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CFL Power Rankings Week 1: Montreal Knocks Winnipeg Down a Peg

Week 1 of the CFL saw the Montreal Alouettes flex their muscles in their win over Winnipeg and deny the Bombers their revenge after losing to Montreal in last year’s Grey Cup. The 3 other matches were all decided by just 8 points.

Please note that mentions of contributions by defensive players pertaining to QB pressures, run stops, and pass stops are unofficial stats based on my count.

Predictions: CFL News Hub Writers’ Week 2 Picks

The Crown Holder and the Court Jester

Crown holder 👑 – Montreal Alouettes: held the crown by defeating Winnipeg.

Court Jester 🃏 – Edmonton Elks: The Saskatchewan Roughriders foisted the title of Court Jester onto Edmonton by defeating them in week 1.

You will see reference to the Crown and the Court Jester in these rankings. If a team defeats the Crown Holder they steal the Crown. If a team loses to the Court Jester they become the new Court Jester thus freeing the previous team from being the Court Jester.

#1 Montreal Alouettes (1-0)👑

Previous Rank: 1

Week 1 Result: Defeated Winnipeg 27-12.

Ahead of the Grey Cup, I spoke to linebacker Tyrice Beverette about Montreal adopting an underdog mentality after being 9th on’s power rankings to begin last year’s season. Part of what he said continues to resonate with Montreal having since defeated Winnipeg in their last 2 games and now being on a 9 game winning streak. “-we don’t see ourselves as the underdog. We the top dog.” The Alouettes successfully defended the crown in week 1 with a dominant win.

WR Tyson Philpot had a monster game as he caught 10 of his 11 targets from Cody Fajardo for 141 yards and 2 touchdowns including a 76-yard touchdown on a flea flicker. Fajardo completed 20 of his 28 passes for 254 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Canadian linemen Derek Wiggan and Isaac Adeyemi-Berglund looked good in their first game as an Alouette. Wiggan had a sack and 2 tackles and had 2 shared run stops. Adeyemi-Berglund had 3 pressures and 3 shared run stops. DE Shawn Lemon was impactful as he also had a sack as well as 6 additional pressures and a solo run stop.

It was a strong game from the defensive unit that held Brady Oliveira to to 38 yards on 11 rushes. Zach Collaros was held to just 145 passing yards with 1 interception until he added 64 yards in the game’s final 3 minutes of action when the outcome was clearly decided.

The week 1 victory was unfortunately marred by a loss in the form of an injury to one of their key players as SAM linebacker Reggie Stubblefield sustained a torn ACL in the game. Stubblefield had high marks from Pro Football Focus last year such as having the 5th highest cover grade and also being their selection for CFL Rookie of the Year.

Week 2: @ Edmonton on Friday

#2 Toronto Argonauts (1-0)

Previous Rank: 3

Week 1 Result: Defeated BC at home 35-27.

Toronto looked very good in their week 1 victory over the B.C. Lions. Cameron Dukes played very well at quarterback completing 21 of his 27 passes for 254 yards and 3 touchdowns in place of suspended Chad Kelly. If he continues to play at this level there may be a controversy as to who is the starter when the reigning MOP’s suspension is lifted.

Dejon Brissett led the team in receiving after catching 3 passes for 52 yards and a touchdown. Rasheed Bailey caught 5 passes for 50 yards and a touchdown in his debut as an Argo after spending the last few years with Winnipeg.

Running back Ka’Deem Carey had a great game game rushing 16 times for 65 yards. Carey also caught 4 passes for 40 yards and a touchdown in his first game as an Argo.

The Toronto pass rush dominated in the win over BC with a lot of different players contributing. DT Jared Brinkman had 2 sacks and 2 additional hurries, and DT Jake Ceresna had a sack and 5 additional pressures in his debut as an Argo. Folarin Orimolade had a sack and 3 additional pressures, and Thiadric Hansen had a sack and 2 total pressures. All in all, by my count Vernon Adams Jr. was pressured 12 times in addition to the 6 times he was sacked.

Toronto will be in good spirits following a strong win heading into their bye week.

Week 2: Bye Week

#3 Winnipeg Blue Bombers (0-1)

Previous Rank: 2

Week 1 Result: Lost to Montreal at home 12-27.

Winnipeg’s week 1 performance was a letdown for the home fans who hoped to see the team continue its dominance that has been a frequent occurrence over the last several years. Heading into the season Winnipeg was 37-4 at home since 2018.

Winnipeg did not play Zach Collaros in the preseason and he looked rusty just as he did in week 1 of the 2022 season in which he also did not play in the preseason. Collaros completed 20 of his 33 passes for 209 yards with 1 interception in week 1 with 64 of those yards coming in garbage time.

Collaros is now on a 3-game streak in which he has not had a touchdown pass. This can partially be explained by a pattern in which he has tended to have lower production without having recent playtime such as the 2021, 2022, and 2023 West Finals in addition to the 2022 preseason and the most recent preseason. Additionally, Montreal is just really good at defending against the pass.

Collaros was pressured more often in week 1 with the departure of Jermarcus Hardrick. My favorite play of his in week 1 was when he danced around pressure late in the third quarter extending the play before finding Drew Wolitarsky 25 yards downfield.

A positive for Winnipeg on defense was their success in keeping Montreal’s run game limited as Walter Fletcher rushed 12 times for 36 yards. Jake Thomas was in on 3 run stops. Defensive end Celestin Haba made some impact starting in place of the retired Jackson Jeffcoat as he generated 3 pressures by my count. Willie Jefferson had 4 pressures, 2 of which he was not blocked on.

I’m sure Winnipeg will bounce back to their form after neglecting the preseason but they certainly began the season on a low note. They will be without receiver Kenny Lawler in week 2 who has been placed on the 6-game injured list as well as Brady Oliveira who will miss the game due to injury.

Week 2: @ Ottawa on Thursday

#4 B.C. Lions (0-1)

Previous Rank: 4

Week 1 Result: Lost to Toronto 

The Lions’ loss to Toronto to open the season felt in some ways very similar to the loss to Winnipeg to end the season last year in the sense that Vernon Adams Jr. was required to take a beating for his team. As mentioned he was pressured on 12 plays in addition to the 6 sacks he took. Additionally, VA was utilized in short yardage which was questionable decision-making by Rick Campbell, to say the least.

Despite the frequent pressure, Vernon Adams Jr. played a great game. He completed 25 of his 33 passes for 363 yards and 2 touchdowns with 1 interception. Justin McInnis led the team in receiving as he caught 7 passes for 103 yards and a touchdown. Alexander Hollins caught 8 passes for 90 yards. Travis Fulgham caught 2 passes for 54 yards and a touchdown in his CFL debut.

William Stanback rushed 11 times for 35 yards in a game in which the run blocking wasn’t quite what it needed to be. Stanback also caught 5 passes for 50 yards.

Linebackers Josh Woods and Ben Hladik were effective run-stoppers. Hladik had 9 tackles and had a part in 3 shared run stops. Josh Woods had 6 tackles including a solo run stop and was also in on 4 shared run stops. Sione Teuhema and Marcus Moore both recorded a sack. Defensive tackle Tibo Debaillie had a day to remember after he scooped up a fumble and ran it 20 yards for a touchdown following a Josh Archibald strip sack.

Week 2: vs Calgary at home on Saturday.

#5 Calgary Stampeders (1-0)

Previous Rank: 6

Week 1 Result: Defeated Hamilton 32-24 at home.

The Calgary Stampeders successfully defeated the Tiger-Cats in what was Bo Levi Mitchell’s first game against his old team. Jake Maier looked very good in week 1 as he completed 21 of his 26 passes for 252 yards and 2 touchdowns. He demonstrated good accuracy on some plays in which he was rolling right.

Clark Barnes led the team in receiving with 6 catches for 61 yards and a touchdown. Marken Michel caught 2 passes for 47 yards, Reggie Begelton caught 4 passes for 45 yards, and Cam Echols caught 3 passes for 40 yards and a touchdown.

On the ground, Dedrick Mills rushed 13 times for 87 yards (6.7 average), and added 19 receiving yards on 2 catches.

Cornerback Demerio Houston led the team in tackles with 7 and had an interception in his first game as a Stampeder after being a Blue Bomber over the past few seasons. DT Clarence Hicks had the only sack for Calgary. DE Julian Howsare was often a problem for Hamilton as he frequently fought his way into the backfield and rushed the quarterback 6 times by my count. James Vaughters and Kwadwo Boahen both had 2 pressures.

Week 2: @ BC on Saturday.

#6 Hamilton Tiger-Cats (0-1)

Previous Rank: 5

Week 1 Result: Lost to Calgary on the road 24-32.

Bo Levi Mitchell completed 27 of his 38 passes for 300 yards and a touchdown with 1 interception. It could have been a lot more if not for a couple of drops on some well-placed deep throws. There was a drop on what would have been a 47-yard touchdown in the 2nd quarter to Tim White and another on what would have been at least a 35-yard pickup to Shemar Bridges in the third quarter. In fairness to Tim White, the 2nd quarter drop would have been a difficult catch.

Shemar Bridges did end up leading the team in receiving in his CFL debut which saw him record 7 catches for 85 yards. Brendan O’Leary-Orange caught all 4 of his targets for 62 yards in his first game as a Tiger-Cat.

James Butler had a remarkable day on the ground as he rushed 13 times for 119 yards (9.2 average) and also had a 12-yard reception.

On defense, defensive tackle Casey Sayles had the lone sack for Hamilton. Defensive end Nick Usher generated 2 pressures and was involved on a 2 run stops. Newly signed Canadian defensive end David Menard had a pressure and assisted with a run stop.

Linebackers Ray Wilborn and Kyle Wilson were both highly impactful as they both had 5 tackles and combined for 5 QB hurries. Wilborn had a shared stop against the run and the pass. Wilson had 5 total stops, 2 of which were solo. Cornerback Dexter Lawson Jr. led the team in tackles with 6, 2 of which were for a loss.

Week 2: vs Saskatchewan at home on Sunday.

#7 Ottawa RedBlacks (0-0)

Previous Rank: 7

Week 1 Result: Bye Week

Ottawa was on the bye week in week 1 and will host the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Thursday to open their season. Thursday will see quarterback Dru Brown take on his former team in the RedBlacks’ home opener as Winnipeg comes to town.

Week 2: vs Winnipeg at home on Thursday.

#8 Saskatchewan Roughriders (1-0)

Previous Rank: 9

Week 1 Result: Defeated Edmonton on the road 29-21.

Cory Mace is 1-0 to start his tenure as the Roughriders head coach following a 29-21 victory on the road over the Edmonton Elks.

Trevor Harris completed 22 of his 31 passes for 305 yards and 3 touchdowns with 2 interceptions. Shawn Bane Jr. led the team in receiving as he caught 5 of his 8 targets for 125 yards and 3 touchdowns. Jarreth Sterns caught 7 passes for 81 yards. A healthy Kian Schaffer-Baker is a great sight for Rider Nation as he caught 4 passes for 52 yards.

Running back A.J. Ouellette joined Saskatchewan this offseason following a strong year with Toronto. He was held to just 40 yards on 18 carries (1.8 average) and a touchdown. A dip in production is not a surprise as Saskatchewan is not as good of a run-blocking team as Toronto is but they will need to get the run game going stronger in order to avoid being a 1-dimensional offense. 

Saskatchewan did a good job defending against the run in the first quarter which saw Deontai Williams have a solo stop, Bryan Cox Jr. having 2 shared stops, and Anthony Lanier II having a shared stop. Although there were not many plays defending the run it was enough to dissuade Edmonton enough to mostly go away from running the football.

DT Bryan Cox Jr. and Damarcus Fields both had a sack. Weakside linebacker C.J. Avery had an interception. Moving forward the Riders will want to see less passing yards allowed but regardless they are off to a strong start to begin their season.

Week 2: @ Hamilton on Sunday.

#9 Edmonton Elks (0-1)🃏

Previous Rank: 8

Week 1 Result: Lost to Saskatchewan at home 21-29.

Last year the glaring issue for Edmonton was their pass protection, particularly in the first half of the season. The Elks looked much better in this area to open the season as in the first quarter the only pressure allowed came on a linebacker blitz.

McLeod Bethel-Thompson has looked good in an Edmonton jersey since rejoining the CFL after he led the USFL in passing yards last year. MBT completed 33 of his 43 passes for 336 yards and 2 touchdowns with 1 interception.

Dillon Mitchell led the team in receiving as he caught all 7 of his targets for 93 yards. Eugene Lewis caught 4 passes for 85 yards. Edmonton saw good contributions from 2 Canadian newcomer receivers as Kurleigh Gittens Jr. caught 9 passes for 62 yards and Hergy Mayala caught 5 passes for 40 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Kevin Brown rushed 7 times for 23 yards. Brown had 4 carries in the first quarter for 11 yards and broke a tackle on his first 2 runs. Edmonton essentially went away from the run game as he only had 3 carries in the last 3 quarters.

Nyles Morgan led the team in tackles with 9, 4 of which were for a loss. Leon O’Neal Jr. had 6 tackles and 3 tackles for a loss. Michael Brodrique and Robert Nkemdiche both recorded a sack. Cornerbacks Darrius Bratton and Kai Gray both recorded an interception.

Last year Edmonton really struggled to stop the run. In this area they are off to a strong start as they held A.J. Ouellette to just 1.8 yards per carry as he rushed 18 times for 40 yards and a touchdown.

Javon Leake had a punt return touchdown that was unfortunately for Edmonton negated by a holding penalty in Leake’s first game as an Elk.

Edmonton is on the bottom of this list right now but they seem to be a lot better in some areas that were weak spots last season. The next step will be to get the run game going stronger moving forward but they look like a much better team than they were last season. I expect Edmonton to be a much more competitive team this season and ultimately for the CFL season to have more parity in it than what we saw last year.

Edmonton has a chance to take the Crown from Montreal on Friday although it will not be an easy task as the reigning Grey Cup Champions are on a 9-game winning streak.

Week 2: vs Montreal at home on Friday.

@JonathanClink on Twitter

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Jonathan Clink Reporter
Jonathan Clink joined CFL News Hub in early April of 2023. His primary responsibilities are covering the BC Lions and Montreal Alouettes. He self awarded himself the CFL Rookie Journalist of the Year in 2023 following the 2023 CFL season. He also proclaims himself to be a "really cool guy". He was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba and lived a large portion of his childhood in Northwest Ontario. He currently lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan and misses being being able to have 4 months of skating every winter. Clink has written over 240 articles for CFL News Hub. He was the publication's boots on the ground at the 2023 Grey Cup in Hamilton. Clink has always had an obsession for sport and has a background in other sports as well having played hockey all his life and soccer, basketball, and lacrosse in high school. As a young child he used to log his hockey statistics after every game which is either an indication that he was destined for the role or perhaps and indication that he is rather strange.
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