So remember last week when this column had the brilliant headline “A Week of Separation Across the Board”?
Well colour us foolish, because at this point, we should have known better to assume anything is cut and dried in this league. It’s the best part about the Canadian Football League, and it applies to any given game, week, or season: Don’t turn away, because you never know what can happen.
|Related: Week 13 Action|
Montreal vs. Hamilton
Toronto at Calgary
BC at Saskatchewan
The West Division has jammed right back up again, the Tiger-Cats aren’t going away out East, and don’t look now but we might be using that ‘C’ word very, very soon.
Don’t look now
Not only was Edmonton’s 35-27 victory over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Friday night thrilling, it also has turned out to be crucial in keeping their 2013 playoff hopes alive. For the first time this season, the Eskimos have won consecutive games.
Also for the first time since very early in the season you can use the word “playoffs” and “Edmonton” in the same sentence and not get laughed out of the room.
Thanks to Montreal’s loss to Hamilton in Moncton, the 3-9 Eskimos are very much in striking distance of the Alouettes who have just one more win than their Western counterparts.
Earlier this season, it looked like a crossover was out of the question. Just a few weeks later, it could very well be a reality if Edmonton keeps playing the way they are, specifically with the ball in their hands.
We wrote about quarterback Mike Reilly last week, and he deserves some more ink after his Week 13 performance. Reilly went over the 400 yard mark against the Bombers and now sits second among quarterbacks with 3085 passing yards.
He’s the biggest reason why the Eskimos aren’t dead yet, and he’s a huge reason why Fred Stamps has re-emerged as perhaps the CFL’s most dangerous threats.
After catching eight passes for 157 yards on Friday night, Stamps now leads the CFL with 978 yards through the air, leading Montreal’s SJ Green by more than 100 yards.
It’s not as if Stamps wasn’t dangerous last year, as he put up more than 1300 yards through the air even with Edmonton’s dismal quarterback situation. He’s in a different gear this year, though, and is showing no signs of slowing down.
Realism has to come into play for a few seconds here when it comes to the Eskimos, though. As impressive as these last two wins have been, let’s not forget they’ve been against the two-win Bombers.
Edmonton had to score 13 fourth quarter points just to force overtime on Friday night when their heroics went to an even higher level. This script isn’t always going to finish in a win unless we see continued progression.
Don’t forget, it isn’t enough to tie the team you’re chasing when it comes to the crossover, as there is no tiebreak. If the Eskimos want to be a playoff team in 2013, they’re going to have to finish with a better record than the Alouettes, which means making up two wins before the end of the season.
Is it possible? Of course it is.
The better word to use is amazing, though, because a few weeks ago I would never have thought I’d be writing about this very subject.
He’s only been in the CFL for a couple of seasons, but Argos cornerback Pat Watkins has left quite the impression. He was an integral part of a 2012 Grey Cup win for Toronto in his first year north of the border, and his performance this weekend made sure no one was going to forget about him anytime soon.
Watkins started things off on Saturday night with a performance that gave his team both points and kept opposing points off the board. In Toronto’s 33-27 win over Calgary, Watkins returned a first quarter interception to the three-yard line, which would eventually result in a John Chiles four-yard touchdown catch. That wasn’t it for Watkins, though.
Look, I know the guy is in the twilight of his career, but McCallum remains an asset for the Lions. He’s an experienced, winning voice in the locker room and he still gets the job done in the field position battle.
Most importantly, I bet if you ask anyone on that team, they’d still take him over anyone to nail a game winner. Sunday showed us why.
There have been too many problems to count for the Montreal Alouettes in 2013. They made a bad coaching hire and parted ways with Dan Hawkins very early on. They’ve suffered injuries to numerous key players, playing extended periods of time without the likes of Anthony Calvillo, Jamel Richardson and Brandon Whitaker, among others.
Much of what has ailed the Als has been out of their control, which is why hurting yourself ends up being even more costly.
Montreal remains the most penalized team in the CFL by a large margin, and showed us why in Saturday’s Touchdown Atlantic loss to Hamilton.
The Als took 16 penalties against the Tiger-Cats and ended up losing by just two points. No team is going to finish a game without giving a few yards and taking a few away, but 16 different times? That’s just unacceptable.
As Montreal now fights for their playoff lives, Head Coach Jim Popp has a lot of different problems to juggle. What’s he going to do week-to-week at quarterback as the team waits for Calvillo’s return?
How does he keep morale up with injuries afflicting the team as much as they are? And how is he going to get his team to clean it up on the field?
The worst part is, I’m not sure what Popp can do at this point. Making the right call at quarterback or keeping spirits up are things he can very much control. But for a coach overseeing the league’s least disciplined team, there’s not a whole lot else you can do after 12 games and 13 weeks but bang your head against the wall.
It would be naïve of us to think Popp hasn’t addressed this issue numerous times already. We can all see from afar how costly penalties have been for the Als this season, so you can book it that Popp has been harping on his group week after week after week. He can’t go on the field though, so there becomes a limit as to how he can try and fix this issue.
Even with the injuries this team has suffered, there are still a number of veterans healthy and in the lineup. Leaders like Chip Cox, Shea Emry, S.J. Green, and Josh Bourke may very well be the keys to stopping this problem before it’s too late.
Who knows, maybe they already have taken it upon themselves to do what they can? The fact remains, however: Montreal’s playoff fate remains tenuous at best. They’re already in bad shape, so making life even more difficult is something they simply cannot afford down the stretch.
Pat Steinberg is the co-host of the drive home program on Sportsnet Radio FAN 960 in Calgary. He also reports on the CFL and the Stampeders and hosts pre and post-game programs for the team. He looks forward to traveling to the Grey Cup every year. Follow Pat on Twitter @Fan960Steinberg.