Canadian Football League 2017: Week 9 talking points

Andrew Kitchener Roar Guru

By , Andrew Kitchener is a Roar Guru & Live Blogger

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    Hard to believe we’re nearly halfway through one of the most entertaining seasons in Canadian Football League history, but we are – and it was another busy week in the Great White North.

    Edmonton finally lose
    It had to happen sooner or later, and this week it did. The Edmonton Eskimos lost to Winnipeg on Thursday night to fall from the ranks of the unbeaten despite a furious fourth-quarter comeback, eventually succumbing 33-26.

    It’s actually amazing that the Esks’ win streak lasted as long as it did – they were 8-0 before losing to the Blue Bombers at Investors Group Field – considering they had an injury toll that would rival the one the Russians amassed at Stalingrad.

    Things got worse on Thursday, with Mike Reilly’s offence taking another hit, losing emerging receiver Vidal Hazleton. I can’t remember a team so beset with injury as this team is. It’s been a horrific year, and how the Eskimos fare as summer becomes autumn in Canada will be something to watch. They can’t afford to lose too many games in the cutthroat west division.

    Toronto is a completely different team with Ricky Ray
    We saw the Argos struggles at quarterback last week when the veteran Ray was injured – the two pivots used combined for just 142 passing yards – but there was no such issue this week. Talk about being back with a vengeance!

    Ray was absolutely brilliant in a 38-6 dismantling of the Montreal Alouettes at BMO Field on Saturday afternoon. He completed 35 of 43 passes for 376 yards and four touchdowns as the Argos broke a three-game losing streak. SJ Green, his favourite target, was on the receiving end of 135 of those yards – and two touchdowns.

    It was a particularly notable day for the 37-year-old who is thriving under Marc Trestman’s tutelage. He tossed his 99th major as an Argo, breaking a club record. The way he played Saturday, we probably won’t have to wait long for him to crack the century.

    With Ray healthy, Toronto are making a strong case for being the best team in the East. And the fans are turning up – there were 16,326 fans at BMO Field, a season-best for a club that’s playing attractive football but playing to mostly empty seats at home. If Ray keeps this up, you have to imagine the crowds will start to flock in.

    Andrew Harris nearly beat Edmonton single-handedly
    Thursday night in Winnipeg was a banner night for the Canadian running back, who notched 105 rushing yards and 120 receiving in a match where he was involved in just about everything the Bombers did offensively. The fact that he’s now emerging as a legitimate receiving target out of the backfield for Matt Nichols makes him even more of a weapon. If he remains this hot, Winnipeg are going to be a serious Grey Cup threat.

    Ottawa won their second game of the year
    So continues the curious case of the defending Grey Cup champions, who have looked decent in plenty of games but who prior to week nine’s slate of matches had just one win. Despite this, coming to this game quarterback Trevor Harris led the league in passing, and receiver Greg Ellingson had the most receiving yards and touchdowns. Thing was, the Redblacks just weren’t doing enough to win games.

    The Friday contest at TD Place in Canada’s capital city had a real whiff of desperation about it. For all their obvious talent, the Redblacks still had only one win and even in a below-par East were losing track with the division’s leaders. The 37-18 win came thanks largely to kicker Brett Maher, who kicked six field goals (from 10, 15, 30, 42, 52, and 48 yards out) as Harris and the Ottawa offence continually stalled.

    A win, but not one that’s likely going to inspire huge confidence or spark much celebration among the legions of Redblack fans.

    Calgary find a way
    It was an ugly game in Vancouver on Friday night, and the Stampeders offence was pretty awful most of the time, but Calgary still managed to do enough to get a 21-17 win. Good teams manage to win when perhaps they shouldn’t, and that was exactly what happened in BC Place. Bo Levi Mitchell looked out of sorts and failed to throw a touchdown – breaking an impressive 18-game streak – but the defence, special teams and kicker Rene Paredes combined.

    Importantly for the Stamps, they retake second place in the cutthroat West division.

    Hamilton sink lower
    The TiCats still haven’t managed a win. Like I’ve said repeatedly, in some games they’ve come mighty close but haven’t been able to seal the deal. Friday night in Ottawa seemed like a decent chance given they were taking on a one-win Redblacks squad, but the Tiger Cats just couldn’t get it done, and I’m wondering how long the status quo will hold in Hamilton. Something has to give, surely. The TiCats can’t keep going on this way.

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