Sunday, October 31, 2010

Bo Smith Done For the Season

As reported by Drew Edwards, Bo Smith is done for the season with a torn Achilles.

I don't think it is news when I say that I have been critical of Bo Smith since last season.

That said, I have been extremely happy with Smith's performance since returning from the Jets. His coverage skills still need some work, but his tackling has improved immensely. His loss will be felt, and losing players at this point in the season is never a good thing.

Here's to a speedy recovery for Bo. I hope he can come back next season and pick up where he left off this season.

Ways to Grow the Game: No Sunday Games

In an ongoing attempt to find ways to make the CFL a larger, more successful professional sports league, I will be looking at ideas that can push the CFL to the forefront of pro sports in Canada and North America. I have titled these articles "Ways to Grow the Game."

When one thinks of Sunday, football usually does spring to mind. When it comes to the CFL, post-Labour Day, that should not be the case.

The CFL season runs from July to November. In 2010, the season started on Canada Day, and up to Labour Day there were only four games scheduled on a Sunday:
  • Week 1: BC at Edmonton
  • Week 2: Montreal at Edmonton
  • Week 7: Edmonton at Calgary
  • Week 10: Winnipeg at Saskatchewan
Following the Labour Day the weekend, the CFL has nine games scheduled for Sunday:
  • Week 11: Saskatchewan at Winnipeg
  • Week 12: Winnipeg at Toronto
  • Week 12: Edmonton at Montreal
  • Week 13: Edmonton at Toronto (in Moncton)
  • Week 14: Hamilton at Edmonton
  • Week 16: Winnipeg at Montreal
  • Week 16: Saskatchewan at Calgary
  • Week 18: Saskatchewan at BC
  • Week 19: Toronto at Montreal
So what does this have to do with growing the game, you ask? What gets going the week after Labour Day?

Yes, the NFL.

As much as many CFL fans say that the NFL is "boring" or "not as good as the CFL," it is still the league in North America.

Going up against the NFL on Sunday is not a good idea. Especially in Southern Ontario.

I'm not trying to say that the CFL should kowtow to the NFL, but when they play only four games on Sunday when they have no competition, I don't understand why they'd play nine when they have to go up against the biggest sport in North America.

What is my solution? Stop playing games on Sunday during the NFL season. A lot of people are football fans, not just NFL fans or CFL fans. I count myself as one of those, but I find it very hard to convince people to watch the CFL game over the NFL game, unless the Cats are playing.

If the CFL is going to play games on Sunday, do it before Labour Day. After Labour Day, cede Sunday to the NFL, and take Friday and Saturday. There are only four games a week, so a Friday night doubleheader and a Saturday afternoon or night doubleheader should not be too hard to schedule. This would allow people to watch all the CFL games in a given week without having to decide between the NFL and CFL.

You might wonder how I feel about playoff games. Those can stay on Sunday because playoff games carry more cachet with the public than, for example, a Week 13 game. The CFL will attract an audience for a playoff game that they will not attract for a regular-season game.

This idea is not likely to engender as much favour as my previous ones because this deals with something the league shouldn't do as opposed to something it should do. However, I stand by my stance that if the CFL would move away from Sunday games during the NFL season it would only help in growing the game.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Playoff Tickets

Click Picture to Purchase Tickets (On Sale at 9AM)
If you haven't got your playoff ticket yet because you are not a season-ticket holder, you won't have to wait long before picking one up.

In less than seven hours (9AM EST) tickets for the East Division Semi-Final will go on sale to the public. I can't imagine that playoff tickets... against the Argos... at Ivor Wynne Stadium... will last very long.

Go out and get your tickets. Let's sell that sucker out and show that Steeltown is also a football town.

It's Argos-Cats; what else could you ask for?

Calgary 55, Hamilton 24

Not good. Not good at all. The Cats came out and laid an absolute egg in Calgary. It was an ugly one.

Positives
It is pretty hard to find any positives in a game where the Cats lose by 31 points, but a couple of good things did occur in this game.

First, congrats to Kevin Glenn on breaking Danny McManus's records for TD passes in a season and pass completions in a season.

Secondly, the running game looked very good. Both Cobb and Thigpen had some great runs.

Thirdly, Markeith Knowlton continues to show why he is the best Defensive player in the CFL. He now has tied the Tiger-Cat record for fumble recoveries in a season, with six. He already had my vote for Most Outstanding Defensive Player.

Finally, and maybe most importantly, the Cats will host the East Division Semi-Final on November 14th.

Negatives
Oh boy, where to begin?

That Defense that was harder to solve than a Rubik's cube was solved like it was a two-piece puzzle. The line couldn't get a pass rush going at all, the Secondary got beat constantly and the whole Defense just couldn't stop anything that Calgary did offensively.

Anyone who reads me consistently knows how much I like Ryan Hinds, but he looked like a rookie against the Stamps. It is a game to forget, but it is a game that Hinds should always remember. He has all the tools to be a great player in the CFL, but he needs to make note of the mistakes he made in this game and make sure they don't happen again.

So much for Chris Bauman having found "it." After a career game, he goes receptionless against the Stamps. He had a few passes thrown his way and he dropped them all. Bauman continues to show no consistency.

Kevin Glenn may have broken some of Danny Mac's records, but that was about the only thing he did that was worthy of praise in this game. Glenn was just off against the Stamps.

Final Thoughts
I said it more than a few times tonight: it is better that the Cats had this happen on October 29th as opposed to November 14th (or 21st or 28th). You never want to see your team get pasted like this, but better for it to happen when the game is basically meaningless than when the game really matters. The meaninglessness is not an excuse for the poor performance, but better now than later.

Have I made my point clear for everyone?

So the game was so U-G-L-Y that they ain't got no alibi. But it's over and there is a lot that can be learned from a beatdown like this. Let's hope the team learns said lesson.

But even with the loss, the Cats will host the East Division Semi-Final for the second straight year. On November 14, 2010, it will be the Tiger-Cats and the Argonauts. I don't know about you, but I can't wait. It's going to be INSANE at Ivor Wynne on the 14th. It's going to be great.

Friday, October 29, 2010

East Semi-Final is at Ivor Wynne Stadium

Thanks to the Montreal Alouettes, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats will host the Toronto Argonauts in the East Division Semi-Final.

A playoff game between the Argos and Cats at Ivor Wynne. Does it get any better than that?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

ABIII, Hebert Won't Meet the Stamps

It's official. Arland Bruce III will miss tomorrow's game against the Calgary Stampeders.

Head Coach Marcel Bellefeuille said that "there are more significant games down the road" and that it would be wiser to take the cautious route with Bruce.

This leaves Kevin Glenn without the CFL's leading Receiver heading into a game in Calgary where a win will secure a home playoff game for the Tiger-Cats.

The recently signed Kyries Hebert will also miss tomorrow's game in Calgary. Not to diminish what Hebert brings to the table, but his loss is not as significant as Bruce's.

Not having Bruce will make it very difficult for the Tiger-Cats to win. Just like last week, someone is going to have to step up and try to fill the void that ABIII left. Chris Bauman did it last week, so maybe he'll do it again. Or maybe it will be someone else. We're going to find out in about 24 hours.

Taking the cautious approach with both players is smart and appropriate. These guys will be needed for the playoffs, so it is better to be without them now than in two weeks' time. As they say, better safe than sorry.

Smitty's Selections: Week 18

Five of the six playoff spots are all sewn up. The only things left to decide are:
  • Who gets third in the West: BC or Edmonton?
  • Where will the East Division Semi-Final be played: Hamilton or Toronto?
Both of those questions can be answered in this, the penultimate week of the 2010 CFL season. Part of me hopes that everything isn't decided after this week's games. If everything is known before the last weekend of games, the excitement factor will be gone. But from the looks of this week's slate of games, I think everything will be decided by late Sunday.

Montreal (11-5) at Toronto (8-8)

Montreal come into this game with Toronto licking their wounds. That was as thorough a beating as I have seen the Als take in quite some time. They were completely outplayed in every facet of the game. Toronto enter this contest riding the high of clinching the team's first playoff spot since 2007. The Argos have also exceeded their win total from the past two seasons combined, and Jim Barker has won more games as Argonaut Head Coach this season than the last three head coaches (Rich Stubler, Don Matthews, Count Chocula Bart Andrus) combined. The Als will be hopping mad and won't want to see another potential playoff opponent beat them. The Als will go out and put the boots to the Argos.

Winner: Montreal, 44-21

Hamilton (9-7) at Calgary (11-5)

The Cats come into this matchup playing better football than any other team. These stats have been repeated time and time again over the past week, but they bear repeating once more: Hamilton have outscored their opponents 106-17 in their last three games. They have also put up 30+ points in each of their last four contests, and the Defense has not allowed a touchdown in 10 quarters. The Cats, right now, are dominating. The Stamps have nothing to play for in this game, having already secured their berth in the West Division Final. I do not know what the Stamps have planned as far as resting players is concerned, but I don't think it matters. Winning on the road is tough, but Hamilton have shown that they can play with anyone.

Winner: Hamilton, 35-20

Winnipeg (4-12) at Edmonton (6-10)

The Blue Bombers might be the team with the worst luck of any in the CFL in 2010. They have lost seven games by four points or less this season. If they win just half of those, they are still in the thick of the playoff race. Edmonton have turned a terrible season into a dog fight. Thought to be out of it by many, the Eskies have turned it on and sit poised to make the playoffs despite what many thought was a lost season. Both teams will play this one without their starting QBs. Ricky Ray is out for Edmonton, so Jared Zabransky will start. The Blue Bombers will be without Steven Jyles AND Alex Brink, which means Joey Elliott will start for the Bombers. Winnipeg can still play spoiler, but that doesn't seem likely when starting a third-string QB.

Winner: Edmonton, 25-10

Saskatchewan (9-7) at British Columbia (6-10)

I don't think there is any bigger mess right now than the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Losers of three straight (two of which came at home), the Riders are swooning at exactly the wrong time. The Lions still hold playoff aspirations. The Leos have never missed the post-season with Wally Buono as the head man, and they don't want this to be the year. While a win means nothing to the Riders standings-wise, and everything to the Lions, the Riders need a win badly to keep the doubt from creeping in.

Winner: Saskatchewan, 28-24

Recap
Montreal, Hamilton, Edmonton, Saskatchewan

Season Record: 34-30

So, if my predictions are correct (and this year that is about a 50-50 chance) then the playoff matchups will be set, and it will be the Eskimos visiting the Roughriders and the Argonauts visiting the Tiger-Cats on November 14th. But since I've yet to go perfect in a week with four games to predict, that means one of these teams will falter and there will be something to play for in the final week. (I just hope it isn't Hamilton.)

Preview: Tiger-Cats (9-7) at Stampeders (11-5)





vs.





Another week, another chance for the Tiger-Cats to make a statement.

Except, just like last week, their opponents have nothing to play for.

Last week, the Tiger-Cats came out and mauled the Montreal Alouettes to the tune of 40-3. This was a big win for Hamilton as they hadn't beaten the Als since October of 2008. This wasn't just a win either; this was a beating. The Cats outplayed the Alouettes in every phase of the game.

But, like I figured, the howls of "the Als had nothing to play for" rang out from those that wanted to downplay what the Tiger-Cats had accomplished.

A similar fate awaits if they beat the Stampeders.

Just like Montreal the week before, the Stamps have locked up first place in their division and have clinched a first-round bye and home field advantage for the West Final.

As I wrote earlier in the week, there is no team playing better football right now than the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. The Cats have won three in a row (the longest winning streak in the league right now) and have outscored opponents 106-17 over those three games. They have not allowed a touchdown in 10 quarters and have held their last two opponents to three points in each game.

While the Stamps may have nothing to play for standings-wise, they have been in a bit of a slump lately, losing four of their past six. The Stamps cannot like the idea of backing into the playoffs with five losses (at a minimum) in their final eight games. They may have nothing to play for, but they still won't want to lose.

This should be a good one. It usually is when the Stamps and Tabbies clash.

As always, you can put your radio dial on AM900 CHML or Y108 or watch on television on TSN and TSN HD.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Three Out of Four Ain't Bad

Damn you, Chad Owens. Leave it to an Argo to screw everything up.

Three Tiger-Cats snagged Player of the Week awards for Week 17.

Kevin Glenn was named the Offensive Player of the Week, becoming the only player this year to win that award three times. Glenn was masterful in the Tiger-Cats' destruction of the Montreal Alouettes. Glenn finished the night, which ended early for him, 21 for 32 with 371 yards passing and two touchdowns. The second TD pass tied Glenn with Danny McManus for the most single-season TD passes by a Hamilton Tiger-Cat.

Stevie Baggs once again lived up to his "Shakespeare" moniker and grabbed his second consecutive Defensive Player of the Week award. Baggs has been unstoppable since arriving in Steeltown. In Week 17 he had another fumble recovery for a touchdown – taking this one back 80 yards – and followed it up on the next series by intercepting Anthony Calvillo. All Stevie does is make big plays.

Chris Bauman – the much maligned Chris Bauman – snagged the Canadian Player of the Week award. Bauman played magnificently when called upon to replace the irreplaceable Arland Bruce. Bauman finished the night with 116 yards on five catches, two of which went for touchdowns. Perhaps this is finally the start of something big for Chris Bauman.

Fitting way to cap off a great week for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Who's Better than Hamilton?

As of right now, the answer is...

NOOOOOOOOOOOOBODY!

(Sorry, I had to do that.)

Is there any team, right now, playing better football than the Hamilton Tiger-Cats?

My answer is no.

Looking back on the last three weeks, there is not one team that has come close to replicating the type of dominant performances the Tiger-Cats have had in that span. Look at the results:
  • Defeated Edmonton, 36-11
  • Defeated Toronto, 30-3
  • Defeated Montreal, 40-3
That's a combined score of 106-17. An EIGHTY-NINE point difference. The average margin of victory is 29.3 points.

WOW!

What contribues to such a dominant stretch of games? I think the answer is four-fold:

First, Stevie Baggs' arrival has provided a spark to the front seven. I don't care what anyone says, his demeanour and excitement are infectious. He has added that missing piece to the puzzle. Every week, the Defense gets big play after big play, whether it's interceptions, fumbles, sacks, third-down stops or whatever else. The Defense has allowed an average of 5.3 points a game in the last three outings. In the CFL, that's unheard of. The front seven, from McIntyre to Bolden to Kirk to Hickman to Floyd to Johnson to Knowlton, have all provided big plays over the last three games, but the man leading the charge, the man they call Shakespeare because all he does is make big plays, has been Stevie Baggs.

Secondly, Kevin Glenn has been allowed to get into a rhythm. He was somewhat off in the Toronto game, but he still threw for two touchdowns. When Kevin Glenn is on his game, he's as good as any QB in the CFL.

Thirdly, the coaching staff has put together some great game plans. After getting torched by Fred Stamps to the tune of 181 yards and a touchdown on ten catches in Edmonton on October 3rd (the last time the Tiger-Cats tasted defeat), Greg Marshall tore a strip off the Defense. What did they do the next week? Held Stamps to a minuscule 34 yards on six catches. He was a total non-factor. The next week, the Tiger-Cats focused on the league's leading rusher, Cory Boyd, and held him to an insignificant 26 yards on 11 carries, which was his worst output of the season.

Finally, the much maligned Secondary has stepped up big time. Geoff Tisdale has put together a fine season and might even be in line for an All-Star nod. Tisdale makes turnovers, and his strip/pick of Fred Stamps was a thing of beauty. Dylan Barker, though he has butter fingers, has been getting better and better after being inserted into the starting lineup following the retirement of Sandy Beveridge. He has even curbed that interception problem. Ryan Hinds, as a rookie, has gotten better each and every week. He had a dropped interception against the Als, but he also had a nice one against the Eskimos. Anyone that knows me knows that I am very high on Hinds. Mark my words, he's going to be a difference maker for this team now and definitely in the future. And I'd be remiss if I didn't say something about Bo Smith. It is well known that I have not been fond of Bo, but since he has returned from the NFL, he has played very well. He still gets beat (as witnessed this week against Montreal), but the guy is as physical as they come, and he might be one of the best tacklers on the team. He has been a welcome re-addition.

Are the Tiger-Cats the best team in the CFL? Right now, I think you'd have a hard time making the case that they aren't.

Morning-After Thoughts (Week 17)

Seventeen down, two to go. I am likely to lead this post every week with something along the lines of, "I can't believe we only have 'X' amount of weeks left in the season." I still cannot believe that we are a little over a month away from crowning a Grey Cup champion for 2010. The one thing I have really enjoyed about this season is that with so little time left, I don't think anyone can predict who will win it all. Fans from Montreal to Vancouver (with the exception of perhaps Winnipeg) think their team can win the whole thing. The 2010 CFL season might just be the best season the league has ever witnessed.
  1. Like I said in my introduction, you have to love how this late in the season, the competition for who will win the Grey Cup is as wide open as it has ever been.
  2. That said, only one game this week was decided by a touchdown or less. Three of the games were absolute sh*t kickings. The Tiger-Cats, Argonauts and Eskimos beat the tar out of their opponents.
  3. The one negative to emerge from the Tiger-Cats' win over the Als was the injury to Arland Bruce. Bruce has been one of the three best Receivers in the CFL this season, and losing him at this point in time would be detrimental to the Tiger-Cats' chances of hoisting the Grey Cup in November.
  4. As anyone who has read this site knows, I am not a fan of Bo Smith. I thought he was by far the worst DB the Tiger-Cats have on their roster, and I was none too pleased when he came back following his release from the NFL's New York Jets. Well, his time spent in East Rutherford did some good, as it is abundantly clear that he has vastly improved his tackling. He's far from the perfect player, but he has improved exponentially from last year to this year.
  5. I know that just three weeks ago, the Als were manhandled by Calgary, but the loss this week was as thorough a beating as I have seen the Als take in some time. I know there are going to be the cries of, "Well, they had nothing to play for." Bunk. They played their starters and the Cats whooped 'em, plain and simple.
  6. As great as Henry Burris is, I have noticed he has a tendency to call for a flag almost every time he is even remotely contacted. It really is aggravating to watch, as a fan, a great player like Burris whine and complain. He needs to cut it out; it makes him look like a baby.
  7. I have seen a lot of bad drops in my 20+ years of watching football, but Arjei Franklin's ranks right up there as 1 or 1a. Wide open, in the end zone, game on the line. As a Receiver, Franklin has to catch that pass. It is a must. Terrible, terrible drop.
  8. I guess the John Hufnagel hex is broken for Wally Buono. Entering this season a Buono-led team had never beaten a Hufnagel-led team. Not only did Buono finally beat Hufnagel, but he did so twice, and both times were in Calgary.
  9. Is there a WR on the planet who hits as hard as Nik Lewis? I hate the guy, like most non-Stamps fans do, but the guy hits like a truck. It's nice to see a Receiver embrace contact as opposed to shying away from it like most do.
  10. I know Joffrey Reynolds has over 1,100 yards rushing, but it just feels like he's on his last legs. He's a great player, and has been for a very long time, but he just doesn't look like the same player he was even last season. With Jon Cornish and Jesse Lumsden in Cowtown, perhaps Reynolds is on his way out? Probably not, but I see his role diminishing over the next couple of years as the Stamps work both Cornish and Lumsden more.
  11. The Argo-Bomber game was a microcosm of Winnipeg's season. The best 4-12 team in CFL history will be watching the playoffs from home. Injuries to QBs killed the Bombers all year, starting with Buck Pierce back in July and August, then Steven Jyles and Alex Brink on Saturday. If the Bombers had stayed healthy at the most important position in football, they may not have lost 12 games.
  12. There is no way that anyone but Chad Owens takes home the Most Outstanding Special Teams Player award. I hate the Argos as much as the next guy, but Owens has been, by far, the best Special Teams player in 2010.
  13. Terrence Jeffers-Harris was completely robbed when he was ruled down. His knee, shin, elbow, or whatever other body part is needed to be down to constitute down, was not down. Jeffers-Harris's great play was stolen from him by the zebras.
  14. It looks like Justin Palardy was miscast in Hamilton as a Punter. He has been pretty good for the Bombers as a Kicker, missing only four of twenty field goal attempts since taking over for Alex Serna back in mid-August.
  15. How is it possible that the Blue Bombers lead the CFL in sacks, yet also lead the CFL in losses? What does this say about Winnipeg? Willis and Hunt have been great all year, for sure. If the Bombers had a winning record, one of them would win Most Outstanding Defensive Player. They are the 2010 version of John Chick and Stevie Baggs.
  16. The Achilles heel for the Riders is going to be Special Teams. They just can't do anything to stop returns or get returns of their own. Just like in 2009 (remember the 13th man was on a field goal attempt), Special Teams will be the Riders' undoing.
  17. I don't know if it's about how well Edmonton run the ball (they rolled over the Lions last week) or how poorly Saskatchewan defend the run (they were gashed by Joffrey Reynolds last week), but Daniel Porter looked phenomenal for the Eskimos.
  18. Whatever the Tiger-Cats are doing right now (be it peaking at the right time or bringing it all together or what have you), the Saskatchewan Roughriders are doing the exact opposite. Three straight losses have to make the Rider faithful very uneasy. Right now, this is not a good football team.
  19. Is Andy Fantuz quickly having his grip loosened on the Most Outstanding Canadian award? Sure looks like it to me. No elite Receiver should be held without a catch for seven quarters.
  20. Well, that was a bad week. The only game I predicted correctly was the first one: Cats over Als. After that, the Stamps, Bombers and Riders let me down. In fairness to myself, I did say I thought that the Rider-Eskimo game felt like an upset, but I was too gutless to take the Eskies. I should have listened to my gut. With two weeks to go I now sit at 34-30.
Bonus Five (since I only had 10 last week)
    1. Does anyone else hate how Rod Black says Blue Bombers?
    2. Jared Zabransky played like a guy making his first career CFL start. He made some great plays (the TD pass to Armstrong was a beaut) and not-so-great plays (the fumbles, oh so many fumbles). I have liked Zabransky since he was at Boise State, and I think he can develop into a really good CFL Quarterback if given the chance.
    3. What the hell is Jock Climie talking about? Did he seriously say that because the Argos play terribly on offense that teams have started to emulate them? I don't think any team is trying to replicate the way the Argos play. Not even the Argos want to play the way the Argos play. What a ludicrous statement to make.
    4. Brutal call on Mike McCollough. Like Chris Cuthbert said, "It wasn't high, it wasn't low and it wasn't late." That means it wasn't a penalty.
    5. Only one playoff spot left now; who gets it? I don't know why, but I'm putting my money on the Eskimos. They've been written off all year, but something tells me these guys will pull it off in the end. And I'd be worried if I was the Riders. Just saying.

    Saturday, October 23, 2010

    Bring on the Argos!

    Well folks, it is official.

    On November 14th, the Toronto Argonauts and Hamilton Tiger-Cats will play in the East Division Semi-Final. This is the first time that these two teams will play each other in the playoffs since 2004. The only thing left to be decided is where the game will be played. One more Tiger-Cat win or Argonaut loss means the game is at Ivor Wynne. If the Cats don't win again and the Argos don't lose, the game is at the Rogers Centre SkyDome.

    The Cats have beaten the Argos in all three matchups so far in 2010, each by a larger margin than the game before, culminating with a 30-3 beatdown in Toronto just eight days ago. I can think of no better playoff matchup.

    As the title suggests, BRING ON THE ARGOS!

    Friday, October 22, 2010

    Hamilton 40, Montreal 3

    That, my friends, was a Grade-A butt whooping. I have not seen such dominance by one team over another in quite some time. Statement game? Statement made.

    Positives
    Um, everything. When you beat down a team the way the Cats beat down the Als, everything is a positive. But there are some things I'd like to highlight.

    First, and foremost, Chris Bauman's performance. That's the type of stuff Cat fans have been waiting to see from #87. I would hazard a guess that that was his best game as a pro. Five catches for 116 yards and two TDs, with one catch being an absolute beauty at the end of the first half that looked to land Bauman in the end zone, but was ruled as down at the one-yard line.

    What more can I say about Stevie Baggs that I haven't already said? The nickname Shakespeare really does fit. All he does is make big plays. Tonight it was an 80-yard fumble recovery for a TD, his second of the season. He also had an interception. Is there anything this guy can't do? I imagine he might be adding a second consecutive Defensive Player of the Week award to his trophy case.

    The entire Defense deserves a round of applause. They have allowed 17 points in the last three weeks. Let that sink in for a second. 17 points, three weeks. They haven't allowed a TD in over two games, giving up a mere two field goals to the two teams they are likely going to have to beat to make it to the Grey Cup: Toronto and Montreal. This Defense is turning into the type that wins Grey Cups.

    Last week, the Offense wasn't great, despite scoring 30 points. This week everything clicked. A big hand to Kevin Glenn on tying none other than Danny McManus for the single-season record for TD passes with 29. No doubt Glenn will eclipse that with two weeks left to go.

    Negatives
    The Arland Bruce injury was a big negative. Losing Bruce for any length of time would not be good. However, the injury looks to be only a minor one, and he was kept out as a precautionary measure according to Head Coach Marcel Bellefeuille. Also, the Cats pounded the Als without Bruce. Imagine what they could have done with him.

    That's it; that's the only negative I can think of.

    Final Thoughts
    Now all the "Hamilton hasn't beaten anyone" talk can cease. Not only did they beat the Als, they clobbered them. I await the calls of, "Well, Montreal had nothing to play for blah, blah, blah." The Als said they were going to play to win, and they got hammered (no pun intended).

    The Cats chased Calvillo from the game midway through the third quarter, and they just battered and beat down the mighty Als. Montreal could not get anything going at any point tonight. It was complete domination.

    I have no doubt in my mind that this Hamilton team – the one we've seen the last three weeks – can play with and beat any team in the CFL. These Tiger-Cats are the team we all thought they could be at the start of the season. It may have taken over three months, but these Tiger-Cats are playing as well, if not better, than any other team in the CFL. If they keep playing like this, their season won't end until very late November.

    Thursday, October 21, 2010

    Smitty's Selections: Week 17

    Can you believe there are only three weeks remaining in the 2010 CFL Regular Season? It seems like only yesterday that we were watching the Miracle at Mosaic/Canada Day Comeback. We currently sit only 12 games away from the start of the playoffs. The season comes and goes way too quickly.

    Montreal (11-4) at Hamilton (8-7)

    Tiger-Cat General Manager Bob O'Billovich was on The Fan 590 earlier this week and declared that this week's game was a "statement game, for sure." Mighty words from the Tiger-Cat boss. Montreal enters this game having already sewn up top spot in the East, and will be without Diamond Ferri, Avon Cobourne and Tim Maypray. The last time these teams met when the Als were missing a key player, the Cats got smoked 27-6 at home. After watching the Cats the last two weeks put the boots to their opponents, I get the sense that the best is yet to come from Hamilton.

    Winner: Hamilton, 31-28

    British Columbia (5-10) at Calgary (11-4)

    Calgary are coming off a big win last week, one that virtually guarantees them the top seed in the West. BC, however, are coming off their second straight overtime loss, this one at the hands of the Edmonton Eskimos. Not a must win for the Lions, but it's starting to get to the point where if they don't start winning soon, they may miss the playoffs for the first time in Wally Buono's tenure. BC is the only team to beat Calgary at home this season, but I don't expect a repeat of that minor miracle.

    Winner: Calgary, 41-21

    Toronto (7-8) at Winnipeg (4-11)

    This is a big game. The Bombers cannot catch the Argos for third in the East, but they can still cross over into the West if they go on a run to end the season. It is likely that the Bombers will miss the post-season once again in 2010, so they could very well just be out to play spoiler. The Argos looked atrocious last week in their home loss to the Tiger-Cats, and a couple of key Argos (the key Argos?), Cory Boyd and Chad Owens, did not leave that game unscathed. I'm with everyone else in saying that the Bombers are better than their 4-11 record indicates. As everyone who has read my stuff knows, I am a big believer in Steven Jyles. His counterpart is Cleo Lemon. 'Nuff said.

    Winner: Winnipeg, 37-24

    Saskatchewan (9-6) at Edmonton (5-10)

    You'd think that picking a winner between a 9-6 team and a 5-10 team would be easy, but for some reason this game is giving me fits. The Riders are the better team; I don't think anyone would dispute that fact. But Edmonton has won three of their last four, and are playing with an intensity I haven't seen all season, which has them right back in the thick of the playoff race. The Riders are coming off back-to-back losses at home, so perhaps a little travel will do them good. I just can't see the Riders dropping three in a row. But I won't be surprised if they do.

    Winner: Saskatchewan, 38-28

    Recap
    Hamilton, Calgary, Winnipeg, Saskatchewan

    Season Record: 33-27

    Preview: Alouettes (11-4) at Tiger-Cats (8-7)





    vs.





    Thanks to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers this game lost a lot of its luster. What could have been a battle to see if the Alouettes or Tiger-Cats would finish in first place (the Als were always likely to claim that spot) is now simply a battle for bragging rights... and perhaps a psychological advantage should these two teams meet in the playoffs.

    Following last week's thrashing of the Argonauts, the Tiger-Cats are returning to the post-season for a second consecutive year for the first time since they went to the playoffs four consecutive years from 1998 to 2001.

    Last week, Montreal won their third straight East Division title, which means that if the Cats want to get to the Grey Cup, they will have to travel to Montreal on November 21st.

    Hamilton still does have one thing to play for: a home playoff game. Any combination of two Tiger-Cat wins, two Argonaut losses or one Hamilton win and one Toronto loss will ensure that the East Division Semi-Final will once again be held at Ivor Wynne Stadium.

    Montreal has not been an easy opponent for the Tiger-Cats this season. The Cats lost in Montreal in Week 4 and at home in Week 11. Both times, the Als decimated a Tiger-Cat team that was looking to make a statement by beating the Als.

    Since the last meeting, the Tiger-Cats have added Stevie Baggs. Baggs has been an absolute monster for the Cats since his arrival, and last week versus the Argonauts, Baggs played like a man possessed. His addition might tip the balance in Hamilton's favour. The Defense, in general, has been phenomenal the past two weeks against the Eskimos and Argonauts, allowing a mere 14 points total in two games.

    This has the makings of a great game, so I hope the stands are packed on Friday night. Let's make it loud and show the CFL, and Canada as a whole, that the Tiger-Cats, the HAMILTON TIGER-CATS, are for real.

    In case you can't make it out to the game for whatever reason, you can always catch the game on the radio on AM900 CHML and Y108 or on television on TSN and TSN HD.

    Wednesday, October 20, 2010

    Welcome to Tigertown, Mr. Hebert

    Well this one came completely out of left field. Kyries Hebert has signed with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

    This took me completely by surprise. I had no idea that Hebert was even in discussions with the Tiger-Cats. But this is a great signing. Hebert had spent the last two seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals, but he was previously with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in 2006 and 2007, and the Ottawa Renegades in 2004 and 2005. He is a versatile player who can play Linebacker and Safety, which will come in handy down the stretch and in the playoffs.

    This is an "all-in" move if I've ever seen one. Couple this with the Stevie Baggs signing from last month, and it shows that Bob O'Billovich wants to win and wants to win now.

    Hebert will be in the lineup this week when the Tiger-Cats take on the Montreal Alouettes at Ivor Wynne Stadium on Friday night. He'll likely see most of his playing time on Special Teams this week, as he digests the Tiger-Cat Defense. But Hebert did play for Greg Marshall previously, which is why he will probably see a little time on Defense as well.

    As the season winds down, things just got very interesting in the CFL's East Division.

    Tuesday, October 19, 2010

    Baggs Wins Defensive Player of the Week

    This news should come as no surprise: Stevie Baggs has been named the Defensive Player of the Week for Week 16.

    Baggs had a monster game in Toronto last Friday: seven tackles, two sacks and a Special Teams tackle. Baggs was unstoppable against the Argonauts.

    Since joining the Tiger-Cats in late September, Baggs has steadily improved every week. It is going to be a real treat to see what he will be able to accomplish in 2011 when he really knows the defensive schemes.

    Still think it was a bad signing, Perry Lefko?

    Monday, October 18, 2010

    (Slightly Shorter) Morning-After Thoughts (Week 16)

    I didn't get the chance to watch all the games this week so my thoughts won't be as long as normal. Usually when I miss a game, I will watch a replay later, but I don't have that luxury this week. I saw some of each game, so I will have at least one thought on each contest. I hope to be able to watch all of the games next week.
    1. The Argos should have pulled Cory Boyd, especially after the second injury. I don't know how anyone could think it was OK to put Boyd out there.
    2. It's about time someone took a shot at Chip Cox. He's the CFL's version of Rodney Harrison. He's dirty, plain and simple.
    3. Brock Ralph only has a job because of his birth certificate. Simply put, he's terrible.
    4. Based on the past few weeks, it looks to me like Edmonton wants to make the playoffs more than the Lions. If the Eskies do somehow get into the playoffs, and say they win a game, would that save Richie Hall's job?
    5. Is the Tiger-Cat Defense the best in the CFL? Their front seven definitely are, especially since the addition of Stevie Baggs.
    6. The Argos need a QB; they will not win in the playoffs with Cleo Lemon. He's regressing, not progressing.
    7. That run by Ricky Ray in the first quarter against BC was fantastic. I have never seen the seas part to that extent before. When Ray took off, there wasn't anyone within 40 yards of him.
    8. With the loss, I think Winnipeg's playoff chances are just about nil. They have the foundation for a very good football team. Jyles, Reid, Edwards, Willis, Hunt and Johnson are a great nucleus to build around. They will scare teams next year.
    9. The mystique seems to have worn off Mosaic. That's two consecutive losses by the Riders at home. The West Final might not be so set in stone.
    10. One game. Once again I came one game short of going 4-0. This time it was the Riders that cost me a perfect week. But I had the Cats, Esks and Als, so the 3-1 record puts me at 33-27 on the season.

    Saturday, October 16, 2010

    Hamilton 30, Toronto 3

    That was tremendous. An absolute butt kicking in every conceivable way. This one never seemed in doubt. The Cats had their way with the Argos and smacked them in the mouth from start to finish. It was complete domination by one team over the other.

    Positives
    Gotta start with Baggs, no? I've said it before, and I'll say it again, this guy was worth every penny he's being paid. Two sacks, seven tackles and countless big plays. It was Baggs who stuffed Cory Boyd on an Argos third-and-one gamble. That stuff led to a Tiger-Cat touchdown, which pretty much sealed the game. The guy was an absolute monster out there and he just gets better the more comfortable he gets. He may have been the missing piece to the puzzle. I'm sure #55 jerseys will be dotting the Ivor Wynne landscape before too long.

    Sticking with the Defensive Line, Garrett McIntyre came to play. He had two sacks and two forced fumbles. There were worries about what Baggs's arrival in Hamilton would mean for McIntyre and Justin Hickman, but it looks like those two guys are having no trouble. Hickman had a quiet game, but McIntyre came up large.

    The Defense as a whole just played excellent football. The Cats forced seven Argonaut turnovers, limited any big plays and only gave up three points. The Defense was on last night. Just an outstanding overall performance.

    Special Teams was also dynamite. Marcus Thigpen had some great runbacks, Eric Wilbur hit some beautiful punts and pinned the Argos deep, and the coverage team kept electric Argo Returner Chad Owens bottled up all night long. Another great overall performance by the Special Teams.

    Negatives
    After a 30-3 win, it's hard to find many negatives, but the Offense wasn't great. Kevin Glenn did not have a very good game, making some very poor decisions by throwing into double coverage a lot and throwing two interceptions.

    The Running game was stagnant again. The holes just were not there, and while I commend the team for pounding away, it was tough sledding with minimal results.

    Final Thoughts
    Two straight weeks of dominant football by the Tabbies have allowed them to clinch a playoff spot. Last season, this did not occur until the final week of the regular season. The Cats are now assured of a spot, and securing a home playoff game becomes the goal. This win goes a long way to making that a reality.

    The Cats have now swept the season series with the Argos, and have looked better and better each time they've played. Winning the first game by four, the second game by fifteen and this one by twenty-seven. I don't care what anyone says, but that will be in the heads of the Argos if and when these teams meet in the playoffs.

    The Cats are back in the playoffs for the second straight year. Football, real football, is alive and well in Steeltown. Great, great win.

    Thursday, October 14, 2010

    Hamilton's Playoff Scenarios

    The goal of every team is to win the Grey Cup. But before you can do that, you must make the playoffs.

    As we stand right now, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats are likely to once again be a playoff participant. They currently sit at 7-7 with four games remaining in the season. Barring an unlikely collapse, the Tiger-Cats will be in the playoffs for the second season in a row.

    But where is the fun in just saying something and not delving in deeper? Here are some questions that I will attempt to answer.

    1. Will Hamilton Host the East Final?
    The short answer is no. As things currently stand right now the Tiger-Cats are three games behind the Montreal Alouettes for first place in the East Division. Since the Alouettes already own the season series against Hamilton, that would mean that the Tiger-Cats would have to finish one game above Montreal to snare first in the East. That would mean that the Tiger-Cats would have to win their remaining four games while Montreal loses their final four games. Hamilton's schedule looks like this:
    • at Toronto; vs. Montreal; at Calgary; vs. BC
    Two of those games (at Toronto and vs. BC) should be wins. The other two will be much harder, though not impossible to win. So say Hamilton does win their remaining four games, Montreal still has to lose theirs. Here is what Montreal's remaining schedule looks like:
    • vs. Winnipeg; at Hamilton; at Toronto; vs. Toronto
    We've already established a Hamilton win, but there is no way that the Als will drop one to Winnipeg AND two to Toronto. I cannot see a scenario where Hamilton finishes first in the East.

    2. Will Hamilton Host the East Semi-Final?
    Probably. We have already established that the Tiger-Cats will beat Toronto this coming week. That means that Toronto -- who is likely to be the Tiger-Cats' opponent in the East Semi-Final -- would have to finish one game above Hamilton to host the playoff matchup. We've looked at Hamilton's remaining games, and let's, for the sake of argument, have them finishing 9-9. That would mean that Toronto would need to finish 10-8 to host the East Semi-Final. Here are Toronto's remaining games:
    • vs. Hamilton; at Winnipeg; vs. Montreal; at Montreal
    If the Argos do lose to the Tabbies on Friday, that would mean that the Argos would have to win the rest of their games in order to host the playoff game. That is unlikely. I just cannot see a situation in which the Argos beat the Als twice in a row, let alone in back-to-back games. The Als will probably be resting players as they will have the top seed in the East Division all wrapped up, but that still doesn't mean that the Argos will beat them.

    3. Will Hamilton Miss the Playoffs?
    No. Even a loss this week to the Argos wouldn't kill the Cats. If they did lose, it is likely they wouldn't host the East Semi-Final, but they'd still probably make the playoffs. Winnipeg currently sits at 4-10, and since Hamilton won the season series with the Bombers, Winnipeg would have to finish above the Cats to get into the playoffs. That means a combination of one Tiger-Cat win or one Blue Bomber loss will end any hopes that Winnipeg had of catching Hamilton.

    For a West team to cross over, they too would need to be one game above Hamilton. Right now the two West teams fighting for the final playoff spot are the BC Lions and Edmonton Eskimos. BC sits at 5-9 and Edmonton sits at 4-10. One Edmonton loss means they can't overtake Hamilton. Edmonton's remaining games are:
    • at BC; vs. Saskatchewan; vs. Winnipeg; at Saskatchewan
    That is one tough schedule. They will lose one of those games to the Riders. That ends their chances of crossing over.

    With BC, the situation is very similar, except it would take two losses to end their crossover hopes. The Lions finish the season with games against the following:
    • vs. Edmonton; at Calgary; vs. Saskatchewan; at Hamilton
    Like Edmonton, that's not an easy road either. In fact, BC could lose all of those games and miss the playoffs entirely. Three of those games are very tough, and the game against Edmonton this Saturday will be no gimme since the Eskies are fighting for their playoff lives as well.

    I'd say it is highly unlikely that either of the West teams take Hamilton's playoff spot.

    So after looking at all the teams chasing Hamilton, I think it is safe to assume that the Tiger-Cats will be in the playoffs again in 2010. The only question is where they will finish. That could be decided this week following their game against the Argonauts. Win that game, and the Tiger-Cats are likely hosting the East Semi. Lose it, and it's looking like the Cats will take their fourth trip (one pre-season game, two regular-season games, one playoff game) to the Rogers Centre SkyDome to battle the Boatmen. Where would you rather be on November 14th?

    Preview: Tiger-Cats (7-7) at Argonauts (7-7)





    vs.





    The two longest-standing rivals in North American professional sports battle late in the season with a playoff spot hanging in the balance. Does it get any bigger than this?

    The Argonauts and Tiger-Cats are both likely headed for the playoffs. It would take an epic collapse for either team to miss the post season, which means that this matchup can be billed as a playoff preview because it is highly likely that these two teams will meet in the East Division Semi-Final. The only thing really in dispute is where the playoff game will be played. When was the last time that was said about a Tiger-Cat-Argonaut game?

    Both teams enter this game coming off impressive wins the previous week. The Tiger-Cats dismantled the Edmonton Eskimos at Ivor Wynne. It was about as thorough a beating as the Cats have laid on anyone this season. Hamilton flexed their muscle from the word "Go" and pounded the Eskimos into the Ivor Wynne turf.

    Toronto did something that no other team had been able to accomplish up to this point in the season: go to Regina and beat the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Special Teams, once again, was the catalyst for an Argonaut victory. Also, the Argos hold victories over the Riders, Stamps and Als this season, something neither the Tiger-Cats nor any other team can boast about.

    The key to this game for both teams will be Defense. Can the Tiger-Cats keep Cory Boyd from dictating the pace? In the two previous matchups, Hamilton has done a good job of taking Boyd out of the game and forcing Cleo Lemon to beat them with his arm. A recipe for disaster for the Argos.

    For Toronto, it will be paramount that they not allow Kevin Glenn to get into a rhythm. When Glenn is on his game there is not a better QB in the CFL. The Argonaut Defense will have to pressure Glenn and force him into mistakes.

    The Argonauts will also have to worry about DeAndra' Cobb. Once left for dead, Cobb seemed to get that spark back against the Argos during their first meeting in Toronto. Cobb has come to life, and if not for a couple of costly fumbles, the Cats may already have had their playoff spot wrapped.

    Of course, Hamilton will have to do whatever they can to limit Chad Owens and the rest of the Argonaut Special Teams unit. Week in, week out, the Argos have relied on their Special Teams to get them out of a jam or help win them a game. Limiting returns and not falling for trick plays will be the key for the Tiger-Cats.

    This one should be epic. There is nothing better than watching the Tiger-Cats play the Argonauts. With the added incentive that the winner will secure their playoff spot, this one should be better than any we've witnessed in the past half-dozen years.

    I hope many of the Tiger-Cat faithful will make the short trip down the QEW to the Rogers Centre SkyDome. I know I'll be there. However, if you can't make it, remember to tune into AM900 CHML and Y108 if you'd like to listen on the radio, or turn to TSN or TSN HD to enjoy the game on television from the comfort of your living room.

    Smitty's Selections: Week 16

    Who would have thought that with four games to go all eight teams would still very much be alive in the playoff race? No team has been eliminated yet, and only three teams have assured themselves of a spot in the race to the Grey Cup.

    Hamilton (7-7) at Toronto (7-7)

    Oh baby, this one is HUGE. Winner punches their ticket to the playoffs, it's as simple as that. Both teams are coming off wins. Hamilton demolished Edmonton at home, while Toronto did what no other team had done this season, which is take out the Roughriders in Regina. The Cats have won the two previous matchups, and sweeping a season series is never easy. That said, is there any doubt as to who I'm going to pick?

    Winner: Hamilton, 31-21

    Edmonton (4-10) at British Columbia (5-9)

    Most definitely the biggest game for either team. If Edmonton loses, they're done. They'll be two games back with only three to play. It would also kill any crossover hopes they had. If BC loses, they're suddenly fighting for their playoff lives as they will be tied with Edmonton. This is a must win for both teams.

    Winner: Edmonton, 28-24

    Winnipeg (4-10) at Montreal (10-4)

    What does Winnipeg get for saving their slim playoff hopes? A date with the Alouettes in Montreal. Steven Jyles will be back where he belongs: starting at Quarterback. A win by Montreal would all but guarantee them a bye in the playoffs. As much as I'd love for Winnipeg to get the win, the Als are too strong.

    Winner: Montreal, 40-27

    Calgary (10-4) at Saskatchewan (9-5)

    Game of the Week? Perhaps. The Battle of Ontario should be great as well, but this one has all the makings of a classic. Both teams enter this game coming off losses. Calgary was embarrassed in Montreal, and the Riders were beaten by Toronto. This is about as close as two teams get in the CFL. When it's this tight, you take the home team. Besides, how often do the Riders lose two straight at Mosaic? Not very often.

    Winner: Saskatchewan, 35-31

    Recap
    Hamilton, Edmonton, Montreal, Saskatchewan

    Season Record: 30-26

    Wednesday, October 13, 2010

    Is this the End for Casey Printers?

    It looks like this could be the end of the line for Casey Printers. On Wednesday, Printers was released by the BC Lions.

    Back in 2004, Casey Printers could do no wrong. Over 5,000 yards passing, 44 total touchdowns and he was named the CFL's Most Outstanding Player. Yet his season ended oddly when the day after winning the MOP award, he was benched in favour of Dave Dickenson when the BC Lions lost the Grey Cup to the Toronto Argonauts.

    The following year Printers played sparingly in 2005, but the 2004 season was still fresh in people's minds. His talent was undeniable, and if BC wasn't going to utilize it, someone else would.

    Printers hoped that person would be Herm Edwards. Following the 2005 season, Printers left the CFL and signed with the NFL's Kansas City Chiefs. He sat on the bench and was never given a chance to start for the Chiefs. He was released during the final cutdown in 2007. Printers was now available to the highest bidder. That bidder came from Southern Ontario.

    After a fierce bidding war, Printers signed with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats just prior to Labour Day in 2007. Optimism was in the air, but with hindsight it looks like his tenure in Steeltown was the beginning of the end. To put it bluntly, Printers was terrible in Hamilton. During his one and a half years with the Tiger-Cats, Printers threw only six touchdown passes, and the Cats only won five games while Printers was a member of the team. In early 2009, Printers was released by Hamilton.

    Out of football for months, Printers was, once again, a BC Lion. After a marvelous performance against the Tiger-Cats in the East Division Semi-Final, many thought Printers was about to get back to being the player that dominated the CFL in 2004.

    Printers showed flashes of brilliance in 2010, but he was nowhere near the player he was during his first stint with the Lions. Two weeks ago, Printers was benched in favour Travis Lulay. On Wednesday, Printers was released.

    It is hard to believe that Casey Printers may be done. He's only 29, and he should be hitting his prime. But it looks like Printers will be joining Kerry Joseph and Michael Bishop as big-name QBs who are no longer a part of any CFL team's plan.

    Say whatever you want of Casey Printers on a personal level. Many have called him arrogant, selfish and not a team player. All of those things may be true. But he's also a darn good football player... or at least we all thought so. That 2004 season was a thing of beauty. No one can take that away.

    While this may be the end of the line for Casey Printers, one never knows. Toronto is still looking to find a capable QB, so maybe Printers ends up in the Big Smoke. Anything can happen in the CFL. But when I heard the news that Printers had been released, my initial reaction was that this was it. It just has that feel to it.

    In my opinion, I think we have seen the last of Casey Printers on a CFL roster.

    Campbell to Hamilton?

    Rumours are swirling about a possible trade that would see Eskimos WR Kelly Campbell become the newest member of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

    From what I have heard, the principals of the deal – which stretches back to when the Cats visited the Eskimos back at the beginning of the month – would be Campbell coming to Hamilton with Receiver Chris Bauman heading to the Alberta capital. I'm sure there will be more to the deal than that, but those are the two players being discussed.

    I don't want to say I don't like the deal, but I'm not huge on it. Campbell has had a problem holding on to the ball this year, which is the problem with Bauman. At least Bauman fills a need as a Non-Import. Campbell seems to me like he'd be Maurice Mann 2.0.

    If Campbell is traded here, I would welcome him. He is a dynamic playmaker, and he is perhaps the guy who can take pressure off Arland Bruce. That said, it's not like Bruce – who leads the CFL in receiving yards with 1,237 – needs any help getting open. Also, Maurice Mann was brought here for that very reason, and it's not like that's been a roaring success.

    Bauman would fill a criterion for the Eskimos as new GM Eric Tillman has said it is his mission to replenish the Canadian talent on the roster. The one area where many observers feel the Eskimos are weak is with their Non-Import talent.

    They say where there's smoke, there's fire. The smoke has been building on this for almost two weeks, so there must be something there. Not to mention that Campbell has been out the last three weeks with an ankle "injury." I'm not saying that Campbell wasn't injured, but guys have a tendency to get nicked up just as they are about to be dealt. Campbell was back at practice for the Eskimos today, so perhaps this is all moot. Perhaps this is nothing but rumours and both Bauman and Campbell will stay where they are... or perhaps they won't. We'll know before the end of the week whether Kelly Campbell will wear the Black & Gold in 2010.

    Tuesday, October 12, 2010

    Morning-After Thoughts (Week 15)

    I hope everyone had a Happy Thanksgiving. I love football in the fall, and the two games on Monday are always a great way to end the long weekend. Thanksgiving is one of those times of year where we can enjoy the weather (which was beautiful here in Hamilton) and where the games mean something. Now that the season is coming to a close, some of us have things to be thankful for, while others do not. It all depends on which team's merchandise you wear.
    1. When a guy breaks an all-time record, he goes first. No burying the lead here. Congratulations to Ben Cahoon on breaking Terry Vaughn's record for most receptions in a career.
    2. I understand that when milestones are reached, that the player deserves to have his moment in the sun, but I don't like stopping the game midway through to recognize the accomplishment. It happened back in 2006 when Damon Allen broke the all-time passing yard record and they stopped the game (the Labour Day Classic at Ivor Wynne Stadium) to celebrate Allen's achievement. My main complaint is that it goes against everything we know about football that it's a team sport and individual accolades are only praiseworthy in the context of the team.
    3. So what have the last two weeks proven? For me, nothing I didn't already know. Home teams win more than they lose: 6-2 over the last two weeks. Winning both games of a back-to-back is hard: all eight teams went 1-1 the last two weeks. Nothing was proven the past two weeks.
    4. Congratulations to Tiger-Cat rookie Ryan Hinds on notching his first career interception. That's the first of many for the young Canadian.
    5. The Geoff Tisdale interception was a thing of beauty. Not just ripping the ball out of Fred Stamps's hands, but having the wherewithal to keep his feet in bounds. Great INT.
    6. I think it is safe to say that Perry Lefko is a fool. I know, this hardly comes as news to many CFL followers, but his assertion that Stevie Baggs was a waste of money has turned out to be about the stupidest thing he has ever written. Every week, Baggs makes at least one game-altering play. This week, he made two: a nice sack and a fumble recovery on the opening kickoff of the second half. Stevie Baggs has, so far, been worth every single penny.
    7. I can't recall ever seeing a wedge busted up the way Ike Brown busted one up. I literally jumped out of my seat when he absolutely clobbered an Eskimo. That was as hard a hit as I have seen in a long time.
    8. Edmonton's loss, which puts them at 4-10, really hurt their playoff chances. One more win each by the Argos and Ti-Cats kills any hope of a crossover. However, the Eskimos only sit one game back of BC with four games left to play. While not completely out of it, I would be surprised if the Eskimos were a playoff team in 2010.
    9. Mike O'Shea (Toronto's Special Teams Coordinator) and Jim Barker are showing that they have balls for days. The Statue of Liberty play (which Jamie Boreham pulled off superbly) and the direct snap on two successive punt plays shows that the Argos are not scared of taking chances. Gutsy, ballsy, whatever you want to call it, it worked.
    10. Every time I think Darian Durant is ready to take the next step, he takes two steps backward. His is a very good QB, but all the talk of him being an elite QB or the best QB in the CFL was a bit premature. He has the tools, but he still has a long way to go before he joins the likes of Henry Burris, Ricky Ray and Anthony Calvillo.
    11. With the Argos winning as many games this year as they have the last two seasons combined, is it safe to say that Jim Barker is the CFL's Coach of the Year? No one has done a better job this season than Jim Barker. (Man, that was really hard to type. I feel dirty.)
    12. I don't think there is any player more important to their team's success than Cory Boyd is to the Argonauts. With Boyd in the lineup, the Argos are a different (read: better) team. Boyd is, without a doubt, the most valuable player in the CFL. However, the CFL does not have an MVP award; they have the MOP award. Has Boyd been outstanding? You betcha. Most Outstanding? I gotta give that nod to Calgary QB Henry Burris.
    13. Due to the back-to-back games, TSN showed highlights of Stampeder DB Brandon Browner covering Alouette WR Jamel Richardson. One thing I noticed was that Browner interferes, like, a lot, with Richardson. Browner gets credited as one of the best, if not the best, DB in the CFL, but he does clutch and grab a lot.
    14. While that wasn't the worst outing he's ever had, that was a very bad game by Henry Burris. His four turnovers were the main reason that Calgary was blown out in Montreal. If he shakes it off and shows it was an aberration, he's still my favourite to take home the Most Outstanding Player award in November.
    15. Romby Bryant scored a TD which, to the naked eye, looked incomplete. Bryant was unable to get a foot down before he landed out of bounds, so the pass was called incomplete. Calgary challenged the ruling, and when TSN kept showing the replay, it seemed obvious to me that Bryant's elbow hit in bounds. The command centre agreed and Calgary was awarded a touchdown. Glen Suitor was dumbfounded as to how the call could be overturned because he didn't think there was conclusive evidence to overturn the call. What replay was he watching? It was quite clear that Bryant was in. Suitor might need some new glasses.
    16. Winnipeg's playoff chances still hang by a thread, but that was one awesome comeback this week. Down 21 in the fourth quarter, the Bombers rally to win in double overtime. Like the Eskimos, the Blue Bombers have a tough climb to make the playoffs, but this win was a big one for the franchise going forward.
    17. Is there any doubt that Steven Jyles is the best QB in Winnipeg? Alex Brink looked terrible, absolutely terrible. Steven Jyles comes in, and the Bombers take off. Imagine what they could have done with Jyles on the field for the entire game.
    18. They say that a change of scenery is sometimes needed for a player. For Justin Palardy, that seems to be the case. Usually it doesn't happen during someone's rookie year, but Palardy has been very good since he became a Blue Bomber. He seems to have been miscast as a Punter for the Tiger-Cats, but as a Kicker for the Blue Bombers, he seems to have found a home.
    19. Idiot of the Week is a three-way tie this week. At first, Jonathan Hefney (with four stupid penalties) was the leader in the clubhouse. Then Davis Sanchez (with two stupid penalties on one play) usurps the pole position. After that, Khalif Mitchell (with perhaps the stupidest penalty I've ever seen) takes the crown. The Lions-Bombers game was a Battle of Morons.
    20. Another 2-2 week for me. I nailed the Cats and Als, but lost on the Riders and Lions. That puts me at 30-26 for the year. I think that's pretty good considering this is my first year making predictions.

    Monday, October 11, 2010

    Argo Week, Part 3

    Yes, yes, yes. It's that time of year again. The week I love more than any other week. Ladies and gentlemen, it is...

    ARGO WEEK!

    Just like the Cats will storm into the Rogers Centre SkyDome to sink the Boatmen, I will storm the streets of Toronto in Tiger-Cat gear to annoy Argo fans across their "great" city.

    I have four Tiger-Cat jerseys, and I have to be in Toronto four days this week. Me thinks I'll be wearing a different jersey every day. Who to begin with: Stala, Bruce, Floyd or Glenn?

    Man, I love when the Cats play the Argos. So far Hamilton is 2-0 against the Argos. By the end of the week the Cats will be 3-0 against the Argos and will have punched their playoff ticket. If I play my cards right, I should also be able to get heckled at least once between now and kickoff. In fact, I plan on walking from my work (at St. George and Harbord) all the way to the Rogers Centre SkyDome. Someone should yell at me on my way to the game, right? I'll be walking alone, so you know some gutless Torontonian will have something smart to say to me.

    Ah, the beauty that is Argo Week.

    Friday, October 8, 2010

    Hamilton 36, Edmonton 11

    What a perfect night for a football game. The weather was beautiful with nary a cloud in the sky, and the game itself was fantastic. This might be the most complete game the Tiger-Cats have played since last year's 24-6 beating of the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Just a great night.

    Positives
    I've ripped the guy for almost two years, but I'm going to give Bo Smith some props after the way he played tonight. He was a tackling machine. He wrapped guys up and didn't let them go. I'm not ready to jump on the bandwagon just yet, but if he keeps this up, I'll stop hoping he gets released.

    The entire Secondary deserves kudos as well. They had been brutal the past few weeks, and they came out tonight and stymied Edmonton's passing attack. Fred Stamps lit them up last week, and this week he did nothing. Their backs were against the wall, and there was talk of changes if improvements weren't there. Well, they're all safe for another week.

    It was nice to see Arland Bruce get out of his mini slump. He had been shut down for over a month, but tonight he made plays. It's always nice to see Mr. Bruce go out and get his.

    Kevin Glenn showed tonight that when he is hot, there isn't a better QB in the CFL. It's maddening to think how great Glenn would be if he was consistent.

    Eric Wilbur, as usual, was awesome. There's not much more I can say about him. He's the best Punter we've had since Ozzie left town.

    I know this won't make me many friends, but the offensive play calling tonight was fabulous. Mike Gibson takes a lot of heat from Tiger-Cat fans, some of it deserved, but tonight he called a heck of a game. At no point did the team rest on their lead. They went for the jugular. It was great to see.

    Negatives
    Not a lot of negatives from tonight's game. It was a very thorough beating.

    Dave Stala's fumble was the only mistake the team made. Since Stala rarely fumbles, he'll get a pass.

    The running game wasn't great tonight. Cobb only had 49 yards, but he didn't fumble. The holes just didn't seem there tonight, but since he ran so well the last three weeks, I don't think the running game is a problem. Heck, I'd rather Cobb run for 50 yards with no fumbles and the Cats win than for him to get 150 yards with two fumbles and the Cats lose.

    That's about it.

    Final Thoughts
    This was a great win tonight. The team put together a full 60 minutes and took home a much needed win.

    Now the focus shifts to the Argonauts and getting one step closer to hosting a playoff game. If the Cats can keep the momentum from this one when rolling into the Rogers Centre SkyDome, they should come out with a win.

    But that is for next week. This week, we can all enjoy our turkey and fixins while raising a glass and being thankful for living in a city that has a darn good football team.

    Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

    Thursday, October 7, 2010

    Preview: Eskimos (4-9) at Tiger-Cats (6-7)





    vs.





    I said last week that this game looked like a mismatch on paper, but that games are not played on paper, so anything can happen.

    I guess I got one thing right.

    Last week, Hamilton went to Edmonton and were somewhat exposed. I don't want to call them frauds, but it's pretty darn close. Hamilton got out to an early 21-7 lead, and they should have been able to put that puppy to bed. Instead, they cough up the lead before halftime, and lose the game by two.

    With the venue change, hopefully, comes an outcome change. This is a game that the Tiger-Cats need to win, not just to help push them towards the playoffs, but also to prove to themselves that they can win. After winning four in a row to get to a respectable record, the Cats have lost three of their last four to fall below .500.

    Edmonton, who have won two straight, are looking to continue the momentum they gained during their week in Moncton. The Eskies are now in the thick of the playoff race, and need this win more than the Tiger-Cats do to keep pace with the BC Lions.

    Both teams are hungry, which should make for a very entertaining game on Friday night.

    If you cannot make it out to Ivor Wynne, you can, as always, listen to the game on the radio on AM900 CHML and Y108, or you can watch on television on TSN and TSN HD.

    Smitty's Selections: Week 15

    I have to think that it was intentional, but in another scheduling quirk, every game this week is a rematch from last week. When teams play back-to-back games, I tend to lean towards the team that lost the previous week, especially if the second game is in the loser's stadium.

    Edmonton (4-9) at Hamilton (6-7)

    Last week, the Eskimos stormed back from an early 21-7 deficit to defeat the Cats 37-35. Hamilton's porous Secondary allowed Ricky Ray to shred them almost at will, with Fred Stamps being the main beneficiary. Hamilton was able to move the ball rather effectively, but once again it was turnovers that cost them this game, once again they came at the hands of DeAndra' Cobb. In the last three games, Cobb has turned his season around, but his butterfingers have cost the team the last two games. Instead of sitting at 6-7, the Cats could be 8-5. If Cobb can keep the ball from hitting the ground, the Cats will win this one.

    Winner: Hamilton, 34-24

    Toronto (6-7) at Saskatchewan (9-4)

    Toronto is swooning and Saskatchewan is peaking at just the right time. Even the return of Cory Boyd couldn't stop the bleeding for the Argos. As long as Toronto does not have a capable QB, it will be tough to side with them. The upcoming schedule is brutal for the Boatmen, and it is entirely possible that Toronto doesn't win another game all season. Last week, the Riders won in Toronto; this week the Riders win in Regina.

    Winner: Saskatchewan, 37-21

    Calgary (10-3) at Montreal (9-4)

    In what many were calling a Grey Cup preview, the Stampeders crushed Montreal a week ago at McMahon Stadium. Henry Burris, who has to be the frontrunner for the Most Outstanding Player award, lit up the Als. With this game being played at Percival Molson Stadium, I don't see a repeat performance by the Als. They will not stink the joint out two weeks in a row. Also, it is likely that Ben Cahoon will break the CFL's all-time receptions record in this game. Cahoon needs four receptions to break Terry Vaughn's record of 1,006. Cahoon will get to 1,007 and the Als will get to 10 wins.

    Winner: Montreal, 33-28

    British Columbia (5-8) at Winnipeg (3-10)

    My pick on this game changed when Alex Brink was announced as the starting QB for the Blue Bombers earlier this week. Anyone who has followed this site knows that I am very high on Steven Jyles. The problems in Winnipeg are not on Jyles. He, Terrence Edwards and Fred Reid have been doing everything they can to win football games. Once thought to be dead in the water, the Lions have won four of five since starting 1-7, and look to keep to the momentum going. Last week, the Lions eked out the victory, but with Brink making his first career start, it's hard to go against the Lions.

    Winner: BC, 24-14

    Recap
    Hamilton, Saskatchewan, Montreal, BC

    Season Record: 28-24

    Monday, October 4, 2010

    Morning Afternoon Evening After Thoughts (Week 14)

    With less than one-third of the CFL season remaining, I have one question to ask: do we know anything? What I mean is, at this point in the season, usually we have a pretty good grasp on what's to come. Upsets happen all the time, but the cream usually rises to the top, and by now teams have separated themselves. In 2010, that hasn't happened. Parity has found a home in the CFL.
    1. That was a game that Calgary had to win. At 9-3, and having lost two in a row already, a loss to Montreal could have seen the Stamps drop five straight, with upcoming games at Montreal and at Saskatchewan.
    2. I hate Nik Lewis, I really do. I think he's a loud-mouth idiot. But that hit he laid on Mark Estelle en route to a touchdown made me jump out of my seat. That, in video-game parlance, is called using the truck stick.
    3. Very nice bounce-back game for Henry Burris. When he's on, the Stamps are the best team in football.
    4. Big week for two Calgary Receivers. Ken-Yon Rambo took one catch 100 yards for a TD, and Romby Bryant put together a heck of a game as well. When the Stamps click on all cylinders, I don't see a team that can beat them.
    5. While I doubt it, I hope the rough stuff at the end of the Stamps-Als game carries over to the rematch next weekend. I love when games are played with a hate-on for the opponent. I'm sure nothing will happen, but I hope it does.
    6. The Argos are a different team with Cory Boyd in the lineup. He's by far their best player. If the award was MVP, not MOP, Boyd would be the winner, hands down. He is the most important player for any team, and that includes the top QBs.
    7. While it wasn't a roaring success, I was pleased with Dalton Bell's first start. The play calling was very conservative, so I'll wait to see some more of Bell before I pronounce anything.
    8. Teams always hit a rough patch at some point in the season; the Argos have been in the middle of theirs since mid-August. They've lost five of their last six, and the road ahead isn't easy. The dream season has turned very quickly into a nightmare.
    9. Gotta give it to Andy Fantuz on getting his first 1,000-yard season. Fantuz is probably the best Canadian Receiver in the CFL. (Though Dave Stala ain't too shabby either.)
    10. Where the heck has Ricky Foley disappeared to? All that hype and he's been virtually invisible. Stevie Baggs has made one big play in each of his two games with the Cats, and Foley has been a non-factor after his first play with the Argos. He needs to show up before it's too late.
    11. While I'm asking, what the heck has happened to Wes Cates? This guy was a monster during the first half of the season and he's basically been invisible since Labour Day weekend.
    12. Where would the Bombers be without Terrence Edwards? He is tied for the league lead with 10 TDs and is the league leader in receiving yards. If the Bombers had a better record, more people would recognize just how great a season Edwards is having.
    13. Welcome to the weekly "Josh Smith Praises Steven Jyles Despite a Loss" comment. One of these days, he's going to put it all together and win some games. This guy will be a star. He has it all. Winnipeg will be a very scary team with Jyles.
    14. I know BC has turned it on lately, but their QB problems cannot be ignored. Whether it's Lulay or Printers, the Offense just can't get it together. I know the only stat that matters is wins, but they won't win playoff games with an Offense that scores 16 points. That won't get it done in late November.
    15. Every week a player comes out of nowhere and has a great game. This week it was Greg Peach. Peach's strip of DeAndra' Cobb in the fourth quarter was the turning point of the game. That allowed Edmonton to kick a much needed field goal in a game that was decided by only two points. That was Peach's best play, but hardly his only play.
    16. I already spoke at length about my problems with the Referees, so I won't rip them, but it looked to me like Arland Bruce was mugged on the two-point conversion attempt by the Tiger-Cats. I'm not saying that the play was going to Bruce (in honesty, it didn't look like the play was designed for him), but on the replay the Ref is looking right at Bruce getting taken down and did not throw the flag. I don't mind missed calls, I accept that they are going to happen. But something as blatant as that on such a crucial play needs to be called.
    17. Don't look now, but the Eskimos are right back in the thick of the West playoff race. They sit one game behind the Lions for third in the West, and the Eskimos have a shot to make the playoffs despite their terrible start to the season.
    18. I say often that Arland Bruce is the best Receiver in the CFL. I might have to amend that. Fred Stamps is just out of this world. When healthy, he can play with anyone. Is it any wonder that the Esks started winning games once Stamps came back?
    19. I know it's getting old, but the 13 men on the field thing is reaching beyond Regina. The Stamps were called for it this week, but it also happened in the NCAA. The Tennessee Volunteers were called for too many men against LSU this past weekend. In the US, teams play with 11 players at a time, unlike in Canada, where the game is played with 12. That didn't stop the Vols from having 13 men on the field on the last play of the game against LSU. This penalty also cost the Vols a game. Maybe Tennessee should watch last year's Grey Cup in order to avoid this happening again.
    20. After last week's horrendous 1-3 finish, I rebounded somewhat by posting a 2-2 record. I started the week with two wins, but sputtered out in the final two games. My record for the year now sits at 28-24. Not bad, but not great either.

    Sunday, October 3, 2010

    Edmonton 37, Hamilton 35

    It's getting very frustrating watching this team. For the second straight week, the Cats build a two-touchdown lead, and for the second straight week, they squander it. This team needs to learn how to put the foot on other teams' throats when they have them down.

    Positives
    I think it is safe to say that DeAndra' Cobb has found his groove again. He's hitting the holes with purpose, and has stopped dancing around in the backfield. There is still one area of the game that he really needs to work on, but I'll cover that later.

    Arland Bruce gets blanketed, Dave Stala gets knocked out. No problem, just give the ball to Marquay McDaniel. What a great game by McDaniel. It's nice to know that guys like McDaniel can pick up the slack when other players are struggling.

    Remember when our Punter was a liability? Not the case anymore. Eric Wilbur has been phenomenal since coming to Hamilton. I don't gush over any type of kicker too much, but Wilbur has been great and deserves all the fawning he's getting.

    Stevie Baggs seems to paying off, eh? I ripped Perry Lefko when he said that Baggs was overrated and not worth the money. After two weeks Baggs has a strip-sack and a fumble recovery for a touchdown. Not bad for only being in town for three weeks.

    The kick coverage team, a unit that rarely gets any mention, deserves a shout out as well. They really bottled the Edmonton Kick Returners, and forced a safety on one punt. Not too many people recognize the coverage team's work, but it's time someone gave them a big thumbs up.

    Negatives
    For God's sake, DeAndra' Cobb! The fumbles are killing the Cats. There is never a good time to fumble, but the two worst places are inside the opponent's 20 and inside your own 20. Well, in two weeks, Cobb has three fumbles in those areas. Mistakes in those areas kill teams, and Cobb's miscues have killed the Cats against the Riders and Eskimos.

    The only guarantees are not just death and taxes. Bo Smith sucking is another one. He whiffed huge on a tackle in the first half, and he was beaten badly on a couple of throws. The guy is just terrible.

    I have had it up to here with this bend-but-don't-break garbage. People always talk about how bad Mike Gibson (the Offensive Coordinator) is, yet talk about how great Greg Marshall (the Defensive Coordinator) is. I'm sorry, but if a team puts up 35 points, the Defense should be able to hold the opposition to 34. The Cats seem to always be on the losing end of these shootout games. I'm sick of watching teams march up and down the field against the Cats. It's time to start punching teams in the mouth. This style is the reason the Cats can't hold a lead. Enough is enough.

    Final Thoughts
    This is the second consecutive week that the Cats could have won. I won't say should have, because if they should have won they would have won.

    With the rest of the East Division losing this week, the loss isn't crippling, but it would have been nice to pick up a game on everyone. I already gave up thinking that the Cats would win the East. It would take a big collapse for that to happen now. The Cats are three back, with five to play, but with Montreal having won the season series, the Cats would have to go 4-1 or 5-0 over the last five weeks to even have a chance. Not going to happen.

    However, the Cats can still clinch a playoff spot next week with a win and a Winnipeg loss. That would put the Cats at 7-7 and Winnipeg at 3-11. That means that Winnipeg could only finish tied with the Cats, and with Hamilton having the season series against the Bombers, it wouldn't be enough. But that's next week, and this is about this week.

    The loss today was a tough pill to swallow, but the Esks come to Hamilton next week, and a win there would erase the bitterness of this loss.

    Preview: Tiger-Cats (6-6) at Eskimos (3-9)





    vs.





    On paper, this looks like a mismatch: a 6-6 team playing a 3-9 team. But these games are not played on paper, and this 3-9 team beat a 6-5 team just last week.

    The Cats have been an uneven team since Labour Day. They have won one, then lost one, then won one, then lost one. I guess this could be a good thing as it would mean they are poised to win one in this contest. But they could have won last week, but failed to put a team away at home.

    The good news of the last couple of weeks is that it seems as if DeAndra' Cobb has found his groove. Aside from two costly fumbles, Cobb has played excellently against both BC and Saskatchewan. If they feed Cobb early and often it'll take the pressure off Kevin Glenn and the passing game.

    The Eskimos come into this game with confidence after having dispatched the Argonauts in last week's Touchdown Atlantic game in Moncton. The Esks need to keep winning if they hope to keep their slim playoff hopes alive, and a loss here could be very damaging. Expect Edmonton to come out focused on getting the win in front of their home crowd.

    These two teams will match up again in Week 15, this time at Ivor Wynne. Expect whoever loses this contest to be extra motivated next week. No one wants to lose both games in a back-to-back series.

    As everyone probably already knows, if you want to listen to the game on the radio, AM900 CHML and Y108 have you covered. If, like me, you'll be watching on television, it's TSN and TSN HD for you.

    Friday, October 1, 2010

    Stala Staying in Steeltown

    Earlier today, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats announced that they have signed Dave Stala to a contract extension that will keep in his hometown until 2012.

    Anyone who has read anything I've written about Dave Stala knows how much I like him. Sitting in my closet right now is the Gold jersey that the Tiger-Cats used to wear. On the back of that jersey is the name 'STALA.' I'm not alone in having embraced Stala. His roots in Hamilton made him a fan favourite early, but it was his play on the field that brought even more on board the Stala bandwagon. Dave Stala is easily one of my top-five favourite current Ti-Cats, so it goes without saying that I am extremely happy that Stala will be staying in his hometown for the foreseeable future.

    Stala has been a very consistent on-field performer for the Cats since his arrival from Montreal two years ago. He has been as reliable as any other player, and he just makes plays when needed. I can't heap enough plaudits on Stala.

    I am very glad and very excited that Dave Stala will continue to wear Black & Gold for at least a couple of more seasons. I hope he retires a Tiger-Cat after bringing home a couple of Grey Cup championships.