September 5, 2023

Power Rankings: Say hello to the Green guys

Arthur Ward/

TORONTO — You could be forgiven if a few weeks back you thought that the OK Tire Labour Day Weekend didn’t have much to offer in terms of compelling match-ups.

You were, of course, proven wrong with four good games and two in particular that turned out to be sensational. First, the Battle of Alberta featured two teams with a combined 5-17 record; that didn’t matter. The Calgary Stampeders and Edmonton Elks put on a show for the fans at McMahon Stadium, with Calgary clawing all the way back into the game in the fourth quarter to pick up a much-needed win.

Then there’s what happened in Regina. The Saskatchewan Roughriders claimed their first win over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in four years and three seasons and have made their place in these rankings very interesting.

The Riders have now packaged together wins against BC and Winnipeg, while boosting their record to 6-5. In a world where comfort is a rare commodity, they have a little bit of it with their hold on third place in the West Division. What’s most impressive in this short span for the Riders is that they’re finding ways to win without Trevor Harris at quarterback. Jake Dolegala is now 2-1 as the Riders’ pivot and in his last two games has thrown for a combined 565 yards, three touchdowns and most important for a brand-new starter, zero interceptions.

The Lions’ Labour Day Weekend win over the Montreal Alouettes keeps the Riders at the doorstep of that upper echelon of the league’s top teams, for now at least. Remember of course, that the Riders and the Bombers meet again this week at IG Field. A win there would only strengthen the resurgent green team’s chances of continuing its climb in these rankings.

» MMQB: Dolegala leads top LDW performers
» Landry’s 5 takeaways from OK Tire Labour Day Weekend
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1. Toronto Argonauts (9-1)

Last week: 1
Last game: 41-28 win over Hamilton
Next game: Vs. Montreal, Sat. Sept. 9 

Worth noting: The Argos rode an explosive first quarter to a comfortable win — their second on Labour Day in as many years to pad their lead atop the East. We knew AJ Ouellette could hurt a team on the ground but he showed us on holiday Monday that he’s got an arm on him as well. That’s something Ticat fans would rather not have learned first hand in the biggest regular season game of the year. The Argos head into a home-and-home series with the Montreal Alouettes focused and grounded; their sensational start to this season hasn’t gone to their heads.

2. Winnipeg Blue Bombers (9-3)

Last week: 2
Last game: 32-30 OT loss to Saskatchewan
Next game: Vs. Saskatchewan, Sat. Sept. 9

Worth noting:  The Bombers came out on the wrong side of history in their Labour Day Classic meeting with the Roughriders, losing the first-ever overtime game that the series has produced. That spoiled their hopes of being the first team in the league to lock up a playoff spot. They’ll be keyed in on getting that win back in their re-match with the Riders on Saturday.

3. BC Lions (8-4)

Last week: 3
Last game: 34-25 win over Montreal

Next game: Vs. Ottawa, Sat. Sept. 16

Worth noting: The Lions got back on track with a much-needed win over the Als, to keep pace in a tightening West Division. Vernon Adams Jr. gave a very VA-type performance on his old stomping grounds, going 21-33 for 306 yards and three touchdowns, with zero interceptions and an extra 54 yards on the ground. The Lions get the REDBLACKS when they return from their bye week then hunker down for three important West opponents: Edmonton, Saskatchewan and Winnipeg.

4. Saskatchewan Roughriders (6-5)

Last week: 5
Last game: 32-30 OT win over Winnipeg 

Next game: At Winnipeg, Sat., Sept. 9

Worth noting: The Riders’ managed to get the best of Zach Collaros for the first time since he joined the Blue Bombers in 2019. While that’s a great moral/psychological win, the actual W in the standings really carries some weight. It adds to the cushion that the Riders have in front of Calgary and Edmonton for that third and final West Division playoff spot (no one is rooting harder for a split in that Alberta home-and-home than the province of Saskatchewan) and it throws some water on any East Division teams that might have their eyes on what would be the first-ever East crossover.

5. Montreal Alouettes (6-5)

Last week: 4
Last game: 34-25 loss to BC

Next game: At Toronto, Sat. Sept. 9

Worth noting: The Als’ glass ceiling tour continues as they shift from games against Winnipeg and BC (both losses) to a home-and-home with the East-leading Argos. This stands to be a big pair of games for the Als, who will need to regain some of the footing they’ve lost in the East. They also have a great opportunity, after those Winnipeg and BC losses, to make the point that they can beat a top-tier team in the league. Taking a win from this red hot Argos team would do just that.

6. Calgary Stampeders (4-8)

Last week: 7
Last game: 35-31 win over Edmonton
Next game: At Edmonton, Sat. Sept. 9 

Worth noting: After watching the Riders pull out a dramatic win against the Bombers on Sunday, the Stamps knew that a Labour Day Monday win would be crucial in keeping pace with them in the standings and in keeping their playoff hopes alive and well. Thanks to a 22-point fourth quarter against the Elks, the Stamps are in the mix and got the kind of win that can launch a team into a good run. We touched on it last week, but Saturday’s game in Edmonton is the last West Division competition the Stamps will see until Week 19 when they host the Riders. They have byes in Week 15 and 18 and games against Montreal and Hamilton in Weeks 16 and 17.

7. Edmonton Elks (2-10)

Last week: 6
Last game: 35-31 loss to Calgary

Next game: Vs. Calgary, Sat. Sept. 9 

Worth noting: The Elks appeared poised to stretch their first winning streak of the season to three games at McMahon Stadium on Monday, but let the Stamps come roaring back into the game in the fourth quarter. Tre Ford‘s record-setting night on the ground (11 rushes for 135 yards) is proof that he’s a fascinating quarterback to watch, but the Elks’ loss reminds us that their room for error on the season is getting very, very thin.

8. Hamilton Tiger-Cats (4-7)

Last week: 8
Last game: 41-28 loss to Toronto

Next game: At Ottawa, Fri. Sept. 8

Worth noting: Despite giving up 17 first quarter points, the Ticats had a small window on Monday where it felt like the Argos could have been in their sights. Trailing 17-10 early in the third quarter after Taylor Powell found Tim White for a touchdown, the Ticats needed a play to narrow the gap. Instead, an AJ Ouellette-heavy drive ended with Chad Kelly finding Damonte Coxie for a touchdown that pushed it back to a two-score game. With their trip to Ottawa this week, the Ticats have a chance to hold on to that third spot in the East and to rebuild the momentum created from their win over the Lions two weeks ago.

9. Ottawa REDBLACKS (3-8)

Last week: 9
Last game: 30-20 loss to Edmonton

Next game: Vs. Hamilton, Fri. Sept. 8

Worth noting: The REDBLACKS emerge from their bye week with the Ticats on the schedule and some East Division standings jostling on their minds. To do that, they’ll have to put their five-game losing streak behind them. With just seven games left in the schedule, wins are becoming a must. Rested from the bye, the REDBLACKS face a Tiger-Cats team on Friday that’ll be coming off of a short week and licking its wounds after falling to the Argos on Labour Day.

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