Peerless found himself doing a pushup last week, but not the physical kind.
His “beloved” Hamilton Tiger-Cats, who have burned him more times than he can remember by failing to cover at home (either in Steeltown or their makeshift lair in Guelph), were favoured by five over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Well, the Ticats won by that amount in a game that neither team seemed destined to win. In betting against the spread, a push means neither a win nor a loss, hence Peerless’s theoretical bet is returned to his coffers, hence he did a pushup.
The push stopped his modest two-game win streak because he picked Saskatchewan to beat Toronto, which lost as the favourite, and Calgary to beat Montreal, which was the favourite at home, a place where the Als rarely lose. His only loss came in Edmonton, where the B.C. Lions easily defeated the Eskimos in a driving rain, the second consecutive week the Green and Gold played in such conditions. The Lions were favoured and easily covered.
So a record of 2-1-1 isn’t too bad and moved Peerless closer to .500.
If it rains again this week and it hits the Eskimos, surely this team has done something to upset the CFL Gods. The game is being played indoors in the comfort of the covered B.C. Place. So, it will be dry.
Friday, 8 p.m. ET / 6 p.m. MT at Investors Group Field
Why Toronto can win: The Argos are playing on the road and it is actually a good thing. They are terrible at home and get no help from the crowd. The Argos have played poorly on both sides of the ball and aren’t lighting it up on special teams. In fact, all-purpose star Chad Owens, voted last year’s Most Outstanding Player in the CFL, is getting beat up.
The Argos can improve their confidence by getting the ball to running back Chad Kackert with some passes to the flat, screens or something creative, maybe isolating him as a wideout to the wide side of the field and having him run a post route. He simply needs to be given the ball more. Maybe line up Owens up as a wide side receiver and let him turn on the after-burners? Or how about lining up Andre Durie at running back and flanking out both Kackert and Owens?
Quarterback Ricky Ray has lost a vertical threat, so something needs to be done to get that going. Bottom line, if the Argos don’t start getting something going to ease the pressure at the line, Ray will get pounded.
More importantly, stopping the run is imperative. The Argos seem to be able to give up a lot of yards on the ground in one half or the other. Winnipeg is missing some key offensive weapons, notably receivers, so this might be a way to crowd the box and go after quarterback Buck Pierce, who may be given the green light to run.
Why Winnipeg can win: Playing at home is a plus. They’ve just played back-to-back games on the road and were .500. They opened the season in their new home and lost, but maybe this will be different. Only four games into the season and the Bombers are starting to show signs of imploding. There is already heat on Pierce, who has underperformed and realistically has overextended his shelf life with the team, which has held on to him for far too long. That said, I blame his performance this year on questionable play calling by offensive co-ordinator Gary Crowton, who routinely puts his team in a position to fail.
Running back Chad Simpson is a proven asset when given the rock, but Crowton has refuses to make maximum usage of that, preferring the deep ball and the hurry-up offence to fool the defences. Apparently, Pierce will be given the green light to run a little more, but all that means is everyone watching will be holding their collective breaths hoping he isn’t physically pounded.
In either case, backup Justin Goltz will pose a threat to run every time he is on the field. He has yet to throw a pass. In fact, the punter, Mike Renaud, has more attempts – one to be precise, and that was throwing the ball as far as he could last week on a play to avoid being sacked. The defence has been playing solidly, notably at the point of attack, and this is where the Bombers can stymie Toronto.
The spread: Argos -4 (opened as a pick ‘em).
And the pick is: Toronto to cover.
Saturday, 7 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. MT at McMahon Stadium
Why Montreal can win: Their only win this year has come on the road, so at least they won’t feel and hear the anxiety of their fans. They also played Calgary last week, so the back-to-back games usually favour the team that lost in the first game. And why is it the Als opened with back-to-back games against Winnipeg and now back-to-back games against Calgary? Weird.
The Als’ offence is totally a mess, which has put rookie head coach Dan Hawkins and rookie offensive coordinator Mike Miller under fire. There is a glimmer of hope. Running back Brandon Whitaker is rounding into game shape and he can be a difference. But the offensive line has undergone some changes, so whether that will be a problem remains to be seen.
So far, the pass protection has been porous. As I’ve said since the start of the season, quarterback Anthony Calvillo is frustrated and taking too many hits. He hurt his throwing hand in practice this week; he’s going to play, but the problem has been bothering him all season. He appears jumpy in the pocket, perhaps knowing he is about to get pounded. He and his receiving corps are clearly not in sync. Unless Jamel Richardson gets going, the defence can stop worrying about him. Stamps’ stud rush end Charleston Hughes may not play due to injury, so that’s a significant loss.
Why the Stamps can win: Their only loss has come against the undefeated Roughriders on the road. The Stamps play well at home and are usually a good bet to cover. They opened at home with an emotional win following the flooding in Calgary. Whether that feeling will be there again is hard to say, but the Stamps’ key is getting running back Jon Cornish involved early and often. His success correlates to team success. Backup quarterback Kevin Glenn starts again and he played well against the Als.
The spread: Stamps -7.
And the pick is: Stamps and the points.
Saturday, 10 p.m. ET / 7 p.m. PT at B.C. Place
Why the Eskimos can win: Playing indoors without monsoon weather should help. Big thing is whether or not standout receiver Fred Stamps will play. He’s battled injury problems since training camp and will likely be in a backup role. Shamawd Chambers starts and he has been having issues catching the ball. There’s a variety of other personnel changes, notably at centre and one of the end positions.
There are subtle signs the team is undergoing some confidence issues, perhaps as a result of the many changes made in the off-season by new general manager Ed Hervey. Starting quarterback Mike Reilly plays his former team for the second consecutive week, this time back at B.C. Place.
The Eskimos have a consistent threat in running back Hugh Charles, who is lighting it up early. He has to be given the ball often, whether carrying the ball or receiving it. If the Lions stop him, the Eskimos have little chance.
Why the Lions can win: They are virtually a lock at B.C. Place. They beat the Eskimos last week and quarterback Travis Lulay made some great plays with his legs. He doesn’t do enough of it. Running back Andrew Harris is in a groove. The defence is coming together well with middle linebacker Solomon Elimimian wreaking havoc. Lions will put Tim Brown back in for returns, hoping to kickstart that area.
The spread: B.C. -9.
The pick: Eskimos and the points.
Sunday, 7 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. MT at Mosaic Stadium
Why Hamilton can win: There are subtle signs the Ticats are getting better, mainly because of the leadership of quarterback Henry Burris, who has been victimized by far too many dropped balls. Burris will get the boos from the Green Rider faithful that will never forgive him for leaving to go to Calgary years ago. But that is old hat by now.
The noise factor will be the bigger issue. Head coach Kent Austin, returning to the city where he had success as a player and a head coach, has called some great games to put the team in a position to win, but the team has self-imploded. The likelihood of missing receiver Andy Fantuz for the third consecutive game with a wonky hammy puts more pressure on the receiving corps, but I suspect Austin will try to get the ball to running back Chevon Walker in his second start of the season. He looked a little rusty last week, but is always a threat. Former Rider Luca Congi simply has to improve his field-goal kicking, which has been subpar.
Why Saskatchewan can win: The Riders are playing solidly in just about every aspect. Only issue in this is whether quarterback Darian Durant will start due to an ankle injury suffered last week. Right now it appears he will start. Backup Drew Willy is more than capable of starting. Picture him in a RedBlacks uniform next year.
The run game is absolutely sizzling with league-leading Kory Sheets. And the receiving corps is showing an ability to stretch the field. The defence has done a decent job shutting down the opposing teams’ run games. It will have to concentrate on Burris, who has the most mobility of any pivot the Riders have faced. My only concern is whether or not the Riders are due for a letdown. They have avoided turnovers, which is a big reason for their success so far, but the Ticats are better than their record.
The spread: Riders -6½.
The pick is: Ticats and the points.
Record last week: 2-1-1.
Record this season: 5-6-1.