TORONTO — Week 3 is upon us, which means it’s time for another edition of CFL.ca Game Notes.
Fans who enjoy double-headers are in luck, as the weekend features a double-dose of back-to-back games on Friday and Saturday.
The week kicks off with the surprising Blue Bombers in Montreal to take on the Alouettes on Friday at 7pm ET, with the REDBLACKS and Eskimos closing out Friday Night Football at Commonwealth Stadium three hours later.
On Saturday, Ricky Ray and the Argonauts play host to Bo Levi Mitchell and the Stampeders at 6:30pm ET at Rogers Centre, while the BC Lions and Saskatchewan Roughriders clash later in the night at what’s expected to be a raucous Mosaic Stadium.
Equipped with the most up-to-date storylines, roster moves, stats, milestones and trends, enjoy this week’s CFL.ca Game Notes.
Toronto Turnaround: The Argos lost in Week #1 by 24 points at Winnipeg and turned that around dramatically with a 33-point, 48-15 defeat over Saskatchewan, their first loss since the 2013 Grey Cup. In 108 years of Argos club history, it was Toronto’s third largest week-to-week turnaround ever. Their largest ever was +73 points in 1960 when a 38-1 loss to Ottawa was turned into a 63-27 win over Montreal the next week (the other was +61 in 1994). The league record is +96 by Calgary in 1990 (a 70-18 loss followed by a 52-8 win).
Consecutive wins to start a career by a QB: Calgary’s Bo Levi Mitchell has won his first four career starts. Mitchell is three more wins away from the (newly-researched) all-time CFL record of 7 held by Calgary’s Jeff Garcia. There are only three QBs in league history with 6+ wins to start their career:
1. Jeff Garcia, Calgary, 1995: 7 2. Jim Van Pelt, Winnipeg, 1958, 6 3. Darian Durant, Saskatchewan, 2008-09, 6
Ricky Schmitt Effect: The Lions acquired kicker Ricky Schmitt via free agency in the off-season and his impact has been immediate. BC ranked seventh in punt coverage and eighth in kickoff coverage in 2013. In 2014, they are ranked #1 and #2 in those categories after just two weeks at 40.3 net punt yards and 44.4 net kickoff yards, a 20% improvement overall.
Key Stat From Weeks 1 & 2: Through the first eight games of 2014, there have been 188 penalties. Week 1 was the most penalized CFL week since August, 2007, a span of almost SEVEN years. Last week there were 87 calls made and the area where the largest increase has occurred has been in roughing and other major penalties. Those are up by 55% in 2014 at 5.9 per game compared to 3.8 per game in 2013.
Home teams win in 2014: The home side has won seven of the eight games to date for an 88% mark. This compares to a split of 38 home wins (53%) to 34 by the road clubs in 2013.
Strong Offence in Week 2: The eight active clubs showed plenty of offence last week, averaging totals of 705 yards and 53 points per game, well up from the 582 yards per game in Week 1. By comparison, CFL games averaged 695 yards in 2013.
Sacks way up early: There have been 51 QB sacks thus far in 2014 for an average of 6.4 per game compared to 5.5 in 2013 and just 4.3 per game in 2012. That’s an early 49% increase over 2012 sack totals. Coach’s Challenges & Reviews: There have been five challenges by coaches this year, and two have resulted in overturned play results. One of those involved pass interference and the other was a ball carrier down by contact. Two mandatory Command Centre reviews have resulted in corrected applications of play results in 2014.
Sacks gap – the difference between winning and losing: The eight losing clubs in 2014 have allowed an average of 4.4 sacks per game while winners have allowed just 2.0 per game.
Edmonton and Winnipeg: Last year’s two non-playoff clubs had a combined 7 wins in 2013. This season, the Eskimos and Bombers are a combined 4-0 to start the season.
New rushing leaders: Of the league’s Top 4 rushing leaders through Week 2, three are first year players led by Anthony Allen, Nic Grigsby and Tyler Thomas.
Brandon Whitaker: Whitaker has made a strong recovery from 2013 when he missed 13 games due to injury. He ranks #3 in CFL rushing after two weeks with 135 yards and has three runs for 10+ yards.
Nic Grigsby: Though still very early, Grigsby is averaging 92.0 yards per game which is on pace for 1,656 yards. That’s a total exceeded only twice in club history (and not by Charles Roberts). Only Robert Mimbs and Willard Reaves have reached that level in one season. He has run for more first downs (13) and touchdowns (3) than any other player this season.
Adam Bighill: After an opening week with one tackle, Bighill ranked second in Week 2 with 9 defensive tackles.
Darian Durant & Kevin Glenn: With 410 passing yards in two games, Glenn has now moved up to 39,828 and is 172 yards away from 40,000 for his career. Durant has jumped up to #22 all-time among CFL passers with 23,142 yards and needs just 278 more to move past Danny Barrett (23,419) into #21 all-time.
102-yard completion: Bo Levi Mitchell’s 102-yard TD strike to Maurice Price in Week 1 was the longest in the CFL in the NINE years since Jason Tucker took a 105-yard pass and run from Ricky Ray (Jun 30/05). It was Calgary’s longest since Jun 23/96 (104 yards).
Ricky Ray – 73 at 300+/10 at 400+: Last week, Ray recorded the 10th 400+ yard passing game of his career and his teams are now 7-3 in those games. It was his 73rd career 300+ game and his teams are 46-26-1 when he goes 300+. Ray has now pulled farther ahead of Dave Dickenson (67.53%) with a CFL all-time best career completion pct. of 67.62%.
Defensive improvement: The Eskimos have allowed only 293 yards per game thus far compared to almost 370 yards per game in 2013 which included a league-high 146 yards per game rushing. In 2014 opponents are averaging just 77.5 rushing yards.
Expansion Clubs First Game Results: Winning a first-ever game has proven to be a challenge for new Canadian clubs over time, and was no different for the REDBLACKS last week. Going back to 1936 when the Montreal Indians were formed after IRFU charter member Montreal AAA Winged Wheelers folded, here is a rundown of how “new” teams have fared with only the Calgary Stampeders of 1945 winning off the top:
Montreal Indians: Debuted in 1936 in the IRFU, lost and did not make the playoffs. Edmonton Eskimos: Debuted in 1938 in the WIFU, lost and did not make the playoffs. Vancouver Grizzlies: Debuted in 1941 in the WIFU, lost, and did not make the playoffs. Calgary Stampeders: Debuted in 1945 in the WIFU, won, and did make the playoffs. Montreal Alouettes: Debuted in 1946 in the IRFU, tied, and did make the playoffs. BC Lions: Debuted in 1954 in the WIFU, lost, and did not make the playoffs. Ottawa Renegades: Debuted in 2002 in the East Division, lost, and di not make the playoffs.
The Montreal Alouettes will be without receiver Duron Carter for a second-straight game. Carter suited up for the Als during the pre-season, but has yet to see the field during the regular season.
According to Darrin Bauming of TSN 1290 in Winnipeg, Teague Sherman will start in Johnny Sears’ LB spot, while Sears moves to safety for Maurice Leggett, who will miss Week 3 with an ankle injury. Aaron Woods has been placed on the one-game injured list, meaning it’s likely that Demodn Washington will return kicks for the Bombers.
Still with Winnipeg, Bryant Turner will make a return to the Blue and Gold lineup after missing Week 2 to witness the birth of his child.
The Toronto Argonauts will take on the Calgary Stampeders with a fresh face in the slot position, as rookie Anthony Coombs will replace Andre Durie, who suffered a broken clavicle against Saskatchewan last week.
It will be the 2014 1st-round pick’s first career start.
The Calgary Stampeders will most likely be without Jon Cornish this week, as the tailback suffered a head injury against Montreal in Week 1. He’ll be replaced by a tandem of Jock Sanders and Matt Walter.
Stay tuned for more roster moves throughout the weekend…
Fantasy Notes: Below is a look at the top five consensus picks by position, according to TSN Fantasy Owners.
QB: Drew Willy (25.8%), Darian Durant (18.8%), Ricky Ray (17.8%), Mike Reilly (14.6%), Bo Levi Mitchell (10.0%)
RB: Nick Grigsby (46.4%), Brandon Whitaker (11.4%), Anthony Allen (11.2%), Chevon Walker (10.4%), Andrew Harris (2.2%)
REC: Chad Owens (36.0%), Adarius Bowman (35.0%), Aaron Kelly (20.3%), Brett Swain (10.8%), Fred Stamps (9.4%)
Flex: Chad Owens (11.2%), Nic Grigsby (11.2%), Adarius Bowman (9.0%), Chevon Walker (6.8%), Brandon Whitaker (5.7%)
K: Grant Shaw (35.3%), Lirim Hajrullahu (27.5%), Paul McCallum (9.1%), Swayze Waters (6.3%), Justin Medlock (3.6%)