The Stampeders put up a fight and attempted a late comeback but were outmatched against the Eskimos in Sundays Western Final. This game proved that being healthy is often the best advantage a team can have, especially in winner-take-all playoff games. My prediction of an Edmonton vs Ottawa Grey Cup has come true and has me more excited than every for next Sunday. Before that though, here are my takeaways from the 31-45 Edmonton win…
Calgary vs Edmonton
- As mentioned above it showed early that Calgary was hamstrung by injury on multiple fronts. Bad snaps and several miscues along the mostly raw offensive line made life difficult for Bo Levi Mitchell and Jerome Messam who struggled to gain momentum. Being without Charleston Hughes hampered the Stampeders ability to get pressure on Mike Reilly who picked apart the Calgary secondary. Said secondary was also easy to pick on as it was forced to play inexperienced Adam Berger because of (you guessed it) injuries. Coming off two weeks rest Edmonton only suffered from a poor running game as a result of injury (Shakir Bell), and when you have Mike Reilly as a QB do you really need a running back?
- Speaking of Edmontons lack of running game, it was easy to see that Reilly was happy to utilize the quick passing game to cover for his inexperienced back Akeem Shavers. Derel Walker and Adarius Bowman feasted on Calgary’s sloppy tackling, both going over 5+ catches and 70+ yards.
- I am happy to admit that my endless hours of watching football paid off in a big way when I correctly called the Eskimos special teams fake in the first half. When the Eskies lined up to kick all I could think of was, “Chris Jones is gonna go for this, its too close a game to play it safe.” And lo and behold they did indeed run a fake and got it! It’s gutsy calls like that which make Jones a hard coach to predict, and going into the GC that’s a big advantage for the Eskimos.
- Other quick thoughts: I know that I gave the Calgary OL a hard time but they did seem to improve as the game went on. So why on earth did the Stamps ignore Messam inside the 5 yard line? That’s where you give your bruiser the rock…When Bo Levi gets time he is a deadly passer with a good combination of arm strength and touch. While Bo can play under pressure and on the move it doesn’t seem to be his favored style. The difference in this game was that Reilly is almost better at making things happen when he is moving than when he stands in the pocket. Both QBs were under pressure but Bo couldn’t make consistent big gains until the end when the Eskies backed off with the lead.
It will be interesting to see what happens to the Stampeders organisation going forward. With Hufnagel moving to the front office full time, Dave Dickenson likely becoming HC, and the Roughriders looking to snag assistant GM John Murphy we could see the end of an era in Calgary. However it would be a disservice to Hufnagel to assume everything will fall apart going forward, I trust that he has had a good plan in place for his succession for a while now. Still, you know what they say about the best laid plans…
Since I missed getting my picks up before the CFL Semi-Finals I need to admit I selected the Argos to top the Ti-Cats. But hey, everyone gets a mulligan right? Now with my freebie used up I’m 1-1 with three games to go, I pretty sure I can finish 4-1. So without further ado here are the official Practice Squad Playoff Picks! (100% Guaranteed to possibly be right)
Hamilton at Ottawa
A match-up that would have looked like an instant classic midway through the season now has the potential to be a one sided beat down similar to the Stamps and Lions last week. Jeremiah Masoli is set to make his 3rd career start against an Ottawa defense that lead the league in sacks this season. By contrast Henry Burris is heading into career start 234 and brings with him four (FOUR!) thousand yard receivers in Chris Matthews, Ernest Jackson, Brad Sinopoli, and Greg Ellingson. While Hamilton will play hard on defense I don’t see this as a defensive slugging match like last week. I expect Burris to spread the ball and utilize William Powel on the ground to keep Hamilton’s defense on the field and exhausted while Ottawa’s defense stuffs the run and dares Masoli to throw on Abdul Kanneh and Co. in the secondary. While I will never count out Head Coach Kent Austin’s ability to coach up a team, I believe Ottawa sees this as a golden opportunity to go from Expansion team to CFL powerhouse.
Final Score OTT 31 – HAM 13
Calgary at Edmonton
A much harder game to call with Calgary coming off a dominant performance against BC despite key injuries throughout the contest and Edmonton coming off over two weeks rest. Edmonton took the season series 2-1 but Calgary has been able to push around their division rivals in big games the past few years and will look to do the same with a strong ground game and deadly passing attack in Jerome Messam and Bo Levi Mitchell. Edmonton will look to change the narrative with a scary good defense and their own top notch QB in Mike Reilly. I expressed concern in last weeks recap that Edmonton could take away Jerome Messam early with a few stuffs and get Bo Levi to air it out. While Bo can throw (yes I caught that) I think Head Coach Chris Jones would rather trust his corners (Watkins and Ojo) to provide sticky coverage and let his pass rushers feast on a patchwork O-Line then get into pounding match against Messam. When it comes down to it I can’t let the past cloud the fact that Edmonton is a more complete team.
Final Score EDM 24 – CGY 21
The Lions were the underdogs (or cats) and had enough people hopeful to make this a game I wanted to watch. I predicted a Stamps win but couldn’t have seen the level of beat down that would come in a 35-9 win for Calgary. Here are some thoughts and breakdowns.
Calgary vs BC
- Early in the game it looked like we had the makings of a close one. Harris and Messam were running hard and Jonathan Jennings was getting time to throw. The Stamps looked flat and were missing Charleston Hughes and the pressure he can put on opposing offenses. Then Keon Raymond happened. With an interception return for a TD the slumbering giant of the Stampeders woke and flattened the outmatched Lions.
- Before getting pulled for Travis Lulay (who I think should have started) Jonathan Jennings was starting to remind me of Darian Durant, an athletic gunslinger who takes chances regardless of whether he should. Don’t get me wrong, like him a lot and I think that given time he can develop, like Durant, into a darn good CFL quarterback. However in this game Lulay should have been the starter. He has experience and poise, even if he was rusty, and gave the Stamps more to worry about (albeit not much more).
- Before people jump on me I know previously posted that the Argos should have gone with their athletic backup and let the experienced and poised Ricky Ray sit, this situation is very different. Harris was a legitimate MOP candidate for much of the year who faced good teams and won. Jennings had a phenomenal game against a very bad Rider team who has made nearly every QB they faced look like an All Star. Jennings has struggled against top tier teams (Though he did have a good game against the Ti-Cats in week 18) and predictably struggled against a John Hufnagel coached playoff team.
- Speaking of Huff, what a job that man has done with this team. Lose two offensive linemen, well we can throw in some defensive linemen and be fine (credit to OL coach Pat DelMonaco as well). Need a premier receiver, hello Eric Rogers! Jon Cornish not feeling well, yeah I see you Jerome Messam. Some people may not like it (including the Rider Fan in me) but Huff and the Stamps are the CFL version of Bill Belichick and the Patriots, they find ways to be great when people want them to fail.
- Finally, the only weakness I can see in this Calgary team (aside from the injuries) is their tendency to neglect the run game at times. In the past and even this season they go for stretches where they ignore their best weapon (Cornish most times, but even Messam a couple times this game). When your running game is averaging around 6 yards a carry you keep doing it until someone stops you. With Edmonton’s strict D coming up I can see Calgary shying away from the run game if the first few carries get bottled up. Keep with it Calgary.
- Juwan Simpsons beard makes him look like a Viking Warlord…and that terrifies me.
- Andrew Harris has had a heck of a career in BC, I hope they see that and try and hold on to him
- While some people are calling for his head I hope Wally Buono gives Jeff Tedford another good season before making a change at HC. He wasn’t given a whole lot at the seasons start and I think he can continue to make good changes.