It was another great week of three-down football, with plenty to discuss on and off the field.
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers (5-1) continue to separate themselves from the rest of the CFL pack, delivering another convincing win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders (3-2) in the annual Banjo Bowl at IG Field on Saturday. The B.C. Lions (3-2) returned from their bye week to pound the Ottawa Redblacks (1-4), who have now lost four straight after a season-opening win over the Edmonton Elks (2-3).
Speaking of the Elks, they looked like a completely different team from Week 5 to 6, as they were unable to earn the sweep over the Calgary Stampeders (2-4), who doubled them up (32-16) despite Edmonton playing in front of an energetic home crowd. The Toronto Argonauts (3-2) also flipped the script from a week ago, evening the season series against their provincial rival with a 17-16 win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (2-3).
There wasn't a lot of movement in the standings, with pretty much every team bundled together other than the Bombers. That should only make for more exciting football as we inch towards the midway mark of the regular season.
But before we look ahead, let's look back on the week that was in the latest installment of CFL Rundown:
1) After four weeks of defensive showdowns, with the CFL averaging just 38 points per game, the offences have finally showed up to the party. In Week 5, that number jumped to 53.5 points per game. And while Week 6 wasn't as lethal offensively, it was still trending in the right direction, with an average of 45.5 points per match.
2) Also from Week 5: the annual Labour Day Classic between the Bombers and Roughriders drew an audience of 979,000, making it the most-viewed CFL game dating back to 2015.
3) The Elks dug deep into their pockets to sign Derrick Moncrief, inking the American linebacker to a one-year, pro-rated deal worth a reported $142,000, including a $20,000 signing bonus. It was enough to sway Moncrief away from Saskatchewan, where the 28-year-old got his start in the CFL. If he's anything like he was back then, Edmonton just got a game-changing type of player.
4) With the Moncreif signing, many have pondered if this could mark the beginning of other former CFLers who have recently been released from their NFL teams heading north. While that group includes some tantalizing names — receivers Duke Williams and Marken Michel and defensive backs Winston Rose and Tre Roberson – from the multiple teams I've spoken to, it doesn't seem like the interest to return to a shortened CFL campaign is there.
5) With a triple-header Saturday, it opened the door for TSN's Farhan Lalji to do play-by-play between the Lions and Redblacks. Known mostly for his sideline reporting during games, I thought Lalji did a fantastic job. Well spoken, educated and with a measured tone, TSN might have found its ringer in a pinch.
6) The CFL released a COVID-19 vaccination report on Friday, stating that through the first five weeks of the season, a total of 12,500 coronavirus tests were taken and only 30 came back positive. So far, only one game has been cancelled, with the Week 4 match between Toronto and Edmonton rescheduled for later this year.
7) The release also made mention that four of nine teams have reached the 85 per cent threshold for COVID-19 vaccinations, and that there was progress being made for the other five clubs. The CFL didn't release which four teams have hit the mark, but multiple sources have said it's Winnipeg, Saskatchewan, Hamilton and B.C.
8) The CFL warned teams after a couple of infractions through the first two weeks that under no circumstances can players physically engage with fans during a game. It appears this past week they've taken it a step further, fining a pair of Edmonton players for what the league says is a violation of health protocols. Offensive-lineman Justin Renfrew was fined for signing a fan's hat, while receiver Greg Ellingson was also dinged for throwing his gloves to a kid in the stands. I'm not sure where I stand on the issue, because health protocols need to be followed, other than to say the league has already punished players by circumventing the salary cap and this will only further hurt that fractured relationship.
9) Roughriders defensive end A.C. Leonard was handed a two-game suspension for failing to provide a sample to be drug tested. Much like refusing to take a breathalyzer, the penalty remains the same as if you blew over. Had Leonard tested positive, he would have been handed the same suspension. The narrative coming out of Saskatchewan is Leonard was unable to pee on command and as time went on he grew more frustrated, eventually leaving Mosaic Stadium with the two-game suspension.
10) I haven't been able to find anyone to shed more light on the issue, but I have a hard time thinking someone would walk away from two game cheques — worth a reported $11,000 — because they were simply frustrated. But this is the Crazy Football League, so it's not all that surprising either.
11) Attendance for Argonauts games have been a running punchline for some time. But when you can only attract 9,702 fans for a game against a provincial rival in Hamilton, it's not very funny at all.
12) Toronto is clearly lacking finish on offence, as the Boatmen badly outplayed Hamilton but needed a missed convert at the end to seal the win. If you're Hamilton, to lose a game like that, despite being outplayed, certainly hurts.
13) Hamilton started with the best quarterback duo in the CFL with Jeremiah Masoli and Dane Evans behind centre. Fast-forward to today and Masoli has missed the last two games with a rib injury and Evans had to leave Saturday's game. Masoli returned to practice Monday, but Evans was still in sweats. If David Watford is the go-to option, the East just became even more wide open.
14) Bombers No. 2 quarterback Sean McGuire was without a CFL touchdown heading into the season. He now leads the league in scores, with five rushing touchdowns in the last two games. For a funny comparison, Edmonton's James Wilder Jr. leads the CFL with 428 rushing yards but hasn't punched in a score. Surely, McGuire must be a cheap fantasy option?
15) You don't often hear opposing coaches issue the kind of praise that Roughriders bench boss Craig Dickenson did following the loss to Winnipeg. "Winnipeg is the class of the league right now," Dickenson said. "They are better than the rest of us and it’s by quite a bit."
16) I've been critical of Cody Fajardo this year but there's no debating he's great for the CFL. A good player and great interview, Fajardo leaving Saturday's game with a suspected concussion is a loss for all who enjoy the three-down game. Isaac Harker played decently in relief, but the Roughriders need their No. 1 guy to make a real push in the West.
17) The Bombers defence can't seem to be tamed, following another dominating display on Saturday. Question now is when will they start selling "Dark Side" t-shirts? That's the name they're calling this group.
18) Calgary desperately needed a win this week to keep its chances alive in the West, and it's no surprise the Stamps got one with the return of Bo Levi Mitchell behind centre. Mitchell started slow but got better as the game went on. With Jake Maier backing him up, if the Stampeders feel good about anything, it's at the quarterback position.
19) As good as it was to have Mitchell back, it was the Stampeders defence that set the tone in this one, including registering seven sacks on Elks QB Trevor Harris. Calgary had just three sacks through the first five games.
20) I guess that spark from all the haters is officially out for the Elks. After throwing out the lights in Week 5, with Harris tossing for 398 yards and four touchdowns, motivated by all the negative press from the team's COVID-19 outbreak, Edmonton's offence reverted to its old form. The Elks settled for three field goals on offence, with their only touchdown coming off a pick-six by the defence early in the fourth quarter.
21) I don't know what to make of first-year head coach Jaime Elizondo. Lots of noise this season about how he's lost the room, though Elks players have publicly disputed such claims. What's harder to ignore are his post-game rants, where he's shifted blame at every turn. First it was on the players, then on himself and Saturday it had to with officiating. He did put the offensive struggles on his shoulders but that seems disingenuous at this point.
22) It was great to see vintage Mike Reilly in the late Saturday game. For those who stayed awake, Reilly was 22-for-26 for 319 yards and four touchdowns, compared to one interception. What was ridiculous was seeing the 36-year-old still in the game late in the fourth quarter, taking needless hits in a game the Lions had long won.
23) Anyone who watched the extended offseason of Lucky Whitehead on his social media shouldn't be surprised by what he's doing this season. He put in the work and it's showing. On Saturday, he led the Lions in receiving with three catches for 82 yards and returned a missed field goal 119 yards for a touchdown. Through five games, Whitehead has 24 catches for 421 yards — only 100 fewer than the 521 yards he picked up over 15 games with the Bombers in 2019.
24) It's hard not to feel for the Ottawa Redblacks this season. We'll just leave it at that.
After a slew of injuries playing hockey that included breaks to the wrist, arm, and collar bone; a tear of the medial collateral ligament in both knees; as well as a collapsed lung, Jeff figured it was a good idea to take his interest in sports off the ice and in to the classroom.