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CFL Power Rankings Week 2: A Key Strength and Weakness From Every Team

With 2 weeks of play in the books we are starting to get a feel for what teams are made of. It seems as though the gap from the top teams to the lower teams has tightened with there being overall more parity present. So far this season 6 out of the 8 games have all been decided by 1 score.

Predictions: CFL News Hub Writers’ Week 3 Picks

Montreal Alouettes (2-0) Week 3 Preview vs Ottawa RedBlacks (1-0): Prediction, Depth Chart, Injuries, Odds

The Crown Holder and the Court Jester

Crown Holder 👑 – Montreal Alouettes: held the crown by defeating Edmonton

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

If a team defeats the Crown Holder they steal the Crown and become the new Crown Holder.

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 (2-0)👑

Previous Rank: 1

Week 1 Result: Defeated Winnipeg on the road 27-12.

Week 2 Result: Defeated Edmonton on the road 23-20.

Last year’s underdog Grey Cup Champions are now on a 10-game winning streak. The team’s greatest strength has to be the pass defense which incredibly has only allowed 1 touchdown over the last 5 games while generating 10 interceptions, 2 of which were returned for touchdowns.

Montreal won a close game last week against a much improved Edmonton Elks team. Cody Fajardo passed for 269 yards and 2 touchdowns with Kaion Julien-Grant leading the way in receiving in week 2 with 6 catches for 89 yards. Running back Walter Fletcher scored a both a rushing and a receiving touchdown in a game that saw him contribute 143 yards from scrimmage.

On defense rookie linebacker Bryce Cosby recorded his first sack and also had 3 pressures in week 2. Darnell Sankey and Mustafa Johnson also recorded a sack. Nafees Lyon and Kabion Ento both had an interception in the win over Edmonton. Defensive end Shawn Lemon is leading the team in total pressures by my count so far this season with 11 including 1 sack which came in week 1.

Key Strength: Pass Defense

Key Weakness: Shawn Lemon’s pending suspension appeal date

Week 3: Hosting Ottawa on Thursday.

Montreal Alouettes (2-0) Week 3 Preview vs Ottawa RedBlacks (1-0): Prediction, Depth Chart, Injuries, Odds

#2 Toronto Argonauts (1-0)

Previous Rank: 2

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

Week 2 Result: Bye week.

Toronto was on a bye in week 2. In week 1 their pass rush was insurmountable as they got Vernon Adams Jr. incredibly frequently in their victory over BC.

Key Strength: Pass Rush

Key Weakness: Chad Kelly’s Suspension (Although this is largely mitigated so far by Cameron Dukes’ strong play in week 1)

Week 3: Hosting Edmonton on Saturday.

#3 B.C. Lions (1-1)

Previous Rank: 4

Week 1 Result: Lost to Toronto on the road 27-35.

Week 2 Result: Defeated Calgary at home 26-17.

My biggest criticism of the Lions last season was the frequency at which they abandoned the run. This came to a head in the Western Final when the team did not hand the ball off to Taquan Mizzell (who was playing well) for the final 34 minutes of the game and tied a record for most sacks allowed in a CFL playoff game. The Lions seem to have had a change in their philosophies surrounding the run game as William Stanback has been handed the ball 26 times over 2 games which has seen him rush for 104 yards (4 yards per carry). Stanback has the 2nd most rushes in the league so far. They may feel more confident in running the ball due to William Stanback’s reputation or they may have discussed a change in offseason meetings following a year in which they ran the ball less than any other team. Regardless the mix of run and pass plays is more balanced compared to last season.

Vernon Adams Jr. has been sensational over the first 2 games of the season. He has completed 42 of his 62 passes for 640 yards with 4 touchdowns and 1 interception. There have been serious struggles early on this season in keeping him protected. Right now Pro Football Focus has BC as the lowest ranked offensive line unit in their week 2 offensive line rankings. Despite the frequent pressure faced it is often nullified by spectacular play from Vernon Adams Jr.

Last week, 4 Lions recorded a sack including Canadian NFL Veteran DT Christian Covington who recorded his first CFL sack. Joshua Archibald, Pete Robertson, and Marcus Moore all had a sack as well. Defensive end Sione Teuhema has the most total pressures on the team so far this season by my count with 6. Last week linebackers Ben Hladik and Josh Woods were both impactful in run defense. Hladik had 10 tackles and was involved in 4 shared run stops. Woods had 7 tackles and was involved in 2 shared run stops in addition to a solo run stop.

Key Strength: Strong Play From Vernon Adams Jr.

Key Weakness: Struggles Among the Offensive Line

Week 3: At Winnipeg on Friday.

BC Lions (1-1) Week 3 Preview vs Winnipeg Blue Bombers (0-2): Prediction, Depth Chart, Injuries, Odds

#4 Winnipeg Blue Bombers (0-2)

Previous Rank: 3

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

Week 2 Result: Lost to Ottawa on the road 19-23.

Let’s play devil’s advocate and make up some excuses for Winnipeg starting the season 0-2. They have now lost their last 3 games dating back to the Grey Cup. The last time Winnipeg lost 2 games in a row was the end of the 2021 season which saw them lose the final 2 games of the season which were meaningless to them. The last time Winnipeg lost 3 games in a row came in 2019 from weeks 15 to 17.

Excuse number 1, the Blue Bombers did not utilize the preseason properly to prepare their starting units. Zach Collaros did not play in the preseason. I predicted him to have a slow start in week 1 as a result of this. He did not play particularly well in week 1 of 2021 when he also did not play in the preseason. We have also seen him perform far below his normal output in the last 3 Western Finals which all had him resting for weeks in advance. Based on these patterns we have seen in the past he is groggy from his rest rather than washed. Regardless the fact that he has 0 touchdowns and 4 interceptions over his last 4 games is a concern.

Excuse number 2, the pass protection and run blocking have struggled mightily compared to what we have seen in the past from this unit. Winnipeg did lose JerMarcus Hardrick in free agency this past offseason but there has been underperforming in many of the returning offensive linemen. It would be surprising if the unit does not show improvement moving forward based on past reputation. If it doesn’t then Winnipeg is in serious trouble.

Excuse number 3, injuries. Wide receiver Kenny Lawler was put on the 6-game injured list following week 1. Running back Brady Oliveira was unable to play in week 2. Week 2 saw defensive linemen Miles Fox and Celestin Haba both had to leave early due to injuries. These are all big losses.

Long story short what we have seen so far from Winnipeg has not been the same championship pedigree. However, I’m not dropping the team that’s won 72% of their games since COVID to the bottom tiers after 2 losses to teams that were playing very strong football.

Key Strength

Key Weakness: Injuries, Slow Start by Zach Collaros

Week 3: Hosting BC on Friday.

BC Lions (1-1) Week 3 Preview vs Winnipeg Blue Bombers (0-2): Prediction, Depth Chart, Injuries, Odds

#5 Calgary Stampeders (1-1)

Previous Rank: 5

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

Week 2 Result: Lost to BC on the road 17-26.

The Calgary Stampeders took their first L of the season on the road against BC in week 2. So far this season I’ve been very impressed by the strong play from Jake Maier. Maier has completed 47 of his 59 passes for 591 yards with 4 touchdowns and 1 interception. He has shown particularly good play when rolling right with good technique and accuracy while on the move. Running back Dedrick Mills is 2nd in the league in rushing yards as he has rushed 24 times for 133 yards (5.5 average).

On defense, linebackers Cameron Judge and Micah Awe are both coming off of impressive games. Both players had 5 tackles in week 2. Judge also had 3 solo run stops while Awe was involved in 3 shared run stops. Calgary did a good job utilizing the 2 on blitz packages as well to put pressure on Vernon Adams Jr. Kobe Willims also made an impact in the run defense with 2 solo run stops last week. 

One thing I would want to see Calgary improve on is to have a lower rate of pressure allowed in pass protection. Maier was pressured too often in week 2 in addition to being sacked 4 times.

Key Strength: Passing Game

Key Weakness: Pass Protection

Week 3: Bye Week.

#6 Saskatchewan Roughriders (2-0)

Previous Rank: 8

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

Week 2 Result: Defeated Hamilton on the road 33-30.

Saskatchewan was the benefactor of an untimely drop from Tim White which led to a late-game interception that resulted in great field position for Saskatchewan. This ultimately allowed Saskatchewan to win in regulation with a 43-yard field goal from Brett Lauther to break the tie on the last play of the game.

There are some underlying issues with the Riders despite the 2-0 start to the season and it primarily derives from the offensive line. In each of the first 2 weeks, we saw offensive lineman Ryan Sceviour get elevated to more playing time and he struggled in both weeks. In week 2 he came in place of left guard Philip Blake who left the game due to injury.

However, the group as a whole has struggled in run blocking. I would argue that so far this season they have been by far the worst run blocking unit in the CFL. Running back A.J. Ouellette frequently has a first point of contact on his runs very early and often in the backfield. It is the primary reason that Ouellette is limited to just 2.2 yards per carry on his runs so far this season. The offense has been 1 dimensional having to overly rely on the passing game which has worked so far but as defenses gel that will only get harder as the season progresses. The Riders had some big strikes in week 2 from cover assignments not being followed and the rate at which that happens is going to be much less every week moving forward.

Additionally, in pass protection Trevor Harris was sacked 4 times in week 2. Trevor Harris is coming off a 390-yard game with 2 touchdowns but I have concerns about Saskatchewan’s ability to protect the 38-year-old quarterback. Offensive linemen Phillip Blake and Jermarcus Hardrick both did not practice on Wednesday due to injuries. If either of them are unable to play on Sunday the team could be in some trouble.

Key Strength: Passing Game

Key Weakness: Run Blocking

Saskatchewan is 2-0 

Week 3: Hosting Hamilton Sunday.

Roughriders Look To Remain Undefeated In Home Opener Against Tiger-Cats by Coty Wiles

#7 Ottawa RedBlacks (1-0)

Previous Rank: 7

Week 1 Result: Bye Week

Week 2 Result: Defeated Winnipeg at home 23-19.

Ottawa balled out in their win against Winnipeg on defense. The pass rush had a lot of success with Lorenzo Mauldin IV leading the way with a sack and 7 additional pressures. Mauldin had the most quarterback pressures of anyone in week 2 across the league by my count. Damon Webb and Michael Wakefield also had a sack. The frequency of the pressure was very impactful in the season opener for the RedBlacks and it came in key moments. The pass defense allowed 285 yards from Collaros but no touchdowns while generating 2 interceptions. Another shining bright spot for Ottawa was their tackling. I did not see a single missed tackle by a RedBlacks player.

Downtown Dru Brown completed 20 of his 33 passes for 238 yards and 1 touchdown in his debut as a RedBlack. Runningback Ryquell Armstead had a great outing in his debut rushing 16 times for 95 yards (5.9 average). The offensive line put together a good game but Winnipeg did lose some key pieces on their defensive line early in the game with injuries to Celstin Haba and Miles Fox. I am hesitating to say that the offensive line problems from last season are resolved due to the injuries on Winnipeg’s side but right now I am cautiously optimistic for them.

Key Strength: Pass Rush

Key Weakness: Offensive Line

This is really due to last season which saw them finish with the lowest-ranked offensive line unit by Pro Football Focus. We saw Ottawa have a good game in week 2 against Winnipeg although there were some struggles early on in the game prior to injuries to defensive linemen on Winnipeg’s side. For that reason, I still need to see more of a body of work in this area before moving on from this area of need.

Week 3: At Montreal on Thursday.

Montreal Alouettes (2-0) Week 3 Preview vs Ottawa RedBlacks (1-0): Prediction, Depth Chart, Injuries, Odds

#8 Hamilton Tiger-Cats (0-2)

Previous Rank: 6

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

Week 2 Result: Lost to Saskatchewan at home 30-33.

It was unfortunately a gut-wrenching loss for the Tiger-Cats fans in their home opener. Wide receiver Tim White is unfortunately the scapegoat in this loss after for the 2nd week in a row that he dropped a would-be touchdown pass. He also had a drop just before the end of the game that led to the ball being easily intercepted which ultimately resulted in the game being lost moments later on a field goal.

The coverage felt soft at times from Hamilton in week 2 which saw Trevor Harris pass for 390 yards. Harris had a lot of success dropping the ball into soft spots in Hamilton’s zone coverage. In man coverage, there was often just too much room being given to receivers. Hamilton did sign cornerback Kordell Rodgers on Wednesday. Rodgers was an honorable mention for Most Outstanding Rookie in Pro Football Focus’ midseason awards last year. Rodgers was playing very well filling in for injuries with Montreal last season and is proven to be a capable starter as a rookie.

Bo Levi Mitchell has been a bright spot in Hamilton’s offense. He has completed 71.1% of his passes for 680 yards and 4 touchdowns with 2 interceptions. If not for some key drops he would have a lot more yards, 2 more touchdowns, and 1 less interception. Over 2 games he has looked like the BLM of old that saw him dominate the CFL for years although the wins have not been coming yet.

Key Strength: Bo Levi Mitchell

Key Weakness: Soft Spots in Zone Coverage

Week 3: At Saskatchewan on Sunday.

CFL Week 3: Can Hamilton Overcome their “Invisible Wall” at Saskatchewan? by Aaron Sauter

#9 Edmonton Elks (0-2)🃏

Previous Rank: 9

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

Week 2 Result: Lost to Montreal at home 20-23.

Edmonton is still at the bottom of this ranking simply because they have not yet earned their way up with a win yet. Edmonton’s pass protection is miles ahead of where it was last season. In fact they were the third highest-ranked offensive line unit in Pro Football Focus’s week 2 rankings. The run stopping has also been much better for Edmonton in the first 2 weeks although there was a 39 yard run by Montreal’s Walter Fletcher. Linebacker Nyles Morgan was involved in 4 run stops.

Edmonton did have some missed tackles in the game but the team is showing signs of real progress.McLeod Bethel-Thompson threw for 300 passing yards in week 2 although he did have 2 interceptions against the league’s strongest defense against the pass. They will have another test against a good 

Edmonton is a lot better than what their record would indicate and are just a few improvements away from being very dangerous.

Key Strength: Depth of Receivers

Key Weakness: Inconsistent Run Stopping

Week 3: At Toronto on Saturday.

CFL Week 3: Edmonton Elks (0-2) at Toronto Argonauts (1-0), Preview, Odds, Injury Report, Prediction by Dino Sepe

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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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