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View From The South: Isn’t the CFL ironic?

isnt-it-ironicYou know, when Alanis Morissette was putting together “Isn’t It Ironic” back in whenever the hell in the 1990s that was, it’s almost hard to believe she wasn’t having a premonition of week 16 of the 2016 CFL season…

Okay, that was a brutal lead and everything, but hey, Alanis is Canadian and you know, rain on your wedding day is a real bummer, especially if it’s your third one. And, and, the BC Lions were playing like thaey had 10,000 spoons this week and, um, yeah.

The point here is that the irony was thick and heavy throughout week 16, with the playoff picture coming into shape. Among the ironic results:

• The Saskatchewan Roughriders played their best game of the season, only to be the first team mathematically eliminated from the 2016 CFL playoffs thanks to the result of another game.

• Said other game had the Edmonton Eskimos shellacking the hapless Montreal Alouettes; the Rides beat the Eskimos just three weeks ago prior. Incidentally, neither of the teams has lost since.

• The Eskimos’ win in week 16 set up a scenario in which Edmonton can clinch a playoff spot while on a bye week.

• Meanwhile, the Toronto Argonauts’ inevitable loss to the Calgary Stampeders resulted in the Winnipeg Blue Bombers clinching a playoff spot. The iron of which was pithily detailed here:

And last week’s games themselves played out like so.

Saskatchewan Roughriders 32, Ottawa RedBlacks 30. In what was their best game this season thus far, a couple of the Riders’ newcomers certainly made their presences felt: Jeff Fuller lined up on a majority of offensive snaps and hauled in two catches, including a nifty 29-yarder. CFL returnee Willie Jefferson meanwhile begged his first sack in a Saskatchewan uniform.

Presumably fresh off a flight, Henoc Muamba also got some playing time and so, combined with nice performances from Darien Durant (who recovered from a concussion to go 22-of-38 for 328 yards and two TDs against zero interceptions) and the surprisingly effective combination of RB Curtis Steels and WR Amanti Edwards (who combined for 18 touches/catches for 164 all-purpose yards) in lieu of Namaan Roosevelt, Chris Jones had his Riders looking primed to compete for a playoff spot and – oh, right.

As for the RedBlacks, who’s ready for a fourth go-round with Henry Burris? Burris was back at the helm for Ottawa after Trevor Harris looked downright mediocre as the Riders defense punished him to the tune of five turnovers and two sacks in three quarters of play. Burris energized his offense for a couple of touchdown strikes to get the game into overtime, but could produce nothing in the OT.

And for those of you (counting myself among them here) who wondered if anything could stop the freak of nature that is known as Chris Williams, the answer is “yes.” More specifically, a knee injury suffered in this game which may take the CFL’s highest-scoring and third-most targeted WR out for the remander of the season.

So now what for the RedBlacks? The only thing for certain is that some team has to win the East…

Statistic Of The Week To Put Things Into Perspective for Jonestown Residents. Congratulions, Saskatchewan, on that three-game winning streak. The last Riders winning streak of over two games ended in September 2014, with the conclusion of a seven-game run. Since then, they’re 10-31. 

Winnipeg Blue Bombers 37, BC Lions 35. It’s not like losing is all that uncommon for BC Lions this season – heck, they’re only 4-3 in their last seven – but playing from behind like they had to last Saturday sure was. About halfway through the second quarter, BC was down 24-3. Aside from the Calgary demolition in week 9, the biggest lead amassed on the Lions until this game was a 22-6 advantage the Toronto Argonauts held for 3:05 of game time in week 3.

What resulted was a display of the Blue Bombers’ ability to hold a lead, almost as rare an occurrence as the Lions playing catchup: The only time the Bombers have led wire-to-wire against a winning team this season was in a week 6 win over Edmonton. They passed with flying colors, for this was fun and fascinating football from the back-to-back trick plays in the first quarter to brilliant special teams play to Mo Leggett’s crushing quarterback sack that effectively sealed the game for Winnipeg.

And now the Bombers have reclaimed no. 2 in the Grueling Truth CFL power rankings. Are they truly the second-*best* team in the CFL? We only have to wait until next week for the anser.

By the way, Maurice Leggett’s stopping of Chris Rainey to kill BC’s last serious chance at a TD? That was the CFL Play of the Week.

Edmonton Eskimos 40, Montreal Alouettes 20. This is the tweet of an Alouettes fan who should never gamble on CFL games:

So much for any optimism generated in the last game, not to mention to firing of head coach Jim Popp by general manager Jim Popp – for the fourth time; this guy is the George Steinbrenner to his own Billy Martin. By a freak of mathematics and stunningly bad play by their East division compatriots, the Alouettes’re still looking at a playoff spot with a record equal to that of the regenerating Riders.

Worse yet, just imagine this team with fewer studs, a very similar lack of cap space and without Noel Thorpe running the defense: That’s what we’re getting in 2017.

Canadians in the NFL. On guy to keep an eye on as the NFL season goes on is defensive end Brent Urban with the Baltimore Ravens. After getting drafted out of University of Virginia in 2014, the Mississauga native has mostly been on the outside looking in; however, he’s been seeing consistently more playing time.

In week four, Urban registered his first QB sack of the season, making him just the fourth Raven to have bagged one this season thus far. And last week, Urban was on the field for 11 snaps, registering two tackles in the Ravens’ 16-10 loss to Washington.

Calgary Stampeders 48, Toronto Argonauts 20. One more time, here’s that tweet of the week:

Isn’t It Ironic, part II. Actually more of a coda was yet another trade of name-paylers involving Saskatchewan. Shortly after games’ end, the Riders announced the trade of DL Justin Capicciotti and OT Xavier Fulton to the Tiger-Cats for DL Linden Gaydosh, WR Tommy Streeter and a pair of draft picks.

There’s little ironic about Chris Jones suddenly dispatching players in 2016, but Capicciotti was thought to be one of the key free-agent signings going into the season. And this trade is quite odd, if not necessarily particularly ironic, in its non-addressing of immediate team needs. Will Capicciotti, after a disappointing season in Saskatchewan, really improve the ticats’ weak pass rush? Don’t the Riders need to be amassing national players rather than swapping them?

One more time: A striking feature of these Riders in October is their resemblance to the team most of us expected to see in Regina at this point in Jones’ tenure as head coach/overlord. It just looked so ugly for a while there, bottoming out in that 41-3 throttling given by the Ticats. If the Riders’ subsequent rise is proportional to the downturn of 2015-16, watch out, CFL…

Weird Canadian News Story of the Week. So maybe you’re one of those Americans planning to leave the U.S. because one you’ve been freaked out by one of those ubiquitous terrifying clowns. The View From The South is sorry to inform that, apparently, Canada now offers no escape.

No, we’re not talking about those bozos in the political sphere – if you’re fleeing the Trumpary Administration, you’re still good to go northward – but rather those literal creepy clowns springing up across America and dotting headlines for the past couple of weeks.

It’s true: Not even Canada is safe from these demented facepainted freaks reportedly attempting to lure kids into secluded areas to do gods-know-what with ‘em (though most assume the intentions are a tad more nefarious than balloon animal sculpting). From the town of Langley comes what may be Canada’s first “creepy clown” (redundant, really) sighting.

Reportage of the incident reveals some pretty standard stuff: A clown was hanging around nearby a school, and two kids reported the potential predator, who was gone in minutes. The most salient bit of said reportage? The mother of two boys who described their actions with, “They ran to a house down the street and pretended to live there and they said when they came back out to the street maybe five or 10 minutes, it was gone.”

That’s right: In Canada, creepy clowns are not considered human.

You see how much we Americans can learn…?

And here’s what we have in store for next week’s games, if the clown invasion hasn’t swamped North America by then…

Ottawa Redblacks at Hamilton Tiger-Cats. The Ticats have homefield advantage (but just 3-3) and a couple new acquisitions from the Riders; a bye week should also help after a 1-3 run with the one win a 3-point victory over the Alouettes – though as of this writing, franchise QB Zach Collaros will not be playing, and the Ticats will be running with the statistically less successful Jeremiah Masoli at the helm. Meanwhile, last week’s yanking of Harris reeked of desperation on the part of the RedBlacks; they’ll be playing without Chris Williams. This one’s a coin-flipper, but we’ll say Hamilton wins in a low-scoring squeaker.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers at BC Lions. This second half of a home-and-home doubleheader should decide the no. 2 spot in the West; a BC win would effectively give the Lions a 1½ game lead with three to play, thanks to tiebreakers, while the Bombers would control their own fates (and the tiebreaker) with a win. While Winnipeg is trending upward, I can’t imagine Wally Buono losing to the same team twice in a row, nor can I imagine the Lions coming out as sluggishly as they did last week. Lions win.

My Favorite and Least Favorite Fantasy Players (This Week). I’ve enjoyed watching Manny Arcenaux rack up points for me all season; this week, he was good for some 41 in the Fantaseh format – and he had 56 fewer receiving yards than his teammate Bryan Burnham, surely a favorite of many.

As for least favorite, a question: Why do teams with massive leads continue running their top backs at the risk of injury? This practice really should end – unless said top back is on *my* fantasy team. Such was my situation facing Jerome Messam this week. Apparently not happy to be up several touchdowns, Clagary Stampeders head coach Dave Dickenson, that greedy fantasy buzzkiller, just kept calling Messam’s number as I helplessly watched him hot-knife through the Argos’ buttery defense over and over all the way up to 36 fantasy points.

Which is the exact number of new gray hairs I have after watching my lead dissolve; my team still eked out the three-point victory, but geez, that Messam guy…

Edmonton Eskimos vs. the bye. Even if the Argonauts or Alouettes win out (yeah, surrrrrrrrrrrrre), the Eskimos only have to win one more game to clinch at least the no. 3 seed in the East. However, the Als and Argos both seem fit to lose this week, and so the Eskimos could earn a playoff spot simply by staying home. And then Edmonton fans can start booking tickets for Toronto for Grey Cup time…

Rod Black’s Crime Against the English-Language Football Broadcasting. For those of us who love and respect both football and the English language, TSN’s CFL broadcaster Rod Black is often, let’s say, a bit much to bear. For a short while during the BC-Winnipeg game, Black’s broadcasting partner Duane Ford was our crusader, pouncing on an opportunity to stem Black’s maddening, gravity-defying stream-of-consciousness stuff with (gasp) knowledge. From early in the fourth quarter, the dialogue went like so.

Black: The Bombers did a lot different in the first half, if you’re just joining us, fake field goal and then shortly thereafter I don’t even know what you’d call that play – a pitch to your running back, a pitch to your receiver, the receiver throws to the quarterback. That’s what the play is. Matt Nichols had a touchdown.

Ford: [indistinguishable] little direct snap slotback option.”

A silence overlaid with Ford’s justifiable smugness followed. It was only four seconds of silence, but it was awkward and glorious.

Saskatchewan Roughriders at Toronto Argonauts. While the Argos have to win out to have a shot at the playoffs, the Riders are simply playing spoiler. This game represents the Riders’ first chance to mathematically eliminate a CFL contender. They’ll get Montreal (which could also be an elimination game, though this seems unlikely) next week, and they’ll determine the West bracket with two games against BC to close the season. Why did we have to wait this long for Chris Jones’s charges to become a factor in the 2016 CFL season? Roughriders win.

Montreal Alouettes at Calgary Stampeders. Yeah, this should end the Alouettes season as Calgary continues the quest for 16-1-1, what would be the all-time best 18-game mark in the CFL. Stampeders win, even against the 15½-point spread.

Next week: The good advice that you just didn’t take.

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