It’s week 9 in the CFL and after last weeks debacle of one sided contests, we should be in line for a more balanced week ahead. The four games last week were won by an average of more than 17 points per game as the closest game was the 27-20 contest between Edmonton and Ottawa. This week there are two huge Western conference games that highlight the schedule with massive playoff positioning at stake.
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Thursday August 17th: Eskimos (-1 point) at Blue Bombers
The week kicks off with a beauty of a game between the still perfect Eskimos (7-0) vs the 5-2 Blue Bombers who are currently in third place however a win would vault them to just one shy of the division leader.
The line is tight with only a lone point separating the two teams as the Bombers have won three straight games and are surging up the standings. Winnipeg is coming off an impressive road win in which they throttled the Tiger Cats 39-12. Matt Nichols looked sharp in the victory with 267 yards passing and a couple of scores while running back Andrew Harris went off for 107 yards on just 16 carries in a game that was never even close.
The Eskimos had a much tougher time with Ottawa on Thursday night as they won their third road game of the year 27-20 over the reigning Grey Cup winners. Mike Reilly exploited a very good Ottawa defense by way of 384 yards through the air with two touchdowns, and the defense did just to stop a very good showing from Ottawa QB Trevor Harris.
This will be the first meeting of the year between these two clubs so it’ll be interesting to see how the Edmonton defensive gameplans for the league’s second highest scoring club in the league in Winnipeg.
Friday August 18th: Redblacks (-4.0 points) at Tiger Cats
The first of two games on Friday night football sees a battle of teams with exactly one combined win between them. The defending champion Redblacks have had more than enough tough breaks go against them as they will look for their second win of the year over the winless Ticats.
Ottawa have a very favourable 3.5 point spread to win the game and should have no problem covering the number. This matchup will likely be centered around the fact that Hamilton boasts the least proficient offense in the league with just 130 points scored compared to a whopping 273 points against. Hamilton QB Zach Collaros has been called out publicly by his coaching staff and has seriously underwhelmed this year compared to preseason projections. Collaros looks out of sorts and the entire offense lacks any quick strike potential. Now they have a date with the same Redblacks team that is among the leaders in the league in positive turnover ratio.
Look for Ottawa to try and set the tone early with a heavy dose of Trevor Harris finding his receivers in short, quick strike offensive sets to move the ball quickly and confuse a defense that has already been inadequate.
Until Collaros can right the ship on offense this will be a long season for Hamilton who are still in search of its first win of the year.
Friday August 18th: Stampeders (-4.5 points) at BC Lions
The second of the two key West matchups takes place at BC Place where the Lions return home after being embarrassed by the Saskatchewan Roughriders last week 41-8. The Lions offense was horrible as they were shutout for three straight quarters to start the game before putting up their lone touchdown in the fourth. Lions QB Jonathan Jennings looked awful in the loss completing just 14 of 30 passes while the defense surrendered 41 points in the laugher.
As if that BC loss wasn’t humiliating enough, their reward this week is quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell and the top ranked offense in the league. The Stampeders have the highest scoring offense in the league with 254 points for as well as the lowest scoring defense of just 145 points against. The Stamps are also coming off of the bye week last week and will likely be fully aware of what the Riders did last week on defense to disrupt the BC passing attack.
Bo Levi Mitchell is averaging nearly 300 yards per game with 13 touchdowns to a league best 3 interceptions and should be ready to feast on the Lions secondary that as a team have given up nearly as many points against as they have for.
We are approaching the point in the season where teams are beginning to establish their seeding with the playoffs less than two months away, and this game will provide a big swing for the winner as both teams are sitting with 5 victories through eight weeks.