Week 1 of the CFL’s 2021 season is in the books, and what an eventful week it was. Although some teams seemed to have a bit more rust than others after more than a year and a half off, overall, it was an exciting opening weekend of CFL football.
1) Winnipeg Blue Bombers
Despite missing 2 of the team’s best players (Darvin Adams and Andrew Harris), the Blue Bombers came out hot in week 1 against the Tiger-Cats. They dominated the run game and got a statement win to begin the season. Running back Brady Oliveira would get his first career start, filling in for the injured Andrew Harris, rushing 22 times for 126 yards, and ending the week as the league’s leading rusher. Quarterback Zach Collaros looked great in the opening game, finishing week 1 as part of a 4-way tie for the league leader in passing touchdowns, having found wide receiver Kenny Lawler in the endzone twice. The defense held the highly talented Hamilton offense to only 6 points and got the week 1 victory. With Adams and Harris returning at some point this season, the Blue Bombers look to have what may be the best offense in the league. Next week will be a good test when they host the Toronto Argonauts.
2) Toronto Argonauts
With McLeod Bethel-Thompson at the helm, the Argos came out with the upset win in their matchup against the Calgary Stampeders. Bethel-Thompson ended the week as the leagues’ leader in passing yards with 354 and threw 2 touchdowns, making him a part of the 4-way tie for the league’s leader in passing touchdowns. The Argos defense finishes week 1 ranked 5th in pass defense and 6th in rush defense. Toronto’s roster has been one of the best on paper following numerous big-name signings in the extended offseason, but they’ve definitely had something to prove. The week 1 victory is nice, but they will be faced with another tough matchup in week 2 when they travel to Winnipeg to face the Blue Bombers.
3) Hamilton Tiger-Cats
The Ti-Cats came into the week with high expectations and a difficult matchup. Despite the loss, Hamilton played well, with quarterback Jeremiah Masoli completing 24 passes for 242 yards, 1 touchdown, and 2 interceptions. Their offense seemed to fall off after the opening drive due to the running game never really getting established, on top of Masoli’s 2 interceptions. Their defense finished the week ranked 2nd in the league against the pass but 8th against the run. With another tough matchup in week 2 versus the Saskatchewan Roughriders, the Ti-Cats will look to clean things up, as back-to-back losses in the opening weeks of a shortened season could be a major setback in winning the east division.
4) Saskatchewan Roughriders
The Roughriders started with an incredible 31-0 lead in the 1st half of their game versus the BC Lions. They’d also have the league’s only rushing touchdown in week 1. However, they’d allow BC to come back, not putting the game away until A.C. Leonard picked off BC’s rookie quarterback Nathan Rourke with under a minute left in the game. The final score would be 33-29. Saskatchewan’s offense finished the week ranking 6th in passing and 4th in rushing, with quarterback Cody Fajardo being a part of the 4-way tie for the leagues’ passing touchdown leader. The defense ended the week ranked 8th against the pass but 1st against the run. With how this last game went, there are many new questions about this team, the main one being, are they the team we saw in the first half? or are they the team we saw in the second half? Personally, I believe they will be a middle-of-the-pack team, but only time will tell. They’ll have a tough week 2 matchup at home versus the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
5) Montreal Alouettes
The Alouettes had a bye in week 1, so I feel the middle of the pack is a fair spot until we see them hit the field against the Edmonton Elks in week 2. There’s a lot to be excited about for Alouettes fans; with quarterback Vernon Adams Jr at the helm and no lack of weapons around him, the offense has the potential to be very explosive. The defense was not great in 2019, but if new defensive coordinator Barron Miles can get things cleaned up, they may be a team to fear.
6) Edmonton Elks
Having the Elks ranked 6th might seem a bit generous for a team that didn’t score a touchdown and lost the game, but the offense racked up yards, and their defense held Ottawa to 127 yards of total offense, with no offensive touchdowns. Edmonton finished the week ranking 3rd in passing yards, with quarterback Trevor Harris throwing for 333 yards and 3 interceptions. They’d end the week ranked 2nd in rushing yards, with running back James Wilder Jr accumulating 89 yards on the ground. The issue for the Elks was getting into the endzone, which is a pretty large issue. They’d dominate the time of possession, having the ball for 35:56. The defense played phenomenally, with defensive linemen Mike Moore and Kwaku Boateng ending the week tied as the leagues’ sack leaders with 2 each. The Elks have the power to drastically climb or fall in the rankings depending on how their next game with a talented Alouettes roster goes and If finding the endzone continues to be an issue.
7) Calgary Stampeders
The Stampeders defense played well, but Bo Levi-Mitchell and the offense could not get it done, falling to the Argos in week 1. Mitchell has been nearly perfect throughout his CFL career, having a win/loss record of 77-18-2 since signing with Calgary in 2012. He finished the week ranked 3rd in passing yards, throwing for 252 yards and a touchdown. The Stamps rushing attack is currently ranked 3rd in the league after Ka’Deem Carey rushed for 75 yards on the day. One would have to think the loss is a factor of the extended offseason making players a bit rusty, but a week 2 matchup against BC should give us a clearer picture.
8) B.C. Lions
Rookie quarterback Nathan Rourke would start the game for an injured Michael Reilly, and while at times the team struggled to move the ball, Rourke ended up passing for 194 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions. The team brought in the banged-up Michael Reilly in the 3rd quarter to try and close out the game, he threw for 203 yards and a touchdown, but it would not be enough to come out with the win. Reilly was taken out of the game in the 4th quarter, and Nathan Rourke would throw an interception to seal a Saskatchewan victory. Between the 2 quarterbacks, the Lions actually ended week 1 ranked 1st in the league as a team in passing yards and passing touchdowns, with 397 total passing yards and 3 total passing touchdowns. The Lions’ defense played awful in the first half but cleaned things up and played well in the second half. They’d end the week ranked 3rd against the pass and 5th against the run. Personally, I’d expect this team to work their way up the rankings once injuries begin to clear up in the coming weeks, but they’ll have a difficult matchup in week 2 in Calgary against Bo Levi-Mitchell and the Stampeders.
9) Ottawa Redblacks
It’s a bit strange to be ranking a team this low that pulled off a win in week 1, but the offense did not get anything going, being forced to punt by the Edmonton defense a total of 11 times. The offense finished the week ranked 8th in passing yards and 6th in rushing yards, getting held to 127 total yards. Despite the total lack of offense, the defense showed plenty of promise, leading the league in interceptions with defensive back Abdul Kanneh snagging 2 and taking 1 all the way to the endzone. Defensive back Randall Evans would get an interception as well. With how well the defense was playing, if the offense can play half-decent, they’ll have a chance to pull off a win in week 2 in Saskatchewan.