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Steinberg’s MMQB: The critics have been answered

Into the Spotlight: 30 players to watch in the Grey Cup Playoffs

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Hamilton Tiger-Cats had some critics to show improper on Sunday. For the Ticats it was one particular person participant beneath the microscope; on the Bombers aspect, there have been a number of gamers with a shiny highlight upon them. In all instances, although, loud statements have been made.

All Jeremiah Masoli has executed this season is get the job completed and reply critics, but there have been many questioning how Hamilton’s quarterback would carry out come playoff time. I’ve been one in every of Masoli’s largest boosters all yr lengthy, and even I used to be involved heading into Sunday’s Japanese Semi-Remaining.

The Ticats appeared like a unique workforce within the six significant quarters they performed with out Brandon Banks within the common season. Banks meant a lot to that offence and Masoli and firm struggled towards Ottawa with out him. However they adjusted in an enormous method in Sunday’s win over the BC Lions, and Masoli was on the forefront.

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Masoli was dialed in from minute one and had Hamilton’s offence in effective type as they opened up a 28-Zero halftime lead. Truthfully, I didn’t consider something within the second half, as a result of it seemed like each groups needed to get out of there unscathed. However when this recreation was nonetheless within the stability, Masoli was correct and decisive and resoundingly answered any questions on how he’d carry out with playoff strain.

Masoli has been questioned all season lengthy, and has answered every one in stride. Can he beat out Johnny Manziel? Can he lead an offence from the beginning of the season versus coming in halfway via? Can he get his interceptions down? And may he carry out when all of the chips are down?

Masoli has answered sure every time and has an opportunity to underline that subsequent weekend. The Ticats struggled of their two essential late season video games towards Ottawa, however now Masoli and crew have an opportunity to win when it really issues most.

Winnipeg’s state of affairs was somewhat totally different, as a result of there have been three key figures I had my eye on: Matt Nichols, Andrew Harris, and Mike O’Shea. You possibly can rely these three because the central figures in a Bombers resurgence that began in 2016 however hadn’t led to any post-season success. Till now, that’s, as a result of Winnipeg went right into a hornet’s nest on Sunday afternoon and gained.

With their 23-18 win over Saskatchewan at Mosaic Stadium, the Blue Bombers have their first playoff win since returning to relevance. It was a type of three central figures main the best way, too; Harris drove the bus towards an elite defence and that bus will roll all the best way to Calgary subsequent weekend. With 153 dashing yards and a landing, Harris now has a defining playoff efficiency in blue and gold.

It’s humorous, as a result of Nichols was very a lot beneath the gun towards the Riders, nevertheless it’s not like he hasn’t performed properly in Winnipeg’s final two journeys to the Western Semi. Actually, Nichols was statistically a lot better in losses to BC and Edmonton the final two years than he was Sunday, however the result’s all that mattered. Nichols obtained the job executed and I’m actually joyful for him, since you might inform how a lot it meant to him.

And eventually, how can we not point out O’Shea? With simply 12 wins in his first two seasons as head coach, many believed O’Shea’s job was in jeopardy early in 2016. At 1-Four that yr, O’Shea stored calm, didn’t change his manner even a bit bit, and made one key determination putting in Nichols at quarterback.

Now his Bombers are a win away from enjoying for the Gray Cup. It’s good to see damaging tales flip constructive this point in time.

 

Award season

During the last couple of years, I’ve had the privilege of voting on year-end CFL awards. Within the curiosity of transparency, right here’s how I voted for the 2018 Shaw CFL Awards and why. I can’t converse for the remainder of the Soccer Stories of Canada, however right here’s the place I landed.

Most Excellent Participant: Bo Levi Mitchell, Calgary. I voted for each Mitchell and Masoli popping out of their divisions, and people two will go head-to-head in simply over every week on awards night time. However Calgary’s Mitchell acquired my final MOP vote, regardless that it was a troublesome choice.

Mitchell’s numbers converse for themselves; he led the league with 35 passing touchdowns and completed third with 5,124 passing yards. Contemplate, although, he did that with an damage ravaged group of receivers for a lot of the second half of 2018. He was the league’s most constant quarterback all season lengthy, however his second half is what sealed it for me.

Most Excellent Defensive Participant: Adam Bighill, Winnipeg. With no disrespect to Hamilton’s Larry Dean, who had an awesome season, Bighill was the runaway winner for me. In his first season with Winnipeg, and in his return to the CFL, Bighill had a dominant season at center linebacker.

Bighill didn’t lead the league in tackles, however he completed tied with Dean for third at 106. However look the place he impacted the sport that contemporaries like Dean, Alex Singleton, and Henoc Muamba didn’t. Bighill completed the season with 4 sacks, two interceptions (together with a landing), and 4 pressured fumbles. He was actually everywhere in the area in 2018 and even made a robust case for Most Excellent Participant.

Most Excellent Canadian: Andrew Harris, Winnipeg. This was an in depth one for me, as a result of Brad Sinopoli was a really deserving East Division nominee. However I skewed for a number of totally different causes. Harris led the league in dashing for a second straight season, led all operating backs with eight dashing touchdowns, and was the focus of his workforce’s offence all season.

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REDBLACKS kicker Lewis Ward might have his identify on two main participant awards (Adam Gagnon/CFL.ca)

Sinopoli had a profession season and is a key piece of Ottawa’s aerial assault, however I don’t know if there’s a non-quarterback on this league as central to his group’s offensive success than Harris. Right here’s the loopy half: his 1,390 dashing yards shattered his profession numbers and he did so on the age of 31 and in his ninth CFL season. That’s not presupposed to occur.

Most Excellent Offensive Lineman: Stanley Bryant, Winnipeg. That’s a 3rd straight member of the Bombers, however Bryant deserves it for his 2018 marketing campaign, very similar to he did final yr when he gained the award. Bryant is the league’s most constant left deal with and that remained the case this season.

Winnipeg led the league in dashing yards and Bryant performed an enormous half in Harris’s profession season. The Bombers additionally completed tied for third with 36 sacks allowed, however Bryant was a vault all season defending Nichols’s blindside. Lastly, Bryant enjoying deal with versus Hamilton’s Brandon Revenberg at guard did issue into my determination

Most Excellent Particular Groups Participant: Lewis Ward, Ottawa. Nearly as good as Ty Lengthy was dealing with kicking and punting duties for the BC Lions, Ward simply accomplished the only biggest kicking season in skilled soccer historical past. I’d be shocked if this wasn’t a unanimous vote when it’s all stated and finished.

Ward accomplished 98.1 per cent of his subject aim kicks in 2018 to shatter the prior document of 94.7 per cent set by Rene Paredes in 2013. That alone is sufficient to get him this award, however it’s solely the start. The REDBLACKS rookie accomplished his final 47 subject objectives, setting a brand new league document for consecutive makes an attempt, besting Paredes’s 39. And simply to drive it residence, Ward broke Adam Vinatieri’s professional soccer document, which was beforehand set at 44.


Purchase Division Remaining Tickets
» Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET: Hamilton at Ottawa
» Sunday, Four:30 p.m. ET: Winnipeg at Calgary


I additionally voted Ward as my Most Excellent Rookie over Saskatchewan receiver Jordan Williams-Lambert for all the explanations above. Give Williams-Lambert credit score, although, as a result of he was an enormous causes the Riders acquired their offence on monitor across the halfway mark of the season.

Coach of the Yr: Chris Jones, Saskatchewan. I do know the Riders misplaced in Sunday’s Western Semi-Remaining, however voting for these awards happened following the top of the common season. Understanding what the Riders completed this yr, Jones deserves this award.

After a sluggish begin to the season, Saskatchewan went 9-2 down the stretch and made issues very fascinating for prime spot within the West Division. This was an elite defence all season lengthy, however their true may wasn’t felt till the second half when the Riders figured issues out offensively.

In all honesty, Hamilton’s June Jones was my vote popping out of the East Division, however I used to be within the minority. That has virtually nothing to do with Rick Campbell and was extra about June’s work with Masoli and that offence, whereas the Tiger-Cats battled vital accidents all season lengthy. In the long run, although, my last vote would have gone to Chris Jones regardless.

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