TORONTO — Two teams are looking to stay perfect and two are looking for win number one of 2016, as Week 3 in the Canadian Football League brings Thursday and Friday night double-headers.
It all starts in Hamilton, where the Ticats will look to restore their dominance at Tim Hortons Field a week after scoring just three single points in a 28-3 loss to the BC Lions. It won’t be easy for the Ticats despite the fact that the Bombers are 0-2 — Drew Willy and co. are hungry for their first win of the season and will get a major reinforcement in Weston Dressler.
The Thursday Night Football double-header then shifts across the country to the west coast, where the Lions are a red-hot 2-0 to open the season and will look to remain one of two undefeated teams in a duel against the Toronto Argonauts. Wally Buono and the Lions’ defence have turned back the clock to 2011 with a dominant defence that’s allowed very little through two weeks, while the Argos will debut defensive end Shawn Lemon after acquiring him through a trade.
A little Friday Night Football action starts in the nation’s capital, where the Ottawa REDBLACKS play their home-opener against the Calgary Stampeders. The REDBLACKS have been hit hard by the injury bug, losing Henry Burris, William Powell and now Travon Van to injury, but so far it’s had no ill-effect as Trevor Harris and Chris Williams lead the CFL’s number one offence. Watching Bo Levi Mitchell put on an air show for the Stamps a week ago and Jerome Messam dominating on the ground, the Stamps look like they should have no problem putting up a challenge.
Finally, Chris Jones and the Riders are right back in action in the final game of Week 3 as Jones visits his former team, the Edmonton Eskimos. One of these teams will get their first win of 2016 as both have had a bye week and lost their season-opener. It’s hard to know what to expect between two new-look teams, but know that Darian Durant and Mike Reilly should put on an exciting show in a battle of the veteran pivots.
BUY WEEK 3 TICKETS
Road warriors: The visiting team has won six of the eight games thus far and that is a first since 2003. That year however, home teams came back to win 51 of the final 73 games and rebound from the slow starts at home. Away clubs have outscored home teams by an incredible 235 to 160.
Scoring and offence up: Both remain up after a strong rebound in 2015 over the standout defensive 2014 season. Net offence is up to 739 yards per game based primarily on a nine per cent increase in passing yards over last year’s 677 mark. CFL passers lead a record quarterback rating as through two weeks that statistic sits at an al-time high of 102.3.
No close games: Only one game thus far has been decided by fewer than four points (BC 20, CGY 18 in Week 1) and just one by even a touchdown or less. Six road clubs have dominated their trips, winning by margins of 22, 15, 13, 13, 14 and a high of 25 points by BC at Hamilton last week.
Penalties way down (YTD): There has been an average of just 19.1 penalties per game through Week 2 and in fact the four games last week averaged only 18.3 calls. Those cover accepted penalties only and comparing Week 2 totals: 19.13 in 2016 versus 25 per game over the first eight games of 2015.
Offside-procedure: Through eight games there have been 58 total calls for this penalty type compared to 71 last year through Week 2.
Struggling kickers: Last week’s BC at Hamilton game affected the season field goal percentage profoundly as Brett Maher (0/3) and Richie Leone (3/5) combined to miss five attempts. For the year, CFL kickers are at 70.6 per cent, the lowest league-wide rate since 2004 (70.1 per cent). The one point convert rate is up to 93.3 per cent at 28-of-30. Only Calgary’s Rene Paredes has missed in 2016.
Running backs down: There have been four starting running backs go down already this year with Ottawa losing both William Powell and Travon Van. The CFL’s leading rusher for 2015 was Tyrell Sutton and he was lost to injury (along with receiver S.J. Green) last week. BC’s Jeremiah Johnson left the game and Anthony Allen is expected to start.
Ricky Ray: Needs just 46 passing yards to reach 53,000 for his career and 302 yards to pass Danny McManus (53,255) for No. four all-time.
Nine starting QBs: Seven out of eight clubs have started the same QB so far and only Ottawa has split games (Henry Burris and Trevor Harris). Last year, 26 different starters were used across the CFL.
WEEK 3 GAME NOTES
Harris on fire: Through two games, Trevor Harris has completed 82.2 per cent of his passes, on pace to beat the previous record of 77.2 set by Ricky Ray in 2013. He has led Ottawa on 11 scoring drives (six TDs, three FGs).
Almost perfect: Chris Williams and Brad Sinopoli have been a major part of Harris’ success, catching 29 of 31 combined targets (93.5 per cent). Williams’ 218 all-purpose yards per game put him on pace to surpass a single-season record of 3,863 set by Chad Owens in 2012. Williams is also on pace for 2,414 yards from scrimmage with 181 yards per game through two weeks.
256 regular season victories: After returning to the sidelines this season and quickly posting back-to-back wins, the BC Lions’ Wally Buono now has 256 regular season victories – the most in league history. It certainly appears it will be a long time before anyone catches him: the next active coach on the all-time list is the Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ Kent Austin, with 42 wins.
A sign of things to come? The 2012 season was last time that BC started out 2-0 and the Lions went on the finish at 13-5 for that year. They will be looking to go 3-0 off the top for the first time since 2007.
Two games, 21 points against: The Lions are tops in the CFL after two weeks having allowed just 21 points for an average of 10.5 per game. Opponents have generated just two touchdown drives thus far and none in their last 18 straight possessions. The three single points allowed to Hamilton marked BC’s lowest opponent total in the last 23 games (41-3 over Ottawa on Oct 11, 2014).
Plays from scrimmage and TOP edge: BC has run off a total of 126 plays from scrimmage in two games compared to just 102 by the opposition – a gap of 12 additional offensive plays for the Lions per game. Among teams that have played two games, the Lions lead the CFL in time of possession at 33:32 – BC finished last in 2015 at an average TOP of 27:56.
Winning any way you can: The Argos recorded a 13-point win at Regina last week despite some statistical disadvantages. The Riders ran off 69 offensive plays to Toronto’s 41, a gap of 28 plays. Saskatchewan outgained the Argos 382 yards to 241 and had more than double the number of first downs at 24 to 11. Toronto won on the strength of a plus-three turnover edge that accounted for 14 points, one more than the winning margin.
Scott Milanovich career milestone: Milanovich has now led his club to 39 regular season victories and looks to make it 40 this week. He is 39-35 heading into his 75th regular season head coaching appearance and with a win this week will become the 40th head coach in CFL history to record 40 wins.
Ticats leveling off at home (11-5)? The Tiger-Cats opened their new stadium on Sept. 1, 2014 and won their first nine games there. But since then they have leveled off as BC defeated them last week on their home turf. Including that loss to the Lions they are now just 2-5 at THF since winning nine in a row.
Simoni dominant: Simoni Lawrence leads the CFL in “total defence,” a compilation of defensive plays, with 20. Lawrence is second in the CFL with 14 defensive tackles and has added an interception, a fumble recovery, two sacks, a knockdown and
a tackle for loss.
Slow starts: The Tiger-Cats have been notoriously slow starters in recent seasons as reflected by their record after three games. They have been above .500 after three games only once since 2005. Over their first three games of the season (including a 1-1 start in 2016) their combined record is just 9-26 (.257) since 2005. A 2-1 mark in 2009 is the only time they have been above .500 after three games across that stretch. They can get to 2-1 with a win this week and snap the run.
Slow starts II: The first two games have been a challenge to come back from early deficits for the Blue Bombers. They fell behind Montreal by 18 points and to Calgary by 29 points and were able to make both games close with late rallies.
First half vs Second half (fourth-quarter offence): The Bombers have gained 777 yards of net offence thus far to Week 2. Of that, only 190 (24 per cent) have come in the first half. Their second half net offence of 587 yards accounts for 76 per cent of the total, but in the fourth Quarter alone, they have gained 509 yards – an incredible 66 per cent of their entire offensive output.
Quincy McDuffie: Had a very productive game returning kicks in Week 1 with a league-high 176 yards overall (61 on five punt returns, three kickoff returns for 88 yards, and 27-yard return of a missed field goal attempt). He added 108 more return yards last week and through two games ranks second in the CFL with 279 total return yards.