Berg vs. Ferg: Argos, Lions still have playoff aspirations
Berg vs. Ferg is back for 2019 as columnists Pat Steinberg and Marshall Ferguson debate over some of the league’s most contentious storylines. This week’s question: Which last-place team, Toronto or BC, has a better chance to make the playoffs?
TORONTO — Just like the Bombers’ 20-0 lead over a winless team in the opening game of Week 8, there are no guarantees in the Canadian Football League.
Odds are made to be defied, something both the Toronto Argonauts and BC Lions are looking to do seven games into their 2019 season. The two clubs, ranked last in their respective divisions, have won one game each, and seemingly a mountain to climb to even think about making the post-season.
But is it really too early to rule out a comeback?
In the West, the other four teams have pulled away from the new-look Lions, with one game separating Calgary, Winnipeg, Saskatchewan and Edmonton. It’s a lot of ground to make up, but the Leos do have one of the top quarterbacks in the league in Mike Reilly at their disposal.
For the Argos, climbing out of the East Division basement looks far more achievable after last weekend’s turn of events. Their path could be made easier by injuries to Jeremiah Masoli and Vernon Adams Jr., along with more uncertainty at the position in Ottawa, where Dominique Davis has struggled this season.
When we look at the 1-6 Argos and Lions, some might recall the 2011 BC Lions, who sported an identical record through seven games before winning 10 of their last 11 games en route to a Grey Cup on home turf. Slow starts are certainly no formula for success in the CFL, but are far from insurmountable.
Which team has the better chance to make the playoffs in 2019? Steinberg and Ferguson debate in the latest Berg vs. Ferg.
BERG (4-9): THE PATH LESS DAUNTING
Pat Steinberg, CFL.ca
Despite a nightmare start to the season, the Toronto Argonauts are not out of it yet. In fact, of the two 1-6 teams in 2019, the Argos are the team that stands the better chance of playing relevant football in the fall. Thanks to their path and the way things are trending, Toronto still has plenty to play for.
While the BC Lions are stuck in an ultra-competitive West Division, things for the Argonauts aren’t quite as daunting. BC is currently looking up at four teams with at least four wins. Toronto, on the other hand, is just two wins back of Montreal (3-3) and Ottawa (3-4) and they’ve yet to play either team. The Argos have three games remaining against the REDBLACKS and two to go against the Alouettes. That right there presents a chance to catch right back up.
On the field, things seem to be trending in the right direction, too. McLeod Bethel-Thompson is coming off a stellar performance in Toronto’s first win of the season against Winnipeg. Overall, Bethel-Thompson has thrown for 300 yards or more in four of his five starts this season and the team’s offence is more dangerous with him at the helm. But it’s not only the quarterback.
The Argonauts made one big splash in free agency heading into the season: Derel Walker. Curiously, though, the All-Star receiver was only a bit part of Toronto’s attack early this season. Walker was averaging 2.3 catches per game in the team’s first three games; he’s up at 6.25 in their last four. That’s far more in line with how one of the game’s elite receivers should be used. If that trend continues, I like Toronto’s chances a whole lot more.
No one is suggesting the Argos should be satisfied with a 1-6 start to the season. However, based on their path, remaining schedule, and more recent performances, I think they stand a better chance of getting back in the playoff mix. There’s lots of football still to be played and I’m not ready to write off Toronto just yet.
FERG (9-4): NEVER SAY NEVER WITH MIKE REILLY
Marshall Ferguson, CFL.ca
They’ve started a Chris Rainey pinky toe away from going winless through the first seven weeks of the season.
Their offensive line hasn’t been able to block much of anything, especially in pass protection, and their special teams have given little in the way of consistent field position.
That’s the 2019 BC Lions so far and based on that set of circumstances one would have to believe there is little to no chance the Lions could actually make the playoffs.
Here’s the thing, they still have an elite quarterback.
Above all other logical reasoning I have to believe that at some point Mike Reilly is going to be worth his weight – or salary – in wins.
With seven of their next eight games against the East it’s not out of the realm of possibility that the Lions could continue shifting their offensive line until it gives Reilly enough opportunity to find his dynamic playmakers in a way that hasn’t been afforded thus far in 2019.
IF – and I stress IF – that does happen, the Lions are at worst a .500 team which, based on the back and forth stumbling of just about everybody in the East Division so far through the season, could lead to a second straight BC crossover playoff appearance.
Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of work to do for the Lions to be anywhere close to a playoff team and even if they make the dance I’m not sure how confident I would feel in their ability to put on a better performance than the blowout loss to Hamilton last year in the Eastern Semi-Final, but I have learned to never say never in this crazy football league.
DON’T SIT ON THE FENCE!
While both sides are pretty convincing, someone’s got to take it. Whose argument convinced you the most?
The winner will be revealed in the following week’s Berg vs. Ferg.
Which team has a better chance to make the playoffs?