I'm not going to lie, Italy is just about the best country to visit, but it is a lousy place for CFL coverage.
Of course I guess when you're knee deep in wine, carbohydrates and confusing roundabouts you really don't have a lot of time to focus on football.
I was away in the land of Barolo and tight red pants for the past two weeks, hence no snarky/pseudo football column from me last week. That is also why my next cell phone bill will look like a mortgage payment as I burned through my international data plan getting updates on the league.
My thanks to everyone who kept me up to date, there are some really amazing people to follow on twitter if you want to know what's going on when you're in a land where the "sports" bars play nothing but soccer and cycling.
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Being away all this time reinforced the undeniable reality that the only constant in football is change. On a weekly basis no sport produces a greater array of storylines, roller coaster like movements in power rankings all the while multiple new stars seem to emerge from obscurity. Week in and week out the landscape of the CFL is in a constant state of flux.
Consider what has happened these past two weeks.
The Argonauts have pulled away as the clear cut best team in the East with impressive character building wins against Montreal and Saskatchewan. Those victories are more remarkable when you consider the fact that Ricky Ray, Grey Cup MVP Chad Kackert and 2012 League MVP Chad Owens have played no part in this current mini win streak.
CJ Gable is starting to make a name for himself as the Tiger-Cats backfield alpha dog after putting up 318 total yards and two touchdowns these past two weeks. Gable may just be the all around running back that Hamilton has been looking for since DeAndra Cobb's brief career.
Winnipeg proved in their 25-13 win over Saskatchewan that it is possible to beat a first-place team with only eight completions.
Speaking of the Roughriders, I don't think any team has had more trouble in the past two weeks. I have yet to check out the message boards, but I'm guessing the panic alert level in Regina has gone from 0 to 8.2 since I left.
Losing to the Blue Bombers and then at home against an undermanned Argonauts squad while getting leapfrogged by Calgary in the standings cannot be sitting well with the fan base.
Throw in the losses of Renauld Williams and Kory Sheets and I think we can all agree the Roughriders stock has plunged the most during weeks 11 and 12.
In Montreal, not much has changed. The Alouettes offence, especially now with Brandon Whitaker on the 9-game injured list, is still looking to find their way. With Anthony Calvillo out of the picture it is hard to conceive of a scenario where they are able to right the ship on what is fast becoming a lost season.
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The BC Lions have proven they are not a dominant team. They have the talent to scare the elite teams yet they've been inconsistent all season. I just can-t trust any team that finds itself down 34-8 at the end of three quarters against Hamilton as the Lions were in Week 11. All season, I have been waiting for that breakout month from Coach Mike Benevides' squad and it just hasn't happened.
Henry Burris passing the 50,000 yard milestone this past weekend was interesting for many reasons. On a pure football level it speaks to the durability and skill of one of the leagues best quarterbacks over the past decade. Since 2004 if your team has Burris under centre you are pretty much guaranteed close to 18 starts with over 4,000 yards and about 30 touchdown passes.
Considering Burris passed 50,000 yards against his former team it is easy to see why people would focus on his departure from Calgary. While furiously researching about what has transpired these past two weeks I came across an interesting piece on Burris and the 2012 trade that sent him from Calgary to Hamilton by Graham Kelly from the Medicine Hat News.
Mr. Kelly brings up the point that John Hufnagel has not received much criticism for trading away Burris.
If I may cut and paste for a moment, in his article Kelly brings up the following statistic: `Since Hufnagel got rid of Burris in favour of Drew Tate, Henry has completed 647 of 984 passes for 8,956 yards, 63 touchdowns and 29 interceptions. Tate has 1,034 yards on 84 completions, 9 TD and 4 interceptions. Tate has started and finished two games. Burris hasn’t missed a game in Tabby Town.`
He's got a point when you consider the revolving door of quarterbacks in Calgary over the past two seasons. So the question is, did Calgary make the right move sending away such a reliable quarterback?
While NAPA Touchdown Atlantic might be Cauz's favourite matchup of the week, even he admits that the second Grey Cup rematch of the season is the week's must-watch game. Division leaders meeting on Saturday night? Yes please!
The answer is of course, yes.
The simple justification is the fact that Calgary went to the Grey Cup last season and are the first team to qualify for a playoff spot, so clearly the loss of Burris has not hurt the team from a wins standpoint. But this trade was about the future. It was about the development of youth at the most important position in football. Just ask any Alouette or Blue Bomber fans how they feel about the development of their respective quarterback depth.
Yes, Drew Tate has shown the same level of durability as Buck Pierce, but he has produced whenever he has been on the field and is under 30 years old. You can build with that.
Also, and this is pure speculation, consider the timing of the acquisition of the team's newest star in Bo Levi Mitchell. Burris was traded on January 3rd 2012 while Mitchell was signed almost four months later on April 30th 2012. If Burris was still on the roster would Calgary still have gone after Mitchell?
But football is all about depth and the departure of one quarterback usually spurns a team to look for other options, to fill a hole that has suddenly appeared. Mitchell has not put up jaw dropping stats but has been impressive in late game pressure situations and is 3-0 this season.
Calgary is blessed with three starters that have all shown the ability to produce on the field. An ideal situation that never would have happened if Burris was still on the roster.
This is not a knock on Burris, he has been a perfect fit in Hamilton.
Going back to the original idea of this column, I am always reminded of the most important quote from 'Ferris Bueller`s Day Off': "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."
That is kind of how I feel about covering this game.
Now that I have spent over 1200 words looking back at what I have missed I want to quickly talk about what I am looking forward to the most for Week 13, and no it is not the Grey Cup rematch between Toronto and Calgary. I'm talking about the NAPA Touchdown Atlantic-Moncton game between Hamilton and Montreal.
As I wrote about last year, I'm a huge fan of the Touchdown Atlantic series. I wish there were more games going on over on the Atlantic side of Canada. I'd love to see at least one game in Moncton and one game in Halifax every year. I have never hidden my enthusiasm for expansion and not just because my brain hurts every time I think about the league scheduling a season with nine teams.
I am a sucker for the idea of this game truly being `coast-to-coast`, I want to hear promos that bellow out `the Best in the West is about to take on the Beast in the East` and it mean an undefeated Lions team is taking on the Moncton/Halifax Schooners (Will continue to workshop the name, I'm not married to Schooners).
In short I want the kind of symmetry that would come from a 10 team league with both oceans being represented, is that too much to ask?
Of course Eastern expansion cannot happen unless this game sells out. The sports fan base in the area need to prove there is a market for a team. The business community won't throw their unconditional support for a franchise unless it can be proven there is a legitimate and more importantly profitable market for it.
On a micro level the Toronto/Calgary game will of course be the marquee game of the week. However, what goes on in the stands during the Montreal/Hamilton game that will have far larger implications for the entire league.
Don't let us down Moncton.
Matthew Cauz is the Weekend Host for 'GAME DAY' on TSN 1050 Radio. Previously, he was a producer and football analyst for SUN TV where he appeared regularly on the “Casino Rama Grill Room” and he spent seven years working for TSN's “Off The Record”. Follow Matthew on Twitter @mcauz56.