Canadian Football League 2017: Week ten talking points

Andrew Kitchener Roar Guru

By Andrew Kitchener, Andrew Kitchener is a Roar Guru & Live Blogger

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    The NFL kicked off again this week. Image: Wikicommons

    This is it: summer is giving way to fall across Canada, and the season has reached it’s halfway point.

    As we turn for home, and look towards the Grey Cup game in Ottawa on the last Sunday in November, other than asserting that the West is markedly stronger than the East, you’d be a brave person to pick a champion in this incredibly tight and unpredictable season.

    As far as talking points goes, I’m not sure we’ve had such a jam-packed week. Here’s all you need to know:

    Nik Lewis becomes the CFL’s all-time pass receptions leader
    The current Montreal Alouettes has had a glittering career in the Canadian Football League, and his name will be etched in the record books after a ten-catch effort in an overtime loss to Winnipeg.

    Lewis is now two receptions clear of BC Lions legend Geroy Simon and considering that he’s been such a focal point in the Darian Durant-led Montreal offence this year, it’s hard to imagine his lead in the all-time standings increasing significantly between now and the end of the season.

    Kent Austin fires himself in Hamilton
    The under-siege Tiger-Cats head coach is also the team’s vice president of football operations, and made the difficult decision during the week to relieve himself of head coaching duties, handing over the reins of the beleaguered franchise to June Jones.

    You may remember that Jones was a prolific mentor in NCAA football, whose guiding hand took Hawaii from an also-ran onto the national stage with quarterback Colt Brennan in the late 2000s. Jones then took on head coaching duties at SMU, and now has the unenviable task of turning around the fortunes of a team that’s staring down the barrel of a Labour Day match-up with rivals Toronto.

    First mission for Jones? Help quarterback Zach Collaros rediscover his sparkling 2015 form. Or, perhaps, replace him with former Oregon star Jeremiah Masoli.

    Edmonton lose two in a row
    For the opening eight weeks of the season, no matter what the other team did, the Eskimos always found a way to pull off at-times-stunning victories, despite a horrific injury toll. Their bubble burst last week on the road in Winnipeg, and on Friday night at home in Commonwealth Stadium, the wheels really came off.

    The visiting Saskatchewan Roughriders came in, kicked butt and headed home with a dominant 54-31 win, a score line that flatters the Eskimos.

    The final score flattered Edmonton, who were down 40-7 heading into the fourth quarter, after quarterback Mike Reilly threw two interceptions that were returned for touchdowns by a rampant Riders defence.

    It was a tough night for Reilly, who made way for James Franklin in the fourth quarter, and it was the backup who got the Esks offence moving.

    As bad as Reilly was, he had plenty of company. Edmonton were dominated offensively, defensively and in special teams, giving up touchdowns in all three phases of the game.

    All of a sudden, the Eskimos are in some trouble in a stacked West division, heading to Calgary for the traditional Labour Day game next Monday.

    Calgary are best in the West
    They’re playing the best football and now they’re atop the West division standings following a relatively comfortable 23-7 win at home over Ricky Ray and Toronto. It took a while for Bo Levi Mitchell and the Stamps offence to get going, but when they did, they looked good. Mitchel finished 31-42 for 384 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, which was returned for Toronto’s only score of the night.

    That blemish aside, Mitchell looked good, and the entire Stamps team – including a stingy defence that held Argos receiver S.J. Green to just four catches and 49 yards and a special teams unit led by Roy Finch that’s giving teams conniptions – is coming together nicely. The rest of the Canadian Football League should be really worried.

    There’s a quarterback situation in Vancouver
    Pre-season, the B.C. Lions quarterback was touted as perhaps being the next break-out star of the Canadian Football League, but after an injury sustained in Hamilton a few weeks ago, the quarterback just hasn’t looked right. He was woeful against Saskatchewan last start – admittedly, backup Travis Lulay also struggled – and wasn’t much better against Ottawa on Saturday afternoon, completing 10-17 for 137 yards and one interception before being replaced by Lulay.

    Despite a costly, late interception that denied the Lions a chance to complete a remarkable comeback – they were down 31-3 heading into the fourth quarter – and force overtime, Lulay looked far more competent at the controls of the offence than Jennings did. He went 18-23 for 202 yards, two scores and the game-ending interception, dragging BC back into the game. I won’t be at all surprised if Lions head coach Wally Buono starts him next week.

    Saskatchewan might be the real deal
    Friday night’s dominant win over Edmonton on the road may well prove to herald the serious arrival of the Riders under Chris Jones. They were dominant in every way that a team can be dominant, eviscerating the Eskimos in front of a disbelieving crowd at Commonwealth Stadium.

    The recent knock on the Rough Riders is that they couldn’t win on the road, and so often followed up a huge home win by laying an egg away from Mosaic Stadium. Not so on Friday night. This was a complete team performance that included a blocked punt touchdown, two interception return touchdowns, a flawless offence effort, and even the return of a blocked field goal for two points by Duron Carter. This game had everything.

    Next up for the Riders: back-to-back games against Winnipeg. That’ll really tell us how good this squad is.

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