Wednesday, August 5, 2015

10 Thoughts I Have From Week Six

Another week is in the books and it was filled with some decent football games. Week five set the bar quite high with overtime games and fourth quarter fireworks, so as expected, the four games this week didn't really live up to that precedent. Nonetheless, here are ten thoughts I had in week six.

1. Home teams dominate
Having trouble setting your CFL Pick 'em for week seven? I'd recommend simply going with the home team, as their season record, excluding games played at Mosaic Stadium, is 16-4 on the season. With the Bombers topping the Lions, Eskimos taking care of Saskatchewan, Stamps edging the Alouettes and the Tiger-Cats defeating their rival Argonauts, the home teams engineered a clean sweep in week six.

2. Lulay's holding back his offence
Travis Lulay had his worst game of the season in Winnipeg, completing 22/33 passes for 255 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions. Throughout most of the game, Lulay was given time in the pocket to progress through his reads, but instead often stared down his receivers or threw into double-coverage. His deep ball accuracy left much to be desired, and similarly to all the other flaws displayed versus the Blue Bombers, that's been the case all season. Lulay's play has declined as the season has gone on, and good quarterbacking is the missing piece of an otherwise explosive offence that features Andrew Harris, an up-and-coming receiving corps and surprisingly-dominant offensive line. At this time, the 2011 M.O.P. isn't playing on their level.

3. Bombers' defence is drastically improved
Winnipeg's defence has been steadily improving since their multi-interception outing against Rakeem Cato's Alouettes in week three, but they had their best performance to date against BC, holding the Lions' offence to a mere 13 points. The Bombers gave up 117 yards on the ground to Andrew Harris, which is concerning, but it took him 24 attempts to reach that total. Richie Hall's unit recorded three interceptions and forced four total turnovers, giving Drew Willy and the offence plenty of opportunities to put points on the board. The next step for this defence is to perform at this level on a more consistent basis.

4. Johnny Adams does it again
Winnipeg rookie Johnny Adams continues to make his case as the league's top shutdown cornerback. Adams locked-up Emmanuel Arceneaux this week, keeping the All-Star receiver off the stat-sheet until the final play of the game, where the Lions should've been kneeling down and ending the game. Adams notched his third interception of the season while also contributing six tackles to the Bombers' victory as well. I don't know of any other boundary cornerback that's been as good as the Michigan State product this season.

5. Nichols silences his critics
It's a well-known fact that Matt Nichols is nothing more than a backup quarterback, but he still has many critics out there and certainly silenced them with a great game against Saskatchewan. The Eskimos clearly made the right choice starting the six-year veteran over rookie pivot James Franklin. Nichols threw for 300 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions, improving his undefeated season record to 4-0 in the process. He's no Mike Reilly, but Nichols has proven to be a serviceable backup signal-caller in this league.

6. Disastrous play-calling by Chapdelaine
Bad coaching has hurt Saskatchewan plenty in 2015, and while the Riders only ever had an extremely marginal chance at beating Edmonton to begin with, they wound up having absolutely no chance with Jacques Chapdelaine's play-calling. With a rookie quarterback making his first career start and the number one rushing attack at his fingertips, Saskatchewan's offensive coordinator completely abandoned his fearsome run-game, giving Jerome Messam and Anthony Allen a combined five carries all game. It should've been a no-brainer for the Riders to feature their two-headed monster early and often, but Chapdelaine opted not to challenge Edmonton's stout run defence and instead put all the pressure on Brett Smith. Go figure, the Riders only managed to put five points on the board. Five.

7. No love for Calgary's offence
With five offensive lineman on the shelf, the Stampeders have no business competing in football games. Edwin Harrison, Garry Williams, Brander Craighead, Karl Lavoie and Dan Federkeil have all missed time, yet the Stamps have still won three of their last four games and share a hold of first place with a 4-2 record. This week, they beat the Montreal Alouettes and their fearsome front four with only Pierre Lavertu as their regular starter on the offensive line, miraculously rushing for 94 yards without star running back Jon Cornish, and only allowing two sacks despite playing the second half without back-up left tackle Garry Williams, who left with an upper-body injury. The Stamps aren't getting enough credit for running an effective offence with a make-shift offensive line, something only John Hufnagel's team could do. It's quite difficult for me to wrap my head around what Bo Levi Mitchell, Dave Dickenson and this offence have done while missing so many key pieces up front.

8. There are no free yards against Hamilton
Conversions on third-and-one are supposed to be automatic in the CFL, but nothing is guaranteed against Hamilton's defence. The 'Cats have remarkably forced five turnovers on third-and-short this season, prohibiting the offence from advancing a single yard required for a fresh set of downs, or worse, a touchdown. Largely thanks to Ted Laurent penetrating and plugging gaps, Hamilton stuffed the Argonauts twice on route to a 34-18 victory at Tim Hortons Field. Opposing coaches should think twice before testing Hamilton in short-yardage, as nothing's a 'gimme' against this defensive line.

9. Chad Owens is invisible
Has anybody seen Chad Owens recently? He's struggled mightily this season, recording only 10 catches for 97 yards in Toronto's last three games. The 32-year old's worst game came Monday against the Ti-Cats, where he finished with three receptions for 21 yards. With the emergence of Toronto's trio of rookie pass-catches in Vidal Hazelton, Tori Gurley and Kevin Elliott, it's becoming apparent that Owens is no longer the go-to receiver in the Argos' aerial attack.

10. Players of the Week:
Winnipeg QB Drew Willy takes Offensive Player of the Week for singlehandedly guiding the Bombers' offence to victory on an injured knee. Willy completed 17/25 passes for 269 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions and also rushed for a career-high 72 yards.

Eskimos CB Pat Watkins snags Defensive Player of the Week for his big game against Saskatchewan. Watkins had a pair of interceptions- albeit one in garbage time on an errant throw- with five tackles and a sack. The All-Star corner did it all on Friday evening.

Canadian Player of Week goes to Andrew Harris for his 117-yard rushing game against Winnipeg, while Special Teams Player of the Week once again goes to Edmonton's Grant Shaw, who nailed all three of his field goal attempts and averaged nearly 45 yards-per-punt.

I thought Jovon Olafioye played a good game against Winnipeg, supplying his quarterback with plenty of time while often dealing with star pass-rusher Jamaal Westerman. BC's right tackle earned Offensive Lineman of the week.

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