Friday, 27 November 2015


Our Grey Cup Edition of our OFFSIDES podcast is up and ready for your listening pleasure!

On todays show Coach Etch and I spent the entire podcast taking a look at the 103rd Grey Cup battle between the Edmonton Eskimos and the Ottawa RedBlacks, from Winnipeg Manitoba!

We do briefly touch on a couple of other subjects that Coach wanted to address from the previous Conference Final games last weekend, mainly, Etch has some strong opinions on the colour commentary work done by Saskatchewan's own Glenn Suitor.  Now that I've done a few colour commentary jobs myself now, and I've come to recognize how hard that job actually is, so I hope that Etch hasn't been listening in on my work as young up and coming broadcaster, otherwise I may be in for a good talking to haha!!!

The link to the show is below as always.  We're having a great time here in Winnipeg, and I can't wait to get this 103rd Grey Cup game kicked off.  I'll probably change my prediction 100 more times between now and Sunday, but I  hope you guys enjoy what we have for you today!!!

Talk soon folks...Hit the jump...

Thursday, 26 November 2015



Rod, Carm Carteri, and I arrived at the 103rd Grey Cup Celebration yesterday afternoon in order to do our 1st of 3 Sportscage Grey Cup Editions live from TSNs Radio Row.

I talked to a lot of you out there in Ridernation, in the days leading up to this week, and as you will remember I have been slightly less than enthused!  Like many of you, the dismal Rider season put a real damper on the 2015 CFL season.  When one mixes that with the fact that this year’s festivities are in Winter-Peg, I just wasn’t feeling very Grey Cuppish!

Well Ridernation (anour other viewers out there)…I’m happy to say that I’ve switched my tune since pulling into town on Wednesday, and now that the rest of the CFL fan base is beginning to trickle in, I’m starting to get excited.  Thank goodness that I remembered there’s so much more to this league than just the Saskatchewan Roughriders and I made a promise to myself this morning that if I’m not hosting Riderville anymore, I’m going to get out and really experience what the rest of this league has to offer!  I’m probably going to get into some significant trouble doing so, but hey, go hard or go home!
This morning I went to the media breakfast with the Eastern Conference Champion Ottawa RedBlacks.  For those of you who do not know what that is, it’s simply a way for the media to get in front of the entire team and get to interview anyone in the RedBlacks organization.  They also did a lunch with the Western Conference Champion Edmonton Eskimos, but I had another commitment and was unable to make that.

It was great seeing old friends!  Part of the reason my spirits are significantly higher now than prior to making the trek to Winnipeg is that I put myself back into the shoes of a player who gets to experience this process for the 1st or 5th time.  It’s always part of those memorable moments that one gets to look back on when they’re no longer playing the game.  I had a chance catch up with Hank briefly between media scrums, talked at length with my buddy Keith Sholo about what he’s been up to, and was able to have a nice COACHING discussion with Travis Moore, who was one of our leaders when I first got to Regina out of Michigan State.  I even ran into Montreal Alouette Great Brian Chiu who you could tell felt right at home in another Grey Cup, and is enjoying coaching just as much as he enjoyed playing.

I’ll continue to update you on all my adventures here at the 103rdGrey Cup celebration, but WE STILL HAVE WORK TO DO!!!

I’ve thought long and hard about who I’m going to pick to win this year’s Earl Grey Trophy.  I know that Edmonton may have handled the RedBlacks in the regular season, but that was ages ago, and the Ottawa team that stands before us now is considerably better in all three phases of the game.

So after going back and forth deliberating who we’re going to pick in 2015’s final edition of our CFL Pick-Em Column, here’s who we’ve taken to win the 103rd Grey Cup Championship…


Despite everyone around here leaning towards Edmonton in a convincing fashion, I'm not so sure that people are giving Ottawa the respect they deserve.  The feeling and discussion around here is that the RedBlacks are such a "cool story" and that everyone is pulling for them as the underdog.  Even on "radio row" here in Winnipeg, experts and analysts only speak on the incredible journey that the organization has gone through, and don't really spotlight the overall talent of the team unless they're talking about Smiling Hanks amazing year.
HOLD ON A SECOND FOLKS!  This RedBlack team is for real, and despite the early season results against the Edmonton Eskimos, the Ottawa team that touched down here in Winter-Peg on Tuesday is FAR BETTER than the organization that the Esks saw awhile back.
Ottawa matches up well in all phases of the game.  In the trenches, Edmonton's Offensive Line is big, nasty, and plays fast; but on the flipside, the RedBlacks defensive line is very aggressive, athletic and DEEP.  That's a battle that could go either way.  Don't forget that Ottawa also schemes quite a few pressure looks and blitzes into their game plan which forces the oppositions Oline to re-adjust the way they want to attack a defensive front.  As Arash Madani brought this up on our show today (Sportscage on 620 CKRM), Edmonton isn't the only team that plays aggressive and likes to send extra rushers. 
There isn't much difference in either teams secondary units either.  Both teams have solid man-capable defenders that are sound tacklers in space.  Where Calgary seemed to struggle last week in the Western Conference finals, the RedBlacks are going to be more than willing to play man schemes and run with Edmonton's talented receiving core.  Again...that match-up looks to be a wash as well.
Those are just two examples of how well these teams compare on film.  We could sit here and analyze the positions until we're blue in the face and the majority of them will come out even.  We are talking about the two best teams in the league after all.
Here is where the game may shift...
Championships are won in the 4th quarter.  Save for the drubbing that Saskatchewan put on Hamilton in 2013, Grey Cup games are the ultimate tests in endurance.  I'll talk about all the highs and lows that a player may go through in our Grey Cup Primer, but these games usually come down to one or two defining plays.  One or two moments, whether good or bad; there's going to be one or two plays on Sunday that tip the scales in the favour of the eventual winner.  That's why Championship games are so good to watch.  It's a battle on attrition.  A chess match.  Eventually someone is going misstep, and in turn, that misstep is going to be jumped on and turned into a potentially game defining moment.  That's  Championship football. 
During my career I was privileged enough to be able to compete in 3 Grey Cup games and be a part of the winning side once.  In all 3 of those games, I can remember one or two distinct plays that decided the outcomes of those games.  There's no way to predict when or where they are going to happen, or even why. 
I can't for the life of me figure out how some are pointing to an EASY Edmonton win.  These teams seem to close when they're at the top of their games, and really that's what we want as onlookers.  Nobody wants to watch a Grey Cup game that is decided in the first half.  People don't come to these celebrations from all corners of the country just to see a blow-out. 
We're going to go with Ottawa here.  I might change my mind later in the week, and if I do, I'll stop in and change it up, however right now, I feel like Ottawa has it in them to win.  I'm not buying into the storylines, and I'm not buying into the fact that they're all the rage right now.  I just have a good feeling about what they've got going on over there in that locker room.  Take a look at their roster after you read this.  There are A LOT of Grey Cup winners on this team, plus a bunch of guys who have been there before.  Throw out the stats, throw out the schemes, throw out the records.  There's going to be one or two moments that define this game.
Right now I feel like Ottawa has what it takes to capitalize on whatever, or however, that moment comes about.
Pick:  The Ottawa RedBlacks.

Thursday, 19 November 2015


Our Final Four, CFL Conference Championship OFFSIDES podcast is up!!!

I'm starting to feel a little Grey Cup anticipation out there in Ridernation and amongst the CFL fan base, so hopefully I'm not hallucinating and this weekends playoff double-header is as good as last weeks showdowns.

Today Coach Etcheverry and I take a look at all the teams in line to play in the Big Game next Sunday from Winter-peg and see if we can uncover some keys to the games that you guys may not hear from other formats.  One thing is for sure, both games have the potential to be classics, and I can't wait for the action to get going!

Click on the link to download this weeks episode, or just listen to it, one-time, from this page in the embedded link below.

Next week, will be live from the Grey Cup week, so if you're in town for the celebration, don't be a stranger...Come say hello.

Hope you guys enjoy this weeks episode.  See ya in The 'Peg!

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Picking the CFL Conference Finals!

One Step Away…

We’re down to the Final Four in the CFL Grey Cup chase, and if you enjoyed last weekend’s double header, this weekend’s conference finals are surely going to be a can’t-miss event.

We got both games right last weekend, in terms of our picks, but this weekend is a little tougher; especially when it comes to the West.  I’m hearing a lot of people saying that Edmonton is going to roll over Calgary, but those people may want to curb their enthusiasm just a bit.  If there’s one thing that we all know about a John Hufnagel coached team, it’s that they will be prepared for any and all situations.

Let's not stand on ceremony here folks, we'll jump right into it.  Here are our Conference Final Predictions brought to you by our good friends at
Here we go...

Hamilton @ Ottawa

It sounds simple when you break down a football game to the basics.  All a team has to do is win 2 out of the games 3 phases; a combination of Offense, Defense and Special Teams. 

Now that’s all well and good when a coaching staff has access to the team they handpicked coming out of training camp. Unfortunately in Hamilton’s case, the loss of their starting QB and the need to adjust their offensive scheme, has put the Cats in a position where they’ve literally been FORCED to win the offensive and defensive phases of a contest. 

But that’s okay!  That’s football.  It’s the ultimate team game.  When someone goes down, the rest of the team has to rally together and find a way to get it done.  Kudos to the Hamilton TiCats for beating a very good Toronto team.  They played solid D, won the field position battle on Special Teams, and made the plays they needed to, including Justin Medlocks game winner. 

Now here’s the problem for the Steel City.  The team that awaits them (the Ottawa RedBlacks) has all the pieces to their puzzle, and subsequently, those pieces are playing at a high level in all 3 phases that we mentioned above.

Ottawa plays solid Special Teams, especially in coverage where they’ve got two players in the top 5 among Special Teams Tackles (Pruneau, and Romick) so winning the Special Teams phase is going to be tough if you’re the TiCats.  Statistically, the RedBlacks have the better Defense as well.  Ottawa is number 2 overall in yards allowed per game, and here’s the big one…The RedBlacks boast the league’s top run defense; and that’s terrible from the Black and Golds perspective.

Hamilton is absolutely dependant on the run game right now, and Ottawa knows it.  As athletic as Jeremaih Masoli is, he’s not going to win Hamilton the game if he’s constantly put in 2nd and 7+ situations.  Hamilton needs to be a 2nd a 4-5 yard team on Sunday.  That way the Black and Gold have more options like bringing Banks into the box, and using Masoli’s legs as a weapon.  It’s all about extending drives, and giving their Defense time off the field.

Having the TiCat D resting also means that the Ottawa Offense, and Henry Burris, aren’t on the field either!  That’s the best case scenario for Hamilton.

The RedBlacks hold the CFLs best Offense, and #1 passing attack.  To be quite frank, the Offensive Unit has been lethal at times in Ottawa.  I get the feeling that there are people sitting around waiting on “Bad Hank” to show up, and I hope those people aren’t holding their breath.  Burris has put together a phenomenal season, and hasn’t shown the streaky tendencies that CFL fans want to identify him with.  Henry still has an absolute cannon for an arm, and the receivers to fill up a stat sheet.  But don’t forget that he can still do it on the ground.  If a team sleeps on his ability to extend a drive with his feet, Smilin Hank has no problem reminding everyone.

Don’t get me wrong, Ottawa is far from perfect offensively.  The RedBlack Guard-Centre-Guard combination has had trouble at times during the season picking up defensive games and blitzes so Hamilton’s aggressiveness won’t allow Henry to just sit in the pocket and step into every throw he makes, but Hamilton is going to have to pitch a gem on D in order to stay in the game.

Sunday’s effort in the Coffee Grounds of Tim Hortons field was definitely one that the Hamilton TiCats can hang their hats on but this weekend may just be too much of a mountain to climb.  Both clubs match-up well.  Two solid Defenses, and two teams with solid kicking games and Special Teams units. The major difference is on the Offensive side of the ball. 

Hamilton and Ottawa both have playmakers that are capable of busting a game wide open when they get the ball in their hands.  The problem is that the position that touches the ball on every single offensive snap of the game is the Quarterback.  The QB is responsible for calling the play, identifying the Defensive intentions, and distributing the ball to the aforementioned playmakers that are all over this wide field. 

Ottawa has their QB.  He’s 40+ playing like he’s 28, and is having an MOP calibre year…Hamilton does not have their QB.  The TiCats have a great athlete at the helm of a reduced playbook.

Teams have to win 2 out of the 3 phases of a football game in order to be successful.  If one looks at things that way on Sunday, it’s hard to see Hamilton pulling things off.  Where does Hamilton get two phases from?

Pick:  Ottawa

Calgary @ Edmonton

The Calgary Stampeders team that we all saw in the Western Semi-Finals; that was the defending Grey Cup Champs that everyone has been waiting on.  The Stamps were in complete control from the opening whistle, and despite having to make unconventional substitutions on their Offensive Line, the Stamps rolled.  Realistically, that’s what they’ve been doing all year.  Plugging guys in, and having success.

Sundays Western Semi-Final has the potential to be an instant classic.  The Edmonton Eskimos seem to be on the doorstep of something great, but CFL fans can’t discount the Stampeders by any means.  Never mind that the Esks won the “Battle of Alberta” this year, the Eskimos could have ran the table, and it still doesn’t mean a thing unless you win in the Post-Season.  Until someone beats the Stamps when it matters, Calgary remains the Big Boy on the Block.

The first order of business, if you’re the Edmonton Eskimos, is that they have to find a way to overcome a 21 day layoff and START FAST.  Getting rest is always a good thing, however going 3 weeks without getting up to game speed and flying around can prove to be detrimental in the “one and done” setting that is the CFL playoffs.  Edmonton can’t afford to come out and look lethargic.  There is no time to get back in one’s groove. 

Hopefully Chris Jones and his coaching staff found a way to adjust practise and install some serious physical competition, because if the Stampeders jump out to an early lead the way they have in the last few weeks against opponents, Calgary will have the advantage in terms of how Edmonton will be forced to attack, which in turn, affects the way Rich Stubler will be able to scheme.

Second task...The Esks have to be the dominant team physically.  On both sides of the ball.  This game will be won in the trenches and Edmonton has the guys that are capable of getting that done.  On the Offensive side of the ball, their Olinemen are big, strong, assignment sound, and move their feet a lot quicker than people give them credit for.  Defensively, Eddie Steele, Almondo Sewell, and the rest of their interior rotation have to be the workhorses.  Edmonton's DTs cannot allow Calgary’s banged up Oline to consistently win the line of scrimmage on 1st or 2nd down situations. Steele and Sewell have to collapse the pocket on passing downs, and take up blockers in order to keep their LBs free to scrape and make plays on Jerome Messam coming out of the backfield.  It's all about stopping the Stampeders flow.  If the defending Grey Cup Champs start to get into a rhythm, Edmonton is going to end up on the wrong side of this game.

That's about it.  Like the Ottawa vs. Hamilton game, we are able to break it down very simply.  This game will be won and lost on the line of scrimmage, and that’s exactly the way every championship worthy team wants things to be.

It’s a very fitting scenario.  Across the board, just like the Eastern Conference Championship, these two teams share acute similarities.  Both defenses are stifling when on top of their games, both teams feature a QB that guys would run through a wall for, and each have receiving corps that are capable of giving any CFL secondary fits.

The loser will be the first team that flinches.  Blow for blow, these two teams will stand in the centre of the ring and trade punches until there’s one team left.  The Calgary Stampeders lost both regular season meetings, they're a banged up squad playing at Commonwealth Stadium, and many are starting to think that this will be a metaphorical passing of the torch in some ways.  I’m pretty sure we’ve seen this scenario play out before in the 2008 Grey Cup Championship game and this may be a very comfortable situation for that Stampeder locker room. 

Pick:  Calgary in a war!  I just keep getting the feeling that Bo Levi Mitchell is about to do something special...


On a sad note. The entire country of New Zealand and really the Rugby world lost a true hero tonight.  A legend who has supplied endless memories to my family and so many others around the world.
 Rest In Peace Jonah Lomu
Ofa Atu

Saturday, 14 November 2015


Four teams, four different journeys, and one Sunday.  The grind of an 18 game regular season finally culminates to this weekend’s CFL Playoff Doubleheader.

If one has been following any of the four organizations that are vying for a berth in their conference finals, one is probably salivating at the idea of how much bright young talent the CFL is about to put on display.  Toronto will feature the likes of Tori Gurley and AJ Jefferson, Hamilton has young stars throughout its roster like Terrell Sinkfield Jr., one of the best receivers in the league, Eric Rogers, plays in Calgary and he’s only in his 2nd year, and the BC Lions have pinned their title hopes on the arm of Jonathon Jennings.  And that’s just scratching the surface!

All four of the CFLs Quarter Finalists will expect large contributions, on both sides of the ball, from guys in that 1-2 year range.  At the very least, fans will get a heavy glimpse at the future of these franchises, or perhaps at guys that they earn opportunities to crack an NFL roster next summer.

But here’s the thing, and I promise this is true…No matter how good this young talent is on each team, it will be the play of the solidified veterans that will be the difference between winning and losing.

As much as Toronto needs Tori Gurley to make big plays, and for AJ Jefferson to be a lock down corner, they need championship leadership from Chad Owens and Ricky Foley even more.  Terrell Sinkfield and Luke Tasker have to factor in as part of Hamilton’s success, but finding guys like Andy Fantuz in crucial 2nd down situations and having Craig Butler ensure that everyone in the secondary are on the same page is an absolute must. 

We’re all excited about seeing Jonathon Jennings ball out, but the Lions need Adam Bighill’s experience and composure now more than ever against a Calgary Offense that is going to look to string out drives. 

Speaking of Calgary; how could one not look forward to watching guys like Pierre Lavertu, and Lemar Durant continue their ascension in the CFL?  That’s all well and good, but if you ask John Hufnagel, he’ll probably tell you that the Stamps don’t get anywhere if his core guys like Deron Mayo, Brandon Smith and Franchise QB Bo Levi-Mitchell aren’t on top of their mental and physical games.

Experience in the CFL playoffs equates to success.  Every possession goes up in value, and with every rep becoming that much more important, teams need veterans that have been in those situations where composure has potential to give way to anxiousness. 

I always talk about the need to be able to move on to the NEXT play, and being able to forget the good or bad of the previous snap.  Every player needs to be in the moment.  Each rep is too important to have thoughts lingering in one’s mind that take away from the focus on the play at hand.

It’s the guys who have won championships and have “been there” that understand what it takes to move forward.  Don't be surprised when you see a guys like Foley making big plays on Sunday.  Chalk it up as expected when the Lions do everything in their power to get Andrew Harris the ball, instead of ask Jennings to win the game with his arm.  It's the vets that get teams over this hump.

There’s nothing like the 4th Quarter of these games.  One minute the clock is moving far too fast, and the next minute one feels like the hands of time are stuck in the mud.  The situations that one doesn’t have control of become harrowing for some players.  If one is a defensive player, one winces at every throw and run that doesn’t turn into yardage, you’ll see how much it means to guys when a routine first down is celebrated like it’s the play of the game.  As an offensive player, one just wants to get back on the field, and for the defense to go 2 and out, “just give us the ball back fellas.” 

The feeling of not being in control is something that needs to embraced, and not lamented.  The players that have Championship rings are the players that push the entire team through these moments, either by their play or through their words.  The team that advances will be the team that handles the unique adversity that the playoffs offer.

Sunday is going to be a great day for CFL Football.  The venues will be packed, the conditions will be tough, and the stakes will be at their highest point.  The quality that all four organizations share is that they have some unreal talent spread throughout their rosters.  The coaching staffs have done a great job leading their troops through the ups and downs of the grind that is the CFL schedule, and now 4 Quarters is all that separates a team from a berth in the Conference Finals.

It doesn’t matter how any of these teams got here, or who did what on the stat sheet.  All that matters is that the Argos, Stamps, TiCats, Lions are poised make the final steps in their Grey Cup pursuit.  The teams that find themselves standing when the final whistle blows will be the teams that have had their veteran leadership carry them through the battle.  It’s not the time for the young guns in this league to shine any more.  Sunday is Veterans Day in the CFL.  Their value speaks volumes.  It’s time for experience to take the reins…


Thursday, 12 November 2015

CFL Playoffs! Pickin the 1st Round!

I hope you guys are excited as this washed up former baller is!  We've entered "One and Done" mode in the CFL, and we're in for some great Football in the Divisional Semi-Finals.

There's nothing like the unpredictablility of the CFL playoffs, and one mistake, one slip, could be the difference from moving on, or hitting the windows and aisles of ones favourite airline company. 

Nobody wants to go home, only one team can win...Welcome to the final stages of the Grey Cup pursuit ladies and gentlemen.

Here's our picks for the CFL playoff Double Header on Sunday, as always, presented by our friends at

Lets get to it...
Toronto @ Hamilton

This is a tough game to pick.  It could go either way.  With Toronto having playoff ready vets like Ricky Foley, Chad Owens, Brandon Whittaker, and Chris Van Zehyl (just to name a few) they’ll be more than prepared to deal with everything that Hamilton can throw their way.  The most important aspect of having that type of leadership is that it totally offsets the fact that Hamilton won the season series.  The playoffs are a different beast, and the Argos have an incredible mix of vets strung throughout their roster that makes them dangerous.

Ask anybody that has played Ricky Ray in the playoffs and they’ll tell you that when he’s on his game, there’s nobody better.  It doesn’t matter how many times you hit him, he’ll get up and keep chucking the rock.  It doesn’t matter what fancy tweeks that a DC adds to the scheme, Ricky Ray will adjust and continue to make the throws.  He’s unflappable when it matters, and no moment is bigger right now.

Having said that, this game is a huge opportunity for the TiCats defense to cement their legacy when it comes to the 2015 season.  Despite losing Zach Collaros at the height of an MOP quality year, Hamilton was in every game that they played, primarily because the Defense was LIGHTS OUT.  They were asked to be on the field more than they should have been, and scoring defensive TDs went from a luxury to a must in order to compete.  The fact that the offense wasn’t as prosperous minus their franchise QB also meant that Special Teams reps probably went up, which directly affects the defense because all CFL ST’s feature a heavy number of defensive players.

Orlondo Steinauer and his troops are going to have to be aggressive scheme-wise, get as many hits on Ray as they can, and get the him throwing the rock sooner rather than later.  The Argos pivot cannot be afforded time in the pocket.  He’s too accurate to just let him stand back there and play pitch and catch.

Communication is also going to have to be a key for the TiCats.  If the ball is coming out early, then everyone needs to know their mid-range zone/man coverage responsibilities.  One opening or comms breakdown could mean six, the Boatmen are loaded with playmakers.
Offensively for the TiCats it’s all about control, and protection.  If you’ve listened to our OFFSIDES PodCast this week, you’ll know that it’s imperative that Kent Austin utilize CJ Gable and keep Jeremiah Masoli in manageable situations whether it be on 1st or 2nd downs. #BallControl

Masoli has the goods folks.  He just has to be smart and understand that he’s got a bunch of help, and that he doesn’t have to do things by himself.  Just make the proper decisions, that’s all.  Now, that doesn’t mean he has to be “Virgin Mary Safe” with the football, it just means that he can trust in all of his teammates, and especially in the gameplan.  #DontNeedAHero

If you’re an Argo fan, all eyes are on the D.  Many (including me) have questioned Casey Creehan’s ability to scheme a winner, and nothing’s more annoying to players than having an outsider who knows zero about the temperature of the locker room question their ability.  Ricky Ray and TO’s potent offense can go for 600 yards and 28 points on Sunday, but it will mean nothing if Hamilton goes for 29 (pts). 

The Double Blue defense needs to stand up on Sunday and pitch a gem.  In talking with GM Jim Barker earlier on in the year, this is exactly why they reached out and brought Ricky Foley back into the fold.  They were anticipating this type of situation and Barker made the needed calls to ensure that Toronto had the leadership to match the talent.

Like I said earlier.  This is a tough game to pick.  I have so much respect for the guys in that Argo Locker Room that it almost seems like you can’t pick against them.  

The deciding factor maybe the venue.  At one point the TiCats were immortal at home, and it’s definitely going to be a madhouse when this game kicks off.  The weather might be something that comes in to play as well, and I’ll take Medlock any day of the week when it comes to kicking in adverse situations.
Let’s go Hamilton by a FG in a great physical game.

Pick:  Hamilton

BC @ Calgary 

That win last week in BC was absolutely crucial for the Calgary Stampeders.  I don’t care if they were fielding their scout team; the Stamps needed that victory to spring board them into Sunday and give that veteran group even more confidence than they already have.

I’m taking Calgary to advance to the Western Final, and the reason is three-pronged.  Bo Levi Mitchell Jerome Messam, and the savvy the Stampeder Defense.
If ball control is going to be at a premium in the playoffs this year then who better?  On offense, Calgary has Messam to be the nail, and BLM to be the hammer…Mess penetrates, provides Dave Dickenson with an expanded 2nd down playbook, and Bo Levi Mitchell comes in to make the throws and extend the drives.  Simple.  

If the Stampeders can string together a couple of long scoring drives in the early stages of the game, it may be enough to make the inconsistent Lions Defense start to take chances that they don’t want to take.  Getting off their original game plan could be costly against a team that has quick hitting ability.

Defensively for the Stamps they’ve got a tough match-up.  I don’t want my earlier sentiments to take away from the BC offensive ability, because that is a mistake (that if made) will be lethal.

Andrew Harris is going to see his touches so that’s a game plan in itself, and there’s nobody better in the CFL to stretch the field than Manny Arceneaux.  

But here’s the thing, we’re talking about a veteran defensive group that is going to remain composed in any situation that they may find themselves in.  They never seem to panic. 
BC has big-play making potential, but the Stampeders have a group that is going to be able to re-group quickly, shake off the previous play and lock into the next situation as if the last didn’t happen. You need that mentality in the playoffs, and Calgary has those guys on every level of their Defense.

One can expect Stampeders Defensive Coordinator Rich Stublerto take a defined approach (meaning you’ll see what Calgary intends to do early) and stick to it, no matter what BC goes to.  Stubler is going to let his guys figure it all out and react accordingly.  You guys won’t see crazy plus 1 blitzes and zero coverage, but you’ll see a defense that will utilize their athleticism upfront and solid fundamentals in the back.

If BC is going to have a chance, they cannot fall behind early. It will force their athletic QB and OC into one dimensional play calling that Calgary will easily deal with.  The longer the Leos stay close, the better the chances of the pulling the upset off.  Anything can happen in the CFL playoffs, so don’t count them out all. 
I’ll go with the defending Champs.

Pick:  Calgary


Wednesday, 11 November 2015

OFFSIDES...The PodCast. Playoff Edition for our 20th Episode!

The CFL Playoffs are here, and we take full advantage of this for you guys, in what is our 20th OFFSIDES podcast on

On todays show Coach Etch and I take a look at the CFLs East, and West, Semi-Finals from our unique perspective.  After coaching for 35 years, Etch has a very unique view-point on these playoff games, and my 9 year pro career help me identify with some thoughts and feelings that the participants may be going through as they embark on the final phase of their Grey Cup pursuits.

We start the chat off by analyzing the Toronto/Hamilton situation and what both teams need to do to advance, now that they know their opponent.  Topics here include, Coaching mentalities, the Hamilton D, and obviously...RICKY RAY, who I have the utmost respect for.  We also give you a little prediction here to help you out if you're stuck on picking a team here in what could be a "very close game" according to Etch.

From there we go to the West and look at a game where Coach Etch says could go to anyone.  I'm really looking forward to this one and I think you guys will enjoy the conversation that we have about both combatants.  Calgary and BC both have some intangibles that make this game impossibly close to call and we make sure we touch on all of them.

As we know, all four of these teams (who have their offensive plays called by former QBs) are vying for the right to play either Edmonton or Ottawa, and before we close out the show we touch on the harrowing task that Edmonton has ahead of having what equates to 3 CFL weeks off before the Western Final.  Etch and I discuss a couple of ways that Edmonton may choose to deal with that time off in order to prepare for whoever wins the semi-final.

Our 20th episode is embedded below but before we go, I'd like to say a special THANK YOU to all who have served, and to all who will...My Grandfather was a war veteran and the last time I got to see him before he moved on I spent an afternoon watching old war footage and listening to his incredible stories of sacrifice and camaraderie.  Those men, and the ones who have followed in their footsteps, are the real hero's and role models.  Thank You...

Monday, 9 November 2015

Mailbag Monday!!!

Well folks…It’s all done in Riderville.  I’m sure that everyone was pleased as punch to watch the Riders close out this horrific year with a victory of the Montreal Alouettes but we’re officially in Off Season mode!  After such a hard year, one would hope that the boys take a couple weeks off (at least) to get away from the game and enjoy some much deserved R&R with loved ones that have also been making their fair share of sacrifices throughout the year.

For the rest of us, as I stated in my Alouettes Primer, NOW THE FUN BEGINS.  The road to 2016 and the beginnings of a sustained success model is officially underway.

Here are the answers to a few of your questions that popped up over the last week!

Via Twitter

Did we see enough of either Keith Price or Brett Smith?  Are they the future?

One of the only advantages to this disappointing season is that the Roughriders were able to evaluate a few of the positions that they normally wouldn’t have unless it was during the off season or during spot-work. 

As far as Keith Price goes he didn’t look out of place when he got his playing time, but there was definitely room for improvement.  Like any rookie, it’s the speed of the game that Price was visibly uncomfortable with, and that’s perfectly fine, as one only gets comfortable with the way teams carry themselves through experience.  Things like QB awareness and recognition of what teams are trying to do to an offense develop through film study and physical reps.  Price did some good things, and some bad things, the problem was is that there isn’t a big enough sample size to take and directly say, “You’re our ___ string QB going into camp”

The thing that impressed most people about Brett Smith is that you could tell that he has been doing his film work and learning from the trials and errors that he has gone through during his tenure as the teams 2nd string QB.  Take the Montreal game for instance…During previous outings, when Smith would get pressured, he would take off and try move the sticks with his feet.  It extended plays, however did not prove to extend drives.  This past weekend, when Smith was pressured, he would use his feet to avoid pressure BUT he still looked downfield and attempted to make throws.  His ability to remain in the pocket while recognizing pressure and still remain composed enough hit his receivers was a welcome change to his earlier starts.  Any player that takes the coaching, can implement the changes needed in their game, and apply it under pressure has a chance to contribute to his team.  Brett Smith improved from start to finish, and has showed that he has the ability to play at the CFL level.  This off season is a big one for him MENTALLY.

Both Price and Smith are so young that it was kind of unfair for them to be cast into the situations that they were, and to also expect any sort of consistent success.  The Riders young Qs showed flashes of ability, however, in order to get the best versions of each individual during camp in 2016 there needs to be competition.  I don’t think either of them cemented a role that is the equivalent to an “it’s my job to lose” scenario.  Whether it’s through free agency or through scouting, there needs to be solid competition at the QB spot next June.  Obviously we know who the Face of the Franchise is and that’s not going to change with Darian Durant, but unlike the past 7-8 years this team needs to find a “successor” that they can win consistently with.  Smith and Price didn’t let anyone down during their time, however they’ve still got a ways to go.  They both need to be pushed if the Riders are going to find what they’re looking for.

Via Twitter

What's the most immediate need on the Defense?

Loaded question!

The first thought that comes to mind for many here is that the secondary needs an overhaul, which I might agree with, but also caution people that two KEY FIGURES in this group weren’t healthy all year, and that’s Terrell Maze and Weldon Brown.  I think getting those guys back and building with a guy like Tyree Hollins is really going to make a difference.  As far as the rest of that group, including Macho Harris, they may be on the bubble in terms of what the next DC or HC wants their defense to look like.  The league will send out potential Free Agent spreadsheets very shortly now that the regular season has expired, so hopefully there will be one or two skilled guys there that the new regime can pursue should they try and test the Free Agency waters.

The biggest key in my mind is at the Nose Tackle spot.  This team is blessed with a trio of youngsters that are listed as DT’s and all of them have potential but they’re just not ready to contribute at a high level with consistency.  Much was made of Rory Connop and the way he handled himself in camp, but like Smith and Price (QBs) it was really unfair to pin the requirements of a Pro Nose Tackle on a rookie from Western University.  I think going out and getting a Canadian interior linemen for the defensive side of the ball is absolutely crucial if this Defense wants to climb back into the ranks of a CFL powerhouse.  A Dlineman that can take up two Offensive Linemen keeps LBs like Jeff Knox clean and able to scrape and attack their gaps and responsibilities.  A solid Nose Tackle also forces a running back to change his initial path quicker.  Having that Line of Scrimmage disrupted makes RBs go east-west versus north-south and potentially changes 2nd down scenarios from mid-range, “anybody’s guess” plays, to 2 and 7+, “these guys need to throw” downs.  In the long run that helps the secondary in terms of the way they play on 2nd down like you couldn’t imagine. 

Keep in mind that this may be a team that chooses to move on without stalwarts like T. George.  If that happens, it will only increase the need for a solid DT, maybe even two.

You’ll hear experts hammering on the fact that games are won and lost in the trenches, and they’re absolutely right.  It all starts upfront.  Getting Weldon Brown, and T. Maze will help in the back-end, in terms of Day 1 starters, but to me, there is no greater need than a gap cancelling, Canadian Defensive Tackle.

Via Twitter

Will we hear of a new GM before the Grey Cup?

That all depends on whether or not the candidates that President Craig Reynolds has circled are available for interviews.  I do know this:  They won’t announce a hiring DURING Grey Cup week because the CFL mandates that teams cannot make those sort of announcements, and that all the focus should rightfully be zeroed in on the actual participants.

Via Twitter

What’s the plan for now that the CFL season is over?

We’re in the middle of figuring all of that out.  I know that we’ll absolutely be continuing with our OFFSIDES Podcast and may even double up the output.  We’ve got some cool ideas that have been presented in that area.  We’ll also make sure that we continue to answer your questions.  We may not have enough consistently for a WEEKLY Mailbag Column, however we’re going to make sure that you guys get what you need out of this website.

Sports don’t stop!  Thank the good Lord for that!  This Website will continue on through the Off-Season with a couple of cool new columns, and special features.

We’ll also keep up with you guys during the playoffs which I am excited about.  Now that the Riders are finished up, I’m hoping that the Ottawa RedBlacks can continue their amazing journey, and end it with a Grey Cup victory.  I know former Riders, Keith Shologan and Zach Evans are thrilled to be back in the dance!

Thanks for checking up!