The parity is still very much there, but the smoke is starting to clear in the CFL. All four of the Eastern teams seem to be very good, while the West is kind of top-heavy. That being said, BC's defeat of the Edmonton Eskimos reassures that anybody can beat anybody in this league, so we'll see how things shake out in the upcoming weeks. Here's 10 thoughts I had in week seven.
1. Automatic video review: what's the point?
Whether it's a touchdown pass or an extra point attempt, every scoring play is automatically reviewed by the command centre. There, the replay officials can review the play as many times as needed with numerous camera angles to ensure the ruling on the field was indeed correct. For those reasons, I simply don't understand how the replay officials have blown so many blatant calls this year when the ball-carrier was either down-by-contact or never even crossed the plain. First, it was Brian Brohm's touchdown run in week two. Then it was Tyrell Sutton stepping out of bounds before the ball crossed the plain in week three. Last week, Brandon Stewart clearly touched AJ Jefferson's knee after recovering an onside punt and in week seven, Manny Arceneaux stepped out of bounds at least once while tight-roping the sidelines on route to the end-zone. This is simply unacceptable and has to stop.
2. Andrew Harris for Most Outstanding Player
If the Edmonton Eskimos can't stop Andrew Harris, can anyone? The Canadian running back had his best game of the season on Thursday night, recording 175 total yards with two touchdowns, including the 31-yard game-winning catch-and-score. Harris now has a league-leading 807 yards-from-scrimmage and 6 touchdowns, with 519 of those yards coming on the ground. With or without the majority of the league's superstars being injured, Harris would likely still be the front runner for Most Outstanding Player after seven weeks of action.
3. Jones should've attempted the field goal
It was Edmonton's offence that ultimately cost them the game against the Lions, but they still had a chance to tie the game with under a minute to go on third-down with the ball on BC's 48 yard line. HC Chris Jones' decision to opt against the field goal and go for it, which resulted in another Matt Nichols interception, was absolutely the wrong one. Jones had the hottest kicker in the CFL, Grant Shaw, at his disposal, who is yet to miss a single field goal on the season and was 3/3 on the day. Meanwhile, Nichols and the offence hadn't scored a point in the half and were struggling to convert in medium passing situations. CFL kickers have made 60% of their attempts from the 48 and 68% from that distance in BC Place, so the numbers certainly don't support Jones either. I understand the ball was placed on the right hash, however Jones should've trusted Shaw to send the game to overtime.
4. Smith shows promise in second start
Brett Smith was impressive in his second career start against the Argonauts, completing 23/35 of his passes for 298 yards with two touchdowns and an interception, which was returned by Akwasi Owusu-Ansha for six points. Despite the loss, Smith should keep his head up. The rookie pivot from Wyoming carried the Riders with little assistance from his teammates, who continuously took stupid penalties that resulted in two touchdown passes being called back. And while Smith has played very good for a rookie, I think we should wait a little longer before anointing him as the next big thing. After witnessing Joey Elliott throw for 400 yards in his third career start only to get released at the end of season, I'm going to remain cautiously optimistic with Brett Smith. There's no Rakeem Cato effect here.
5. Bellefeuille does it again
Last time I wrote about Winnipeg's OC, I was both sad and disappointed with his offence. But this time around, after getting shellacked by the Tiger-Cats by 30 points in a game that saw Drew Willy take a beating and leave to injury, this paragraph is filled with much more anger. Bellefeuille's inability to put together basic protection schemes against Hamilton's blitz-heavy defence has come at the expense of Drew Willy, who's out for at least 6-8 weeks with a knee injury. It was the third time Willy had been knocked out of a ball game this season, and the second time against Hamilton. This isn't a personnel issue, either, as Winnipeg's offensive line is filled with enough individual talents. This is Bellefeuilles' fault for not solving Orlando Steinauer's defence in four tries and developing a serviceable pass protection. There's no changes, no improvement and no signs of hope.
6. Michael Sam makes debut
You'd think Michael Sam had notched a hat-trick of sacks and a big-man pick-six with how much the media focused on a rookie defensive end trying to cut his teeth in the CFL. Sam recorded zero tackles, however Sportscentre's highlight package of the Montreal-Ottawa game was still mostly filled with the Missouri alum chasing down the backside of plays. The only impact Sam had on the game was when he bit hard on Burris' play-fake leading to a touchdown pass, but I'll reserve final judgement on the rookie pass-rusher until I see more than a dozen snaps. He'll have to start making more of an impact soon, as teams almost never pay an international six figures to not contribute or be scratched.
7. The big guys get their due
Everybody loves seeing a 'Big Guy Touchdown', and we were fortunate to witness two this weekend. Hamilton guard Ryan Bomben caught a beautiful over-the-shoulder pass from Zach Collaros for six, while Argos' left tackle Wayne Smith got his due on a two-point convert. Even the fullbacks got into the fun, as Edmonton's Calvin McCarty made a highlight-reel one-handed catch and Ottawa's Patrick Lavoie caught an eleven yard touchdown. Fullbacks certainly see the football more than offensive lineman, but they don't get enough glory either. Until this week, of course.
8. Harris keeps on rolling
Everyone seems convinced that the Argos will be Ricky Ray's team the instant he returns from injury, but I'm not sure how they can bench Trevor Harris at point. He's been the league's top signal-caller this season and is on pace for 5,457 yards and 42 touchdowns. Harris just keeps on rolling, and his latest 316-yard, two touchdown performance against Saskatchewan assures us he's not sit slowing down anytime soon. He's the future of the Argonauts, so why bench him in favour of a 36-year old who might not be as effective as Harris? If anything, I think the Argos will handle the situation similarly to how BC gave Travis Lulay spot duty when Kevin Glenn was red-hot for the Lions. They'll run with Harris until he starts to slide, then they'll declare Ray good-to-go and give him a start.
9. The 'Cats are going to miss Gable
They didn't need him this week, but I have a feeling the Tiger-Cats are really going to miss having CJ Gable in their lineup sooner than later. Gable, who's on the six-game injured list, rushed for 135 yards in his debut in week five, but was hurt once again last week versus Toronto and will be out 2-3 months. In Sunday's game, the Ti-Cats' run-game was once again no where to be found with Ray Holley only picking up 25 yards on eight carries. The offence stalled in the second half, scoring no points and throwing two interceptions, but the damage was already done in the first half, where they capitalized on Winnipeg's mistakes and put up points. Not having a threat in the backfield might hurt Hamilton in the upcoming weeks.
10. Players of the week
Andrew Harris takes both Offensive and Canadian Player of the Week for his phenomenal game against the league's top defence. Harris rushed for 118 yards, gained 57 more through the air and had two touchdowns.
I was really tempted to give it to Keith Shologan, but Emmanuel Davis earned Defensive Player of the Week for contributing 12 points as a defensive player. Though his interceptions were nothing spectacular, it's extremely rare to see a player record two pick-sixes in the same game. Davis has three in total against the Bombers in 2015.
No one really stood out this week on special-teams. Dexter McCoil made some big plays and had three tackles, so he grabs this one.