Friday, July 19, 2013

CFL Regular Season: Week 4

Friday Night Football heralds week number four of the CFL season, the first of the four games of the weekend, with two games set for Saturday and the wrap to the week arriving on Sunday.

Toronto at Winnipeg (Friday, July 19)
(8 PM ET, 7 MT, 5 PT)

A tough road beckons for the Toronto Argonauts, who head into Winnipeg on Friday night looking to take two points out of some hostile territory, with another large crowd anticipated for the new showcase stadium in the CFL Investors Group Field.

The Argos head into the Friday night game coming off shellacking at the hands of the Saskatchewan Roughriders last week, the Riders controlled the bulk of the action through the sixty minutes, with the running game of Kory Sheets providing particular difficulty for the Argonaut defensive unit.

That will be a glaring hole that the Bombers will seek to exploit, as they seek to regain some momentum in the CFL east after their loss to the Ti Cats last week.  Winnipeg has yet to secure a victory at home in their new digs, having spent two of the first three weeks on the road, so the home side fans will be eager to see the Blue put it all together at the expense of their eastern visitors.

The success of that game plan will involve keeping the Argo defensive front line at bay, giving QB Buck Pierce time to set the offensive game plan in motion and more importantly keep the sacks, hits and rushes on the QB to a minimum.

The Argos however will have some home side rooting of their own at Friday night's game, with Mayor Rob Ford apparently having made the trek west to take in some football at the new football palace of the CFL.

Some snippets of preview of Friday nights game can be found below

Toronto Sun-- Argos have to pull it together
Winnipeg Sun -- It's early but this is already a huge game for Blue Bombers Argos/Bombers preview

Twelve Men Argo page
Twelve Men Bombers page

Montreal at Calgary (Saturday, July 20)
(5 PM MT, 7 ET, 4 PT)

Fans of the Montreal Alouettes haven't seen this kind of inside turmoil with the Als for a number of years, the franchise that normally works with a clock like precision, suddenly is starting to resemble your grandfathers old timepiece, it runs a little slow, sometimes the hands stick and while it still looks nice, there's a bit of dust, a little tarnish on the casing.

The start to the 2013 season has not been the Als finest of hours, frustration at a game plan that doesn't seem to be catching on has provided for an outburst from the team's leader Anthony Calvillo, a most unguarded moment that saw him blast everyone but the owner (always a good strategy) but even Bob Wetenhall must realize that the changeover from the Marc Trestman era has not been a smooth one.

The Als are having problems protecting their QB, the playbook is seemingly leaving many of them a little confused as to their place on the field and the results are a 1 and 2 record and frankly, they're lucky to have the one at this point.

The Als have surrendered 74 points thus far in 2013, 52 of them in two contests with Winnipeg, which is a team that isn't exactly showing that it's going to make a run for the Grey Cup this year, in their first test against a Western team last week, the Stamps marched into Montreal and offered up just how much work Montreal has ahead of it this year, lesson number two arrives on Saturday when the Als play the second of a home and home at McMahon Stadium.

Calgary too has a few issues to sort out, a rough start to the year so far already has them looking way up the standings board at the surging Saskatchewan Roughriders, a situation that will probably make those Rider fans that call Calgary home (count the Green Jersey's at Stamps games later this year) but for the true believers in the Red and White, the need to kick it in gear quickly is here.

The Stamps have already suffered an early season setback with starter Drew Tate suffering injury in week two, however Kevin Glenn has the kind of CFL experience that is beyond value for a team that wants to keep in the hunt in the West.

Glenn is back under the centre for week four, hoping to recapture his efforts of last week when he made rather quick work of the Montreal defensive unit, keeping them on the field for lengthy periods of time, followed up by scoring drives that propelled the Stamps to victory, Glenn had a stand out game with 268 yards on 22 of 28 passes.  One of the reasons, that the Als defensive unit is atop the CFL East in points allowed.

Week three offered up some evidence that the Stamps are inclined to the get their game back on track for  a run in the CFL West, whether Montreal has similar inclinations for the east will get another review on Saturday.

Some pre game thoughts can be found below.

Montreal Gazette-- Calvillo will face Stampeders after injury scare
Calgary Sun-- Calgary Stampeders to go without Maurice Price against Alouettes Als/Stamps preview

Twelve Men Alouettes page
Twelve Men Stampeders page

Edmonton at British Columbia (Saturday, July 20)
( 7 PM PT, 10 ET, 8 MT)

Kavis Reed probably knew that the 2013 season was going to be a frustrating thing, the Eskimos rebuilding on the fly as they are, does not leave room for much in the way of error, and errors have been a plenty in the first three weeks of the current campaign.

Nothing indicates Reeds' level of concern more than his now much reviewed post game comments from last weeks loss to the Lions.  He clearly knows what the problems are with his squad, their lack of discipline and the effects that those mis-steps have provided for.

You get the feeling he will address those concerns, however, he clearly needs some help from the upper office holders that put him into this mess, the Eskimos are still clearly trying to recover from the great steal of 2012, when Eric Tillman sent the face of the franchise Ricky Ray to Toronto, securing a Grey Cup for the Argos, leaving the Eskimos to try and pick up the pieces of that now legendary error.

Coaches coach, but they need some players that can play, the Esks once a team that had so much depth that the practice roster could probably challenge for a first place finish, now have problems executing simple game plans and make those mental errors that clearly is placing no shortage of stress on their coach.

While the Lions may not wish to add to Reed's stress levels, they won't be particularly accommodating when they take to the home field at BC Place Saturday night, with Saskatchewan off to a lightning fast start, keeping pace with the Riders is key to any first place ambitions that the Lions may have.

Last week, the Lions began to shape up into the kind of team many expected to see out of the gate in the CFL west, despite torrential rains and a first half of some ugly football, the second half for BC was the kind of offensive mastery that Travis Lulay has been able to summon in the past.

The Lions QB made the most of all of his offensive weapons, a strong running game, sure handed pass receivers and his own scrambling kept the Eskimos off their defensive game for most of that second half, the now identified problem area of Eskimo penalties and turnovers only aiding the Lions cause.

The conditions will be very much more enjoyable for both squads at BC Place, perhaps providing a much better arena to showcase the showdown between the teacher an his understudy, as Lulay once again matches up with Mike Reilly, his one time back up in BC who now has the starting duties in Edmonton.

Reilly has been inconsistent thus far, though considering the last two Eskimo games have been played with an Ark under construction beside the stadiums, it's perhaps unfair to judge his stats just yet.  His chance and that of the Eskimos will get a more controlled environment in week four.

The Esks head into Vancouver on Saturday seeking to regain some kind of forward momentum, last weeks loss in the Edmonton monsoon perhaps the lowest point of the season thus far for the Green and Gold, at least, we imagine coach Reed is hoping that marks the lowest point of the season.

A look ahead to Saturday night can be found below:

Edmonton Journal-- Reed's message to players: Be responsible
Vancouver Sun-- Tiny Tim back in as Lions look for some good returns Esks/Lions preview

Twelve Men Eskimos page
Twelve Men Lions page

Hamilton at Saskatchewan (Sunday, July 21)
(6 PM ST, 7 ET, 4 PT)

Three weeks in and the Riders are already the team to beat, three consecutive victories the testimony to the standard for the CFL, West or East in 2013.

With Kory Sheets literally running away with MOP honours thus far and an offence that when it is clicking, is the highlight reel machine the Riders are providing for much to appreciate among the huge crowds that pack themselves into Mosaic Field.

Add on a defensive unit that is punishing opposing squads in this early portion of the CFL season and you begin to understand the challenge that the visiting Hamilton Tiger Cats are up against, now mix in the drama of the return of Ti Cat head coach/GM Kent Austin to where he was once idolized , to give you a sense of the importance of football in Saskatchewan is, the main topic of conversation this week has been will the fans salute him for his years of success in Regina, or will they treat him along the lines of a Winnipeg Blue Bomber on Labour day.

As you can tell , Sunday offers up some fascinating plot lines to bring to an end week number four.

There are sub plots galore mark the lead up to Sunday's contest, while the main homecoming belongs to Kent Austin this time, let's not forget a fellow named Henry Burris who once called Regina home and well, the locals still remember him, not always with a gentle wave (of all their fingers on one hand)

Not enough drama for you, how about an injured Darian Durant, the Riders starter, who may or may not take the field to lead the Riders, if his sprained foot is not game ready, it will be Drew Willy into the line up as starter, not that the Riders seem to miss a beat when he gets his playing time.

That offence comes from the play designs of George Cortez, who of course is familiar to Ti Cat fans, in much the same way Rider fans salute Burris, the former TiCat coach struggled in Steeltown, but back in Saskatchewan it's his play designs that have led to the 3 and 0 start for the Riders. Suggesting perhaps, that some of the problems in Hamilton may not have been totally involving the coaching.

Under Cortez the Riders offensive unit is the talk of the CFL, a machine already in high gear with but three weeks under their belt, record books could be in peril if such pace continues on into October.

Though, with head coach Corey Chamblin, the  Riders have been able to take it all just one week at a time, with a total focus on the game at hand.

And on Sunday a good bit of that focus will be on the Hamilton Defensive unit,  for good reason, the Cats bring a struggling group that far to often this season have allowed a turning point that seems to have cost Hamilton a game.

The Cats D unit so far this year has been the polar opposite of the one they face in Regina Sunday, where Rider fans watch a unit that closes doors and then blots them up it seems.

Oh, did we mention Geroy Simon? No we didn't?  Well just for fun we can also factor Superman into the equation for today.

The long time CFL star, who signed with the Riders this year, has yet to even get on the field, recouperating from injury in training camp, that all changes for kick off, as he has  been give the Green light to play on Sunday, just one more thing for the Hamilton defence to keep in mind.

The challenges for the Ticats are many, inconsistent play in the previous three weeks has delivered them a 1 and 2 record so far, if they haven't worked that out of their system, 1 and 3 won't be much more than 60 minutes away.

Some pre game thoughts can be found below:

Hamilton Spectator-- Ticats bracing for Rider Nation
Regina Leader Post-- Durant's status still doubtful after return Ticats/Riders preview

Twelve Men Ticats page
Twelve Men Riders page

The week four schedule, with Reviews from can be found below:

July 21-- Hamilton 0 at Saskatchewan 37 ( 37,732 )
July 20-- Edmonton 21 at British Columbia 31 (26,623)
July 20-- Montreal 27 at Calgary 38 (27,378)
July 19-- Toronto 35 at Winnipeg 19 (31,257)

All Games on TSN

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