July 31, 2023

Power Rankings: Second tier up for grabs


TORONTO — The topic came up on the TSN panel during the weather delay on Sunday night’s game, coincidentally, as these rankings were being mulled about over here at CFL.ca.

The top tier of CFL teams has been established through the first eight weeks of play. We have the Toronto Argonauts, the BC Lions and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers all with their eyes on holding (in the Argos’ case) or reclaiming (hello, Lions and Bombers) the top record in the league. When you look past those three teams in the standings, you enter into a jumble of records. One third of the way through the season, there are a handful of teams fighting to be the ones to be knocking on the door of the league’s giants at the moment.

Ottawa, Montreal, Saskatchewan, Hamilton and despite their 2-5 record, even Calgary still have plenty of time to make their case to be that team. To this point it remains a week-to-week work in progress, with a number of factors at work for each of them.

The REDBLACKS, Tiger-Cats and Roughriders are trying to find their respective ways with new to new-ish quarterbacks at the helm, after injuries have taken the projected starters out of the lineup. The Stampeders are struggling to find offensive consistency with Jake Maier in his first year as the full-time starting QB.

With three of those clubs in the East — and assuming the Argos continue to roll at a high clip the rest of the way this year — we have the makings of a tight battle for second in the division and a valuable home playoff game up for grabs. It could be a shaky ride to the finish, but it’s an interesting one to watch develop.

Let’s get into this week’s rankings.

» Steinberg’s MMQB: The Argos keep on flexing
Landry’s five takeaways from Week 8
» Watch: Timber Mart Plays of the Week
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1. Toronto Argonauts (6-0)

Last week: 1
Last game: 31-13 win over Saskatchewan
Next game: At Calgary, Fri. Aug. 4 

Worth noting: It’s appropriate that in their 150th season, the Argos go on a run that lets us dig through their rich history. Sitting at 6-0 now for the first time since 1935, the Argos are the clear cut team to beat as we cross into the middle third of the regular season schedule. In their Touchdown Atlantic win over the Roughriders, the Argos showed all of the ways they can beat you. An underwhelming day from the offence was buoyed by a Javon Leake return touchdown and a defence that kept Mason Fine and the Riders out of the end zone most of the day. They also provided a DaShaun Amos pick six to put a game played under a blistering heat at St. Mary’s University on ice.

2. BC Lions (6-1)

Last week: 2
Last game: 27-0 win over Edmonton 

Next game: At Winnipeg, Thurs. Aug. 3

Worth noting: Dane Evans more than held the fort down against the Elks, but once again it was the Lions’ defence that starred, shutting out the Elks for the second time in a season. The Lions have the rare luxury in the CFL — especially this season — of being able to give their starting quarterback all of the time he needs to be ready to return to action. With Evans getting the keys to the offence again this week, the Lions will need him at that same level of sharpness, as they head back to Winnipeg to face the Blue Bombers for the second time this season.

3. Winnipeg Blue Bombers (5-2)

Last week: 3
Last game: 28-14 win over Edmonton
Next game: Vs. BC, Thurs. Aug. 3

Worth noting: The Bombers emerge from the chill vibes of a bye week into the belly of the competitive beast on Thursday, when they host the West-leading BC Lions. The Bombers were embarrassed at home when they hosted the Lions in Week 3. They get a new look to deal with, in Dane Evans getting his second start of the season. Defensive coordinator Richie Hall knows Evans well and has had success against him over the years. The Bombers have our attention every week, but this one stands out to us.

4. Montreal Alouettes (3-3)

Last week: 5
Last game: 25-18 win over Calgary

Next game: At Hamilton, Sat. Aug. 5

Worth noting: The Alouettes gutted out a Sunday night win over the Stampeders, dealing with a weather delay and an opponent that hung around until the end, despite its offensive struggles. The re-emergence of William Stanback (15 carries for 86 yards) was encouraging. While the East threatened to get muddled with the Ticats’ winning and the REDBLACKS’ recent improved play, the Als sit at an even .500. While the Argos attempt to pull away from the rest of the pack, that second spot will be crucial for a home playoff date and post-season momentum, should the situation in the East stay the same. The Als are in a good place.

5. Ottawa REDBLACKS (3-4)

Last week: 4
Last game: 16-12 loss to Hamilton

Next game: At Saskatchewan, Sun. Aug. 6

Worth noting: The REDBLACKS’ magical two-game winning streak came to an end against the Ticats and while this one wasn’t the high scoring, heart-pumping dramatic ride that Dustin Crum has taken us on the last few weeks, it was a close, winnable game. That should give REDBLACKS fans — a group that’s been through the ringer the last few years — some hope as the season progresses. The REDBLACKS are in the race in the East and that’s something to build on.

6. Calgary Stampeders (2-5)

Last week: 6
Last game: 25-18 loss to Montreal
Next game: Vs. Toronto, Fri. Aug. 4

Worth noting: It was two offensive steps forward, one back for the Stampeders’ offence on Sunday in Montreal. After pumping out over 700 passing yards in his previous two games, Jake Maier was unable to find the end zone against the Alouettes — while giving up a pick-six as part of a two-interception night — with the team having to settle for six Rene Paredes field goals for their 18 points. It’s a frustrating loss that pushes the Stamps further down the West Division standings. The Stamps need that consistency ASAP. Their next four opponents? Toronto twice, BC and Winnipeg. They’ll need to play at a high level to stay in these games.

7. Saskatchewan Roughriders (3-4)

Last week: 7
Last game: 31-13 loss to Toronto

Next game: Vs. Ottawa, Sun. Aug. 6

Worth noting: The numbers — over 400 net yards of offence — suggest that the Riders were moving the ball and getting in scoring position. Their result against the Argos — a lopsided loss that only saw one garbage-time touchdown scored — brings things back to reality. Mason Fine said it himself in the wake of the Touchdown Atlantic loss and his late benching: field goals aren’t going to be enough. Fine will get another shot at leading the offence to some greater productivity this week when the REDBLACKS come to town.

8. Hamilton Tiger-Cats (3-4)

Last week: 8
Last game: 16-12 win over Ottawa

Next game: Vs. Montreal, Sat. Aug. 5

Worth noting: We send our best to Bo Levi Mitchell, who had the shortest of returns in Week 8, in what’s proven to be an injury-riddled season so far. The Ticats likely shift their QB focus back to Taylor Powell in Week 9, with their record a silver lining around a dark situation. Despite losing their No. 1 pivot twice now, the Ticats are 3-4 and still in the mix in the East.

9. Edmonton Elks (0-8)

Last week: 9
Last game: 27-0 loss to BC 

Next game: Vs. Winnipeg, Aug. 10

Worth noting: For three seasons running, the Elks’ Everest has been the BC Lions, as they’ve dropped their last six meetings with them going back to the 2021 campaign. The air has only gotten thinner for them in 2023, as the Lions shut them out for the second time this season in Week 8. The Elks have a bye week, where there will no doubt be some internal examination of what’s going wrong. It gets no easier for them when they get back to work next week, with the Blue Bombers waiting for them at IG Field on Aug. 10.

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