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Due north: A midseason CFL check-in

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While the NFL season is picking up steam, it’s worth noting that there’s a football season already half-completed happening just to the north.

The CFL has reached the halfway point in the 2021 season, a campaign truncated somewhat by the ongoing circumstances of the pandemic. This year sees the schedule play out over 16 weeks, with each team playing 14 games along with two byes. And since they just completed Week 8, it seemed like the time was right to check in with how things are going on the gridiron of the Great White North.

Here’s a quick-hit look at how the CFL’s nine teams are performing thus far. We should note that with multiple byes, there is some disparity regarding how many games each team has played thus far. Still, we’re far enough a long to have a pretty good sense of how it’s all going.

(All statistics current as of the completion of Week 8)

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East Division

Hamilton Tiger-Cats (4-3)

It’s no surprise that Hamilton is at the top of the East Division, though it is perhaps a little surprising that they’re not running away with it. The big issue has been at quarterback; despite having two of the league’s better passers in Dane Evans and Jeremiah Masoli, injuries at the position have left the Ti-Cats struggling with consistency. They’ve got some good pass catchers and the defense is led by Simoni Lawrence, who is having himself a year. If they can get healthy, they’ll be trouble in the second half.

Toronto Argonauts (4-3)

I had the Argos pegged for second, but I didn’t think that the team would be this close to their Ontario rival. Starting QB Nick Arbuckle has looked good thus far, but when backup McLeod Bethel-Thompson stepped in, Toronto didn’t miss a beat. Both men have proven adept at scoring with their arms – each has five TD passes – but the truth is that their record is a bit of a mirage. This is a team that has been outscored on the year by a healthy margin – they’ll need to reverse that trend going forward.

Montreal Alouettes (2-4)

Oh, the Als. Statistically, Vernon Adams is the best QB in the East thus far – he’s fourth in yardage and leads the CFL with 11 passing TDs. Montreal also has the CFL’s leading rusher in William Stanback, who is averaging over 100 yards on the ground. Eugene Lewis and Jake Wieneke are excelling at receiver. So why are they 2-4? Bad luck, really – their points for and against are basically a wash. If they can find a rhythm and get a few lucky bounces, there’s still time to make a move.

Ottawa Redblacks (1-5)

There’s much love in my heart for the Redblacks, but this season is not looking good. They’ve got their own QB issues, with neither Dominique Davis or Matt Nichols performing particularly well. In the CFL, you need good quarterback play to score, so it’s no surprise that Ottawa is dead last in scoring, even accounting for one fewer game. And they’re the absolute worst in terms of scoring defense, no qualifiers, even with one less game. It’s starting to look like a lost season for the Redblacks.

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West Division

Winnipeg Blue Bombers (6-1)

The reigning Grey Cup champs are still riding high, it appears. Zach Collaros is second in both passing yardage and TD passes. Running back Andrew Harris missed a few games early, but looks to be very much back in the groove, while receiver Kenny Lawler is leads the pass catchers. Defensively, the Bombers are dominating; they’re the only team to give up less than 100 points thus far. The dominant D-line is led by Willie Jefferson and Jackson Jeffcoat, who have combined for 10 sacks and seven forced fumbles.

Saskatchewan Roughriders (5-2)

Funny how the teams that seem to be performing the best have the most consistent QB play, isn’t it? The Riders have liked what they’ve gotten from Cody Fajardo, who sits third in passing yards and fourth in TDs (he’s also rushed for four scores). William Powell has looked good running the ball, while Kyran Moore is the primary receiving threat. Defensively, they’ve been good-not-great; their record thus far is buoyed by a schedule front-loaded with home games – they’re 4-1 in those five contests.

BC Lions (4-3)

I’ll admit that this Lions team is considerably better than I expected. Hell, they’ve already won more games than I predicted for the season. I should have known better than to count out QB Mike Reilly, who is simply leading the league in passing yardage and sits second in TD passes. Sure, they can’t really run the ball, but when Reilly’s slinging it, it doesn’t really matter. The defense has been strong as well, with Jordan Williams and Bo Lokombo (who leads the CFL in picks) flying all over the place.

Edmonton Elks (2-4)

And here we have my beloved Elks. It has been a weird season in Edmonton, where the Elks have lost all four games that they’ve played – both wins came on the road. Trevor Harris has been fine under center, albeit perhaps not quite as effective as anticipated. Running back James Wilder is one of the best in the league thus far – second overall in rushing – but the receiving corps has been pretty iffy apart from Derel Walker. The middling defense can’t make up for the anemic offensive performance.

Calgary Stampeders (2-5)

Ouch. This one hurts the most. I had the Stamps pegged to win this division. Sure, it could still happen, but it isn’t looking good. The injury to star QB Bo Levi Mitchell was the big blow, but he’s been bad even when on the field – two TDs and seven INTs bad. Ka’Deem Carey has gotten some work done on the ground and Kamar Jorden looks to be breaking out, but … it’s just not enough. And aside from a couple of highlights – Shawn Lemon and Darnell Sankey – the defense is forgettable.

Last modified on Wednesday, 29 September 2021 08:18

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