Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Picking WEEK 6 in the CFL

Batted an even .500 in Week 5 behind a game-changing injury in Saskatchewan and an unbelievable comeback in Commonwealth Stadium.
Here’s our Pro Perspective take on Week 6 of the CFL schedule, and as always it is presented by our great partner CJ Evans Home Designs…
Winnipeg @ Edmonton
I loved that the Edmonton Eskimo Players all stepped up and tried to take ownership of the debacle against Hamilton.  Huge salute goes out to Mike Reilly for attempting to shoulder most of the responsibility for the loss, but at some point (especially in Week 5’s case) someone in Edmonton has to take a look at the Defensive scheme and say, “We’ve got to do better!”
There’s too much talent on the defending Grey Cup Champion DEFENSIVE roster for the Esks to be playing a game of TD for TD with other CFL teams.  We’ve talked about the Defensive scheme for WEEKS on our OFFSIDES podcast (with former Defensive Coordinator Gary Etcheverry) and the foundations of the Mike Benevides playbook still don’t seem to be changing.
Now I’m not suggesting that Mike Benevides or anyone from the Edmonton Front Office should be listening to the questions that we’re bringing up from an analyst standpoint, but the lack of aggressiveness is becoming an issue that more and more people are noticing.  Including some of my friends that are still blessed to be playing this great game.
Shout out to Jeremiah Masoli for taking EVERYTHING that Edmonton gave the TiCats Offence last week.
Despite everything that I just wrote above, I’m going to stick with Edmonton this week because I believe in a Mike Reilly lead offence.  More importantly, I can’t see how Mike Benevides doesn’t tweak the playbook a little bit in order to attack Matt Nichols who is getting his first start in 2016.
One also has take into account the full scale changes that Coach Richie Hall and his Defensive staff are having to make to their secondary due to injury.  The Bombers have had a full practise week to try and get on the same page but one or two mental errors can kill a team when they’re having to deal with John White, Adarius Bowman, Darrell Walker, and Cory Watson.
 Pick:  The reigning and defending Grey Cup Champions with WANING CONFIDENCE…
BC @ Calgary
This is my personal GAME OF THE WEEK.  With BC climbing to the top of the ladder in many people’s minds this is the perfect opportunity for the Lions to continue to mark their territory at the top, or for the Stamps to jump out and show prognosticators that they can beat a team other than the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
All the makings of an old school physical battle are right in front of us here.  A stout BC Defensive Front 7, and a confident and physical Calgary O that looks to establish the Line of Scrimmage with every rep.
Both squads also feature Special Teams units that can change the course of a game with one kick, and I’m sure nobody on either side has forgotten about the first time that these units went at it during Week 1.
Being a huge fan of Bo Levi-Mitchell it’s always hard to look at the analytics and place a bet against the Stamps, but that’s exactly what we’re going to do today. 
At some point in time, every starting QB has a game that one can look back on and say, “that’s where the lights came on for him.” During Week 4’s victory over the Saskatchewan Roughriders, Jonathon Jennings may have had that enlightening moment.  With momentum slowly gathering against the young signal caller, and a proven vet in Travis Lulay waiting in the wings, Jennings turned everyone’s heads by locking in and flashing the skills and abilities that everyone in the CFL knows he has.  It was quite the moment, and one can expect the Offensive unit in BC to roll into Cow-town with more confidence than ever. 
Having the distinction of being one of the best teams in the league comes at a cost.  Everyone has a little more pep in their step when they begin to prepare for you, and the eyes of the league start zooming in.
I’m buying what BC looks like they’re selling.
Pick: The British Columbia Lions
Toronto @ Ottawa
I’m not sure if Ottawa taking Henry Burris off the 6-game to make the start here is a good thing or a bad thing.  It’s part of many internal debates that I’m going through when it comes to Week 6 in the CFL schedule.  At any rate having the former MOP and sure-fire Hall of Famer back at the helm is a positive for the RedBlacks for as long as he is there.
When we take a look at the Argos, even though the they’re dealing with the loss of another Hall of Famer in Ricky Ray, I believe their backup QB Kilgore is quite capable.
This is a huge game that has early implications within the Division because the top tier teams here are play a lot of Western opponents over the next few weeks.
A win here for either team is big.
As much as I am suspicious about the timing of Burris’ return, I’m still willing to show some amount of faith.  Ottawa got a huge boost from its interior Dlinemen despite losing in Saskatchewan and they’ll need the same sort of performance in order to rattle Logan Kilgore and an Offence that may look to take some pressure off the young pivot by running the rock a little bit more than they have so far.
Pick: Ottawa to benefit from playing in front of the Nations Capital.
Saskatchewan @ Montreal
In one of our first Monday Mailbag columns of the 2016 season we took an in-depth look at the Saskatchewan Roughriders journey ahead.  As we do every year, I compartmentalized the season into 1/3’s in order to project the stages of development that the team needed to go through and the win/loss record that may coincide with those developmental stages.
During that particular column, I made light of the fact that if the Riders came out of the 1st 1/3 of the year with a 2-4 record that shouldn’t panic anyone in Ridernation considering the mental learning curve that the team was going to have to navigate.
If we break down that original 2-4 projection; I saw the BC game (at home) as the Green and White’s first real opportunity to win, and this Week 6 Montreal game as a CONFIDENT “W” despite Montreal being tough as nails at home. 
Right now, the Saskatchewan Roughriders sit 1-3 so and if our early analysis was correct, a win against a Montreal team COMING OFF AN INCREDIBLY SHORT WEEK, would have the team heading into Week 7 against Calgary with a chance to finish the 1st phase of the season at 3-3.  By all accounts, that would be a great record for this crew and supply some solid confidence moving into the 2nd set of 6 games.
To be completely honest with you guys, I have a fair amount of anxiety about this upcoming game and none of my concerns have anything to do with the QB spot.  We’ll avoid getting into great detail to respect the squad but the Offensive Line (which has struggled against certain stunts and twists while playing with their 2nd unit guys) may be even thinner on Friday which does not bode well for the protection of Mitchell Gale considering what Noel Thorpe and his Alouettes D may look to do.
Most CFL fans would look at all the problems that Montreal is having right now, like Offensive and Kicking Game production, and say that the ALS are a sitting duck.  Unfortunately, I don’t see things the same way, and I hope I’m wrong. 
Despite many self-imposed obstacles, the Angry Birds will still be heading into Friday’s game with their Week 1 starting QB, and as far as the kicking game goes, every kicker in this league is one long FG away from getting all of their confidence back.  We may only be talking about 3pters here, but when you’re a team that needs a spark, all points are GREAT momentum catalysts when they’re coupled with one or two quick defensive 2-and-outs.
Injuries are a part of the game that every team in the CFL ends up having to deal with to a certain extent.  My confidence level, as it pertains to this game, would be much higher if the Saskatchewan Roughrider ailments were more spread out across the board. 
In this case, all of the major health concerns for the Green and White are upfront within the same position group.  That is a significant blow to a team that needs to protect a talented 2nd string QB in order for him to continue to build his confidence.
I’m going to take the Alouettes here because it underscores how important an Offensive Line is to the overall results of a game.  In order to pull this game out, Saskatchewan is going to need some help from their Special Teams units, and play their best Defensive game of the year.
Pick:  Montreal with incredible reluctance.  IT STARTS UPFRONT.  On the brighter side, this is an INCREDIBLE opportunity for some of the younger OL talent that this organization has on its roster.

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