Berg vs. Ferg returns for another season on CFL.ca as columnists Pat Steinberg and Marshall Ferguson debate over some of the league’s most contentious storylines. This week the focus shifts to the CFL’s two hottest teams, the Saskatchewan Roughriders and Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
When it comes to discussing contenders vs. pretenders — and which teams in the CFL have a legitimate shot at a Grey Cup — timing can often become a forgotten element.
The teams that come out of the gate hot aren’t always the last ones standing in November, while there’s something to be said for peaking at exactly the right time. Last year, of course, provides the perfect backdrop for this narrative, with the Toronto Argonauts starting slow but steadily picking up steam on their way to a 105th Grey Cup Championship.
The Argos’ magical upset of the Calgary Stampeders is considered a Cinderella story of historic proportion. True as that may be, however, it didn’t come out of nowhere. The Argos were on a 6-2 run going into that game, while the numbers on both sides of the ball revealed a team that deserved to be in Grey Cup contention.
They have. Both teams have since shown signs of being a legitimate Grey Cup contender, with Jeremiah Masoli leading the CFL’s most productive offence in Hamilton and Chris Jones coaching a Riders defence that is scoring touchdowns at an historic rate.
Which surging team is the scariest? Steinberg and Ferguson pick their sides in the latest Berg vs. Ferg.
The Tiger-Cats appear to be for real. They have two dominant interior linebackers playing at an elite level, good SAM linebacker play for the first time since Erik Harris left for the NFL, a variety of pass rushers, good national depth and an offensive line that continues to gel.
While all of those things matter, the question at hand is which CFL team scares you the most right now. If you believe it’s the Ticats, as I do, it’s for one reason.
The Ticats QB is one of the truest rhythm throwers I’ve ever been around and when he has weapons capable of breaking a game open like Brandon Banks or Luke Tasker, you have to believe any play is a chance to score and change the game.
Masoli has shown marked improvement since June Jones became the head coach on Labour Day of 2017 and has avoided the always dangerous plateau that often faces quarterbacks asserting themselves as a starter for the first time. He continues to get better and the pieces around him continue to adapt to his style of play.
If that trend continues, the Ticats will be the most dangerous team in the CFL from now until whenever the season ends.
BERG (7-7): THE RIDERS ARE THE BIGGEST THREAT TO NO. 1
To see the Saskatchewan Roughriders riding a four-game win streak isn’t that surprising knowing the potential they’ve had all season long. Now sitting at 7-4 on the season, the Riders sit all alone in second place in the West Division and look like the biggest threat to the Calgary Stampeders for top spot overall. I don’t expect them to take any steps back the rest of the season.
We’ve known all year how good this defence is and that remains a constant into the stretch drive. Charleston Hughes is running away with the CFL lead in sacks with 13, while Willie Jefferson might be the league’s most athletic player on the other side of that defensive line. When you factor in other playmakers like Ed Gainey and Loucheiz Purifoy, you can see why no one wants any part of this Saskatchewan defence right now.
What has really rounded things out for the Riders is what happens when they have the ball, though. For a good chunk of the season’s first half, Saskatchewan was having difficulty moving the ball with regularity and, as such, the team’s defensive unit was spending too much time on the field. Of late, however, Zach Collaros has come on at quarterback, while Naaman Roosevelt and Jordan Williams-Lambert have solidified themselves as solid targets. With Tre Mason seemingly solidified at tailback now, the Riders have a chance to take another step forward, too.
Saskatchewan opened the season with high expectations knowing how many changes Chris Jones and company made over the winter. While things didn’t start precisely as planned, this team looks like it’s hitting true stride right in time. The Riders have a Week 19 showdown with Calgary on the docket. With the way Sask is trending now, that game has the potential to decide the West.
DON’T SIT ON THE FENCE!
While both sides are pretty convincing, someone’s got to take it. Whose argument convinced you the most?
You can vote for this week’s winner both on CFL.ca and Twitter. Meanwhile, continue the conversation by tweeting @Fan960Steinberg and @TSN_Marsh.
The winner will be revealed in the following week’s Berg vs. Ferg.