Opportunity knocks for Johnny Football in Montreal
July 31, 2018 3:00 AM
by Ian Cameron
Here’s a preview of Week 8 in the Canadian Football League.
Ottawa Redblacks at Toronto: Two teams heading in opposite directions will do battle here in this game to kickoff the CFL Week 8 slate. Ottawa has won two straight games, while the Argonauts have dropped three in a row. Ottawa got the better of Hamilton last week, 21-15, winning outright as 6 point road underdogs in an ugly, low scoring grinder in which neither offense got on track, but the Redblacks managed to make just a few more plays to pull out the victory.
Ottawa’s defense stole the show last week in the win forcing turnovers at key times and holding Hamilton out of the end zone until the Ticats managed a late TD in the fourth quarter but it wasn’t enough to complete the comeback. Ottawa’s offense didn’t reach the end zone once, yet still managed to win the game, and that is something the Redblacks and QB Trevor Harris were extremely vocal about heading into this game – capitalizing on their chances and improving on their red zone execution, which was problematic last week.
Toronto’s offense surely will also be looking at improving in all facets heading into this game as the Argos have been stagnant on that side of the football for weeks, being held to only 69 points in their last four games combined, all of them with James Franklin at QB after Ricky Ray’s season-ending injury. That will change here though as Toronto Argos head coach Marc Trestman has decided to make a QB change for this game to try and spark the team’s struggling offense.
Former NFL journeyman and now new Toronto starting QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson has been named the starter for Thursday night. He played well in his lone preseason appearance with the Argos but now he will be making his first CFL start during the regular season, which is a completely different level of pressure. Take UNDER 48.5
Saskatchewan at Edmonton: Saskatchewan was riding high after back to back wins against Hamilton to improve to 3-2, but unfortunately for them they ran into the undefeated Calgary Stampeders last weekend and were knocked back down a peg. The Roughriders suffered through a downright miserable first quarter plagued by multiple turnovers committed as Saskatchewan fell behind 24-0 and the deficit proved to be too much to fight back from in what turned out to be a 34-22 loss.
Saskatchewan’s defense actually played well in spite of the loss as they held Calgary’s top tier offense to just 242 total yards but all the costly early turnovers that set the Stampeders up with great field position eventually turned out to bite them. This was a definite step backward performance for the Saskatchewan offense as Brandon Bridge only threw for 147 passing yards in the game and the ground attack was rendered in effective as the Riders leading rusher was Tre Mason with only 37 yards rushing.
The Riders offensive line continues to be an issue, which has been ongoing since training camp as the group has yet to display consistency in coming together cohesively as a unit in the first month of the season.
QB Mike Reilly and the Eskimos racked up 513 total yards and Reilly had 4 TD’s without an INT. Duke Williams, Kenny Stafford and Derel Walker are a phenomenal WR trio and all of them had 75-plus yards receiving and three TD’s between them. Edmonton’s defense though is still a bit prone to giving up yards in bunches and penalties plagued them again early in last week’s game.
The defense still has room to get better and will need to be with Edmonton back in a significant home favorite role in this game, which hasn’t been their best role as they have a 7-15 ATS record in their last 22 home games at Commonwealth Stadium. PASS
Hamilton at Montreal: This is clearly going to be the most anticipated game of the week in the CFL with the expectation football fans will get to see a debuting Johnny Manziel making his first ever start in the CFL as QB of the Montreal Alouettes, facing his former team that traded him a little over a week ago. Let the storylines begin! Manziel, when he was with Hamilton and now in the first 7-plus days with his new team in Montreal, has received nothing but rave reviews about his practice habits, work ethic and ability to fit in with, get along with and support his teammates.
He has also been given accolades for how quickly he has picked up the CFL playbook and soaked up all the knowledge that goes along with it. All of that, however, will surely be put to a major test here with the spotlight on. It’s one thing to look solid in practices but it’s another thing in a live game with defenses flying toward you. A concern for Manziel here is that the team around him taking the field on Friday night simply isn’t very good and continues to maintain their status as the worst team in the CFL.
Montreal is 1-5 SU and have looked awful in just about every game outside of their still stunning win a few weeks back in Saskatchewan. However, not all hope is lost for Montreal. Don’t look now but Hamilton, their opponent in this game, is struggling losers of three straight games falling to 2-4 SU in the process. A win here for Montreal and they would tie Hamilton at 2-5 but would earn the head-to-head tiebreaker and push the Ticats down to third in the division and only a game ahead of last place Toronto.
For as horrible as this organization has been, in the crazy world of the nine-team CFL, the playoffs are still well within reach for the Montreal Alouettes and their new starting QB Johnny Manziel. Hamilton’s offense has grounded to a halt in the last three games with the Ticats scoring just 48 points in those contests. They may get one or both of their injured WR’s back for this game (Terrence Toliver and Luke Tasker) which could help the offense a lot against what is still a very bad Montreal defense.
The offensive line is still looking for the right combination, though, after that unit struggled against Ottawa last week. This game is a tough one to call. Hamilton is -6, which is a lot to lay on the road with a struggling team, but Montreal has been horrible at home and it’s no sure thing Johnny Manziel lights it up right away in his very first start. It does set the stage for plenty of intrigue. PASS
BC Lions at Calgary: The Week 8 finale on Saturday night pits the fresh and rested BC Lions coming off their bye week against the still undefeated Calgary Stampeders.
Calgary continued to make their case as best team in the CFL in a 34-22 win in Saskatchewan last week to improve to 6-0 SU, 5-1 ATS on the season. Calgary has been strong on both sides of the football with the league’s top defense and an offense that really hasn’t dropped off much at all despite a bit of a changed supporting cast surrounding one of the league’s best QB’s, Bo Levi Mitchell.
BC has been off since they lost a heartbreaker in Ottawa. I would expect BC’s offense to be benefitted from the bye week, a step up challenge from facing Ottawa and Winnipeg in his first two starts of the season. It’s worth noting both meetings between BC and Calgary last season stayed Under the total with 38 and 40 total points scored in those games. Best Bet UNDER 52