CFL Week 19 picks, power rankings
This week’s slate of games in the Canadian Football League, and sorting out which team ranks where, from first to worst:
Hamilton at Toronto, 4:30 p.m., TSN -- A current Toronto Star series is examining why Toronto is the Cleveland of Canada,
a city known for perennial losers in pro sports. It looks into what has gone wrong with the Leafs, Blue Jays, Raptors and Toronto FC, but there’s nary a word on the Argos, the city’s oldest team. Could it be that, with an 8-9 record, the Argos have disqualified themselves from the discussion, having reached unaccustomed heights of mediocrity? More likely, it says something about the GTA’s ambivalence to the CFL, and the fact that much work has to be done to make it relevant again, despite the efforts of David Braley and the focus of the 100th Grey Cup at Rogers Centre.
Calgary at Edmonton, 6 p.m., TSN -- The CFL’s most outstanding Canadian award may have been decided last Friday in Calgary, where Stampeder RB Jon Cornish ran for 86 yards against the Lions and is now just 49 away from the single-season rushing mark for a Canadian back set by Normie Kwong in 1956. The Lions’ versatile Andrew Harris, meanwhile, was held to just 30 yards on six carries, playing behind a patchwork O-line that made him struggle for every inch. Stopping Cornish -- 436 of his 1,388 rushing yards have come against Edmonton this season -- is Job One for the Eskimos. If Hamilton wins against the Argos tonight at Rogers Centre, Edmonton will need to defeat the Stampeders to qualify for the playoffs.
Montreal at Winnipeg, noon, TSN -- Never mind the staying power of the Alouettes’ 40-year-old Anthony Calvillo, pro football’s all-time leading passer. What about his backup, Adrian McPherson? Now 29, McPherson is in his fifth season with the Alouettes, playing in short-yardage situations to protect Calvillo’s health. His eight touchdowns this season are second on the team to tailback Brandon Whitaker, who is out with an injury. McPherson has completed only two of five pass attempts, however. But that will change Saturday when he gets to start in place of Calvillo, who has reached the 5,000-yard plateau for the seventh time and is being rested for the playoffs. It’s just a tune-up game, but for McPherson it’s his one night at Carnegie Hall.
Saskatachewan at B.C., 7 p.m., standard TV blackout in effect -- The number of passes he has thrown matches his jersey number -- zero. But could this be the game where J.T. O’Sullivan is finally re-introduced to the forward pass? The Roughriders’ third-string quarterback goes from a tertiary to a secondary option this week with the likely decision to rest starter Darian Durant and go with backup Drew Willy. The ‘Riders will be on the road for a playoff game, no matter whether it’s in the West or the East, so why put Durant through the meat grinder again? A helmet-to-helmet shot by Toronto linebacker Brandon Isaac on Durant last Saturday (Isaac drew a one-game suspension) is reason enough to park him for improved playoff health.
Last Week: 2-2
1. Calgary Stampeders -- Could have been their talent, could have been the sub-freezing temperatures, but the Stampeders were hot in a game where the Lions were not and now look to be even money in a possible West final.
2. Montreal Alouettes -- The Als continue to dominant the East despite injuries and patchwork lineups. Coach Marc Trestman and GM Jim Popp are alchemists as much as football wizards, transmuting base elements into gold.
3. B.C. Lions -- Last Friday’s game against the Stampeders meant nothing, but it meant zilch for Calgary either and they still showed up at the appointed hour and kicked the Leos all over the snowy yard at McMahon Stadium.
4. Toronto Argonauts -- If there was any doubt that the CFL is a quarterback-driven league it was been dispelled by the return of Ricky Ray. With eight TD passes in two games, QB makes the Argos a team to be reckoned with.
5. Saskatchewan Roughriders --You won’t find many streakers on the prairies in early November, but streaky has been
the ‘Riders’ habit all season long, even though players and coaches keep their clothes on.
5. Edmonton Eskimos -- Esks’ playoff hopes probably rest with sophomore Matt Nichols, the third-string quarterback from Eastern Washington who becomes the last, desperate choice in a season full of quarterback issues.
6. Hamilton Tiger-Cats -- If the Ticats defeat the Argos today at Rogers Centre they must wait two days and hope for an Eskimo loss to the Stampeders which will give Hamilton at ticket to T.O. for the East semi-final.
7. Winnipeg Blue Bombers -- They’ll start over next season with a new stadium and probably a new GM, head coach and starting quarterback. It’ll be another exercise in trying to turn gaping holes into tiny crevices.
© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun