CFL Power Rankings: Eskimos squeak into top spot

Given that we haven’t done a power ranking since before the end of the 2017 CFL season – the playoffs are the ultimate power ranking after all – we figured it was probably time to see where teams stand more or less halfway through the off-season. And what we found kind of surprised us.

We do our power rankings by having 3Down contributors – in this case Drew Edwards, Justin Dunk, John Hodge, Josh Smith, Joel Gasson and Santino Filoso – rank the teams from No. 1 to No. 9. The team with the fewest “points” gets the top ranking, the second fewest is No. 2 and so on. There’s often consensus at the top of the table (and at the bottom) with a bit of a jumble in the middle.

But while there is agreement on the CFL’s worst team – how you doing Montreal? – three different teams received top rankings including Calgary (3), Toronto (2) and Edmonton (1). The Eskimos, however, received three second-place votes, a third and a fourth while Calgary was ranked as low as No. 5 by two voters. That disparity of opinion was enough to put Edmonton in the top spot by the narrowest of margins.

Mike Reilly.

1. Edmonton Eskimos

They have league’s reigning MOP at quarterback and consistency in the coaching staff with Jason Mass’ staff returning virtually intact. Combined with the re-signing of some key pieces – Aaron Grymes, Adam Konar, Derel Waker, C.J. Gable – and the addition of Alex Bazzie was enough to put the Eskimos at No. 1.

2. Calgary Stampeders

The perennial Grey Cup bridesmaids still have Bo Levi Mitchell at quarterback and a rock solid front office and coaching staff, led by general manager John Hufnagel and head coach Dave Dickenson. The loss of some big names from their secondary (Tommie Campbell, Joe Burnett) as well as their big Canadian running back (Jerome Messam) likely has some wondering how long they can keep up their run of West Division dominance.

Ricky Ray.

3. Toronto Argonauts

The defending Grey Cup champions were able to bring back veteran pivot Ricky Ray and add James Franklin, thought by many to be the CFL’s next big star. They re-signed a number of key contributors including linebacker Bear Woods and defensive back Jermaine Gabriel while adding all-star DB T.J. Heath and linebacker Taylor Reed. Marc Trestman is a proven commodity as a head coach but how much will the loss of coordinators Marcus Brady and Corey Chamblin impact the Double Blue?

Zach Collaros.

4. Saskatchewan Roughriders

The Riders have a new No. 1 quarterback in Zach Collaros and that could be huge – if he returns to his 2015 form. Chris Jones also had an interesting free agent period adding Canadians Messam, Zack Evans, Sam Hurl while also re-signing Eddie Steele and landing defensive end Charleston Hughes. But there was also an exodus of talent including Henoc Muamba, Nic Demski, Otha Foster and A.C. Leonard so it remains to be seen if the Riders are better or just different. And then there is Duron…

Kyle Walters.

5. Winnipeg Blue Bombers

SAM linebacker Chandler Fenner was an excellent free agent pick up and repatriating hometown boy Nic Demski gave Winnipeg a boost of Canadian content. The team has stability with general manager Kyle Walters and head coach Mike O’Shea – bringing back Richie Hall as DC raised some eyebrows – but the Bombers still have to prove they can keep up with the Jones’ (and Hufnagels and Sunderlands) in the ultra-competitive West Divison.

Jeremiah Masoli.

6. Hamilton Tiger-Cats

The core from last season’s 6-12 will get a chance to prove their late resurgence (6-4 after an 0-8 start) under head coach June Jones was the start of something bigger. Jeremiah Masoli is the undisputed No. 1 quarterback for the first time in his career and the team re-signed all off its big-name pending free agents including Ted Laurent, Larry Dean and Luke Tasker. While the return of coach Orlondo Steinauer makes sense, the jury is still out on the installation of 76-year-old CFL neophyte Jerry Glanville as defensive coordinator.

Trevor Harris.

7. Ottawa Redblacks

The Redblacks made some major additions to their roster – Kyries Hebert, Luichez Purifoy, Rico Murray, Josh Johnson, A.C. Leonard – but there are questions surrounding their Canadian talent level. Trevor Harris returns at quarterback – as do the questions as to whether he is truly an elite player who can stay healthy.

Jon Jennings.

8. B.C. Lions

New general manager Ed Hervey re-made the roster, largely by adding Eskimos from his tenure with Edmonton. Quarterback Jon Jennings restructured his deal to give the team more cap flexibility but he’ll have to prove that last season’s disappointing performance was an anomaly and not a permanent regression.

Kavis Reed.

9. Montreal Alouettes

The hiring of NFL veteran Mike Sherman as head coach and the signing of NFL washout Josh Freeman as defacto starting quarterback has done little to inspire confidence in general manager Kavis Reed’s squad. Reed was able to attract to some big names in free agent – Canadian defensive end Jamaal Westerman chief among them – but had to overpay to do it. Montreal will need to prove they are anything but bad.

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76 Comments on CFL Power Rankings: Eskimos squeak into top spot

  1. greenenvy? // March 20, 2018 at 2:01 pm //

    Amazing. That is exactly how I would rank them across the board. Esks are loaded at RB, have young OL ranked 1st last year, deep receiving corps. Defence gave up 3rd fewest yards & were playing without 6 regulars on defence most of the year. Calgary lost Campbell but Davis is good replacement. Still have best defence. Only concern is RB. Toronto is stacked – #2 offence & defence last year. I can see why there is a virtual tie between these 3 clubs. TO may have the best front 7 in the league. The Rider issue – hit the nail on the head. Are they better or just different? Very good DL but if you look at front 7, not as good as any of the above 3. Major issue – OL. Doesn’t look better than last year & were worst running the ball & had to take Glenn out due to pressures. If Collaros gets protection, Riders could be very good. That’s a big IF. Good analysis.

  2. BlindEyeTy // March 20, 2018 at 2:04 pm //

    Marcus Crandell wasnt the OC of the Argos, it was Marcus Brady….

  3. Winnipeg has to prove they can keep up with Jones’ Riders? Really? Because the Riders signed a QB who hasn’t been a threat in this league since 2015? Or, maybe it’s because Winnipeg has won 4 out of their last 5 games against the Riders? Or, maybe it’s because Winnipeg has finished above SK in the standings the past 3 years? Equating Jones to Huff and (to a lesser extent) Sunderland is ridiculous. And I know TO won the GC but they were a 9-9 team and, thanks to the CFL’s terrible division format, got a bye into the East final, while WPG had to slug it out with one of the best teams in the league, despite owning a 12-6 record. This is the kind of BS coverage of the CFL that I can’t stand (also, off-season Power Rankings are stupid, but that’s another rant).

    • The ‘Riders didn’t get a “bye into the East final” as you put it. If I am not mistaken, a ‘bye’ means one doesn’t play, right? Funny…I could have sworn I was in the TD Place Stadium on Sunday, Nov. 12, 2017 watching the ‘Riders defeat the Ottawa RedBlacks–where were you, Dan? (Somewhere complaining about “BS coverage of the CFL” perhaps?)

      • I think Dan meant the Argos are the 9-9 team that got the bye. Which is a frustrating flaw in this league.

      • I think you need to re-read my comment, Heathers. Cheers.

        • I’ve read the comments…and the fact remains: a ‘bye’ means a team doesn’t play a game–simple as that!

          • O.K….was quite late at night when I read that; it was indeed the Argonauts he was referring to in getting a bye, not the ‘Riders–sorry! But it also brings up the point that the overall fairest way of determining who gets byes and who has to play should be to go to a non-divisional format–such as the top 6 teams overall making the playoffs and then having byes and playoff games from there…I actually suspect that this may happen sooner rather than later, as the new commissioner seems much more open to making changes than the previous one.

  4. But how do the Riders end up ahead of the Bombers? Winnipeg’s biggest losses this off season were Heath and Westerman, but they’ve filled both of those holes. The main issue for their defense still seems to be an MLB, but that was the case last year as well. Plus, they signed some new Canadian talent and kept the rest of the team (who’ve been a legit threat the last two years) intact. So, even if (and that’s a BIG if with Collaros) the Riders didn’t just stay the same, but actually got a bit better, how do they jump ahead of a team that’s been stronger than them for the past 3 years?

    • Settle down Dan. Were the Bombers in either final last season? No. End of story.

    • I think the Bombs should definitely be ahead of the Riders at this point. This surprised me. Riders haven’t proven anything with their new signings. …and that’s what this ranking is based off of.

      • Exactly this. I’m not anti-Riders – and they certainly showed they could be a threat last year. However, this article on off-season Power Rankings is putting the Riders ahead of the Bombers, despite the fact that the Riders have been worse than the Bombers the last 3 seasons, and neither team made any massive moves that signal certain improvement. Further, the writer actually goes as far as to say the Bombers need to “keep up” with Jones’ Riders, which is silly IMO.

        • Id have to agree. The past few seasons have been the Riders keeping up with the Bombs. With the exception of the stadium of course 😉 actually to be fair I’ve never been to the Bomb’s new stadium…

    • greenrider89 // March 21, 2018 at 8:29 pm //

      Hey, buddy, pre-season analysis. Until the pre-season actually arrives, all teams will find out then what they have and what they don’t have. Your analysis could have you putting your foot right in your mouth, too. Everybody has their opinion. I personally think the green and white are improved from last season with the beef up front on the defense and another year under Chris Jones. Let’s just say an identify has arrived in Saskatchewan with a lot of players now in the system for another year. But your guess, like the analysts (above), is just as good as mine. Time will tell. Cheers!!!

  5. So how do you propose to fix the problem of the Bombers having to slug it out in the ultra competitive west division while the weak east cruises to the grey cup?All west teams had to slug it out not just the Bombers

    • One division. The league is only 9 teams. And only two teams in the west had to slug it out – WPG and EDM (both 12-6). CGY got the (deserved) bye. SK (10-8) got the easy crossover vs. OT (8-9-1), and BC was out. So two of the 3 best teams in the league had to play each other, while TO (9-9) got a bye (!) and the mediocre Riders and Redblacks played each other (not going to call that a slug fest).

      • greenenvy? // March 20, 2018 at 2:49 pm //

        I don’t disagree Dan. But if Cal & Wpg had the bye, Edm plays Ott at home, Sask plays Toronto anyway, but at home. Assuming Edm & Tor still win (TO dominated SK except for 3 minutes), you still get Edm @ Wpg & Tor playing Calgary. Yes, the home team advantage means something & the better team in the regular season should get home advantage. But the way I look at it, you still are going to have to beat the good clubs at some point. You can’t avoid it. Wpg’s first game would still have been at home vs Edm – 12-6 vs 12-6 in the West Final. And no matter how you slice it, a West team never has made it through the East to the Cup. If you’re better it shouldn’t matter if you have to beat them in their park or your own.

        • You have a couple of strawmen in that position. First, of course you have to play the best teams at some point, but finishing with a superior regular season record should reward those teams with an advantage. Having 1 week of additional rest and/or home field advantage are not inconsequential. The fact that you have to play the “best” (arguable term in one-and-done playoffs, but that’s another argument) to win has no bearing on that advantage. Second, the “if you’re better…” platitude is equally irrelevant. Being more rested and/or playing in your own barn are legit advantages and should be awarded to the teams who finished the 18 game regular season with the best record, not a 9-9 team that finished 2nd last in terms of playoff eligibility. It’s a broken system that, more often than not, makes a mockery of the regular season record of good teams.

          One division has it’s own problems (travel being a huge one) but IMO, that is of lesser concern than awarding advantages to sub-par teams.

          • Blue rules // March 20, 2018 at 4:38 pm //

            Envy,Dan.. unfortunately although your dialogue is interesting it’s moot, if it were a 1 division league all games would have been, mostly a 1 home & 1 away per each team, the rankings would be much different. Otherwise interesting topic, I get that you’re assuming that would have been the final out come. Still good dialogue.

          • greenenvy? // March 20, 2018 at 5:33 pm //

            Good point Blue. Should Halifax come on board we’d have a perfect situation in that everyone plays once away & at home. But eddiefelson is right. You gotta beat whoever is put in front of you. In my mind TO & Ottawa were full value for their Cup wins.

          • Blue rules, I’m not suggesting anything about hypothetical results of a one division league. I’m saying that the current format is broken and rewards mediocrity at the expense of teams that have proven success in the regular season.

      • eddiefelson // March 20, 2018 at 4:51 pm //

        seriously? is the west still crying about one division? stop! The “amazing” west has lost the grey cup to the “crappy” east the past 2 years.

        The discussion is closed-they have proven that regular season domination means zippo, zero, nadda, squat.

        What matters is who the best team is on the day they play. We dont give the cup to the team that finished first-get over it

        • That is the interesting part!! The West has dominated and then the East has won the Cup… Chalk it up to Stamps not getting it done, or just the best vs the best… either way, it does go to show that the best team won when the Argos beat the Stamps. The Argos couldn’t have played a better team to prove this point… So there is an argument for both sides of this I guess.

      • Tom Canada // March 20, 2018 at 8:42 pm //

        Your right the east gets a free pass to the cup every year don’t even need a winning record to win the division yikes !!

        • eddiefelson // March 20, 2018 at 9:57 pm //

          Free pass?….seems to me the eastern champ has to win the same number of games as the western champ to get to the cup.
          maybe its time the western teams start playing to win the end of the season rather than to win the begining

  6. Bill deHoog // March 20, 2018 at 2:25 pm //

    I think the East will be a lot stronger this year. Very critical of Redblacks expecially Trevor Harris.
    I think they will surprise…they are right there with Argos and Ticats

    • I sure hope the East is better! Not only because it’s better football to watch, but because mediocrity in the East affects the West.

    • On track w the Ticats? Ticats didn’t even make the playoff last year… The Redblacks are better than the Ticats until the Ticats prove otherwise as far as I’m concerned. Masoli was good to close out the season last year. Lets see how he does all year. I like the Ticats, they’re my East team. I just hope they don’t regret some of these moves.

  7. Feeling Blue // March 20, 2018 at 2:42 pm //

    Not sure how the ARGO’s have fallen from being the best team in the CFL? They are #1 until proven otherwise.

    • First best team with a 9-9 record in history!

      • They did win the GC though! they are the Champs until someone dethrones ’em! Say what you will about the West being the strongest blah blah… The Argos went in there and beat the best team in the league. Doesn’t that make them #1? (Just making an argument here) 😉

        • They are the champs, no doubt. They were an underdog and pulled out a huge win. That’s very different from being the “best team in the CFL”. The best team does not always win. If they did, playoffs (especially one-and-done playoffs) would be boring.

          • Slomojo2005 // March 24, 2018 at 9:32 pm //

            Yeah but when “ the soz caalled beat team from the WEDT” loses in 2 consecutive years to an EAST team, what does that say about that WEST team? I know it says the EAST team is #1.

  8. Doug Mc Clintock // March 20, 2018 at 2:47 pm //

    These rankings look very good but there will be surprises especially in the East. How many Grey Cups have the East & West won ? The East & West series for the Grey Cup still is a good matchup. Just one league sounds good but…..

  9. Paul Bomber // March 20, 2018 at 3:25 pm //

    It’s fun… but I don’t think anyone should take this too seriously. (and no… I’m not certain I would have said the same thing if the Blue were ranked first)

    • greenrider89 // March 21, 2018 at 8:44 pm //

      Agree, Paul. I just got on here and find some of the comments rather interesting since we’re such a long ways away from a pre-season snap. And why such an analysis would begin now is beyond me. As I mentioned above to Dan, I personally think the Riders have improved from last year. But fans of every club for the most part have the same opinion as I. Free agency with gains and losses, remains only the first segment of each team’s operation. Then there’s the free agent camps followed by the draft. And finally all of the surprises and expectations during pre- and regular season. This early analysis is simply all talk. Obviously, there’s a lot more to come which builds the excitement in every sports fan home.

  10. Blue rules // March 20, 2018 at 3:30 pm //

    What was the CFL power rankings March 2017.?? anyone have any feedback on that, just curious,

  11. The Realist // March 20, 2018 at 3:51 pm //

    Comparing Chris Jones to John Hufnagel is an insult to everybody’s mentality. As a GM what has Jones accomplished? He’s built a fourth place team in a five team division, that’s what.

    • greenrider89 // March 21, 2018 at 8:48 pm //

      True, Hufnagel has done a tremendous job as a former head coach and now GM of the Stamps. But Jones accomplishments in Saskatchewan shouldn’t go unnoticed. From a 3-win team, he brought the club up to 5 victories, and 10 wins last season. But Hufnagel is at a level by himself. Time will tell.

  12. White Horse // March 20, 2018 at 4:02 pm //

    The Eskimos should be ranked first for sure. Stamps 2nd and Argos 3rd. Bombers should be 4th and Riders 5th without question. Edm will be the team to beat all season long, seriously, the 106 Grey Cup is in Edm and they will be extremely difficult to dislodge.
    Stamps will remain next all season long. I am seeing BLM having a much better season than last.
    Just my opinion.

  13. White Horse // March 20, 2018 at 4:05 pm //

    If Jason Maas has any more melt downs or makes stupid mistakes like he did in the West Final, then scratch the Esks from first to third rank.

  14. Blue rules // March 20, 2018 at 4:06 pm //

    I found 1 article on Reddit. Titled CFL power rankings Pre season 2017 (it’s finally June)
    #1 Calgary….. perfectly predicted
    #2 BC….WTF
    #3 Ottawa…Way off
    #4 Edmonton… close
    #5 Hamilton….Meh
    #6 Winnipeg…. Way off
    #7 Montreal…. close
    #8 Toronto….Way off
    #9 Saskatchewan…. PERFECTLY PREDICTED..lol, Way off

    Rankings made by ANYONE mean nothing

  15. Pennyrocker // March 20, 2018 at 4:23 pm //

    What Eskimos on top course they
    are without their sex offender this year.
    Did you guys forget Wilder is back with the Argos. I don’t see much difference in coaching staff the Argos may have lost a few and gain a few good coaches in return.
    I still say Riders have made a big gamble on a Collaros he could be the biggest dud. Bridges will have to probably carry the load again. At least Glenn won a few games and had a way better record last year.
    Bomber were overlooked consider Double D is backing up Nichols. I see the Bombers ahead of the Riders because of Collaros.

  16. eddiefelson // March 20, 2018 at 4:45 pm //

    sooooooo….sask was 30 seconds away from appearing in the grey cup- they added an all star quarterback AND running back….meanwhile calgary broke their team apart for a rebuild….and somehow calgary is ahead?
    Sask should be number 1&2…then the rest of the league….wake up folks

    • Wall To Wall // March 20, 2018 at 5:13 pm //

      Sask isn’t last, they are mid pack. Not up there with Calgary or Edmonton. Calgary is hardly rebuilding, we have retooled to get younger. Something we do every year, that’s how you stay on the top of the hill. Sask could be good but there are far more question marks than answers right now. The biggest being young Canadian depth

    • greenenvy? // March 20, 2018 at 5:48 pm //

      Doesn’t a QB have to actually BE on an All-Star team at least once in his career to be considered an All-Star, even an East All-Star team? Zach hasn’t. As for Messam, nope, he wasn’t an All-Star either last year – sorry. Riders stunk most of the final. If you want to hang your hat on 30 seconds, fine. That counts for as much as your 13th man fiasco. But they weren’t the better team. Jones should have been able to stop them on 3rd & 5, don’t you think? Shoulda, coulda, didn’t.

      • You really have a hate on for the green huh envy ?

        • greenenvy? // March 20, 2018 at 6:45 pm //

          Only when I read the stupidity, Yup. I think the comments by 3 Down were right on with all the clubs. How long do we have to keep rewriting history in Regina? 30 seconds? Get over it. I’ll repeat my initial comment – if Collaros gets protection the Riders could be very good. I think Collaros will be good, but “2015 good”?????

          • Ya….and if my aunt had balls she’d be my uncle. Anyhow, I have no issue with how they’ve got teams listed as it means ZERO. As for Callaros…I’m not convinced he’s our saviour. Now that he’s here I hope like hell he does something. Oh well – we shall see

          • eddiefelson // March 21, 2018 at 3:14 pm //

            dont confuse yourself envy-I am a cat fan-the riders have the best q.b. in the league now and you have my permission to come hunt me down if they dont start 6-0
            as for all start(stupidity) -watch and learn from an expert

          • eddiefelson // March 21, 2018 at 3:17 pm //

            *star*

        • Envy seriously cant help it when there is a thread about the Riders. Has to get the chops in daily.

      • Shoulda coulda didn’t – reference Calgary Stampeders 2016/17

      • Ridersnhabs // March 20, 2018 at 9:16 pm //

        You don’t seem to acually have a team you cheer for all I see is a unhealthy hate for the riders . Unless u do cheer for a team but are to much of a coward to reveal it . Either way you are one weird person

    • eddiefelson // March 20, 2018 at 9:59 pm //

      by the way….this is coming from the biggest cats fan to ever walk the planet

    • greenrider89 // March 21, 2018 at 9:09 pm //

      Thanks, eddiefelson. I appreciate the fact that “you” recognize the talent and opportunity Collaros has in Saskatchewan, with one of the most promising sets of receivers and solid running backs in the country to unleash his talent. It remains to be seen, however, how the offensive performs for Collaros. But, potentially, Collaros has a decent lineup, and a new setting to work in. And hopefully your Tiger-Cats will have a solid season this year. It would be great to see Hamilton come out of the east. And it would be better to see a Tiger-Cat/Rider Grey Cup matchup. Time will tell.

  17. I would have picked the atlantic schooners 3rd

  18. Schooners, dreadful name. I can see it now “Schooners sunk…” “Schooners spring a leak….” run aground etc etc etc…
    Privateers or something menacing please.

  19. People in BC don’t care about the children’s football league Why doesn’t this league fold so BC and Toronto can get NFL teams

    • BTW how’s the Grizzlies doing this year. Not much chance the NFL would go to Vancouver and probably not TO based on the last NFL game played there.

      • There is no hope for NFL franchises in Canada. Those that understand the business side of the sport realize that fact.

    • Oh yes, the classic NFL coming to Canada comment. Guess the NFL didn’t know Canada existed until now? I’m a huge fan of both leagues and follow the business side closely. Why exactly do you believe the NFL would have any interest north of the border. What exactly have they been waiting for. Carolina Panthers looking at more than 2.5 billion for the franchise. Toronto will need to spend well over 3 billion in Canadian funds and a shovel wouldn’t even be in the ground for a required new stadium. You can’t honestly believe there is any hope?

  20. This (and your previous comment) shows a real lack of understanding. The very nature of a one-and-done playoff format means that anything can happen (i.e. the lesser team coming out on top), which is the EXACT reason that the current divisional and playoff format of the CFL is so flawed, as it further disadvantages good teams in a system that is already weighted to give favour to lesser teams.

    • Ugh, stupid commenting system – this is in response to “eddiefelson” above.

    • eddiefelson // March 21, 2018 at 1:29 pm //

      Your comment here shows YOUR lack of understanding how championships are won.
      I will make this simple for you-YOU HAVE TO WIN IN THE PLAYOFFS!
      Regular season means squat as previously stated, regular season is 20 weeks learning how to win-some teams suck EVERY year at the start (see hamilton) others, dominate when the players are fresh and choke at the end (see Calgary the past 2 years) What did they do? lose 3 of their last 4 games last season? (including the cup)
      Absolute proof that the current format is the best-Calgary was sucking wind at the end-but made the cup thanks to a bye week. Regular season wins at the beginning got them there- maybe we should look at the second half of the season-the best records? Toronto and Hamilton….wouldnt the west love a playoff format that only went from labour day on?

      The current system works-all you have to do is win the games at the end. simple and easy

      • eddiefelson, regular season means squat, huh? That’s interesting, considering virtually every pro sport league in the world employs some form of seeding based on the regular season results. I guess everyone’s got it wrong but you? Also, regular season wins at the start got CGY to the cup? They were 13-4-1. That comment alone says enough about your position.

        • eddiefelson // March 21, 2018 at 3:36 pm //

          yes dan they have divisional winners with east vs west…just like our current system—-I guess everyone has it wrong but you.

          13-4-1….losing 3 of last 4, winnipeg lost 5 of last 7….edmonton had the 3rd longest losing streak in the league last season….

          Like it or not-the current system is the ONLY viable way for this league to continue-
          Seriously-who wants to watch edmonton vs calgary grey cup except alber-duh?

  21. There is no way that the Tiger Cats would be placed ahead of Ottawa. The Ticats only 6 wins and decide to go with the same team?? no FA signings.
    The Ticats that are hoping that the other teams stand still too.
    Ottawa has the same explosive offense but made FA gains on defense.

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