Monday, 31 October 2011

Morning-After Thoughts (Week 18)

Three-way tie in the West; two-way tie in the East. So much for the final week of the season not having any drama. It is going to have plenty. Nothing was decided this past week. It will all come down to last week of the season for five of the six playoff teams.
  1. After nearly 60 years of hosting football games, CanadInns Stadium played host to its final regular-season contest. It looks like a great place to watch a game, and hopefully the atmosphere is ported over to the new stadium next season.
  2. Maurice Mann suited up for his first game in Double Blue, and was almost invisible. Expect more of that in the future. Mann is a go-to Receiver in his own mind, and Argo fans are going to be very disappointed next season.
  3. The year of terrible officiating continues. How could the refs miss the obvious hit in the back by Dominic Picard on Kenny Mainor that resulted in Mainor receiving a 15-yard penalty?
  4. Continuing on the refs: can someone explain to me how the catch that Chad Owens made is any different than the one Chris Williams made in Montreal? Owens's was (correctly) called a catch; Williams's was (incorrectly) called incomplete. Looked pretty darn similar to me.
  5. More ref stuff: what was with the Keystone Kops routine at the end of the Argo-Bomber game? Winnipeg fans were deservedly angry at what transpired. It was brutal. Someone needs to slap the taste out of Murray Clarke's mouth for being so bloody useless.
  6. On a more positive note, congratulations to Byron Parker on setting the career record for interceptions returned for touchdowns. Just two weeks after tying the record, Parker broke it with his ninth interception touchdown of his career.
  7. I have seen some nasty hits in my time, but the hit that Johnny Sears leveled on Steven Jyles has to be one of the nastiest I have ever seen. It'll be interesting to see what the fallout is from this. Will Sears be suspended? Will the Argo players that Winnipeg Head Coach Paul LaPolice said threatened Sears be disciplined? Should make for an interesting week when it comes to this story.
  8. With Andy Fantuz being shut down for the season, one has to wonder if he has played his last game in Green & White. A free agent come February, Fantuz might try the NFL again, or perhaps sign with another team, but until Fantuz signs his name on a contract with the Riders, the rumours will continue to swirl.
  9. It's not every day that you a 108-yard punt, but that's exactly what Chris Milo did on Saturday in Regina, That ties the CFL record for longest punt. The previous record holder was former Argo Punter Zenon Andrusyshyn.
  10. The Riders may have found the heir apparent to Wes Cates in Brandon West. He ran hard against the Ti-Cats.
  11. This was my first chance to hear Rod Smith do play-by-play, and I have to say I really enjoyed it. I know he did a game earlier this year, but for some reason I didn't get to watch it.
  12. Holy crap! A Jamal Robertson sighting! And he played pretty darn well too.
  13. And a Paris Jackson sighting too! Was it throwback day in BC or something?
  14. Travis Lulay will be the West nominee for Most Outstanding Player. I have made this point before, but Lulay has 28 touchdowns to only 10 interceptions and has thrown for 4,500 yards. The only Quarterback who has more yards and touchdown passes, and less interceptions is Anthony Calvillo. Expectations for Lulay were high entering the season, but he has exceeded them in every way.
  15. The Lions made sure that Jerome Messam did not reach 1,000 yards against them. I suspect that because of Messam's ties to BC, the Lions made it a point to deny him. Messam will still get to 1,000 yards, but BC sure didn't want him to do it against them.
  16. Can someone come up with a better nickname for Brandon Whitaker than "Two Way," please? It's terrible, and in slightly misleading. Being a two-way player means you play Offense and Defense, not that you can catch and run. Someone find Whitaker a new nickname, please.
  17. Speaking of terrible nicknames, did I actually hear Matt Dunigan say that Sean Whyte's nickname is "Legatron"? That has to be a joke, right?
  18. Jamel Richardson continues to stat his case for MOP. The man they call Optimus Prime – a nickname I am fine with, by the way – is the first player in CFL history to have at least 100 receiving yards in 12 games in one season. Richardson has had my vote for MOP since mid-season, and unless something amazing happens next week, he'll keep my vote.
  19. Nice to hear that Matt Dunigan is on board with every scoring play being automatically reviewed. Hopefully, Dunigan can use his soapbox to get that changed made.
  20. I was on a pretty hot streak recently, but that all ended with a pitiful 0-4 showing this past week. That said, I don't that any pundit did better than 2-2 in Week 18. The BC win is one most people got right. But I doubt highly that there were many, if any, that nailed Toronto (over heavily favoured Winnipeg), Saskatchewan (over moderately favoured Hamilton) and Calgary (over heavily favoured Montreal). Anyway, after that showing, my overall record is down to 39-29. Not bad, but 50 correct picks is now officially out the window. Maybe next year.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Saskatchewan 19, Hamilton 3

When the most exciting thing that happened in the game was a 108-yard punt, you know not much of consequence happened. It was a game that mattered little to the Tabbies, and it showed. Nothing went right. The worst part is, despite playing like garbage, Hamilton could have won the game. That's probably the most upsetting thing.

Positives

The more I see of Carlos Thomas at Safety, the more I like it. His coverage skills were never that great, but the guy can hit.

Hard to fault the Defense in this one. In the CFL, if you only give up 19 points, that should be enough to win. Justin Hickman and Stevie Baggs had decent games. The Secondary lost a few of the battles, but didn't give up much. The Defense can be satisifed with their performance.

Negatives

The two red zone interceptions by Kevin Glenn really sting. The first came after what looked like a sure touchdown, and the second was just a bad read. Turn those two interceptions into touchdowns, and it is a different game.

Quinton Porter did nothing to move the team in the first half, and did nothing to separate himself from Glenn. Porter's accuracy was terrible the entire time he was in he game. Despite how poorly Glenn played with his four interceptions, he is still the better Quarterback.

It was nice to see the team use Avon Cobourne in the last six minutes of the game, but where was that in the first 54 minutes? Cobourne is a guy that needs 15-18 touches per game to be effective. The team abandoned the running game way too early, and with a horse like Cobourne in the backfield, they need to keep plowing away.

Whoever was responsible for calling that fake punt needs to give their head a shake. That was almost as bad as the one BC tried to pull off last week. It was just a stupid call.

Final Thoughts

The talk leading up to this game was how Hamilton would use it as a playoff primer. If this is how they are going to play in Montreal or Winnipeg in two weeks, that will be the final game of the season for the Cats. There was no emotion from the team. It truly seemed like they didn't care.

Now 9-9 looks like the record the Cats will finish with for the third straight season. As much as that is a vast improvement over the records from 2005-2008, it's no longer good enough. It's looking more and more like something has to change to get this team over the hump. Of course, with the way this season has gone, the Cats could stroll into the East Division Semi-Final and blowout their opponent.

But before the playoffs, the Tabbies travel one more time to the friendly confines of the Rogers Centre SkyDome for one last game against the hated Argonauts. I'm sure we'll see a different team than the one we saw today. That's just how this team, and this season, has gone. Bad one week, great the next.

This week they were bad; very, very, very bad. But they still could have won the game. That's the most disappointing part. So a great game is coming. Would it be too much to ask that said game be played on November 13th?

Friday, 28 October 2011

Preview: Tiger-Cats at Roughriders

8-8
4-12
Hamilton took care of business last week against an injury-depleted BC Lion teams. The same could happen this week against an even more injury-depleted Saskatchewan Roughrider team.

The Riders will enter this game without the services of Quarterback Darian Durant, Receiver Andy Fantuz and Linebacker Barrin Simpson, all of whom have been shut down for the year. Saskatchewan was going to have a tough time against the Cats to begin with, but losing three key players (to be fair, Fantuz hasn't been much of a factor since his return from the NFL) will make it even tougher for the Riders.

Hamilton enters this game coming off a very impressive showing against BC. The Cats hammered the Lions to the tune of 42-10. The score masked a somewhat poor offensive showing, but the Defense and Special Teams came to play.

The biggest positive to take from last week's game, was the improved play of the Secondary. The group of Carlos Thomas, Woodny Turenne, Marcel Young, Bo Smith and Dee Webb put the clamps on two Hall of Fame Receivers, giving the team hope that the Secondary is no longer a concern. Their play also allowed the Front Seven to get pressure and make plays. If that performance can be repeated, the Cats will have success.

Neither of these teams have anything to play for. Saskatchewan is already eliminated from playoff contention, and Hamilton's seeding is already set. Rider players will be playing for jobs in 2012, and Ti-Cat players will be looking to sharpen their games for a post-season run.

This game has the peculiar start time of 3:00PM EST on Saturday. If you want to catch the game, tune into TSN or AM900 CHML. And don't forget to follow Dief on Cats on Twitter as he provides his unique take on the action.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Smitty's Selections: Week 18

There are two weeks left in the regular season, but nearly everything can be decided this weekend. The playoff seeding in both divisions could be all wrapped up in a tidy bow by the final whistle on Sunday, with one exception. Winnipeg can clinch the East's top spot with a win and a Montreal loss. Edmonton can claim the West title by beating BC. Calgary can be stuck in third if they lose to Montreal and BC beats Edmonton. Should make for an interesting week and an end to the season.

Toronto at Winnipeg

On the surface, it would be ridiculous to take Toronto, but Saskatchewan is as bad, if not worse than the Argos and they beat Winnipeg twice, so the Argos have a chance, right? Not really. Winnipeg by at least two touchdowns.

Winner: Winnipeg, 34-20

Hamilton at Saskatchewan

Neither team has anything to play for, with Hamilton being stuck in third in the East and Saskatchewan having already been eliminated from playoff contention. The Riders – having shelved Darian Durant, Andy Fantuz and Barrin Simpson – are clearly looking to next year. Hamilton wants to build on their big win last week against BC. The Riders will put up a fight for about three quarters, but Hamilton will take control and win going away.

Winner: Hamilton, 31-18

Edmonton at British Columbia

The no-brainer Game of the Week. BC is coming of a humiliating loss at the hands of the Tiger-Cats, and will want to find that winning formula that helped them claim victory in the previous eight games. Edmonton comes in after barely escaping Toronto with a win. Neither team can feel comfortable heading into this first-place showdown. The Eskies helped open BC place back in September, so they know what to expect from that crowd. Injuries are starting to pile up for the Lions, and that will be their downfall. The Eskimos escape with a narrow victory.

Winner: Edmonton, 27-24

Calgary at Montreal

Drew Tate's first road start couldn't be much harder. Winning in Montreal has not been easy for anyone since Marc Trestman took over the Als in 2008. Anthony Calvillo is coming off one of his worst days as a professional, and there is no way he throws up two stinkers in a row. With the home crowd solidly behind them, the Als take it.

Winner: Montreal, 38-25

Recap
Winnipeg, Hamilton, Edmonton, Montreal

Season Record: 39-25

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Cats Add Daniel Porter

Quinton is no longer the lone Porter on the Tiger-Cats, as Hamilton have signed former Edmonton Eskimo Running Back Daniel Porter.

The Tabbies have been looking for a backup Running Back ever since Terry Grant was injured against Montreal two weeks ago, and it now looks like they've found their man.

Porter played well during his time in Edmonton, but lost his spot to Jerome Messam earlier this season. The former Louisiana Tech star ended last season on a strong note, with four straight 100-plus-yard games. That lead to high expectations for him in 2011, but the sudden emergence of Messam early in the season made Porter expendable.

He is a very capable player, and is a nice insurance policy and backfield mate for Avon Cobourne.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Medlock Named Special Teams Player of the Week

After going seven for seven on Saturday, Justin Medlock has deservedly been named the Special Teams Player of the Week. This is the second time that Medlock has won the award, the other coming in Week 3.

Now the attention turns to Medlock's year-end candidacy. There have been three outstanding Special Teams players this year: Medlock, Sean Whyte (Montreal) and Paul McCallum (BC).

They all stand up very well with one another. They are one, two and three in most categories, like percentage and points.

Where Medlock stands out is in distance. His average kick is from 37.7 yards, which is six yards higher than McCallum, and nearly eight yards higher than Whyte. Medlock also has the longest kick of the year (57 yards) and has made more 50-yard-plus kicks than the other two combined.

It will be a tight race, but it is not out of the realm of possibility to see Justin Medlock take home the Special Teams Player of the Year award. We'll have to wait and see.

Power Poll (Week 17)

Two weeks left to go and still so much left to be decided. Only one team (Hamilton) knows where they will finish. The other five teams could all finish in multiple positions. That means teams will have something to play for... at least for one more week.

1. Edmonton Eskimos (Last Week 3)

Beating the Argos doesn't mean much, but the win gave the Eskimos sole possession of first place in the West, and they can secure the first-round bye with a win over BC in Week 18. If the Eskies play like they did for most of Friday's game against the Argonauts, first place will be theirs.

2. Winnipeg Blue Bombers (Last Week: 4)

Big, big win for the Bombers. Now all Winnipeg has to do is keep pace with the Als and they will be hosting either Montreal of Hamilton in the East Division Final. With their final two games against the Argos and Stamps, it is likely that Winnipeg will be getting the bye.

3. Montreal Alouettes (Last Week: 2)

Anthony Calvillo played perhaps the worst game of his professional career. Under 200 yards, no touchdowns and three interceptions is not the stat line you expect to see next to his name. Montreal could have clinched the East Division with win, and now they have to hope Winnipeg stumbles if they want the East Division Final to be played at Olympic Stadium.

4. British Columbia Lions (Last Week: 1)

Their winning streak came to a screeching halt, they lost some more players to injury, and their all-world Kicker threw one of the worst passes in football history. It could not have gone any worse for the Lions than it did in Hamilton. But that all goes away if they beat Edmonton this week.

5. Hamilton Tiger-Cats (Last Week: 5)

With the Cats being the lone playoff team that knows where they will finish, they have the unenviable task of deciding whether to rest players to get them fresh for the playoffs or play them to keep sharp. We'll see what they do, but with two winnable games to finish the season, a nice three-game winning streak could give the Cats the momentum they need to go on the road and upset a team or two.

6. Calgary Stampeders (Last Week: 6)

Drew Tate looked equal bits good and bad in his first start, which wasn't surprising. He'll get better as time goes on, and it will be interesting to see how he performs in his first road start against the Alouettes.

7. Toronto Argonauts (Last Week: 7)

Say what you want about the Argos, but they still have some fight left in them. They are going out there and giving it an honest effort. That should at least be encouraging to their fans.

8. Saskatchewan Roughriders (Last Week: 8)

Can someone tell me why Darian Durant is even dressed? He has a broken bone in his foot, and with the season over for the Riders, it is time to give some backups some playing time. Get Durant in civvies and begin the planning for 2012.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Morning-After Thoughts (Week 17)

Uncertainty still reigns in the CFL. We know that Hamilton will be on the road for the playoffs, but that's the only thing we do know. Edmonton, BC and Calgary all still have a shot at first in the West, and Montreal and Winnipeg still have to decide who wants to be the East Division champions. A lot could be decided by the end of next week, but like everything in the CFL this year, we'll have to wait and see.
  1. Sad news this week as the CFL mourns the loss of Tommy Grant. Grant spent the majority of his career with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, appearing in nine Grey Cups. I never had the opportunity to watch Grant play, but from all the stories, he was truly one of the greats. He will be missed.
  2. The CFL (and TSN) unveiled a new marketing slogan this week: "No Lead is Safe." I think it's lame. Very, very lame.
  3. It was the CFL Pink weekend (as I'm sure you all noticed) where the CFL did their part to help "tackle women's cancers." From all the pink that was worn and sold, it looks like it will be a big success. (But next year, please do away with the pink flags.)
  4. And now that the CFL has shown they will do their part to help, it's time they got out there and supported the Movember movement. With the majority of CFL fans being males, it only makes sense for the league to do something to help promote a very worthwhile cause.
  5. Chad Owens had a fumble problem on Friday. Twice he fumbled the football when no one was around him; he simply just dropped the ball. You can't let that happen once, let alone twice.
  6. That's the Fred Stamps we all know.
  7. Excellent onside kick by the Argos. Loved the execution.
  8. With all the talk of Henry Burris heading to Toronto in the off-season, I will state one last time: Quarterback is not the problem in Toronto! It wasn't the problem with Cleo Lemon and it's not the problem with Steven Jyles. Yes, the play from the QB could be better, but the Argos are not losing (or at least were not losing when Lemon was piloting the Offense) because of the man under Centre.
  9. It is complete inexplicable, and downright moronic even, to have Darian Durant playing in a meaningless game with a broken bone in his foot. The Riders are out, and this time could be better used by evaluating younger players to see if they have a future in Saskatchewan. Get Durant off the field!
  10. Drew Tate's first start had its ups and downs, but he showed exactly why so many – including myself – think he is going to be a star in the CFL.
  11. I've seen some bad Offenses in my day – anyone remember the Joe Paopao era in Hamilton? – but Saskatchewan going over 18 quarters without an offensive touchdown ranks up there with the worst of all time.
  12. Was that Joffrey Reynolds I saw on Friday night?
  13. Welcome back to the CFl, Jamie Boreham
  14. Can someone, anyone, explain to me why the Bombers ran that play with three seconds left in the first half?
  15. What was Winnipeg thinking with those rugby-style punts?
  16. That had to be one of he five worst games of Anthony Calvillo's career. He was off his game from the very beginning.
  17. It started strong, with a catch on the first play from scrimmage, but Arland Bruce's return to Hamilton was nothing more than a footnote after the game. Bruce, like the entire BC Offense, was a complete non-factor.
  18. It seemed as if Saturday was "Stupid Play Day" as BC tried one of the worst fake punts in the history of professional football. It makes no sense to call that play, and it looks especially bad because it was intercepted by Ray Mariuz, who took it to the house for his first career touchdown.
  19. With two games left, and 226 yards separating them, one has to wonder if Geroy Simon will break Milt Stegall's receiving yards record this year or next.
  20. Winnipeg's comeback (or Montreal's choke job, depending on your perspective) was the only blemish on the record this week. Another 3-1 puts my overall total at a very respectable 39-25. Getting to 50 wins is likely out of the question (I'd have to 11-2 over the final two weeks and playoffs), but I have improved in my amateur prognostication from last season.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Hamilton 42, BC 10

With nothing left to play for – Winnipeg beat Montreal to secure a home playoff game – the Ti-Cats came out and ended BC's eight-game winning streak with a good, old-fashioned butt kicking. It was a nice farewell for the fans, as that was the last home game for the Tiger-Cats in 2011. This was a full team effort, and showed what this Tiger-Cat team can do when they are clicking.

Positives

The entire Defense played out of their mind. Pick a player and he played great. Rey Williams was all over the field; Ray Mariuz, who was filling in for the injured Jamall Johnson, played as well as I have ever seen him play; the entire Secondary, but especially Bo Smith and Woodny Turenne, had blanket coverage on the Lions' Receivers. It was a dominating defensive performance.

It truly looks like the game has slowed down for Quinton Porter. He still makes a few mistakes, but for the most part, he looks to have learned from his two years on the bench. The mental side of the game was always the issue – Porter has all the physical tools to dominate, and that was never the concern – but it looks like Porter may have taken that step. It's a very positive development that can only help the team.

Lavishing praise on Justin Medlock is almost a given, but his virtuoso seven-field-goal performance was the stuff of legend. Medlock accounted for 24 of Hamilton's 42 points, and just when it seems like he's done it all, he does something else spectacular. I don't think I'm alone when I say I am really glad that Medlock is on the team.

Negatives

Not much to complain about when the margin of victory is 32 points, but one thing stuck out like a sore thumb: Avon Cobourne. Cobourne had one of his worst games as a Tiger-Cat, dropping three very catchable passes and fumbling one play after Auggie Barrenechea made his first career catch to set the Cats up in BC territory. Knowing the type of player that Cobourne is, he'll be harder on himself than anyone. There will be no repeat performance coming from Cobourne any time soon, but he still deserves to be called out for the game he played.

Final Thoughts

No more Ivor Wynne in 2011, but now the Cats can spend their next two games getting polished for the playoffs. Perhaps the back-to-back road games will be a positive heading into the playoffs because they'll have to win consecutive games on the road if they want to get to the Grey Cup.

This was one of those statement-type wins. BC came into the game having not lost since August 13th and Hamilton took them to the proverbial woodshed and beat them senseless. It's the type of win that can catapult a team to great things. It's a win that can build confidence as the playoffs near.

Next up, a trip to Regina to play the struggling Roughriders. It'll be interesting to see which Tiger-Cat team shows up. If it's the one that played tonight, the game will never be in doubt.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Preview: Lions at Tiger-Cats

9-6
7-8
Arland Bruce's return to Hamilton.

The Tiger-Cats using two Quarterbacks.

Two playoff teams looking to find their spot.

All of those things could be the main storyline heading into the game between the Lions and Ti-Cats. But one thing seems to dwarf them all:

Injuries.

Both teams come in missing some major contributors. Hamilton will be without the services of Linebacker Jamall Johnson, Receiver Chris Williams and Running Back Terry Grant. The Lions will be missing Defensive Lineman Khalif Mitchell, Kick Returner Tim Brown and, probably most importantly, Linebacker Solomon Elimimian (who missed last week's game as well).

With both teams coming in without key players, it should be interesting to see who steps up in their absence.

The Ti-Cats need to win this game if they have any hope of hosting the East Division Semi-Final. A loss and they are on the road for the duration of their playoff run. The Lions are in the thick of things for first in the West, so this is meaningful for them as well.

It'll be interesting to see how Head Coach Marcel Bellefeuille works his two Quarterbacks this week. While the end result wasn't there last week, the decision to play both Kevin Glenn and Quinton Porter wasn't the unmitigated disaster some – like myself – thought it would be. Both players had their ups and downs, so seeing how both players are used this week will be worth watching.

Like when any former player returns, the reception Arland Bruce receives will be worth keeping an ear on. I would suspect that Bruce will be met with both cheers and boos, but I think (and hope) that it is more the former and less of the latter.

This is also the Tiger-Cats final home game of the 2011 regular season. No doubt they want to go out with a win.

If you won't be heading down to Ivor Wynne Stadium, you can catch the game on television on TSN or on the radio on AM900 CHML. Also, do not forget to hit up Dief on Cats on Twitter as he tweets about the game from his seat at Ivor Wynne. The fun begins at 7PM EST, and in the immortal words of the late Billy Red Lyons, "Don'tcha dare miss it."

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Smitty's Selections: Week 17

The last three weeks have been very kind to yours truly. I have managed to go a very impressive 10-2 over that span, and my 50-win season is still alive. I need 13 wins in the next 17 games (that does count the playoffs). Hard, but not impossible. A couple of 4-0 weeks would really help. Here's hoping this s one of them.

Edmonton at Toronto

The Argos not so shockingly beat the Stamps last week. Unfortunately for Toronto, Edmonton isn't Calgary. The Eskimos still have a very good shot at claiming first in the West. The Eskimos will use what happened to Calgary last week and avoid a similar fate.

Winner: Edmonton, 31-19

Saskatchewan at Calgary

What is the best medicine for a struggling team? Facing moribund Roughriders. Saskatchewan is terrible and has nothing to play for; Calgary still has hopes, small hopes they may be, on getting a home playoff game. Drew Tate will start for the Stamps, and if he is half as good as he was in relief of a struggling Henry Burris last week, the Stamps will take this one easily.

Winner: Calgary, 34-12

Montreal at Winnipeg

This one is simple: Winnipeg has to win if they hope to claim a first-round bye. A Montreal victory would give the Als the division crown for the fourth straight year; a Winnipeg win ties them with Montreal and gives them the head-to-head tiebreaker. This will be a good game, but Montreal will find a way to pull it out.

Winner: Montreal, 29-26

British Columbia at Hamilton

Recent history suggests that BC should win this game. No, not because of the eight game winning streak, but because of the last six games played between these teams, the road team has won all but one (Hamilton beat BC at Ivor Wynne in 2009). With BC probably being the best team in the league right now, and with Hamilton struggling, the smart bet is the Lions. I'm taking the Ti-Cats.

Winner: Hamilton, 31-27

Recap
Edmonton, Calgary, Montreal, Hamilton

Season Record: 36-24

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Calling For Change

With just under six minutes left to play in the fourth quarter of Sunday's game between the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Montreal Alouettes, the Ti-Cats were scrimmaging first and 10 from the Als' 29-yard line. Kevin Glenn threw a pass to the end zone towards Chris Williams. The catch was made simultaneously by Williams and Montreal Defensive Back Seth Williams. When both players came down to the ground, the ball was knocked loose and the ruling on the field was incomplete.

The ruling on the field was wrong.

In watching a replay of the play (the play itself starts at 16:08, and replays are shown at 16:32, 16:45 and 17:32), it is clear to see that Chris Williams catches the pass, takes four steps, falls to the ground out of bounds before Seth Williams knocks the ball out of the hands of Chris Williams.

When TSN showed a replay of questionable play, both Gord Miller and Matt Dunigan said that the call on the field should have been a touchdown.

Under normal circumstances, Hamilton would have challenged the call and had it reversed; however, Hamilton had used their challenge earlier in the game, so they did could not challenge the play.

Prior to the start of their 2011 season, the National Football League instituted a new rule that sees every scoring play reviewed automatically by the replay booth to ensure that the correct call was made. It is a great rule, one that prevents coaches for using challenges to review scoring plays while also making sure that the correct call is made. Scoring plays are the most crucial calls in the game, and an incorrect one could be the difference between winning and losing. (For the record, Hamilton lost to Montreal 27-25.)

The CFL however, has no such rule in place, but they should.

In fact, the CFL should take it one step further and make all potential scoring plays automatically reviewable. This way, a mistake such as the one made on the play above does not stand. Or, the ruling on the field does stand and everyone from player to coach to media member to fan can get a clear interpretation on what is and isn't a catch.

I put this same idea out there earlier in the week, both here and on various CFL-related fora, and the response is mixed. Not-so-surprisingly, it seems that the vast majority of Tiger-Cat fans are behind such a rule change, while fans of other teams – mostly Montreal Alouette fans – are the ones most strenuously objecting to it.

What seems to be the main point of contention is that adding these replays would make the games last longer.

That's a nonsense claim.

First off, the games have not lasted much longer in the NFL this season with their rule change. Secondly, any additional time added-on to games because of this rule would benefit, not detract, for the overall enjoyment of the game. It's more important to get the call right than to get the call quickly.

The human element will always be a part of football, but the ability to make sure the correct call gets made is available. It seems illogical to stand in the way of progress.

I hope the CFL seriously considers making this small, but crucial change prior to the start of the 2012 season.

Most Outstanding Rookie

The CFL released the list of eligible players for the Most Outstanding Rookie award earlier today. The award itself will be handed out at the Gibson's Finest CFL Player Awards on November 24th in Vancouver as part of the Grey Cup festivities.

Hamilton's Chris Williams is the odds-on favourite to win the award, but Clarence Denmark, Kenny Mainor, Craig Butler and JC Sherritt all have a legitimate shot as well.

Last year's winner was Solomon Elimimian, who was a very deserving choice. The year before, it was Martell Mallet, who was also deserving. But in those two years, two equally, if not more so, deserving players were ineligible for the award because of a rule that prevented them from being considered. Both Cory Boyd (in 2010) and DeAndra' Cobb (in 2009) were not up for the award in their first CFL season because they had spent time in the NFL.

Neither Boyd nor Cobb never so much as touched the football in their brief NFL careers, but one of the rules of eligibility is that a player must not have "dressed for a member Club in the National Football League" in a regular- or post-season game. Both players did, and were therefore disqualified from being nominated.

I can understand why the rule is the way it is. If a long-time NFL player came to the CFL, it would be hard to deem him a rookie because of his extensive pro career. It is also not an unprecedented move. Wayne Gretzky was ineligible for the Calder Trophy in the NHL in 1979-80 because he played in the WHA. Instead, the award went to Ray Bourque.

Rules are rules, but sometimes they are silly rules. Just because a player suited up for an NFL team in the final week of the season – as Boyd did with the Denver Broncos in 2008 – does not mean he should not be able to be named the top rookie in the CFL. As great as Elimimian was in 2010, Boyd was greater. His time in the NFL didn't make him greater and had no impact on his ability to produce in the vastly different Canadian game.

The best way I can think of is keep the rule as is, but allow for exceptions. Let a player, prior to the season, petition the league to allow himself to be eligible for the Most Outstanding Rookie award. Not all cases are the same, and the league can go on a case-by-case basis to allow players who are ineligible based on the rules in place, like Boyd and Cobb, to be deemed eligible.

That one change would allow for the truly great players to be given their proper due.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Power Poll (Week 16)

With three weeks left to go, the six playoff teams have been decided. All that is left to figure out is who plays who when. While every scenario is still possible, some are more likely than others. If I had to put on my prognosticator hat, I'm going to say the East will end up being Montreal in first, Winnipeg in second and Hamilton in third. In the West, it'll be Edmonton in first, BC in second and Calgary in third.

1. British Columbia Lions (Last Week: 1)

What can be said about the Lions that hasn't already been said a hundred times? They've won eight in a row and look unstoppable. They have a front-runner MOP candidate in Travis Lulay, the soon-to-be all-time receiving yards holder in Geroy Simon and the winningest coach in CFL history in Wally Buono. That's a championship recipe.

2. Montreal Alouettes (Last Week: 2)

Montreal has shown signs of weakness. In the past, the Als never would have let a team – in this case, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats – claw back into a game and nearly force overtime. With the team dismissing prized free-agent acquisition Dwight Anderson, there is a bit of turmoil in Montreal. That said, they have the league's best record and are win this week away from clinching another division title.

3. Edmonton Eskimos (Last Week: 4)

The Eskimos hold their playoff seeding in their own hands. They have two easy wins against the league's two bottom feeders and one last date, in Vancouver, with the Lions. Win all three, and the Eskimos are getting home cookin' in the playoffs.

4. Winnipeg Blue Bombers (Last Week: 3)

Winnipeg has stumbled, big time, since their hot 7-1 start. They are 2-5 since, and a loss to Montreal this week would hand the division title, once again, to the Alouettes. One of Winnipeg's two wins has come against the Als (in Montreal, no less), so despite their recent struggles, the Bombers are far from out of it.

5. Hamilton Tiger-Cats (Last Week: 6)

Losing to the Als by two points is nothing to be ashamed about, but mistakes cost the Ti-Cats last Sunday. With the hottest team in the CFL coming to Hamilton this week, those mistakes will have to be minimized if the Cats hope to pull out a victory.

6. Calgary Stampeders (Last Week: 5)

The Drew Tate era looks set to begin this week, as Tate has been kinda, sorta, maybe, named the Stamps starting Quarterback. Henry Burris has been terrible for over a month, so it is now Tate's time to shine.

7. Toronto Argonauts (Last Week: 7)

Simply put, the Argos look to be putting in an effort. Heck, they actually won this past week. And at least they found the end zone. Those statements cannot be made when talking about Saskatchewan.

8. Saskatchewan Roughriders (Last Week: 8)

Remember when everything was Greg Marshall's fault? The Riders play with no heart, no effort, and it shows in the fact that they haven't scored a touchdown in over four games! But, yeah, this mess was all because of Marshall.

Highest Climb: Edmonton, Hamilton (+1)
Steepest Fall: Calgary, Winnipeg (-1)

Monday, 17 October 2011

Morning-After Thoughts (Week 16)

The six playoff teams are set, and they are a surprise to no one. The seeding is still left to decided, but we know one of Montreal, Winnipeg, Hamilton, British Columbia, Edmonton or Calgary will be hoisting the Grey Cup in Vancouver in November. With so much parity in the CFL this season, I wouldn't be surprised if any of the six teams won the whole thing.
  1. Damon Allen, Milt Stegall, Tyrone Jones, Jack Abendschan, Eric Lapointe, Peter Connellen and Hamilton's David Braley are your 2012 inductees into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame. Congratulations to all seven men.
  2. The Wendy's Kick for a Million contest is one of my favourites. I can't tell you why I like it so much, but I do.
  3. I won't say it's the greatest year for Canadian talent in the CFL, but there does seem to be a plethora of great Canadian players, especially on Offense. Great Canadian talent is one of the keys to success in the CFL, and the teams that have been the most successful this year seem to have the most talent that hails from north of the border.
  4. The loss by Calgary probably means they are on the road for the duration of their playoff run.
  5. Is it time we close the book on the Henry Burris era in Calgary? After the way Drew Tate played on Friday night, it looks like it might be.
  6. I think Cory Boyd proved his point tonight. Give him the ball and good things happen for the Argos. He is, without a doubt, their best player, and if they want to win (even though it doesn't matter now), they need to ride him.
  7. Congratulations to Byron Parker on tying the CFL record for interceptions returned for touchdowns. He now has eight, and with his career far from over, he will probably have the record all to himself before he hangs up his cleats.
  8. The injury suffered by J'Michael Deane was one of the more gruesome I have seen in all my years of watching football. I wish him a speedy and full recovery.
  9. Edmonton has allowed 11 points in their last two games. I don't care if they are playing a team full of armless Ewoks, that's impressive.
  10. With the way that Chris Garrett has played, I wonder if the running problems had more to do with Fred Reid than anything else.
  11. I've asked it before and I'm going to ask it again: what the heck is up with Terrence Edwards? Why is he seeing so little action?
  12. Can someone explain to me how Damon Duval still has a job? He's about as reliable as Sandro DeAngelis on a "windy" day at Ivor Wynne.
  13. With all the praise that Jamel Richardson is getting, S.J. Green has kind of become a forgotten man in Montreal. It seems like forever since his name was mentioned prominently following an Alouettes game. Maybe it's because of what Richardson is doing, but I expected Green to be a bigger part of the Als Offense this season.
  14. It was a bad week for injuries. Just when I thought the aforementioned J'Michael Deane injury was the worst I had seen, Terry Grant gets pretty much the same injury. I wish Grant a full and speedy recovery.
  15. After the missed call on the Chris Williams non-TD catch – it should have been a TD – I hope the CFL will consider a change to the review/challenge system. The NFL recently made a change that made all scoring plays automatically reviewable. I think the CFL should take it one step further and make all potential scoring plays automatically reviewed by the booth. That would ensure that the Williams non-TD catch gets called properly in the future.
  16. Now that Saskatchewan's season is over, it's time to sit Darian Durant. The Riders have nothing left to play for, so there is no reason to put Durant out there and risk further injury.
  17. I think, barring something unforeseen, Travis Lulay will be the West nominee for Most Outstanding Player. He'll probably lose it to one of the Montreal three (Anthony Calvillo, Jamel Richardson or Brandon Whitaker), but Lulay getting the West nomination will be an achievement in and of itself.
  18. The Riders may have scored double digits for the first time in three weeks, but they still did not manage to score a touchdown. Saskatchewan has now gone over four games without finding the end zone. That is an almost unfathomable streak of offensive ineptitude.
  19. Changes need to come in Saskatchewan. There will likely be a new Head Coach in 2012, but the Riders also need a talent infusion. I think, like the Argos, the Riders should play their Practice Roster players and see what they have. They have nothing to lose.
  20. Only one incorrect pick again this week, and it came courtesy of the Stamps when they decided to gift a victory to the Argos. That makes me 10-2 over the last three weeks, and gives me an overall mark of 37-24.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Montreal 27, Hamilton 25

Five plays. It was five plays that decided a surprisingly competitive game between the Cats and Als. Everyone, myself included, expected Hamilton to get walloped. It looked like that would be the case when the Cats could pick up yards, but had a hard time scoring touchdowns. Then the Tabbies staged a spirited comeback that fell just short. At the end of the day it was five plays – three by the Cats and two by the officials – that decided the outcome of this game.

Positives

The much maligned Secondary didn't play too bad. Yes, Anthony Calvillo threw for over 350 yards, but that had more to do with the Cats getting very little pressure. Dee Webb played well in his first game with Hamilton, especially considering he was guarding Jamel Richardson (aka the best Receiver in football) all game. Some nice plays were made by the other DBs, and the play of Woodny Turenne was admirable considering it was his first game.

The two-Quarterback system was not great but it didn't hurt either. Quinton Porter couldn't get the team in the end zone, during the bulk of his playing time (he threw a touchdown to Dave Stala late in the fourth quarter after Kevin Glenn was injured), but he did move the ball and he made some very good reads. Kevin Glenn was his usual self, and even made a nice run for a touchdown. All in all, I'd say it worked. Not as well as the team had hoped, but it was the disaster it could have been.

The Defense as a whole, aside from getting no pass rush, played well enough for the team to win. I especially liked the play of Rey Williams and Markeith Knowlton. Kowlton played perhaps his best game all season, and Williams played with a nasty streak that was evident from the opening play. Good job by both men, and good job by the whole unit.

Negatives

Here is where I am going to highlight the five plays that decided the outcome of the game.

The first, and most egregious was the the incomplete call on what should have been a Chris Williams touchdown. I don't care what anyone says, that's a touchdown! Williams caught the ball in tandem with the defender (tie goes to the Receiver), went to the ground, maintained possession until the Montreal defender knocked it loose long after both players were on the ground. That, ladies and gentlemen, is a touchdown. How the refs could call anything else is beyond me. It was a brutal call! Just brutal!

The other questionable call by the refs was on the two-point conversion. From the replays it looked like Chip Cox did interfere with Aaron Kelly. This one isn't as bad as the Williams no-TD call. This was a borderline call, but it is one I've seen called many times this year, and it seems odd that on such a crucial play that the flag didn't come out.

Just because the refs made some errors doesn't mean they cost the Cats the game. There were three plays where the Tabbies cost themselves 13 points.

The biggest of those plays was a Chris Williams offside call that negated a Bakari Grant touchdown. Williams seemed to have a problem staying onside for most of the afternoon. But this one offside penalty really hurt.

The final plays were two missed field goals by Justin Medlock. One was from beyond 50 yards, and despite Medlock regularly banging those in, those are never easy. The other was a 40-something-yard attempt that Medlock needs to hit. There was some problems with snapping and holding, but had Medlock made even one of those two field goals, all the other mistakes don't matter.

Final Thoughts

Despite the loss, it was very heartening to see the team battle through adversity in a hostile environment and nearly come away with a win.

The Cats now sit at 7-8 and it looks all but certain that they will play their playoff game(s) on the road. But they have now played well enough to win in both Winnipeg and Montreal, and only a few key mistakes were the difference between a win and a loss in either city. It should be noted that any playoff game against the Alouettes will be played at Olympic Stadium (as opposed to Montreal's regular-season home of Percival Molson Stadium), so the crowd will be larger and louder.

Up next for the Cats is the red-hot BC Lions. The Lions have won eight straight and will not be an easy team to beat. That said, if the Ti-Cats can play like they did against Montreal, and just cut out the mistakes that they can control, there is no reason to think that they can't get a win.

This was a tough loss, but it was not a bad loss. It is hard to accept losses when the team doesn't give much of an effort. The team gave plenty of effort, and it was five key mistakes that made the difference. Avoid those mistakes – well, avoid the ones that the team can actually control – and a tough loss like this becomes an inspiring win.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Preview: Tiger-Cats at Alouettes

7-7
9-5
Underdog seems to the role that suits the Tiger-Cats the best. Whenever expectations reach their highest, the Tabbies stumble. When they are expected to falter, they come through with a Herculean effort.

If Hamilton was ever an underdog going into a game, it'd be in tomorrow's game against Montreal.

The Als are starting to roll at just the right time. Normally they are gearing down right about now, having already clinched the division. But this year, they are fighting tooth and nail with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers for that coveted first-round bye.

The distractions that the Als dealt with on Thanksgiving – that being Anthony Calvillo's chase for the all-time passing record – are behind them. Now the Als can focus on their ultimate goal, which is winning the Grey Cup.

For Hamilton, the problems that have plagued them all season long are still present. The Secondary will once again undergo an overhaul, which doesn't help when facing the best Receiver in football, Jamel Richardson. The Cats will have their hands full on Defense.

On Offense, the talk all week has been about the "significant playing time" that Quinton Porter is going to see at Quarterback. The only way he gets on the field is if Kevin Glenn struggles like he did last week. Replacing Maurice Mann – who was shipped to Toronto earlier this week – will also be important. It will be interesting to see which Receiver steps up with Mann gone.

The Cats need to win this game to have any hope of finishing higher than third in the East. A loss by more than one point will mean that Montreal will have the tiebreaker, and coupled with a Blue Bomber victory, would mean the Tiger-Cats are on the road for as long as their playoff journey lasts.

A win, however, would give them the season series over the Alouettes and put them one game back of them. With a somewhat favourable schedule coming up for the Cats, a victory over Montreal makes second in the East entirely possible.

The game, as always, can be seen on TSN or heard on AM900 CHML. And for all the Tweeters out there, don't forget to following Dief on Cats as he "commen-tweets" during the game.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Smitty's Selections: Week 16

Over the last two weeks I have gone an impressive 7-1. I have bumped my season record to 10 games over .500, and if I wasn't so blindly loyal to the Tiger-Cats, that number might even be higher. As we head down the final stretch, I still hold out faint hope of reaching my goal of 50 wins.

Calgary at Toronto

This one smells like an upset, has all the makings of an upset, but won't be an upset. I just have no faith in Toronto. Calgary is in a dog fight in the West and Toronto has nothing to play for. The Stamps need to win this game, and they will. Calgary by double digits.

Winner: Calgary, 28-17

Winnipeg at Edmonton

This one will probably be the best game of the week. This should be a tight contest between two teams fighting for home-field advantage and a first-round bye in their respective divisions. If it was in Winnipeg, I'd take the Bombers. With it being in Edmonton, I have to go with the Eskimos.

Winner: Edmonton, 27-24

Hamilton at Montreal

I have looked at this game from every conceivable angle, and as much as it pains me to say it, I don't see a way that the Tiger-Cats can win this game. So for the first time ever I am picking against the Cats. Montreal wins this one rather convincingly.

Winner: Montreal, 36-21

British Columbia at Saskatchewan

BC is the best team in the league right now; Saskatchewan has scored nine points in their last three games. While BC will lose eventually, it won't be this week. Lions by a bunch.

Winner: British Columbia, 32-13

Recap
Calgary, Edmonton, Montreal, British Columbia

Season Record: 33-23

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Open Mouth, Insert Foot

It's been a long time since I've gone on a good, old-fashioned rant. The last time was back when Arland Bruce was traded. I was angry then, and I made that point well known twice.

Since then, not much has happened that got my ire up. Yes, there has been the inconsistent play of the team, but that's normal pro sports stuff. That comes with the territory. I can accept and handle that.

Maurice Mann opening his fat mouth, however, is another story.

As everyone knows, Maurice Mann was traded yesterday to the Toronto Argonauts for Defensive Back Dee Webb. Today, he spoke to the media for the first time following the trade and came off sounding like a whiny jerk.

He said he didn't find out about the trade from either Marcel Bellefeuille or Bob O'Billovich, but from Receivers Coach Tim Kearse. Later, it was revealed that the team tried to contact Mann and that he didn't return their repeated calls.

He said he also has not spoken to Bellefeuille and doesn't plan on speaking to him in the future.

He stated that Hamilton is not a friendly place for veteran receivers.

In a tweet, which I cannot link to because Mann protects his tweets (meaning you need a Twitter account to see what he said) he responded to someone by saying that "it is that bad here" (referring to Hamilton) and then using the hashtag "micromanagville." In essence, he was saying that he was happy to leave.

Mann talks a lot, and his talking has always the biggest part of his game. For a player who yaps off as much as he does, you'd think he'd average more than 52-yards per game or have more than six 100-yard games over the course of his five year career. He played 25 games in Hamilton and scored seven touchdowns. Contrast that to Dave Stala, who has seven touchdowns just this year. Mann thinks he's an upper-echelon receiver, but his stats show that he's mediocre at best. He had one decent year in Edmonton, but Mann has never had a 1,000-yard season or scored double-digit touchdowns in a season. With the way he views himself, you'd think he was an All Star, but that's something else he's never achieved. Mann is a legend in his own mind.

That fact that he made a point to say that he doesn't plan to talk to Bellefeuille makes him sound petty and childish. But it has been known for a long time that Mann had a problem with Bellefeuille. This stretches back to last season when Mann called Bellefeuille a whack ass coach. Mann could have showed some class and said nothing. When Arland Bruce was traded, you didn't hear him bad mouth anyone. Mann could learn a lesson or two from Bruce.

Mann goes by the handle "86_do_trix" on Twitter. To steal a line from a famous movie, it looks like the greatest trick he ever pulled was convincing the football world that he's an elite receiver. The Argos, and their fans, are about to find out that Mann's game doesn't equal his self-manufacture hype.

Power Poll (Week 15)

As we head down the final stretch, five playoff spots have already been clinched. The only thing left is to find out if Hamilton will lose enough and Saskatchewan will win enough to see the Riders knock the Cats out. It's unlikely, so now teams are just jockeying for position. But in this year of parity (a word I think I am getting sick of hearing/reading/writing), anything is possible. No one is out until they are out.

1. British Columbia Lions (Last Week: 1)

Another week, another win. This one much closer than before. If the Lions keep this up, they will be the first team since the 1994 BC Lions to win the Grey Cup at home. I wouldn't bet against them.

2. Montreal Alouettes (Last Week: 2)

All the focus was on Anthony Calvillo, but he Als are back in the playoffs for a sixteenth year in a row. The winner of the Bombers-Als matchup in two weeks will decide who stays home for the playoffs.

3. Winnipeg Blue Bombers (Last Week: 3)

The Bombers have Hamilton's number this season. I bet they hope they see them in the playoffs at some point. If Buck Pierce plays like he did against the Ti-Cats, the longest championship drought in the CFL might come to an end.

4. Edmonton Eskimos (Last Week: 6)

You can't really take much from Edmonton's win. Saskatchewan is terrible and in complete disarray. But the Eskimos are playoff-bound, and with a good shot at first in the West. That's a great turnaround in just one season.

5. Calgary Stampeders (Last Week: 5)

There is no shame in losing to BC in BC. Now, if they lose to the Argos in Toronto, that's a different story.

6. Hamilton Tiger-Cats (Last Week: 4)

The up-and-down season continues. Every time the Cats have a chance to prove themselves, they falter. They will make the playoffs, but more efforts like in Week 15 and their post-season won't last long.

7. Toronto Argonauts (Last Week: 7)

The Argos took a lead into the locker room at halftime against Montreal. Say what you want about Toronto, but they at least look to be putting forth an effort.

8. Saskatchewan Roughriders (Last Week: 8)

The Roughriders don't even try anymore. How else can you explain no touchdowns and nine total points in their last three games. NINE POINTS! IN THREE GAMES! That's how bad things have gotten for Saskatchewan.

Highest Climb: Edmonton (+2)
Steepest Fall: Hamilton (-2)

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

No Mo' Mann

In a bit of a shocking move, the Tiger-Cats traded Maurice Mann to the Toronto Argonauts in exchange for Defensive back Dee Webb.

Acquiring Webb will hopefully help a battered and maligned Secondary. Webb is a decent player who is familiar with Defensive Coordinator Corey Chamblin from their days with the Calgary Stampeders. (Both were there in 2009.)

But the bigger news, in my opinion, is the trading of Mann. Mann came to Hamilton with the hopes of forming a potent one-two combination with Arland Bruce. That never happened, and now both players are gone.

In his first season, Mann caught 56 passes for 787 yards and five touchdowns. Decent production, but hardly Earth shattering. This season, while he dealt with injuries, Mann hauled in 35 passes for 346 yards and two touchdowns. He lost six games to injury, and never seemed to get back on track.

I was never a big fan of Mann's. I never felt like his production never matched his hype, and while I was never a fan of the trade in the first place, I held out hope that he could turn into something. It never happen.

His play on the field tended to be overshadowed by his off-field antics, most notably. when he took to Twitter last season to complain about his role on the team, calling out Marcel Bellefeuille in the process.

I can put up with someone who talks a lot – my affinity for Avon Cobourne proves that – if the talk is backed up on the field. Cobourne backs up his play with solid performances week in and week out; Mann runs extremely hot and cold.

That was my biggest problem with Mann, is that he was very inconsistent. He would do things that would make you say "WOW!" and then do things that would make you say "WHAT!?!?"

Now we'll see if he is the cure for what ails Toronto's woeful Offense. He now has his chance to be the featured guy, and we will all see what he makes of that opportunity.

As for his time in Hamilton, I think two words will define it: potential and disappointment.

Morning-After Thoughts (Week 15)

With Thanksgiving weekend having come and gone, the 2011 CFL season is officially in its final stages. Canada Day weekend is the beginning, Labour Day weekend is the midpoint, and Thanksgiving weekend is when it all starts coming to an end. We still have over a month left of great football, but the season is near its completion. Seems like just yesterday the whole thing started. Funny how fast time can go by.
  1. Where else to start but with giving a huge congratulations to Anthony Calvillo on becoming pro football's all-time leading passer. He surpassed Damon Allen's mark with a 50-yard touchdown pass to Jamel Richardson on the final play of the third quarter.
  2. The video presentation of the top-five passers in pro football history was phenomenal. It was very classy of Dan Marino, Warren Moon and Damn Allen to congratulate Anthony Calvillo. I was especially surprised to see Marino, who has no ties to the CFL. Nice job to whoever put that video together.
  3. With Calvillo now owning the most significant records for Quarterbacks in the CFL, the inevitable question of where he ranks will come up. Glen Suitor called Calvillo "the best pure passer" in league history, but I really don't know what that means. I still think Calvillo ranks behind Doug Flutie, and probably Warren Moon, but being third is nothing to sneeze at.
  4. Congratulations on Paul McCallum on setting the record for most consecutive field goals. But, boy, was his first miss a bad one. Larry Taylor took McCallum's missed field goal 122 yards for a touchdown. Buuuuuuuuut, McCallum redeemed himself by nailing a 53-yard field goal with no time left to win the game. From hero to goat to hero. Only in the CFL.
  5. Can someone explain to me why it's called "forward pass interference"? Is there such a thing as backward pass interference?
  6. A year after finishing 4-14, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers were the first team to secure a playoff spot. That's a mighty impressive turnaround.
  7. Kevin Glenn knows he doesn't play for Winnipeg anymore, right? In three games against Winnipeg this season, Glenn has thrown an interception for a touchdown in each game.
  8. While the trash talk this week seemed to be all in good fun, perhaps the loquacious Stevie Baggs should say less next time around. At least when asked about it post-game, Baggs admitted he stuck his foot in his mouth. That shows he's got a little more class than Ejiro "Mr. One Tackle" Kuale, who was still running his mouth a week later.
  9. Would someone mind telling me what the hell happened to Terrence Edwards? He seems to be a forgotten man in Winnipeg's Offense.
  10. Two trick play attempts on Special Teams by Winnipeg, two illegal procedure calls. A fake field goal by Calgary negated by by an illegal formation call. Like Duane Forde said, teams only get one chance at that play. Both teams wasted that chance.
  11. I hope Bob O'Billovich grimaces every time Arland Bruce catches a pass for the Lions. (Yes, I'm still bitter about that trade.)
  12. If Travis Lulay doesn't win the MOP award this year, he will be the early favourite next year. The light has gone on for the former Montana State Bobcat, and he is ready to become the next star of the league.
  13. Nik Lewis is upset with the amount of passes coming his way. He even went as far as stating that he needed to keep his mouth shut because if he talked, he'd get cut. For someone who says they wanted to end their career in Calgary, he sure seems to be angling for ticket out of town.
  14. The last offensive play that BC ran had to be one of the worst plays I've ever seen. They had 14 seconds left on the clock, they use 12 of those seconds to lose two yards. What kind of call is that? Yes, they won the game, but that call still sucked.
  15. Chad Owens is one of the best returners in the CFL, if not the best returner, and I think the Argos would be wise to have him concentrate on that. He has dropped an inordinate amount of passes this season, and perhaps he could be better utilized by simply being a punt and kick returner.
  16. In all the hoopla over Anthony Calvillo, the fact that the Alouettes have clinched a playoff spot for the sixteenth consecutive season seems to be getting overlooked. The Als have not missed the playoffs since returning to the league in 1996.
  17. Much the same as Nik Lewis in Calgary, Cory Boyd seems to be rather upset with how he is being used in Toronto. I doubt he wants out, but he does not seem very happy with his role in the Argos' Offense.
  18. If Darian Durant was healthy enough to play "if need be," why was he not on the field to start the game? I can't think of a game that defined "if need be" more than one that all bout decided Saskatchewan's playoff fate.
  19. Wes Cates has been a complete after thought in Saskatchewan's Offense this season, and I am at a lose as to why. He's still a very good player, so why he has been neglected is something I do not understand.
  20. While it wasn't 4-0, it was the next best thing, as I went 3-1 in my weekly picks. My only incorrect selection was Hamilton. My overall record is now at a very respectable 33-23. Not too shabby.

Giguère Speaks and He May Want Out

Sam Giguère has become a mythical figure amongst many Tiger-Cat fans. He is seen as one of those once-in-a-generation Canadian talents, a player that could transcend simply being a Canadian Receiver and become something much more special. Tiger-Cat fans have waited, some with baited breath, for Giguère to come north. But based on his own words, it looks like if Giguère does come back to Canada, he has his eyes on another team.

Not so surprisingly, the Sherebrooke, Quebec native seems to want to play for the Montreal Alouettes.

The Tiger-Cats still hold Giguère's rights, and have since drafting him in the first round back in 2008, but it looks like if he does decide to give up his NFL dream – and there is no indication he is ready to do that – he might try to angle for a trade out of Hamilton.

I realize that this is all just speculation, and perhaps I am jumping to conclusions based on one innocent tweet, but it sure looks to me like Giguère wants to play in Montreal. It makes me wonder if the reason he has yet to come to the CFL is because the Alouettes do not own his rights.

For a guy who has never played one down in the CFL, he sure has attracted a lot of attention. It'll be interesting to see how this whole situation plays out over the coming months.

Monday, 10 October 2011

A Call to Fans

I, like many of you, sat in my seat on Friday night, apoplectic about what I was witnessing on the field. It was another disappointing showing from the Tiger-Cats in a big game. It was an all-to-familiar sight.

Fans booed, the team, but I did not. I never feel like it is right to boo the home team. I don't begrudge those that boo, but I won't join them. Like leaving a game before the final whistle, it is just something I will never do.

That doesn't mean I wasn't angry or frustrated about what was happening. Like the 23,000-plus that spent their money to attend the game, I expected better. I expected an effort. I expected a good game. I, and everyone else, did not get that. Not even close.

Following a loss, I avoid the Tiger-Cats forum, I don't listen to the Fifth Quarter after the game or the Tiger-Cats Show on Monday. It always seems like the same voices making the same complaints.

"Bench Glenn."

"Fire Bellefeulle."

"I'm done with this team."

I have made my feelings known about Tiger-Cat fans in the past, but I won't be blasting my Black & Gold brethren this time, even thought I stand by my previous statements about them. In fact, I'm going to do the opposite. I'm going to issue a call to all fans of the Tiger-Cats. My plea is this:

Don't lose faith.

I know it is hard, and watching the team seemingly sleepwalk through another middling performance can test any fans patience, so I understand people's frustrations. But while it was a bad game, this is not a bad team. This is a very talented team. Just look at the lineup:
  • Kevin Glenn
  • Avon Cobourne
  • Chris Williams
  • Dave Stala
  • Peter Dyakowski
  • Marwan Hage (when healthy)
  • Stevie Baggs
  • Justin Hickman
  • Rey Williams
  • Jamall Johnson
  • Markeith Knowlton
  • Justin Medlock
  • Marcus Thigpen
That is as talented a group as any in the CFL, and that doesn't include youngsters Ryan Hinds, Eddie Steele and Terry Grant, who are all starting to come into their own. Once those guys truly grasp the pro game, watch out.

I know that the Tiger-Cats have been disappointing this season with their inconsistency, but I'm not ready to give up.

And I won't give up; not until the final whistle has blown on their season. That could be anywhere from Week 19 to Grey Cup Sunday.

Call me foolish, call me an idiot, call me delusional, but I still think that this team can win the Grey Cup this year. It won't be easy, but nothing worth having is ever easy. I won't be ready to concede that the Cats won't win the Grey Cup until they are officially out of the playoffs. I have seen too many strange things to write anyone off, let alone my favourite team.

I am keeping the faith, and I implore my fellow fans to follow suit. If you need to criticize, go ahead. If you want to complain, feel free. But, please, do not give up on this team.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Hage Done For the Season

It looks like the season is over for Marwan Hage.

The Tiger-Cats All-Star Centre has been sideline with a knee injury since early September, and the last game he played in was on Labour Day. It looks like that injury will keep him in street clothes for the remainder of the season.

This is a tough loss for the Cats. Hage was having his typical excellent season before the injury. Now it's Mark Dewit's job for the rest of the year. Dewit has played pretty well since taking over for Hage, but it's hard for anyone to replace an All-Star calibre player like Hage.

I wish Hage a speedy recovery.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Winnipeg 33, Hamilton 17

In honour of the effort the Tiger-Cats gave tonight, I am going to give the same effort with my thoughts as the Cats gave on the field tonight.

Positives

Nothing. Disagree? Let me know what positives there were tonight.

Negatives

Everything. You name it, they sucked at it. The Offense couldn't get a first down if Winnipeg only played with seven men. The Defense – which in fairness never really got a break because the Offense sucked so much – couldn't stop a thing. Special Teams was alright, maybe, but there were still a lot of mistakes from that unit too. The team was just putrid.

Final Thoughts

The Cats are 7-7 now, and they'll be 7-8 following a loss next week in Montreal. Any hope of a home playoff game is gone. The Bombers just seem to have Hamilton's number, so if they do end up meeting in the playoffs, I don't like the Cats' odds.

Pitiful, brutal, disgusting, embarrassing, terrible, horrible, putrid and any other synonym for bad that you can think of describes tonight's performance. It was ugly from the start and never got better.

I fear next week might even be worse.

Smitty's Selections: Week 15

We are in the home stretch. Only 20 games left this season, and my hopes of winning 50 games is likely not going to happen. Counting the playoffs (which I predict, so it counts), I would need to go 20-5 to reach the magical 50-win mark. Highly unlikely. But I've did go 4-0 last week, so if I can get a couple (or five) more of those, I'm back in business. Anyway, here are the Week 15 picks.

Winnipeg at Hamilton

This has all the makings of a great game. Winnipeg is desperate for a win, having lost four of their last five, while Hamilton needs a victory if they hope to have any chance of hosting the East Division Final. The Bombers are dealing with some injuries to key players, and Hamilton is a league-best 5-2 at home (counting the "home" game in Moncton). One of those losses, however, came at the hand of the Blue Bombers. I suspect the Cats will want to avenge that loss and keep pace with the rest of the East. Tabbies by a TD.

Winner: Hamilton, 31-24

Calgary at British Columbia

Another scintillating matchup as the Lions try to complete their turnaround by besting the Stampeders to take possession of first place in the West. The Stamps have been a confusing team this year, and BC is on a complete roll right now. Sooner or later the Lions will fall back slightly. It will be later. Lions by double digits.

Winner: British Columbia, 34-24

Toronto at Montreal

I could go into a long diatribe as to why the Argos could win this one, and how an upset is always possible or how this could be a trap game for the Als as they look ahead to the Tiger-Cats the following week. I could say all of those things, but none of it would be true. Montreal is going to annihilate Toronto. This one will be over before the half.

Winner: Montreal, 41-17

Saskatchewan at Edmonton

Saskatchewan is barely clinging to playoff hopes, and a loss here would all but end their season (and would end it should the Lions and Ti-Cats both win as well). Edmonton is in a bit of a funk after their hot start, so they are going to want to come out and establish themselves as a threat once again. Rider Pride will be muted as "Wait Until Next Year" becomes the refrain in Saskatchewan. Eskies by a bunch.

Winner: Edmonton, 27-10

Recap
Hamilton, British Columbia, Montreal, Edmonton

Season Record: 30-22

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Preview: Blue Bombers at Tiger-Cats

8-5
7-6
Winnipeg versus Hamilton has become a very interesting, very intense rivalry recently. Two seasons ago, the Cats eliminated Winnipeg from the playoffs. Last season, they played each other four times in seven weeks. This season, the Bombers have taken the Cats twice, most recently in an epic 30-27 game in August.

That August victory is the one of the few the Bombers have had recently. That win was Winnipeg's seventh of the season, since then they have gone 1-4.

Hamilton, meanwhile, has continued to be its normal schizophrenic self; however, they have won their last two to climb within two points of first in the East Division.

Both teams have changed since that August meeting. Winnipeg has dealt with a rash of injuries, namely to Quarterback Buck Pierce, Running Back Fred Reid and Linebacker Joe Lobendahn. Losing three players of that magnitude would hurt any team, but Pierce looks good to go in this one, which is positive news for the Blue Bombers.

Hamilton's changes have been more positive. Moving Marcus Thigpen from Running Back to Receiver has allowed for the team to put Terry Grant on the field. Grant's first two games have been as impressive as any players I can remember. Three touchdowns in two games, one of which was an 89-yard beauty against Toronto. Grant has added another dimension to Hamilton's Offense.

This has all the makings of another great game. These two teams are very evenly matched, and this one should be just as close as their two previous encounters. This should be a good one.

If you aren't going to make it down to the game, tune in on TSN or AM900 CHML. Also, like every game, check out Dief on Cats on Twitter for their unique musings on the game as it happens.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Battle for First in the East

This has been a CFL season like no other, and the race to see who will get the coveted bye week in the East Division is starting to get really tight.

Three teams are in the mix for first in the East, with Montreal and Winnipeg sporting identical 8-5 records and Hamilton lurking not far back at 7-6. All three of these teams still have a chance to claim what might be the biggest advantage in professional sports: a first-round playoff bye.

The bye will allow one team to rest up while the other two beat each other up. The bye could be especially important this season, as teams are so tightly bunched that any slight advantage could be the difference between going to the Grey Cup and watching it.

Each team has five games remaining, so let's look at each team's last five games and try to figure out how all this will pan out.

Hamilton Tiger-Cats
Remaining Games: vs. Winnipeg, at Montreal, vs. BC, at Saskatchewan, at Toronto

That's not an easy schedule, but not a killer one either. The Cats are at home for two, with one road game (Toronto) being a de facto home game. Looking at the opponents, the Cats could go 5-0 down the stretch, but that would mean beating the Als in Montreal, which is not easy. The absolute worst finish would be 1-4, because Hamilton will not lose to the Argos. I actually believe they will finish the season 4-1, with the lone loss being to the Alouettes in Montreal. A lot will depend on Friday's game against the Bombers; win that, and I think 4-1 is possible. BC won't be an easy win, but the home-crowd advantage should give the Cats the slight edge -- and I say that knowing full well that BC has won their past two trips to Ivor Wynne Stadium. Both the Riders and Argos will be playing for nothing the last two weeks of the season, so as long as Hamilton brings a B+ game, they should win both of those.

Best-Case Scenario: 12-6
Worst-Case Scenario: 8-10
Likeliest Scenario: 11-7

Montreal Alouettes
Remaining Games: vs. Toronto, vs. Hamilton, at Winnipeg, vs. Calgary, at BC

Montreal has the most fortuitous remaining schedule, with three home games, but their two road games are killers. The Als could finish 5-0, but they could just as easily drop to 1-4. The Als will no doubt beat the Argos this week; that is a given. Noting short of a miracle will see Toronto beat Montreal. I have already stated that I believe Montreal will beat Hamilton, but this is far from a sure thing. After that, the road gets considerably tougher. Winnipeg will avenge their earlier home loss to the Als. Winnipeg may have beaten them last week had they had a healthy Buck Pierce, but they won't lose a second game to Montreal in Winnipeg. The final two games will be even tougher ,as I suspect that both BC and Calgary will be battling with each other, and potentially Edmonton, for a first-round bye. It won't be easy for Montreal, but their path to first is probably the least challenging.

Best-Case Scenario: 13-5
Worst-Case Scenario: 9-9
Likeliest Scenario: 11-7

Winnipeg Blue Bombers
Remaining Games: at Hamilton, at Edmonton, vs. Montreal, vs. Toronto, at Calgary

Winnipeg looks to have the toughest road to first, with dates at Hamilton, Edmonton and Calgary, and one final matchup with Montreal. Winnipeg's only gimme is the Week 18 game against Toronto. The Argos already beat the Bombers once; they won't do so a second time. I have already stated that I think the Cats will take the Bombers this week and that the Bombers will take out the Als. With the way Edmonton is playing right now, Winnipeg should be able to go into Commonwealth and secure a win. It's the final week against Calgary that is tricky. Will either team have anything to play for? Will starters be rested by one or both teams? I'll guess based on both teams needing a win, and I'll take the Stamps to pull one out at home.

Best-Case Scenario: 12-6
Worst-Case Scenario: 9-9
Likeliest Scenario: 11-7

Under the Best-Case Scenario, the Als get the bye, with Hamilton traveling to Winnipeg for the East Division Semi-Final. Under the Worst-Case Scenario, Winnipeg would host the East Final, while Hamilton would travel to Montreal for the East Semi. Under the Likeliest Scenario, all three finish with identical 11-7 records, but the tiebreaker would go to Winnipeg for first (based on winning the season series over both Hamilton and Montreal), Montreal for second (based on winning the tiebreaker with Hamilton) and Hamilton in third.

I may be right, I may be wrong, but in any event, it sure looks like the final five weeks of the season are going to have a lot of intrigue.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Power Poll (Week 14)

It was a rather mild week in the CFL in Week 14. The good teams (Hamilton, Calgary) beat the bad teams (Toronto, Saskatchewan), a healthy team (Montreal) beat an injury-depleted one (Winnipeg) and the home team (BC) beat the road team (Edmonton). For the CFL in 2011, that counts as stability.

1. British Columbia Lions (Last Week: 1)

It sure looks like the light has gone on for Travis Lulay. With the weapons that BC has on Offense – Geroy Simon, Arland Bruce, Akeem Foster, Shawn Gore and Andrew Harris – if Lulay keeps clicking like this, the Lions are going to keep winning.

2. Montreal Alouettes (Last Week: 2)

The near collapse in Winnipeg is not something you usually see from an Anthony Calvillo-led squad. Whether it portends to bigger problems is unknown, but the Als held on and, in the end, that is all that matters.

3. Winnipeg Blue Bombers (Last Week: 3)

It's really hard to kill a team for losing with its third-string Quarterback and Running Back starting for the team. But the Bombers are 1-4 since their 7-1 start, so a loss to Hamilton, regardless of the circumstances, should make the people in Winnipeg a little nervous.

4. Hamilton Tiger-Cats (Last Week: 4)

It was far from a dominant performance, but the Cats did beat the Argos and have won two in a row. The Tabbies have hovered around .500 all year, but with their next two games against the Bombers and Alouettes, the Cats have a golden chance to move up in the standings.

5. Calgary Stampeders (Last Week 6)

The Stamps eviscerated the Riders, but does that really prove anything? A matchup with the BC Lions looms on the horizon, and the importance of that game for Calgary cannot be understated.

6. Edmonton Eskimos (Last Week: 5)

That 5-0 start seems like an awful long time ago. The Eskimos haven't looked good since Fred Stamps got hurt. With a date with the Riders coming up, they should be able to get some of their confidence back.

7. Toronto Argonauts (Last Week: 7)

You don't win in the CFL without an Offense, and while I am a fan of Steven Jyles, he has not been the cure-all for the Argos' woeful Offense. Toronto has no Receivers. When you're relying on Prechae Rodriguez to light a spark, all hope is lost.

8. Saskatchewan Roughriders (Last Week: 8)

The Riders have completely given up. I don't care how anyone wants to paint it, if you lose back-to-back games by a combined score of 82-8, then you've phoned it in. Changes will be coming in the off-season. This team needs an overhaul.

Highest Climb: Calgary (+1)
Steepest Fall: Edmonton (-1)

Monday, 3 October 2011

Our Team, Our Rules

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats are usually ahead of the curve. When they sponsored UFC fighter Mark Homenick during his April 30th fight at the Rogers Centre SkyDome it was seen as a stroke of genius, a team thinking outside the box to try and grow its brand.

Another way the Cats are trying to be different is with their "Your Team, Your Rules" promotion for this week's game against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Fans can vote on numerous things, one being what the first offensive play will be. This is unprecedented, as far as I know, and shows once more that the Hamilton Tiger-Cats are always trying new things.

For those that are interested in voting – and why would you not be? – the team has opened up the site for you do vote.

I look forward to seeing what the fans choose.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Morning-After Thoughts (Week 14)

In a year where there are no elite teams, one thing is for certain: there are six legitimate Grey Cup contenders with five weeks left to play. You can take your pick between Winnipeg, Montreal, Hamilton, Calgary, Edmonton and BC; any of those teams could win it all. Never before can I remember a season where so many teams were still in the race this late. It's fun to be a football fan right now.
  1. Regina will be the host of the 2013 Grey Cup. The 101st edition of the annual event will take place in Saskatchewan for only the third time in its history. Should be a fun party in Regina on that night.
  2. Congrats to one of my favourite players of all time, Matt Dunigan, on being inducted into the Louisiana Tech Hall of Fame.
  3. This season, it looks like home-field advantage is a myth. Of the 52 games played so far this season, the number of home and road victories is the same: 26. So come playoff time I expect one road team to win in the Semi-Final round and one road team to win in the Division-Final round. The playoffs are going to be fun.
  4. In a year in which the MOP race is wide open, are Jamel Richardson, Anthony Calvillo and Brandon Whitaker 1a, 1b, 1c in the race for the award? Has Travis Lulay played himself into contention? Should make the next five weeks a lot of fun.
  5. There were plenty of bad calls in the Montreal-Winnipeg game on Friday night, but the absolute worst, and maybe the worst call I've ever seen, was the pass interference call on Montreal's Greg Laybourn.
  6. Despite a few bumps in the road, I thought both Alex Brink and Chris Garrett played well.
  7. A few weeks after complaining about his lack of playing time, Anwar Stewart had a monster game – more accurately, a monster first half – against Winnipeg. Stewart had an interception, a tipped ball that resulted in an interception and a forced fumble all in the game's first 30 minutes. Guess his age hasn't slowed him all that much.
  8. Chris Williams got the early jump, but Clarence Denmark is starting make a nice case for himself for Most Outstanding Rookie.
  9. BC Place looks phenomenal. They did a great job on the renovations. I imagine it looks even better in person.
  10. Does Travis Lulay remind anyone else of Dave Dickenson? Also, does anyone else think that Lulay is the next great CFL Quarterback?
  11. I will never understand why a player, in this case Jerome Messam, throws a punch a player wearing a helmet. It has never made, and will never make, any sense to me.
  12. Have the Lions finally found their Running Back in Andrew Harris? Looks like that might be the case.
  13. Edmonton's swoon – they are 2-6 after their 5-0 start – seems to have coincided with a downturn in Fred Stamps's production. With Stamps either out or not the focal point, the Eskimos can't seem to win. It seems pretty simple: get Stamps involved and good things happen.
  14. That's what you call a breakout game from Jon Cornish. The Joffrey Reynolds benching is still weird, but if Cornish keeps playing like he did against Saskatchewan, it won't matter.
  15. Remember all the good feelings when the Riders beat the Bombers two weeks in a row? Looks like that "Miller Magic" has run out. It also looks like the problems in Regina were not all because of Greg Marshall.
  16. If my math is correct, the Argos and Riders can be eliminated from playoff contention next week if BC, Hamilton and Edmonton all win. The bell could be tolling for both teams come Monday evening.
  17. Is it just me or do the Argos seem to be regressing under Steven Jyles?
  18. Hopefully, for the Argos' sake, Ejiro Kuale gets out of the guarantee game. Kuale registered one tackle – one tackle – in a game he assured everyone the Argos would win. Not good. Not good at all.
  19. Should we just count on an Argo defender to make one inexplicable fumble per year? Last season, it was Ronald Flemons; this year, it was Lin-J Shell. I still don't know how Shell fumbled that ball.
  20. Alouettes: check. Lions: check. Stampeders: check. Tiger-Cats: check. Yup, that's a 4-0 week. That pushes my overall record to 30-22 for the year.