There is no change at the top in my CFL power rankings for Week 8, but there is movement at the lower levels.
The Calgary Stampeders, Edmonton Eskimos, B.C. Lions and Winnipeg Blue Bombers all stay 1 through 4 in my rankings. After that, it gets interesting. The bottom five teams have all changed position. Montreal, Ottawa and Hamilton moved up a notch, while Toronto and Saskatchewan have taken a tumble.
The Argonauts are dropping mostly because of their injury situation. Not only is 37-year-old veteran QB Ricky Ray dealing with a shoulder injury, but also there are injuries on the defensive side of the ball with linemen Cleyon Laing and Victor Butler still on the sidelines.
The Argos once had Trevor Harris to take over when Ray went down. Although Ray may start this week, his shoulder injury is cause for concern going down the stretch. Now they have an inexperienced No. 2 QB in Cody Fajardo, who hasn’t started a CFL game before and who has only limited experience in a relief role.
Ottawa moved up because it is beating itself as much as the opposition is beating the Redblacks. There is nothing to suggest they can’t go on a roll if they clean up some turnovers and QB Trevor Harris gets his confidence back.
Hamilton moved up because quarterback Zach Collaros showed signs of his old self in a close defeat to unbeaten Edmonton, and the Roughriders moved down to the basement because Kevin Glenn continues to struggle at QB. He is not showing he can take advantage of having perhaps the best receiving corps in the CFL, and some are calling for Brandon Bridge to step in.
1. CALGARY STAMPEDERS, 5-1-1 (Retain No. 1 ranking)
This continues to be the Bo Levi Mitchell and Jerome Messam show. Mitchell is third in the league in passing and Messam is the league’s leading rusher. Mitchell isn’t shooting the lights out (he has yet to have a 400-yard passing game this season and he’s failed to hit the 300-yard mark in the past three games), but he is making smart decisions. He has thrown only one interception in his last four games. Calgary has scored 101 points in two games. That’s scary. If there’s any sign of weakness it’s that the Stampeders have tended to start off slowly. The first quarter is their lowest scoring.
2. EDMONTON ESKIMOS, 6-0, (Retain No. 2 ranking)
Hard to believe that the Eskimos are No. 2 again this week, despite their first 6-0 start since 1961. Mike Reilly may be the best quarterback in the league, but he doesn’t have the full range of weapons that Bo Levi Mitchell has in Calgary. Edmonton’s offence isn’t quite as strong as Calgary’s and its defence is not as good either. Edmonton is getting by without a big-time ground attack, ranking No. 4 with 95.7 yards rushing per game. This may hurt it in the end.
3. B.C. LIONS, 5-2 (Retain No. 3 ranking)
Travis Lulay continues to shine at QB and the Lions offence received a nice jolt of excitement with the debut of speedy receiver Chris Williams last week. Jeremiah Johnson is a good, versatile back who can catch and run. And Bryan Burnham continues to show he can wrestle defenders for the ball and come down with clutch catches. This team is solid. Except for one area: The Lions rank worst in the league in throwing interceptions. Lulay and Jennings have combined to throw eight into enemy hands.
4. WINNIPEG BLUE BOMBERS, 4-2 (Retain No. 4 ranking)
Matt Nichols has led two straight magical comebacks and two 300-yard passing performances without throwing an interception. Nichols and Edmonton’s Mike Reilly are tied for the league lead with three game-winning drives each. But until the Bombers beat B.C., Calgary or Edmonton, their power rankings will suffer. One worrisome stat: The Bombers rank No. 8 in time of possession, which indicates a trend of relying on lucky shots and quick strikes rather than ball control.
5. OTTAWA REDBLACKS, 1-5-1, (Move up from No. 6 ranking)
Ottawa has been rather unlucky this season. And turnovers are killing it. The Redblacks are the league’s worst in that category. Trevor Harris is still one of the best quarterbacks in the league. He is second in passing yards and first in TD passes. Retired Redblacks quarterback Henry Burris may have lit a fire under the team when he tweeted this week: “You can’t take the leadership of a team away and expect the same results. This is not the same Redblacks team from the past two years!!!” If that’s not a call to action, I don’t know what is.
6. TORONTO ARGONAUTS, 3-4 (Move down from No. 5 ranking)
Aging 37-year-old quarterback Ricky Ray is hurting, and who really knows what No. 2 Cody Fajardo brings to the offence should he be pressed into action. Fajardo is big at 6-foot-5 and 215 pounds. He’ has a strong arm and he’s a good runner. But he’s played only a handful of games in the CFL. And the Argos still have no rushing attack. There is some good news. The Argo defence, despite some key injuries, brought down Bo Levi Mitchell a season-high five times last week and got to Andrew Buckley once. Toronto has 25 sacks through seven weeks, only 13 fewer than the team had in all of 2016.
7. MONTREAL ALOUETTES, 2-4 (Move up from No. 8 ranking)
Montreal moves up even though it is coming off a bye week. The move is largely due to the improved play of Hamilton and the inconsistent play of the Roughriders, who moved down to the basement. The Alouettes broke through with 40 points the last game, well above their average of 23.5 points per game. They are the best in the league at protecting the QB, so it’s not a good stat that Darian Durant has thrown a league-high seven interceptions. This team can grind it out on the ground, however, and that should keep it afloat. The pass defence is a concern, however, as the Als rank last with only one interception all season, and last with sacks made with only six.
8. HAMILTON TIGER-CATS, 0-6 (Move up from No. 9 ranking)
Is the old Zach Collaros back? The Ticats QB had perhaps his best game of the season against a powerhouse Edmonton squad in a 33-28 loss that went down to the wire, passing for 282 yards and three touchdowns, although he made a bad decision on his lone interception. His confidence must be back. If only the offensive line could buy him more time to throw, the Ticats would start to win. Collaros has thrown as many interceptions (six) as TD passes, but he’s at his best against the best teams. The offence should be boosted with the addition of an exciting receiver in Lamarr Aultman.
9. SASKATCHEWAN ROUGHRIDERS, 2-4 (Move down from No. 7 ranking)
Inconsistency has been a killer for the Roughriders. They follow up one strong game by flaming out the next game. The defence allowed the Lions to accumulate over 500 yards of net offence last week in a 30-15 defeat. They are 0-3 against Western teams, which is a telling stat. Although quarterback Kevin Glenn, the oldest QB in the league at 38, has been steady at home, he has been shaky at best on the road. He moved past the legendary Ron Lancaster to No. 6 in career passing yards last week. But it was his worst performance of the season. He didn’t throw a TD pass and gave up two more interceptions, although he wasn’t responsible for one of them.