CFL Pass

CFL Pick ‘Em, Week 10: Three easy ones and Roughriders-RedBlacks

Call me crazy, call me foolish, call me irresponsible … but I’m thinking three of the games on this week’s CFL Pick ‘Em ticket look fairly easy to choose. (Of course, this comes from a guy who managed a lowly 2-2 record last week and whose cumulative point total for 2015 is – never mind.) And then, there’s Sunday.

Among the CFLpass CFL Pick ‘Em picks for week 10 are a couple of obvious choices: Hamilton (backed by a whopping 95% of players) and Calgary (86%). No heavy analysis is needed here beyond the surety than no one’s stopping either of these teams right now; certainly not a tepid offence with a first-game interim coach and quite possibly the league’s worst defence, respectively.

Unquestionably going with the majorities here: Hamilton Tiger-Cats over Montreal Alouettes and Calgary Stampeders over Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

Meanwhile, the Eskimos hope to perk up an offence that has produced just three touchdowns versus six interceptions in the past 2½ games by installing James Franklin at quarterback, though the Esks appear to have deeper problems in the immediate short term, including an already weak running game wholly dependent on Shakir Bell.

With the Ticats last week destroying the Edmonton defence’s illusion of elite status, the Argonauts will be looking to get the scoreboard spinning as they have against all comers (except Hamilton and Calgary) this season; coming off another inspiring comeback win with high confidence, the Argos even sport a revamped, enviable kicking game.

What was that about the immediate short term? Not only is the pick Toronto Argonauts over Edmonton Eskimos this week, it’s only gonna get tougher to back the Esks in September. Beginning in week 11, they’ll be playing at Calgary, vs Calgary and at Hamilton. Could this stretch to a five-game losing streak against the CFL’s top three teams?

All right, then. Sunday’s game. Who would have thought that the “Marquee Matchup” would feature the second-year expansion team versus the league’s standings-skewing 0-8 club? Yet, here we are.

On one side are the hosting RedBlacks, a 4-4 team that might well be 5-3, were it not for a single drive-resuscitating penalty by the now-released Brandon McDonald. (Of course, in all fairness, Trevor Harris’ sole bad decision of the second half turned into a Jerrell Gavins pick-six, without which the RedBlacks don’t take the lead, the McDonald penalty never happens, etc.)

Fans checking the boxscore of the game alone may be puzzled, as Ottawa appeared to have bested Toronto in virtually every statistical category and the result gets chalked up to more “Cardiac Kids” magic from the Argos.

But not so fast; a pair of trends in the Argos game are reflective of the RedBlacks’ play throughout this season.

Exhibit #1: Henry Burris’ “wasted game.” Though sportswriters lamented such an efficient (32-of-35, including 15 consecutive completions, for 426 yards) performance by Burris, it’s the goose eggs at the end of the stat line which are most interesting.

Burris’s completion rate of 69.3% puts him at no. 3 among current starting CFL quarterbacks, and his six interceptions are right in line with Zach Collaros, Bo Levi Mitchell (each with six) and Trevor Harris (five). But Burris’s zero TD strikes last week kept his total for the season at just nine – one more than Drew Willy (who has over 100 fewer attempts) and Matt Nichols (who looks to be riding the bench for the season’s remainder).

Why can’t the RedBlacks put the ball in the end zone through the air?

And on defence, Ottawa has the opposite problem. Entering the game with a minus-88 point differential, the RedBlacks secondary once again showed the porousness that makes opposition quarterbacks happy.

Just check out Harris’s first two TD passes to Kevin Elliott and Tori Gurley – really puts the “oh” in “wide open.” And while Vidal Hazelton had to work a bit for his fourth-quarter score, the WR was left to run the exact route he wanted while Gavins acted as little more than a shadow. Would anyone be surprised if the RedBlacks ended the 2015 season as “leaders” in points allowed?

Facing off against Ottawa are the Roughriders.

Ah yes, the ineffably 0-8 Saskatchewan Roughriders. Even after all the intangible plusses – a sellout crowd, shiny digs, post-bye week rejuvenation – the Riders ultimately just didn’t have enough to overcome the Stamps last week after the defending champs accrued a first-half lead.

The second half saw Saskatchewan commit three key turnovers, the first two (an interception and a special-teams fumble) each leading to field goals and the third (Ryan Smith’s fumble) essentially ended the game.

It wouldn’t be a Roughriders writeup in 2015 without mention of injuries. Last week’s rearrangement to the defence which had Tyron Brackenridge and Tristan Jackson playing out of position may carry over, while WR Chris Getzlaf will also miss another game after suffering an unspecified leg injury in practice yesterday.

So it seems this one will come down to that old chestnut, “Who wants it the most?” Or perhaps, “Who’s less likely to throw away the game in the fourth?”

Me, I’m still waiting for regression to the mean. Encyclopedia-length injury list aside, surely the Roughriders are not an 0-9 team, are they? And all the faith in Brett Smith from the Rider Nation can’t be entirely misplaced, can it?

All right, I’m taking on CFLpass lead writer Travis Currah’s tack here. As he put it on the 2 and Out CFL Podcast this week, “I’m picking the Riders this week and if they lose, I’m never picking them again.” Saskatchewan Roughriders over Ottawa RedBlacks.

– written by Os Davis