Week 2 in the CFL was one incredible week of football. The Ticats went out and proved they are still a force to be reckoned with, Rakeem Cato put the league on notice in his first start for the Als, the Redblacks proved they may just be for real, and the Argos won a classic over the Riders in Regina. If you are a fan of the CFL in any way, this week will be tough to top.
But before we move on to Week 3, let’s look back on Week 2 with the latest instalment of 3Downs.
1st Down: East Sweeps West
Remember back to the beginning of last season when everyone was saying the league needed to go to one division because the East was so bad? How the worm has turned. The East Division just swept the West Division in Week 2, with three of the four winning teams — the Ticats, Als and Redblacks — winning by at least 11 points. The East is now 5-1 against the West in 2015, with the lone loss coming on a last-second field goal by Calgary in their Week 1 win over Hamilton, and are 14-6 in interdivisional games since Labour Day weekend last year. It has been a long time since the East showed this type of dominance over the West, and if this trend continues we may just see the first ever crossover team from the East in 2015.
2nd Down: An Instant Classic
The final nail in the West’s coffin in Week 2 game courtesy of the Toronto Argonauts 42-40, double-overtime victory over the Saskatchewan Roughriders. It was an instant classic and one of the best CFL games in recent memory. There were amazing plays — Saskatchewan receiver Ryan Smith made some great catches and announced his arrival; Trevor Harris proved that he is not just a one-week wonder — and it was the type of back-and-forth contest that the CFL made its name on. If you are reading this and have not had a chance to watch the game, go do so. This was easily the game of the weekend, and perhaps the game of the year when all is said and done, and deserves endless replays on TSN for years to come.
3rd Down: Flags, Flags, Everywhere a Flag
It was not all good in the land of the CFL this week, despite a foursome of games that were exciting and high scoring, the league’s refs were once again tossing flags at an alarmingly high rate. It is incumbent upon the players to rein in their play and play within the rules, but some of the calls were of the ticky-tacky variety. It also seems like every time a team busts a big return on a punt, there is a flag of some sort. Twice in the Ottawa-BC game, punt return touchdowns were called back by penalties. TWICE! While it is not up to the refs to make sure the games are as penalty free as possible, some of these calls are borderline ridiculous (for instance, show me where the hold was on Chris Williams’ punt return TD). Lucky for the men in stripes that the players provided enough excitement, but we could see the ire rise in fans across the country if these flag fests continue.
So I got a little flak last week for my rankings, but I must stress that these will be very fluid and teams will rise and fall dramatically each week. Perhaps I should call these the “Knee Jerk Power Rankings” because I am going to make sweeping changes based on the most-recent games.
1. Toronto Argonauts (Last Week: 1)
Many said I was crazy for putting the Argos here last week, but I think their huge come-from-behind win in Regina should silence most of the critics. While I think they will come down to Earth eventually, perhaps as early as next Monday against Calgary, for the time being it is the Argos who have been the most impressive team so far in 2015.
2. Hamilton Tiger-Cats (Last Week: 3)
Nipping at the Double Blue’s heels are the Black and Gold. The Ticats came off a heartbreaking loss to the Stampeders by going into Winnipeg and mollywhopping the Bombers. The Ticats scored 35 consecutive points after falling behind 7-3 early and the game was over by halftime. If the Ticats put more of these performances together, they could not only catapult to the top of these power rankings, but to the top of the league standings as well.
3. Ottawa Redblacks (Last Week: 5)
Raise your hand if you had the Redblacks at 2-0 to start the season. Anyone? Anyone? Yeah, didn’t think so. Not even the most diehard member of RNation could have seen the first two weeks coming. The Redblacks have so far shown that the moves made in the offseason are paying off and Henry Burris has been more Good Hank than Bad in the first two weeks. It is a tremendous start for the second-year franchise, but can they keep it up? They have a stiff test coming up as they travel to Edmonton to take on the well rested Eskimos.
4. Calgary Stampeders (Last Week: 4)
Is there a Grey Cup hangover in Calgary? Let’s be honest, this team is lucky to be sitting at 1-1. If not for a brain fart by the Ticats in Week 1, the Stamps would be 0-2 and facing some serious questions. They had no spark against the Als, and had no answer for first-time starter Rakeem Cato. The Stamps were unable to do anything and have looked out of sorts during the early portion of the 2015 season. I have no doubt that they right the ship, but fans in Cowtown should still be concerned about the team’s poor play so far this season.
5. Montreal Alouettes (Last Week: 9)
While everyone was probably hoping Brandon Bridge would become the first Canadian to start at quarterback in almost 20 years, Rakeem Cato showed why he displaced Bridge atop the depth chart. All Cato did in his first career CFL start was go 20 of 25 for 241 yards and three touchdowns. While the Als have proclaimed many quarterbacks to be the new franchise guy in the post-Calvillo era, Cato is the first to truly look like a future star. Injuries to others may have put him on the field, but it does not look like he plans on coming off it any time soon.
6. Edmonton Eskimos (Last Week: 8)
The Edmonton Eskimos were the only West Division team not to lose in Week 2, but that is because they were on a bye. They spent the weekend resting and watching as every other team in their division fell to defeat. They have a tough test coming up against the undefeated Redblacks in Week 3, but with an extra week to plan, perhaps the Eskimos can find that first win of the season this Thursday.
7. Saskatchewan Roughriders (Last Week: 7)
What a way to lose. The Riders snatched defeat from the jaws of victory against the Argos on Sunday, and it will be of little consolation to the Green Machine that they were one half of the best game so far this season. Kevin Glenn, despite one horrendous interception, was at his best, throwing for 477 yards in a losing effort. While the Riders will not be better with Glenn than they would have been with Darian Durant, the team is in good hands with No. 5 behind centre. For a team that I had low expectations for at the start of the season, I am starting to believe the Riders might actually find a way to claw into a playoff spot by year’s end.
8. Winnipeg Blue Bombers (Last Week: 2)
Their quarterback nearly got killed, their fans hate the backup and want the third-string guy in there and they have as many wins at their new home in 19 tries as their Week 2 opponents have in four. It was just a bad week for the Bombers, and things do not get any easier as they travel to Montreal to take on the suddenly competent Als, With Drew Willy’s miraculous recovery, the Bombers will have more than a puncher’s chance. They just need to figure out how to win at home.
9. BC Lions (Last Week: 6)
It might be unfair to put the Lions in ninth following a somewhat decent game against the Redblacks, but despite a good performances from quarterback Travis Lulay and Manny Arceneaux, the Lions got little from running back Andrew Harris, mostly because their offensive line looks to be the league’s worst. Until the Leos can get their o-line sorted out, they are going to have a hard time winning many games.
Players of the Week
So the league, in its infinite wisdom, decided to make changes to their Player of the Week awards. Gone are the four categories that used to make up the weekly awards — offense, defense, special teams and Canadian — and in its place is more of a three-star approach. The league says that this will allow them to recognize players regardless of position, but it comes off as change for the sake of change and I have my doubts that the lists won’t just feature a ton of quarterbacks. Last week, QBs took two of the three spots, and it would not surprise me if the same happened this week. It was a terrible change and continues on from a mistake-filled offseason of changes that the league made. Everyone remember their terrible 10,000 retweet foolishness before releasing the 2015 schedule? Yeah, I do, too. So with that, I will not be following their lead, and will instead use the far superior system that worked for many years and continue to award offense, defense, special teams and Canadians each week.
Offense: Zach Collaros, QB, Hamilton Tiger-Cats
There were a ton of great offensive performances in Week 2, so this was a tough one to pick. Trevor Harris shone again, Kevin Glenn and Henry Burris seemed to turn back the clock, and Ryan Smith introduced himself to the country with some amazing catches, but Collaros gets the nod this week for his utter dissection of the Winnipeg defense. Collaros went 26 of 33 for 354 yards and two touchdowns against the Bombers and is starting to show the type of command of the offense that many thought he would in his second year in Hamilton. It was an impressive performance and if it continues, the Ticats are going to win a lot of games.
Defense: Solomon Elimimian, LB, BC Lions
The reigning Most Outstanding Player and Defensive Player picked up right where he left off in 2014 against the Redblacks. While the Lions were unable to escape TD Place with a win, the man they call the Elimiminator made seven tackles, while picking up a sack and an interception. No. 56 was all over the field and put opposing offenses on notice that he is coming just as hard in 2015 as he did in 2014.
Special Teams: Brandon Banks, WR/KR, Hamilton Tiger-Cats
I might as well just rename this the Brandon Banks award because until further notice, he is going to be bestowed this honour. Banks once again proved he is the most dangerous special teams player in the league by returning another punt for a touchdown against the Bombers. That marks the fifth return TD Banks has in his last six games dating back to last year and it seems like teams just do not know how to contain the diminutive speedster. At this rate, it is going to be surprising when Banks doesn’t return a punt or kickoff for a touchdown.
Canadian: Brad Sinopoli, WR, Ottawa Redblacks
It was a homecoming of sorts for the 2010 Hec Creighton award winner. Sinopoli returned to the scene of his greatest gridiron triumphs and had his best game as a professional, catching nine passes for 99 yards and one touchdown in Ottawa’s 27-16 win over the BC Lions. After years of learning the receiving ropes in Calgary, this could be the beginning of great things for No. 88 in the red and black.