August 14, 2023

MMQB: Shared characteristics of the top dogs

Dave Chidley/

We’ve known for some time that three teams make up the CFL’s elite tier in 2023: Toronto, Winnipeg, and BC. Well, as Week 10 played itself out, something jumped out at me when talking about the Bombers, Lions, and Argos.

All three teams have lost games this season. And in every case, all three teams have responded positively in a big way. That was on display over the weekend and it’s another characteristic setting this trio apart from the rest of the pack as it stands right now.

Week 10 wrapped up with Toronto’s first opportunity to respond after a loss this year. The previously unbeaten Argonauts lost for the first time in Week 9 when they fell 20-7 on the road in Calgary. One week later, Toronto bounced back in resounding fashion with a back and forth 44-31 win over the Ottawa REDBLACKS.

» Argos defeat REDBLACKS in back and forth battle
» Lions rebound with dominant win at home over Stampeders
» Kelly, Daniels’ chemistry proves unstoppable in Argos win
» Caleb Evans leads Als to win over Riders in first 2023 start
» Sign up and watch CFL games on CFL+ in the U.S. and Internationally


Quarterback Chad Kelly, who was knocked out of the loss to the Stampeders, returned to action with another stellar performance. Sunday saw Kelly threw for 417 yards and four touchdowns as he continues to prepare a strong resume for Most Outstanding Player.

And, in what has been a theme this year, it was DaVaris Daniels who emerged as the most dangerous target against Ottawa. Daniels hauled in six catches for 180 yards and three touchdowns for his biggest game of the season. With Kelly at the helm, and with all the weapons in Toronto’s arsenal, you never know who’s going to lead the way any given week. This time around it was Daniels in an electric performance.

Speaking of electric, that’s exactly the type of night Vernon Adams Jr. and the Lions had as they cruised to a 37-9 victory at home to Calgary. It was the first action for Adams since he went down early in Week 7 vs. Saskatchewan and he returned with a bang. Adams finished Saturday’s win with 322 passing yards and four touchdown passes on a night that was never really in question.

It was an important response for BC, too, knowing it was the team’s first game since a lopsided 50-14 loss to the Bombers in Week 9. Now at 7-2, the Lions have bounced back impressively after both their losses this season; they did the same thing following their first loss to Toronto back in Week 4.

And don’t forget Winnipeg in this conversation. Thursday saw the Blue Bombers win their third straight as they erased a 22-point deficit to topple Edmonton 38-29. This three-game streak comes on the heels of that stunning loss overtime loss to Ottawa back in Week 6.

Also 7-2 on the year, Winnipeg has responded in strong fashion to both of their losses as well. The team’s first loss was in Week 3 when they were stunned 30-6 by BC in front of their home crowd; the Bombers followed that up with a smothering 17-3 road win in Montreal the following week.

No matter how strong the team, there are going to be off weeks over the course of a gruelling 18-game campaign. But one attribute that has set Toronto, BC, and Winnipeg apart from the rest of the pack is the ability to avoid consecutive losses, at least to this point.

In all five cases, the teams have followed a loss up with an emphatic win.

Quick hits

I know the only thing that mattered to Cody Fajardo on Friday night was to see his team win. But I must admit I felt bad for Fajardo as he was unable to play against his former team in Montreal’s 41-12 triumph over the Roughriders. Fajardo will now have to wait until next season to face Saskatchewan for the first time as the teams don’t play again in 2023.


That said, give the Als a ton of credit in stretching their win streak to three games. Caleb Evans got the job done as Fajardo’s replacement, throwing for 149 yards and a touchdown. He added two more majors on the ground to go along with 66 rushing yards. And led by a whale of a night from Tyrice Beverette, Montreal’s defence came to play and held the Riders out of the red zone until the fourth quarter.

Lost in the lopsided nature of Calgary’s loss to the Lions was another stellar performance from linebacker Micah Awe. The first-year member of the Stamps added five more defensive tackles to bring his league leading total to 67. Awe also added an interception in the loss and continues to make a strong case for Most Outstanding Defensive Player.

Finally, it’s hard not to shake your head at the embarrassment of receiving riches the Lions have at their disposal right now. Saturday’s win saw Keon Hatcher haul in nine catches for 170 yards and a touchdown while Alexander Hollins went for 80 yards and a touchdown on seven catches.

BC can also hit you with Lucky Whitehead, who had a touchdown over the weekend, Jevon Cottoy, and Justin McInnis. Even with dynamic Dominque Rhymes on the shelf, this Lions passing attack is terrifying, especially with Adams back under centre.

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