than last year?
The Blue Bombers takes their act on the road this week and face the 1-1 Alouettes in Montreal on Friday night. My main concern with the Bombers is their 0-line because Winnipeg quarterback Drew Willy has taken a beating in the first two games. Willy displayed both talent and courage while he lit up the secondary for over 300 yards in both of his games, but my question is whether he will survive a season.
Montreal’s strength is their defence and Willy will face his stiffest test behind center in this game. I am not sold on Montreal’s offence with Troy Smith at quarterback, but my hunch is a Montreal victory in this game because of the Als defence.
Edmonton hosts the expansion 0-1 Ottawa RedBlacks on Friday night and I expect the visitors will be in a bad mood after blowing a big lead against Winnipeg last week.
Ottawa’s Henry Burris has been the best and worst quarterback in the league during the same game several times during his career. This tendency surfaced again last week and Hank will have to face down his own demons this week against the Eskimos.
Edmonton barely beat the 0-2 Ti-Cats last week, even though Hamilton lost first-string quarterback Zach Collaros to a cheap head shot from Eskimo rush end Odell Willis. I believe the Eskimos will have their hands full with the RedBlacks and will lose this game. The Eskimos have O-line issues and Ottawa hung five sacks on the Bomber O-line last week. Look for the first RedBlacks victory against Edmonton this week.
The Calgary Stampeders are fresh off their summer holiday break and will visit the Argos this weekend. The Argonauts hung a beating on Saskatchewan last week in front of a sparse crowd in Toronto largely composed of shocked Rider fans. Toronto’s Ricky Ray and Chad Owens are both currently healthy, so the Argo offence is on fire early in the season.
The Argos used a highly effective pressure defence with corner blitzes against the Riders and will likely once again dial up the pressure against the Stamps. However, I believe Calgary will win this game because Stamp offensive coordinator Dave Dickenson has seen plenty of pressure defences, both as a player and coach. Throw in a solid Stamp defence and this game has Calgary victory written all over it.
One of the biggest surprises of the early season has been the 0-2 B.C. Lions. They visit the 1-1 Riders on Saturday night and I expect both teams will be in a bad mood after last week. Lion quarterback Kevin Glenn has been an absolute disaster thus far with his new team because B.C. has huge O-line problems this year. Expect the Lions to struggle again this week against the Riders and rack up their third loss of the young season.
The Riders were awful last week in Toronto. The sudden departure of Rider defensive back Dwight Anderson is a good move for Saskatchewan because football coaches should not be babysitters for players over 30 years old. You are either an asset or a liability on a team and the mercurial Anderson became a big liability to the team during the Argo game when his on-field and sideline performances added up to negative numbers.
The entire Rider team was a liability against the Argos, with the exception of rush end John Chick. They seemed casual and over-confident at the start of the game, an attitude that disappeared fairly early when Toronto assumed total control of the game. I began to question whether Saskatchewan traded away the wrong quarterback to Winnipeg, but I will need to see more of the 2014 season before I raise that point.
In fact, I expect the Riders to win against the Lions because they will dial up the pressure against the highly suspect BC O-line, although rookie Lion tackle Ryan Cave will now have more than three practices before this game. See you next week.