- FREE AGENCY
TORONTO — There’s no clear hierarchy in the CFL through four weeks of play.
Upsets in Saskatchewan and Toronto over the weekend have created quite the middle class, which includes five teams currently sitting on two wins.
The Bombers are trending upward after the return of Matt Nichols and a blowout win over BC, while the Hamilton Tiger-Cats have moved up despite losing on the road.
While the Riders and Argos found a pair of much-needed wins, the struggles continue in Montreal and BC.
More in this week’s Nissan Titan Power Rankings:
Still undefeated following the bye, the Calgary Stampeders have the mark of a true Canadian Football League powerhouse. They boast the top-ranked defence and the second-ranked offence and are the league-leaders in turnover ratio, as Dave Dickenson’s team continues to perform in every facet of the game. Winning a tough road game against the Ottawa REDBLACKS in Week 5 would create some early-season separation.
There are two ways of looking at the Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ 2-2 start heading into the bye: On the one hand they’ve survived a challenging schedule out of the gate, including three road games against tough western opponents; on the other they could be 4-0 right now but have coughed up two winnable games in the fourth quarter. With the CFL’s top-ranked offence and second-ranked defence, the numbers say the Ticats belong right here at No. 2.
The Bombers have dismantled two of the CFL’s struggling teams this year in BC and Montreal, with a rematch against the BC Lions on tap in Week 5. While a bigger test awaits further down the road, this is clearly a different team when Matt Nichols is under centre. The Bombers didn’t turn the ball over or give up a sack against BC and have the looks of a true contender in the highly-competitive West.
Red zone struggles thwarted an otherwise productive day for the Eskimos’ offence, leading to a 20-17 loss to the Argos in likely the biggest upset of Week 4. While there’s little concern for what should still be the most explosive offence in the CFL, the Eskimos continue to lag behind their provincial counterpart at the top of the ranks.
The REDBLACKS went into cruise control after opening up a 25-8 halftime lead over Montreal, eventually hanging on for a 10-point win. While Ottawa’s offence is explosive, like always, it’s the defence that’s stood out through four weeks, led by new defensive coordinator Noel Thorpe. If that unit can continue to grow, Ottawa will challenge for the East this season.
It’s early, but it’s not a stretch to say the Argos may have saved their season with a Week 4 win over Edmonton. James Franklin looks like he could do big things as a starting CFL quarterback, while his running back James Wilder Jr. finally broke out with his first big game of the season. Slow starts for S.J. Green and Armanti Edwards are a concern, but the worst should be over for the defending champs.
The Riders’ trip to the basement was short-lived, as Marcus Thigpen‘s late touchdown run led the Riders to a heroic win over the Ticats. Chris Jones continues to ignore his detractors, deploying a rare two-quarterback system and also playing Duron Carter at corner as opposed to receiver. Whether it works is still up for debate, but for now the Riders take a .500 record into the bye, tying them for second in the West.
It was salt in the wound when former Lions linebacker Adam Bighill picked off Jonathon Jennings and returned it for a touchdown in a 41-19 Winnipeg win. Jennings has struggled out of the gate, and a quarterback change could be on the horizon as Travis Lulay continues to work his way back. On the positive side, despite their struggles, the Lions are just a game back of Saskatchewan, Winnipeg and Edmonton in the West.
After a brief reprieve, the Alouettes are back at the bottom thanks to a 28-18 loss to the Ottawa REDBLACKS. Still, there were some positive signs. Backup quarterback Jeff Mathews showed promise and got the offence moving, generating 19 first downs and 280 passing yards. Meanwhile, the defence allowed only three points to Trevor Harris and co. in the second half. The upcoming bye week won’t hurt.