|Returner Brandon Banks and the Hamilton Tiger Cats will head to Montreal to take on the Alouettes, highlighting week four action.|
Season record: 4-12
Last week: 1-3
Hamilton (2-1) at Montreal (1-2)
The Tiger-Cats are two weeks removed from their utter beat down of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers at Investors Group Field. They entered their bye week on a high note, however despite the time off, didn't get much more positive news on the injury-front.
No matter how sensational Rakeem Cato might be, giving Ti-Cats' Defensive Coordinator Orlando Steinauer two weeks to prepare for a rookie quarterback is almost unfair. He'll make Cato's first experience against Hamilton hell, sending all kinds of blitz packages and different looks. I expect Hamilton's defence to create turnovers and get the ball back to Zach Collaros and the offence.
If Montreal can protect the football, they'll have a chance to win this game. But their main priority should be special teams, where their lacklustre unit is facing the most dangerous returner in the CFL: Brandon Banks. Banks is scorching hot and had two punt return touchdowns the last time the Alouettes and Tiger-Cats clashed in the Eastern Final. If punter Boris Bede out-kicks his coverage, it's game over for Montreal.
For the second straight week, I think the Alouettes will fall short due to their opponent being better on defence and special teams; ultimately winning the game with those units. Banks will have a monster game while Hamilton's defence will create havoc against rookie quarterback Rakeem Cato.
Edmonton (1-1) at Ottawa (2-1)
Edmonton was far and away the better team when these two teams squared off last week in Commonwealth Stadium, but keep in mind they had the benefit of a week off to prepare for Ottawa, who by contrary was on a short week and also had to travel. For that reason, I don't think this game will be a blow-out. Not even close.
Dumb penalties, missed tackles and other small mental mistakes cost Ottawa in last week's game. They'll be better prepared on offence and will know what to expect on defence in round two of this go-around. If head coach Rick Campbell can get this team to be fundamentally sound in all three phases, the Redblacks have a chance to win at home.
Eskimos quarterback Matt Nichols was rather underwhelming in his first start of the season, only completing twelve passes in a 43 point effort. But he took advantage of Ottawa's mistakes and ultimately put the ball in the end zone, throwing three touchdown passes. His best decision was to get the ball to Adarius Bowman, a well known Redblacks-killer, who had 5 catches for 120 yards and a touchdown.
While I still believe both teams match up really well, I think it'll once again be Edmonton's defence who'll prove to be the difference in this game. Ottawa quarterback Henry Burris can't afford to start slow for a fourth straight week or turn the ball over, which I think he'll do given the pressure Edmonton's defensive line generates. The Redblacks will put together an excellent defensive effort of their own, but it won't match Edmonton's. Eskimos win a low scoring affair.
BC (1-1) at Saskatchewan (0-3)
Despite having the league's best offence, the Riders are winless due to a terrible defence and numerous awful coaching decisions by Cory Chamblin. Saskatchewan can't stop the pass at any cost, and that's largely due to a scheme that doesn't allow their defensive line to reach their maximum potential and a group of porous defensive backs. That group of defensive backs will be without their only reliable cover option, Weldon Brown, who's done for the season with a torn pectoral muscle.
To be completely fair, the Lions probably should be 0-2 right now. But they're not, and now have an opportunity to separate themselves in the standings from Saskatchewan with a win at Mosaic Stadium. You may disagree here, but despite quarterback Travis Lulay's exceptional stat line (34/44 passing, 404 yards, 3 TDs), he didn't seem to play as good as those numbers would indicate. But he was much better than he was the week prior against Ottawa, and as long as the 2011 M.O.P. continues to improve as the weeks go on after hardly playing since late 2013, Lions fans can rest-assured.
With how their defence has played, the Riders might need Kevin Glenn and co. to put up 40+ points each week for their team to win. However, I expect BC's tandem of Soloman Elimimian and Adam Bighill to take exception and be the first team to slow down Saskatchewan's offence. BC's offence, meanwhile, is improving each week and should carve up this Saskatchewan defence minus Weldon Brown. The Manny Arceneaux show will be in town.
Winnipeg (2-1) at Calgary (2-1)
Despite this game featuring a battle for sole possession of first place in the West Division, the Stampeders are heavily favoured, and for good reason. But don't expect them to walk all over these Blue Bombers. Not at all.
The Stamps seem to be finding their stride after two questionable outings to open the season. Their defence stepped up big time in Monday's win against Toronto, while their offence did enough in the first half to win the game prior to losing both of their starting offensive tackles.
The Bombers, meanwhile, finally found a way to win without needing quarterback Drew Willy to pass for 300+ yards. Their defence showed up against Montreal, lead by nickel linebacker Chris Randle, who looked much better after his slow start to the season since switching positions from boundary corner, while the defensive line ahead of him finally displayed some signs of life.
That same Winnipeg defensive line will be a major factor in this game as well. They're going up against a depleted Calgary offensive line and have no excuse to not bring the heat on Bo Levi Mitchell. They also have the task of stopping Jon Cornish, which doesn't seem to be as difficult right now considering how invisible the league's reigning leading rusher has been to start the season. And as I just eluded to, Cornish won't have Dan Federkeil or Edwin Harrison blocking for him either. I fully expect Winnipeg's defence to hold their own at McMahon Stadium, leaving their offence under the microscope.
The Bombers moved the ball against Montreal but ultimately didn't put it in the endzone. They can't settle for field goals against Calgary and have to establish a run game. Calgary's defence played great against Toronto and are sound at defending everything an offence can offer them. If Winnipeg wants to win this game, they'll need to match the Stamps on defence, be effective on offence in the red-zone and, ideally, need some big plays to go in their favour.
It should be close, but that's a tough task for any team.