Week 18 has come an gone and oh my do we have a tight Western Division race. All the teams that desperately needed to win this week did so as the Lions, Bombers, and Eskimos all kept pace with each other and are all fighting for the last playoff spot in the Western Division and the crossover to the Eastern Division. There’s a chance all five teams in the West finish with more wins than the second place Eastern team. Once again bringing the question on whether or not the CFL should switch to a one conference league. As always, we have your Week 18 recap of all the action around the CFL.

 

Week 18 Bye: 

Hamilton (7-7) -34

Toronto (3-11)-20

Opening the 18th week of CFL action was a matchup between the second place Hamilton Tiger-Cats and the third-place Toronto Argonauts. The Argos were officially eliminated from playoff contention in Week 17 where Hamilton was still chasing Ottawa for first place in the East.

The Ti-Cats have enjoyed a quietly successful season. While they haven’t blown anyone away, they came into Week 18 with a 7-7 record just one game back of first place. They have seen their offense take their place near the top of the league. Jeremiah Masoli was second in the league in passing yards with 4, 286 and third in passing touchdowns with 21 before Friday night’s game.

It was the defense that has been up and down this season but coming into a game against a struggling Argo team they hoped to makes some ground for that first round bye in the playoffs. Coming off the bye week they still had a bunch of injuries to bounce back from especially in the offensive line and receiving corp.

The Argos have had a disappointing season this year, whether it be their record or losing their Hall of Fame quarterback for the year early in the season. After putting McLeod Bethel-Thompson under center through eight games they’ve turned back to James Franklin who started a few games after the injury to Ricky Ray.

For a team already out of the playoffs at the bottom of the East with a 3-11 record, Toronto just looked to spoil the night for their provincial rivals. Marc Trestman would want to see what he can get out of his young QB with the future at the position still looking cloudy for his team. They would be without James Wilder JR who was missing time with a leg injury.

Hamilton would get on the board first with a five-play drive taking them from their own 35-yard line to the Toronto 38. After an incompletion on 2nd and 6 Liram Hajrullahu kicked a 45-yarder for the 3-0 lead.

Toronto would tie after a promising looking drive was put out by a Justin Capicciotti sack. Drew Brown kicked a 44-yard field goal for the 3-3 tie, his first kick in the CFL. The scoring would not stop there. On Hamilton’s next drive they would march down the field on a 7-play, 75-yard drive. Masoli then hit Luke Tasker for the 4-yard TD and 10-3 lead.

James Franklin had an answer for that drive with one of his own. On the following Argo drive, the young QB hit SJ Green for a 16-yard pick up before finding Wilder’s replacement Branden Burks for a 27-yard gain. Two plays later Franklin found Burks again, this time for the 17-yard catch and run TD pass and the 10-10 tie.

With the first half winding down, Hamilton took the lead back. Starting from their own 28-yard line, Masoli and company moved down the field to the Toronto 17. The drive would end in a 17-yard Brandon Banks TD catch after he maintained possession through a hit with the goal post and the 17-10 lead.

Hamilton took an 18-10 lead into halftime and looked to steal more momentum to open the second.

With the Argos taking possession to start the third quarter they moved down field but then gave the ball away. On a 3rd and inches, James Franklin went for the QB sneak and broke through the line for a big 26-yard gain. However, on the run Ti-Cats defenders would grab Franklin by the back of the jersey and while trying to bring him down, Delvin Breaux would force a fumble which was recovered by Breaux giving Hamilton the ball.

Luckily for the Argos, they would get the ball right back with no damage done. After Hamilton moved down to the Toronto 25-yard line, Masoli would have a pass deflected into the air and picked off by Ronnie Yell for the turnover.

Unfortunately for Toronto, the turnover resulted in a two-and-out. Fortunately for Hamilton, they scored on the ensuing drive. After starting with possession at the Toronto 51-yard line, it took just four plays and some help from some Argo penalties to get into the end zone. Masoli would hit Tasker for a 5-yard TD pass in the back of the end zone and the 25-10 lead.

The Ti-Cats would then force another Argo two-and-out and put up another seven points on the ensuing drive. Jeremiah Masoli would avoid the pressure to hit Brandon Banks over the middle for a 19-yard gain. On the following play, Masoli then found Luke Tasker on the flag route for the 48-yard TD pass, Tasker’s third of the game and the 31-10 lead.

Both teams would then exchange turnovers and field goals in garbage time in the fourth quarter, with the Argos scoring a last-second TD on way to a 34-20 Hamilton victory. The Ti-Cats dominated this game from the start. Luke Tasker and Brandon Banks lit up the field all night as a two-man demolition team. Banks put up almost 200 yards while Tasker got into the end zone three times.

The defense for Hamilton did their job holding the Argos to 379 yards and despite some big plays from Branden Burks held them to just 87 yards rushing. It was the type of win many expected from Hamilton on their way into a fight with Ottawa for first place. With a slew of injuries on the offensive side of the ball, the type of performances they got out of Tasker and Banks are ones they’ll need moving forward to make a run.

The defense forced four turnovers and totaled three sacks. If they can play like this against the elite teams in the league, the Tiger-Cats will be legitimate Grey Cup contenders.

The Argos looked like a team that is trying to figure out who they are and what pieces they want to keep around for next year. They struggled all game as you would expect as they fall to 3-12 on the year. There were some bright spots for them in this one they could look to build off.

The defense held Hamilton to 85 yards on the ground but was lit up through the air for 338. They did tally two sacks and two interceptions, but it just wasn’t enough to make it close.

James Franklin had a solid night despite not being able to get anything going or any real rhythm. He finished 22/37 for 292 yards and 2 TDs to 1INT. Branden Burks had a decent night, not statistically per say, but he made plays when needed and could be a piece to look to as the year winds down. The leading rusher for the team was Franklin which is a tough way to win a game. They did get a huge game from SJ Green. The veteran receiver put up 7 catches for 127 yards and 1TD.

There will be lots of work to be done in Toronto moving forward but there are pieces to build off.

Player of the Game: Luke Tasker. Despite only having four catches all game for just 63 yards, Tasker took three of those four catches into the end zone, scoring 21 of Hamilton’s 34 points. Having a depleted receiving unit, getting a game like this out of one of their veterans was and will be key going forward.

 

 

Saskatchewan (10-5) -0

Winnipeg (8-7)-31

The second game of the week was poised to be the most exciting of the bunch, seeing two surging teams in a Western Division showdown. The Saskatchewan Roughriders took on the Winnipeg Blue Bombers from Investors Group Field.

The Bombers have done a complete 180 from three weeks ago as things looked dark and lost with the team dropping four in a row and their playoff hopes starting to diminish. Since losing two in a row to the Riders over Labour Day, Winnipeg has now won three in a row and found themselves in third place with an 8-7 record.

A win against the second place Riders would put the Bombers in primed position to compete for that spot. Matt Nichols and company looked to continue the success they’ve found over the last three weeks, especially with them playing a decent game against Saskatchewan the last time they met.

The Riders continued being the hottest team in the league with a big last-second win over the Eskimos in Week 17. The defense has carried the team to their successful stretch putting them in position to host a playoff game. Willie Jefferson has been a complete monster all year and was coming off a game where he came up with the game-winning pick-six.

Saskatchewan needed to limit their mistakes and not allow a hot Winnipeg team to exploit them with weapons like Andrew Harris and Weston Dressler. With a Rider win and a BC loss on Saturday, Saskatchewan would clinch at least second place, and look to challenge Calgary for first place.

The one thing the Riders needed to avoid, the turnover game, bit them early in this one. Zach Collaros hit Kyran Moore over the middle who then fumbled the ball which was recovered by Anthony Gaitor who ran it back 45 yards for the touchdown and 7-0 lead.

Zach Collaros didn’t look right at all in this one, as on the ensuing drive after the fumble he threw one over the middle resulting in an interception by Taylor Loffler. Luckily for Saskatchewan this turnover did not lead to Bomber points.

After forcing a Rider two-and-out the Bombers would put up another seven. Matt Nichols hit Darvin Adams on a 72-yard bomb down the seam for the 14-0 lead. The turnovers continued with the repetitive play-calling by the Riders, the Bombers defense was able to sit on the receiver’s routes. Loffler came up with another pick giving Winnipeg possession at the Saskatchewan 45-yard line.

The mistake would result in a 28-yard Justin Medlock field goal and 17-0 Bomber lead. Winnipeg then put this one out of hand before the end of the first half. On 2nd and inches, Chris Steveler came into the game on what was believed to be a QB sneak. However, the backup QB dropped back and hit Weston Dressler over the middle who made an amazing diving catch into the end zone for the 24-0 lead.

When it rains it pours. Matt Nichols continued to pick apart the Rider defense that once looked so unbeatable. After Nichols found Nic Demski and Drew Wolitarsky for big gains, Mike O’Shea put Streveler back in for a snap. The rookie QB took off on a 24-yard play-action run to the 1-yard line. He then took it the rest of the way on the following play for the TD and 31-0 lead. BEFORE the half.

After another disappointing drive to start the third quarter, Chris Jones would bench Collaros for back up Brandon Bridge. Unfortunately for the young Canadian QB, he couldn’t get anything going, not really establishing any kind of rhythm.

Neither team for that matter got much going in the second half. Winnipeg was able to maintain a few drives but nothing that leads to points. The Riders, on the other hand, couldn’t maintain much of any drive without even thinking of getting in the end zone, resulting in the 31-0 Bomber win.

The Bombers came up with a huge statement victory. Not only did they win, but they blew out one of the hottest teams in the league, and they did it before halftime. They forced turnovers left and right and made life a living hell for any QB Saskatchewan put under center. They held the Riders to 195 total yards. That is not a typo. They tallied 5 turnovers and 4 sacks while dominating the Saskatchewan O-line.

The offense was very successful against one of the best defenses in the league. They racked up 346 yards while Matt Nichols shredded the Rider D. He only threw for 155 yards but made big plays and got into the end zone when needed. The dual-threat at QB is something that could make this team extremely dynamic. They now move 1 game back of second place and look to make a run into the playoffs.

This was a very disappointing showing for the Riders. The defense that was looking like championship caliber unit gave up too many big plays in this one. They couldn’t create a tonne of pressure on the Bomber QBs and were beat over the top too many times. This team was not built to play from behind and they fell into a hole early.

The Achilles heel for this team continues to be the offense. They hadn’t looked like they were in it right from the start. Zach Collaros looked lost and off target, not looking off defenders and throwing picks right into their hands. The play-calling has been far too vanilla for this team from the start of the season, and the Winnipeg defense looked dialed into every play the Riders ran and like they knew where they were going. The Riders have not scored an offensive TD through two games now.

Saskatchewan is going to need to rebound and do it quickly with the playoffs vastly approaching. They lost three key players in this game. Dariusz Bladek went down with what looked like a serious knee injury, as well as lost LB Matt Elam, Mic’hael Brooks, and Zach Evans, the latter of which didn’t seem as serious, but nonetheless injuries that hurt this time of the year.

Player of the Game: Bomber Defence. They completely shut down the Rider offense and held them to under 200 total yards. While forcing 5 turnovers they took one to the end zone to start the scoring and establish momentum, then took another early interception and got points off it early. A pure dominating performance.

 

 

Ottawa (8-6) – 16

Edmonton (7-8) – 34

The Ottawa REDBLACKS would come into Commonwealth Stadium to face the Edmonton Eskimos in the second game of Saturday’s tripleheader. Ottawa is looking to maintain first place in the East while Edmonton is trying to get back into the Western playoff race.

The REDBLACKS would start the game with the ball and it wouldn’t take them long open the scoring, with rookie sensation and new CFL record holder Lewis Ward drilling a 32-yard field goal that put the road team on top 3-0 early.

Edmonton was the first team to find the end zone late in the first quarter, as running back Martese Jackson capped an eight-play, 53-yard drive with a 13-yard run after making a couple nice cuts. Sean Whyte‘s would kick the convert and give the Eskimos’ a 7-3 lead.

Ottawa defense finished the first quarter with a statement when Esks receiver Bryant Mitchell fumbled the football after a catch; Ottawa’s Devin Butler would recover and the REDBLACKS would get the ball on the Eskimos’ 30-yard line.

The Esks defense, however, would stand tall, limiting Ottawa to a 16-yard Lewis Ward field goal which cut the lead to 7-6.

The REDBLACKS extended their lead with four minutes remaining in the first half, as Harris connected with Diontae Spencer down the sideline for a 61-yard touchdown. Ward’s convert gave the REDBLACKS a nine-point lead.

Reilly and the Esks wouldn’t go silently into the night in this game though, they would eventually work their way down to the Ottawa 30-yard line, where they would be stopped while Sean Whyte came out to kick a field goal; his 37-yard boot was good, but Jonathan Rose was flagged for contacting the kicker on the play.

Edmonton would take advantage as they would score three plays later on a three-yard C.J. Gable touchdown run; Whyte’s convert would cut the REDBLACKS lead to 16-14 and they would take that lead into the break.

Edmonton would score and regain the lead five minutes into the third quarter, as Whyte would hit a 15-yard chip shot.

Reilly and co. would keep the momentum rolling on a seven-play, 65-yard touchdown drive capped by Gable’s second rushing major of the night giving Edmonton a 24-16 lead.

Sean Whyte made it a two-score game early in the fourth quarter, drilling a 40-yard field goal which would end up being his 300th over the course of his career.

Reilly then connected with Bryant Mitchell for a 75-yard touchdown midway through the fourth quarter, taking away any chance of a comeback in this one and giving the Eskimos’ a 34-16 lead.

The Eskimos’ got a much-needed win in this one as coming into the game they were on the outside looking in when it came to the playoff picture and the two teams they are chasing both won this week, so this win was huge to keep pace. Edmonton needs to protect the ball better, they are putting the ball on the turf too much as they can’t seem to get rid of their fumbling problem.

Ottawa remains in a comfortable spot still as they’ll be in the Eastern playoffs for sure, all that is left to determine is whether or not they’ll get the first-round bye and get seeded right into the Eastern Final. They’ll have to play better football if they want to return to Commonwealth Stadium later this year to play in the Grey Cup.

Player of the Game: Bryant Mitchell. 13 catches for 190 yards and 1 TD.

BC (7-7) – 26

Calgary (12-2) – 21

The BC Lions would come into McMahon Stadium looking to keep pace in the Western Division as earlier in the day they saw both the Bombers and Eskimos’ get wins. The road hasn’t been friendly for the Lions as they came into Saturday’s game with one measly road win.

The Lions would strike first after back-to-back first down gains on the ground from Sutton helping set up a 40-yard field goal from Ty Long giving the road team an early 3-0 lead. The Stampeders would be quickly forced to punt and after an amazing 55-yard one-handed catch by Bryan Burnham the Lions would once again be in scoring range, however, they would settle for another field goal and a 6-0 lead.

After an impressive 79-yard return by Anthony Parker that nearly found pay-dirt itself, newly acquired Tyrell Sutton would punch it in from three yards out and give the Lions a commanding 13-0 lead early.

Calgary would finally find the scoreboard in the second quarter with a 38-yard field goal from Rene Paredes. Calgary would add another single point later in the quarter when a 72-yard punt from Rob Maver went out of the Lions’ end zone.

BC would extend their lead once again when a 32-yard reception from Shaq Johnson set up Tyrell Sutton at the goal line again as he’d plunge in from one-yard out for his second TD of the game giving the Lions a 16-point lead with just over three minutes left in the half.

The Stampeders would get their first major of the game before the half though as Ricky Collins would muff the punt in BC territory and the ball would be recovered by Wynton McManis giving the Stampeders the ball on the Lions’ 17-yard line. They’d capitalize on the very next play as Mitchell would connect with Chris Matthews for his first TD as a Stampeder.

Travis Lulay would throw an interception on the ensuing drive giving the Stampeders the ball back in Lions’ territory once again. Mitchell would connect with Ambles on a 14-yard touchdown toss and bring the Stampeders within 2 points, they would fail to convert the two points and we’d go into the half with the Lions leading 20-18.

The Stampeders would take their first lead of the game on a 35-yard field goal from Paredes, that would be short-lived though as Ty Long would kick a career-long 52-yard field goal two minutes later giving the Lions a 23-21 lead.

The rest of the game would be very uneventful as both defenses would stand their ground and hold both teams out of the end zone, the Lions would add on another field goal to give themselves a 26-21 lead and that’s how this game would end.

Calgary sits firmly atop of the Western division standings; however, they are starting to look beatable as other teams are finding their footing. If they want to make it to the Grey Cup Final this year they’re going to have their hands full in the Western Final against whoever they will be facing.

BC FINALLY gets another win on the road as for them this season it’s been a tale of two different teams. Almost unbeatable at home, can’t catch a break on the road. A huge win against Calgary allows them to keep pace in the West as both teams they are trying to get away from won on Saturday as well.

Player of the Game: Tyrell Sutton. 22 carries 106 yards, 2 TDs.

CFL Week 18 Recap

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