Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Picking Week 4 in the CFL

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It’s been a terrible start to the season as far as picking winners in the CFL!  We’re currently operating at 25% success rate, and that’s got me contemplating the need to change the way I look at things when it comes to the league.  The problem with thinking about modification is that we were so close to going 3-1 last week that it’s hard to commit to overhauling my logic, and with week 4 on deck, I’m brutally confident that I can right the ship.  If Montreal hadn’t shot themselves in the foot, and Saskatchewan converts a 3 QB dive, I’m laughing right now, and many of you are probably in the same boat.  
So that’s the dilemma.  Do I keep picking these games by including the thoughts and feelings I have as a former player?  OR do I go strict analyst mode, and use trending stats and figures to determine outcomes?  Maybe the answer lies in both.  Either way, something’s gotta give!  As a competitor, I can’t stand being wrong, but I know that it doesn’t matter how one starts, it’s how one finishes.  As I mentioned before, I’m pretty confident about this week as far as picks go (if that means anything), and hopefully we’ll start righting the ship.  With so much of the season left, it would be crazy to start doubting the process now…
Hamilton @ Montreal 
Right now the TiCats are the total package.  Hamilton has picked up where they left off last year in terms of stopping the run, and currently sit 2nd in passing yards allowed per game at 228.5.  They’ve also scored in every phase of the game through turnovers on D, and creating running room for Brandon Banks.  In order from Montreal to beat a very dangerous Hamilton squad they’re going to have to take care of the details as a team, throughout the week, and obviously on game day.  It starts with Special Team.  The Alouettes have to shore up the mistakes that they made in the kicking game by focusing on punt protection technique, and spacing on punt and kick coverage.  Boris Bede is going to have a spotlight on him all game, because he’s going to have to get the ball high, in order for his cover guys to get down field, and near the sideline in order to limit Brandon Banks’ return options.
With Rakeem Cato continuing to develop, first down success, especially in the 1st quarter, will once again be at a premium for the Als.  That’s tough to do against a stout run defence that hasshown a propensity to attack the line of scrimmage with different looks.  Cato is going to have to remain poised behind his Oline, and understand that he doesn’t have to gouge Hamilton with the big plays early on.  He can nickel and dime his way through the game in order to give his troops a shot.
This game has the makings of a great battle in the trenches and features two great defenses.
For this one, I’ll take the QB advantage and Zach Collaros’ ability to find his safety net in the crunch, Andy Fantuz.
Pick:  Hamilton
Edmonton @ Ottawa
There were a few keys that had to work in Ottawa’s favour in order to get the win in Edmonton last week.  We spoke about Henry Burris not letting an opportunistic Eskimo defence jump out early, and that’s just what they did.  Edmonton pressured relentlessly and the RedBlacks turned the ball over. Ottawa also struggled to beat the Edmonton Oline, which showed up nicely and allowed Nichols to manage the game relatively stress free.
During a home-at-home series, it’s all about diagnosing yourself on film and correcting mistakes and missed opportunities.  Teams won’t make DRASTIC changes to their game plan, but they may adjust a thing or two that concerned them after sitting as a team and watching the film.  In Ottawa’s case, all the things that put them in a bind early are correctable, so one can anticipate a much better showing out of a team that boasts one of the league’s top defenses at this point.  
The problem is that Edmonton seemed like the team everyone expected to see in week 1, and the way they went about dissecting the RedBlacks was impressive.  As they continue to push forward, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Kendial Lawrence increasing his production within the team, and if you’re not an Eddie Steele fan by now, I suggest you take a look at the way he’s emerging as one of the top draws on that Dline.  
Pick: Edmonton
Winnipeg at Calgary
Beating Toronto on Monday night might have been the worst thing that could have happened to the CFL, and the best thing that could have happened to the Stamps.  The way they handled themselves amongst the worst adversity imaginable (losing both starting offensive tackles, and reshuffling their roster) was scary.  Games like that galvanize teams, and build unreal amounts of confidence.  That wasn’t an easy team to beat (in Toronto). Dave Dickinson had to be at his best for the entire 2nd half; he was.  Bo Levi Mitchell had to protect the football and make sound decisions; he did. Special Teams needed to win the field position battle; they did.  And the defense had to stand up and win the game against the highest rated QB in the league; DONE.  Total Team Effort.
There isn’t a ton of time to celebrate in Calgary.  The Bombers walk in there on Saturday night with a huge opportunity to establish themselves as a legit contender for that West Division crown, and fresh legs!  That’s more than we can say for Calgary as Coach Hufnagel is going to have to deal with replacing one starting tackle, maybe even two.  The Stamps will have four days between games, and a new offensive line.  For a team that relies on their guys up front, that’s a tough deal.
Calgary can expect a heavy dose of pressure in different forms from Richie Hall and the Bombers D. I couldn’t figure out why Toronto didn’t blitz more often against Calgary’s makeshift Oline, but I’m sure the Blue Bombers won’t make the same mistake.  The Stamps may be able to counter different looks (from Winnipeg) by mixing up their game much like they did in the 2nd half on Monday, but it may be a rocky go of it for Cornish and the gang.  
If the Stamps are going to beat a very good Winnipeg team, they’ll have to win on Defence, and that probably means scoring from that phase as well.  They’ve got the guys to do it!  11 of the 12 defensive starters from their Championship run are still there, and they’re all playing great.  Willy’s got his work cut out for him against that Rich Stubler zone D.
Calgary is also going to have to play mistake free ball, but that’s not a huge task for a team that is coached well in all areas of the game.  Special Teams are going to have a huge role in this game, and it’s an area that the Stampeders have to win.  They’ve got to get Tim Brown some running room, and need a huge kicking game from Rob Maver.  
I’ll take a confident Calgary team that showed its championship resolve on Monday while coming together as a team.  In some respects, that may have been the most important game for the Stamps this year.  Not all wins are created equal.
Pick:  Calgary
BC at Saskatchewan
Is it cool to pick a draw here?!?  
The Riders have been painfully close over the last two games, and it’s hard to imagine them not figuring out a way to get over the hump!  
Injuries are slowly beginning to eat away at this team, and the Riders were already a squad that was shallow in the depth pool to begin with. 
Thankfully the excuses have been removed from the table in Ridernation.  The team, and its players, aren’t using the new rule changes as a cover.  Seeing as the rest of the league seems to be catching on, the Green and White need to adjust as well, and the guys recognize that.
It’s undeniably tough to go with the Riders because of their struggles in certain aspects of the game.  
What makes it difficult to pick against the Roughriders is the fact that the offense in Saskatchewan is the best in the league.  Kind of hard to justify going against a team that is good for 500 yards a game!
Unfortunately one of the Saskatchewan Roughrider strengths also underlines their biggest weaknesses.  As good as the Riders are in the air (344 YPG), they are also equally as bad at defending it (332 YPG).
That needs to change, and sooner rather than later.  
All everyone is talking about is the Riders having leads late in the last two games and not been able to seal the deal.  The question coming from a former player is, what if Saskatchewan doesn’t go into the last few minutes of a game with a lead?  What if the Riders need to get the ball back for the offense, in order to set up a final scoring drive?
We all seem to see the struggles that envelope the Riders D right now, but nobody is offering up ways to fix it.  At this point, it’s on Coach Chamblin to find the key to turning things around, and the players to implement the change.  For now Saskatchewan will have to continue to rely on offensive production to keep them in games, while they figure their way through the growing pains that they’ve been hit with.  It’s still very early in the season and being one or two plays away from being 2-1 is encouraging but not anything to be proud of.  You all know the rhetoric…Defense wins Championships.  It’s tough to put all the responsibility on the offense while the D finds their identity. 

Pick: BC


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1 comment:

  1. Ouch! Riders 0-4 after Week 4 - Hope your wrong on this one.