Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Picking Week 5 in the CFL

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Thank the Gods that the past week finally fell in our favour!  We Went into last week’s picks feeling very confident that things were going to start getting back on track, and ended up getting results that we’ve been expecting since we started this “pick em” column.
Week 4 results: 3-1…Finally.  
 
Unfortunately, last week was also the week that I chose the Lions over the Riders, despite being called a traitor, and a turncoat, among other things.  It’s tough going against what the heart wants to pick, especially when one has close friends on the team that’s being picked against.  It actually felt like I was turning my back on my boys when they needed all the support they can get.  I’ve never wanted to be more wrong in my life, but if I don’t try and analyze things honestly, this site loses all the credibility that we’re working really hard to earn.
 
As we move on to week 5, it looks as though this could be a great week of CFL ball.  There are no easy calls in this round of action, and one or two plays may be the difference between a Win and a Loss.  Let’s not waste time with standing on ceremony here.  We’ll jump right into picking Week 5 of the CFL…
 
Calgary @ Ottawa
 
Put your hands up if you predicted that the Ottawa RedBlacks would have the best pass defence in the CFL at any point during the 2015 season?!?  Oh yeah, while you’re at it…Throw the other hand up if you thought they’d be ranked 2nd in Yards per Game allowed?  Well if you’re standing there with both hands up, I’d like to salute you, because you clearly saw something the NOBODY else did.  Playing solid D will give any team a chance, and it’s been nice to see Ottawa out there competing.
The RedBlacks have already tied their record from last season so from here on out it’s all about continuing to build and improve to the point where they can compete for a championship.  One of the players that is facilitating Ottawa’s decent start is Saskatchewan’s own Zack Evans.  The former Regina Thunder standout is putting together quite a year thus far, and Ottawa will need him, and the rest of that Defensive line, to come up big on Friday.  The Stampeders are finally starting to show spurts of the team that everyone expected to see at the beginning of this year.  Much has been made of the Offensive Line woes in Calgary, but this will be the 2nd consecutive week that this new group gets to play together, and they’ll be looking to set the physical tone that Calgary has become known for under Jon Hufnagel.
Ottawa has to stop the run.  The Redblacks cannot allow the Stampeders to dictate the pace of play.  They have to turn Calgary into a one-dimensional passing team and force Bo Levi-Mitchell to make all the right decisions.  The Stampeders pivot seems to be off at times this year, and with the RedBlacks secondary communicating better than last year, they may jump on an INT or two.  We’ve all seen the way turnovers are affecting the CFL right now, Ottawa may be able to get in there and hang around, but it’s tough to see them beating the defending Grey Cup Champs quite yet.
 
Pick:  Calgary
 
Toronto @ BC
 
BC looks legit.  During the Lions last two games, Travis Lulay has begun looking like the QB he was in 2011, which is scary if you’re any CFL team that’s not BC.  Many are going to think it’s hard to measure the Leos after two wins against a Saskatchewan team, derailed by injury, but it’s the way that the Lions won those games that serves as the important notice.  A come from behind win after being stuck 11 in the 4th Qtr, and a hard fought back-to-back victory in the most hostile building in the league are victories that underline the Lions character and determination.
Toronto is loaded, with youth, and talent on both fronts.  Big, tall aggressive receivers, with leadership from vets like Chad Owens, and a QB that's making sound decisions with the football. 
Even though the Argo defensive line is struggling with some discipline issues, they've got all the potential in the world; especially on the interior.  TO's impressive LB tandem of Greenwood and Jones is going to be the Eastern version of Bighill and Elimimian this year.  They round out a defensive group that will look to take Andrew Harris out of the equation in Vancouver.
Both of these teams have a shot to win their divisions in 2015, but with inexperience in certain spots there's going to be some bumps along the road, especially in the first half of the year.
I'm going with momentum here, and taking the Lions in a close game at home.

Pick: BC

 
Winnipeg at Edmonton
 
Edmonton threw 3 INT’s in the nation’s capital and barely got out of there with a W.  Two wins…Both against the RedBlacks.  Nothing to throw a party over.  They’re going to have to step it up in Week 5.  Winnipeg on the other hand made some uncommon mistakes on Special Teams that gave Calgary enough time to get their act together.  The Bombers are close, but close isn’t good enough for a team that is going to be in a dogfight for a playoff position.  
This is going to be a tough game to call, but a great game to watch.  One could make an argument for both squads.  The emergence of Shakir Bell and continued development of KendialLawrence is something that Edmonton needs to keep pushing.  Paris Cotton and Darvin Adams fall into that same category when one looks at Winnipeg.  Both defenses have had their moments in the sun, however they`ve also shown the potential to falter at inopportune times.
The difference in this game may be at the Quarterback position, where Drew Willy has played exceptionally well, and Matt Nichols has been inconsistent while adjusting to his role as the starting QB.  
With a vastly improved Offensive Line and Defenses struggling to find ways to pressure the QB, Drew Willy may be the deciding factor in a game where both teams are evenly matched.
 
Pick: Winnipeg

Hamilton @ Saskatchewan

I don't know where guys like Gary Lawless get their brutal info, but these made up scenarios that "experts" are coming up with are STUPID, and highlight the fact that anyone with a suit jacket can get on TV and create a rumour.  
This team, and their Head Coach can't let the external pressure affect the way they do business.  They have to fight to keep the focus on FOOTBALL.  The fact is that they need a win, and if they're going to get it they'll have to put together a solid performance in all three phases of the game on Sunday.  The TiCat defense is a great test for the Saskatchewan O because they're solid against the run and are capable of creating turnovers.  Offensively they will benefit from CJ Gable returning and, like Toronto, they bring in a tall and talented group of WRs into Mosaic Stadium.  The CFL has really opened the game up for receivers that have a high football IQ and can get to soft spots in zone schemes, and the TiCats have one of the best in Andy Fantuz.  #83 is Hamiltons safety net and the Riders need to key in on him whenever the TiCats are in a 2nd and 5+ situation.  Guys like Tolliver, Sinkfield and Bakari Grant are big play threats but Fantuz is the key to their whole deal.  The Riders have to account for him at all times. 
THIS GAME IS ALL MENTAL for the Green and White.  I'll go and expand on that during the "TiCat/Rider Primer" that we put out the day before every game, but eventually it comes down to pride and ACCOUNTABILITY.  There is leadership in that locker room and they've been through this situation before.  Those guys need to take the reigns here, and steer all the inexperience through this rough patch.  There's a reason Kent Austin has been in 3 Grey Cups as a Head Coach.  Nobody gets a team MENTALLY prepared like Austin does, and if the Riders don't have their minds right and aren't zero'd in on Alignment, Assignment, and Execution, they'll get run over.
This is a very winnable game for Saskatchewan.  They're so close.  Talent-wise they match-up perfectly.  The question is going to be...Can they overcome the mental aspects of the task at hand? 

Pick: Hamilton




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