CFL Power Rankings: Riders make a move, but Stampeders still ones to catch

Here’s how I rank the Canadian Football League teams heading into Week 12.

1. Calgary Stampeders (Unchanged)

  • Record: 8-1-1
  • Streak: Won 6
  • Next: At Edmonton

Hardly taking a chance labelling the White Stallions the league’s best team as they gallop through a six-game win streak. Everything firing and doing it on Labour Day in front of more than 33,000 at home makes it even better. Leading 3-0, a fumble recovery led to a touchdown, a long drive officered by QB Bo Mitchell for another, and a 90-yard punt return by the extraordinary Roy Finch for a third, put this one away. Calgary led 26-6 at the half and cruised. Cool stat: Mitchell hit 10 different receivers, including five with just one pass each. When Edmonton doubled Marquay McDaniel or DaVaris Daniels, Bo simply looked somewhere else. Great job by the Stallions’ secondary on this day, holding off the Esks until the game was decided.

Game Wrap: Calgary hammers Edmonton in labour day classic1:58

2. Saskatchewan Roughriders (Up from 4)

  • Record: 5-4
  • Streak: Won 3
  • Next: At Winnipeg

To make the following argument, you have to accept certain facts. We all think the West is better than the East. We all think beating a West team is a mark of some talent. These Riders have beaten three West teams in a row, and they’ve done it by 33, 23, and 14 points. Therefore, they must be the second best team in the division right now. QB Kevin Glenn, having one of his finest seasons, has a group of outstanding receivers to toss at, including Bakari Grant, Naaman Roosevelt and Duron Carter. Reminds one of Henry Burris with his receivers in 2015 and 2016. On the other hand, those 34 first half points were wonderful, helped by great defence, but only four points in the second half may indicate Winnipeg has found something. We’ll see this week. For now, this is so much fun.

3. Winnipeg Blue Bombers (Down from 2)

  • Record: 7-3
  • Streak: Lost 1
  • Next: Saskatchewan

Big Blue should break down the loss at Regina in half. First 30 minutes was a defensive nightmare, the second was a defensive gem. Coming off a five-game win streak, the Bombers were hammered early, allowing four TDs and two field goals. They gave up just four points the rest of the way. Lesson: Be the second half this coming week. QB Matt Nichols came in with a passing game plan that was to attack all depth zones. Under fire by Saskatchewan’s defence, all he actually had available was the short stuff until it was too late. Still, they hung in there. Nichols produced 400 yards net, including 364 passing. A fumble and two picks turned out to be painful. Lock up your first cousins, it’s Banjo Bowl time with revenge on the menu.

Game Wrap: Riders down Blue Bombers for 3rd-straight win1:34

4. Edmonton Eskimos (Down from 3)

  • Record: 7-3
  • Streak: Lost 3
  • Next: Calgary

Are the Eskimos tumbling based on their long injury list, on poor mid-season play, or a combination of both? Only the next month will tell. For now, there’s a lot to think about as they prepare to meet Calgary again in the back end of the traditional Labour Day week meetings. Edmonton was not beaten on the stat sheet, those were pretty even; they were beaten in execution on the field. Receiver Cory Watson fumbled after a completion, that led to a score the other way. Special teams gave up a 90-yard punt return score, almost unfairly as they stayed in their lanes, stuck to their jobs, and watched Roy Finch zip by anyway. Mike Reilly’s two picks didn’t help, but he also piled up 388 net yards, including nine catches for 127 by Brandon Zylstra. Execute, and this week is winnable.

5. B.C. Lions (Unchanged, bye)

  • Record: 5-5
  • Streak: Lost 3
  • Next: Montreal

Coach Wally Buono was chatting with Ed Willes of The Province this week, confirming something CFL coaches have preached since Russ Jackson was a boy in Hamilton. If your quarterback is moving the offence consistently, everything else lines up nicely. Enter Travis Lulay, who after the bye week will be back under centre as the starter, taking over for the struggling Jonathon Jennings. If Lulay moves the team, the offence responds by upping their game. The defence is on the field less and that’s a tremendous help, plus special teams go harder as no one wants to be the player who lets the side down. Lulay moved the attack for 21 points in the fourth last time out, as the Lions lost for the third straight time. Congrats to Adam Bighill, former Lion, who made the New Orleans Saints practice roster.

6. Ottawa Redblacks (Unchanged)

  • Record: 4-6-1
  • Streak: Won 3
  • Next: Hamilton

Over the last three games the RBs have beaten awful Hamilton, a competitive B.C. club and a Montreal side that has lost its way. What to think? Let’s help … who cares? Three in a row over anybody is enough to regain the respect of your league partners, and with 10 days off (non-bye, weird sked) to get more work in, there could be bright days ahead. The whupping of the Alouettes by the Ottawa defence was thorough, professional, and balanced. Holding Darian Durant, and later Drew Willy, to short passes all night was key (though 86 yards after catch was a tad worrisome). Ottawa QB Trevor Harris, reportedly playing with a sore throwing hand, completed 32-for-343 yards, three TDs and a pick. Three passes at better than 30 yards moved the chains quickly.

Game Wrap: Ottawa beats Montreal, moves into top spot in East1:38

7. Toronto Argonauts (Unchanged)

  • Record: 4-7
  • Streak: Lost 2
  • Next: Bye

A complete breakdown over 30 seconds at the start of the third quarter led to an embarrassing loss on Labour Day to a team with zero wins. The defence, playing well, gave up a long Hamilton TD on a coverage mistake. Then Martese Jackson fumbled the kickoff, and watched it picked up and run back for another Kitties major. That was 14 points. You can’t blame the spotty refereeing and awful replay calls for this loss. They didn’t block, leaving QB Ricky Ray to run a short pass offence that isn’t using the weapons available properly. Kicker Lirim Hajrullahu missed two key field goals, including a 37-yarder near the end that should have sent it to overtime. They take too many penalties. On the bye, GM Jim Popp needs to fix this offensive line so Ray can both operate and stay alive.

Game Wrap: Tiger-Cats beat Argos, win first game of season1:59

8. Montreal Alouettes (Unchanged)

  • Record: 3-7
  • Streak: Lost 2
  • Next: At B.C.

It makes no sense how a team that was playing so well a month ago has gone completely dans les toilette. Just a week after Darian Durant’s offence played a solid game in the loss to Winnipeg, there was nothing against Ottawa. By nothing we mean 235 net yards that went nowhere, 39 rushing yards and four lousy points. A little discipline would help — 11 penalties overall split both sides of the line. Six defensive flags in the first half are what happens when players believe they have to do it all themselves because not much is coming from the offence on this day. QB Drew Willy came in for Durant and went 8-for-11 in garbage time, also being sacked four times for his effort. No, the Larks should not start Drew Willy next time. Find that early season form, or watch the playoffs fade away.

9. Hamilton Tiger-Cats (Unchanged)                        

  • Record: 1-8
  • Streak: Won 1
  • Next: At Ottawa

When the skies opened up and delayed the Labour Day Classic for two hours, it seemed a fitting end to a week that included a poor decision to hire a tainted coach, word of interest in troubled QB Johnny Manziel (denied, despite working him out for two days), a change at pivot from Zach Collaros to Jeremiah Masoli, and the debut of June Jones as head coach. That’s a lot, isn’t it? As the current joke goes, hold my beer. They beat the hated Argonauts, didn’t really deserve it based on overall play, but finished ahead on the scoreboard (the only stat that matters) by taking advantage of every chance handed to them by a sloppy Toronto side. Masoli was just 58 per cent on completions for 261 yards. Cats took 11 penalties, a number of them dumb, and it didn’t matter. Winning matters. 

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