Here’s our take on Week 9 in the Canadian Football League.
Edmonton Eskimos at BC Lions: The Edmonton Eskimos enter this clash against the BC Lions surging after winning three straight games against Toronto, Montreal and Saskatchewan to improve to 5-2 and put themselves still within striking distance of the 1st place Calgary Stampeders in the ultra-competitive West Division.
Edmonton has won the total yardage battle in six of their seven games with the exception of their home loss against Hamilton in Week 2. The offense is leading the CFL in total yards and passing yards per game thanks to a lethal passing attack led by veteran QB Mike Reilly and a slew of talented receivers that all possess the dangerous combo of athleticism and physicality with the likes of Duke Williams, Kenny Stafford and Derel Walker.
The one flaw in Edmonton’s offense has been some red zone struggles at times but other than that, this remains one of the best offenses in the CFL. The defense has improved after a bad start to the season as the Eskimos have held five straight opponents to 23 points or less. The team still takes a few too many penalties but the arrow is pointing upward on this Eskimos team. BC is still trying to find their way.
They are 2-4 but have been very competitive in each of the last three games since Travis Lulay took over at the QB spot. Lulay has put up solid numbers but the offense is still a work in progress, especially when it comes to finishing drives, as too often the Lions are settling for FG attempts. The defense remains a bit of a problem too as the Lions have yielded over 400 yards per game on average this season and did so again in their loss to Calgary last week, and being without their leader on defense and one of the top LB’s in the league, Solomon Elimimian, due to injury hurts.
This is only BC’s third home game of the season and they are 2-0 SU and ATS in those previous home games against Montreal and Winnipeg. Edmonton’s lone road pointspread cover this season came against the awful Montreal Alouettes. This is a tricky game as Edmonton is the better team here but they are not the type of foe that is a shoe-in to trust in the road chalk role.
Hamilton Tiger-Cats at Winnipeg Blue Bombers: There are only three games on the CFL Week 9 card and this one should be the best matchup on paper. The Blue Bombers have reeled off three victories in their last four games with the lone blemish being a blown 17-0 lead in a loss at BC against the Lions. They are also coming off a bye week following a pair of dominating blowout wins against the Toronto Argos.
Winnipeg has clearly established themselves as one of the best and most dangerous offenses in the CFL, right up there with other West Division combatants like Edmonton and Calgary. The Blue Bombers have received terrific QB play all season. Rookie Chris Streveler did a fine job in the absence of Matt Nichols and the latter has been tremendous in four starts since returning from injury.
Nichols tossed three INT’s in a rough second half against BC but outside of that 30 minute segment, he’s thrown five TD’s and just one INT so far this season. Winnipeg has a balanced attack and leads the CFL in rushing yards per game thanks to RB Andrew Harris, who is clearly the top rusher in the league right now, and that along with the potent passing attack makes this a tough offense for opposing defenses to stop.
Hamilton defeated Winnipeg in the first meeting this season between the teams, 31-17, but did not face Matt Nichols who was still injured at the time. This will be a taller task for Hamilton’s defense that feasted on an ill-prepared Johnny Manziel last week against Montreal. Manziel tossed four INT’s against the Ticats and Hamilton held Montreal below 300 total yards in a 50-11 romp. It will get much tougher for Hamilton’s stop unit this week. On the flip side, Hamilton’s offense enjoyed a much needed breakout performance scoring 50 points and piling up over 500 total yards.
The receiving corps is healthy again after Luke Tasker and Terrence Toliver both returned last week, giving QB Jeremiah Masoli plenty of weapons to work with. Winnipeg’s defense has improved the last few games but that might have been a product of facing a bottom tier Toronto offense in their last two games. Winnipeg is 3-0 to the Over on their home field this season. This game sets up to be an offensive show and I’ll bet this game accordingly.
Best Bet: OVER 56.5.
Montreal Alouettes at Ottawa Redblacks: The Manziel era of the CFL got off to the worst possible start for the former Heisman Trophy winner. Manziel was thrown into the fire as starting QB for the Alouettes despite having just four practices under his belt with his new team following the trade that sent him there from the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. It had the potential to be a disaster and it absolutely played out that way.
Manziel was just 11-for-20 throwing the football and had no TD passes to go with four INT’s. However, the team surrounding Manziel is terrible and gave him no help. The defense was carved up from start to finish yet again with Montreal’s miserable defense giving up 50 points and 526 total yards in the 50-11 loss to Hamilton. The Montreal pass rush has been non-existent and their secondary is lost trying to cover receivers down the field.
The Alouettes are allowing a league worst 34.6 points per game and there doesn’t seem to be any end in sight to the defensive struggles. The Alouettes even gave up a blocked punt for a TD in last week’s embarrassing loss, which speaks to how every element of this team is failing at the moment. They will be up against it here as things won’t get any easier for the floundering Alouettes against the Ottawa Redblacks, who assuredly must be seeing red about blowing a massive lead on the road against the Toronto Argos last week.
Ottawa led, 38-14, in the third quarter yet got complacent and allowed Toronto back in the game, and once the Argos offense caught fire in the second half in what was the very first CFL start at QB for McLeod Bethel-Thompson, there was no denying them. The Argos eventually took the lead and won the game on a last second TD drive by Bethel-Thompson to come all the way back to defeat the Redblacks, 42-41.
It’s a terrible beat for anyone that laid the points with Ottawa, who were in the -5 to -6 range as road chalk. If there is one week where Ottawa might not let up if they get out to a similar big lead here in this game against the downtrodden Alouettes, it would be this game. Ottawa is laying nearly two TD’s here at home.
The one bit of good news for Montreal is Manziel has nowhere to go but up after as bad a debut performance as you could have, and the Alouettes’ only two pointspread covers this season including their only win came on the road, so maybe getting away from home will help this team come together a bit. Nevertheless, there is a long way to go for Montreal to be trusted to win games and they will need to shore up every facet of their team heading into this game to remain competitive against an Ottawa team that is 6-0 SU and ATS in the last six meetings against Montreal.