CFL Pass

CFL week 1: Hot takes/overreactions to opening week

And there you have it: Week 1 of the 2021 CFL season, a season many doubted would happen at all, is now a matter of record. CFLpass has some hot takes on the quartet of games, which are typically known as “overreactions” when following opening week.

• In general, many areas of the CFL should start enforcing protocols for Jared Goff Syndrome, i.e. the tendency to play nearly flawless ball when everything goes according to plan coupled with an inability to improvise when plays break down. Both the Edmonton Elks offense and Calgary Stampeders defense looked particularly stricken with JGS, but few were immune.

• The Winnipeg Blue Bombers were about the only team that looked sharp throughout, but Zach Collaros apparently exhausted the playbook in the first half, leaving even the scoring to the defense in the second. While Winnipeg went for 22 total yards in the final 30 minutes (including four “drives” which totaling zero or fewer yards), an alternate score line might’ve read Bombers special teams 3, Bombers defense 2, everybody else 0.

• But hey, at least Winnipeg had solid defense. The Hamilton Tiger-Cats pretty much as one had exhausted their mental and physical energy by the time Jeremiah Masoli threw an ugly gimme pick in the second quarter. The quarterback himself went from 10-for-13 in pass completion to 14-for-28 the rest of the way, and reigning MOP Brandon Banks’ eight catches were essentially nullified by his two costly penalties and a hope-killing fumble.

• Talk about your uneven ballgames: Hosting BC Lions, the Saskatchewan Roughriders built up a 32-point first half lead, only to be outscored 20-1 in the second. On the offensive side, the BC improvement may simply be attributed to the replacement of CFL rookie Nathan Rourke by more typical starter Michael Reilly (and also beg the question of why Reilly wasn’t playing in the first half), but one is left wondering how much of the Lions’ commanding second half was down to crummy Riders D.

• Speaking of – or rather not speaking of bad D, you know who came to play on CFL Opening Day? Defensive veterans: Adam Bighill was tremendous in the second half for Winnipeg, Calgary late addition Shawn Lemon bagged what might have been a big sack of McLeod Bethel-Thompson late in the fourth against Toronto and Abdul Kanneh, with the Ottawa Redblacks since the team’s inception, got the game-ending tackle of fullback James Tuck after notching two interceptions of Trevor Harris.

• As for Harris, his stat line looked straight out of a loss with 2017 or ’18 Ottawa: 33 of 44 for 333 yards with three interceptions against zero TDs. Three is definitely not the magic number, and perhaps the whole “Redblacks West” look the Edmonton Elks are seemingly going for might be rethought a tad.

• Beyond the BC-Saskatchewan game, the other results on this week’s CFL slate might be fairly characterized as upsets, though this football fan would point out that week 1 is a real fustercluck for bettors. Especially egregious-seeming were the losses by the chalk Grey Cup picks Hamilton and Calgary.

Hamilton not only begins week 2 in last place in the East but also plays at Saskatchewan, the only other team aside from Winnipeg that looked ready for the opener; meanwhile, Ottawa has a bye week and Montreal goes to Edmonton. Figure in the shorter season and, well, the panic button is getting polished in Hamilton.

For Calgary, a slow start resulting in an early loss is not at all atypical in the Bo Levi Michell era: Between 2013 and ’19, the Stampeders are a cumulative 20-6-2 (.750) in the first four games of the season, but 76-22 (.776) in all other regular-season games. In now six of the previous eight seasons, the Stamps have lost at least one of the first four but typically right the ship by the halfway point. With the 14-game schedule, however, Calgary is without the luxury of time.

• Pick of week 2: Karma may eventually smile on the renamed Elks, but not yet. Figure that the Montreal Alouettes have one advantage that no team did in week 1: actual 2021 game film of their opponent. Note that this prediction may depend heavily on the Covid factor, though, as since the Ottawa expansion necessitated a week 1 bye, CFL teams who open on a bye are just 2-4 in their first start – and one of those wins was a double-OT victory by the Bombers in 2017…

–written by Os Davis

Os Davis has been covering sports for longer than he’d care to admit. For personality, check his Twitter feed; for professional acumen, here’s his Linkedin profile.