Twenty-one weeks. That’s what’s handed because the begin of the season, and now it’s time to open up a recent web page, a brand new chapter in Canadian soccer lore.
Historical past in all probability gained’t keep in mind that stormy, rain-soaked night time when Chris Streveler made his first begin however the Esks got here again and gained; nor will it shortly recall McLeod Bethel-Thompson main the Argos from a 24-point deficit to defeat a dejected Ottawa REDBLACKS workforce in early August.
» O’Leary: Unsure future might encourage Stamps
» Matchups Set: 106th Gray Cup Playoffs prepared for kickoff
» Wally’s Method: How Buono turned the CFL’s most iconic coach
The playoffs, the Gray Cup, these are what we keep in mind. For six groups and their fan bases, November supplies the chance to make a real ripple in sports activities historical past. To writer new moments that can be remembered eternally. Glory that will stand the check of time, from euphoria to nostalgia.
With the stage set and the actors prepared, listed here are a few of the prime storylines heading into the Gray Cup Playoffs.
The Replacements: Can the Stamps overcome their injured receiving corps?
With accidents to just about each beginning receiver, Dave Dickenson has needed to improvise. There’s no denying the Stampeders have a gifted group of receivers, however can they meld in time to win two extra video games and seize the 106th Gray Cup introduced by Shaw?
Bo Levi Mitchell seemed extra like himself within the season finale, throwing for 250 yards within the first half alone to assist his workforce wrap up the West. There’s little question that progress has been made, as Mitchell will get on the identical web page with relative newcomers Chris Matthews and Bakari Grant, together with the newly-promoted Markeith Ambles.
In the long run, although, the accidents endured at receiver will both be an excuse in a misplaced season, or a mark of perseverance on the best way to a championship.
Legacy on the Line: Bo is aware of profitable is the whole lot
Bo Levi Mitchell was barely into his 20s earlier than profitable his first Gray Cup in 2014, taking MVP honours and, a few years later, profitable his first Most Excellent Participant award. With the CFL’s all-time profitable proportion document for a beginning quarterback, Mitchell continues to align himself with a number of the biggest signal-callers to ever play the sport.
As full as Mitchell’s resume could also be, nevertheless, it seems like one thing’s lacking. Everyone seems to be dwelling on the back-to-back Gray Cup losses, each coming in spectacular trend in upsets by the hands of the Ottawa REDBLACKS and Toronto Argonauts. This yr, in the meantime, the Stamps have backed into the playoffs, dropping three video games in a row earlier than profitable the division-clincher in Week 21.
A number one candidate to win his second MOP honour this November, there’s little question Mitchell has his eyes on one thing greater. Something lower than a Gray Cup and the skeptics gained’t be going anyplace.
‘Defence wins Championships’: Can the Riders bend the philosophy?
The ‘defence wins champions’ mantra is never purchased into within the three-down recreation. That’s as a result of quarterbacks are what drive success on this aspect of the border. Take a look at the current listing of Gray Cup-winning pivots: Ricky Ray, Henry Burris, Mike Reilly, Bo Levi Mitchell, Darian Durant, Travis Lulay.
But in 2018, the ‘defence first’ strategy has labored for one staff. The Saskatchewan Roughriders, led by the savvy exploits of Chris Jones together with playmakers like Willie Jefferson, Charleston Hughes and Ed Gainey, fell simply shy of a West Division title
Can the Riders’ defence overcome an up-and-down offence that’s struggled to point out up week to week? In that case, it might go towards every thing we’ve discovered concerning the CFL, and it might put their defence in rarefied air.
Good Zach/Dangerous Zach: Which Collaros will present up?
At occasions, first-year Riders pivot Zach Collaros has resembled the quarterback that might have gained MOP in 2015 had he not suffered a season-ending knee damage. Different occasions, although, he’s struggled, forcing the league’s most imposing defence to bail him out.
Collaros’ two greatest video games of the season have been each towards Calgary, leading to monumental wins for the Inexperienced and White. In these video games, the Riders’ pivot mixed for 622 yards and averaged 9.Zero yards per try, elite numbers towards a top-ranked defence. However, he was pulled and his workforce was shut out in a 31-Zero loss to the Bombers.
If Collaros can present up within the playoffs like he did in huge common season video games, one of many league’s most gifted however inconsistent quarterbacks might simply turn into the story of the 2018 post-season.
Window of alternative: Is the clock ticking in Winnipeg?
The Bombers have improved each season underneath Mike O’Shea and Kyle Walters, making the playoffs three years in a row whereas turning into a perennial Gray Cup contender. But after back-to-back first spherical exits and, now, a third-place end, something in need of a Gray Cup gained’t minimize it.
A loss within the Western Semi would make for an uncomfortable low season within the Manitoba capital, particularly contemplating the Bombers’ getting old core. With Matt Nichols (31), Andrew Harris (31), Weston Dressler (33) and Adam Bighill (30) all on the fallacious aspect of 30, the window of alternative gained’t keep open perpetually.
For a group that many are contemplating this yr’s Gray Cup favorite following a five-game profitable streak, the subsequent few weeks might outline the Kyle Walters/Mike O’Shea period in Winnipeg.
Wally’s World: Lions trying to win one for Buono
With 450 video games, 282 wins and 9 Gray Cup appearances to his identify, Wally Buono is ready to go away the sideline and name it a training profession — however not earlier than one final playoff run. The Lions persevered after a Three-6 begin, happening an enormous run to sneak into the post-season by way of the East Division crossover.
The defence is stingy towards the move and has a penchant for making performs, whereas late-season additions Tyrell Sutton and DeVier Posey together with a wholesome Travis Lulay have reworked the offensive aspect of the ball. There’s no cause the Lions can’t go on the street and beat Hamilton and Ottawa, although it’s a path no workforce has ever efficiently ventured.
In a resurgent season on the west coast, can Buono’s group flip the script, run the desk within the East and shock the CFL?
Again in Time: Lulay turning again the clock
Rumours of Travis Lulay‘s demise have been significantly exaggerated (cease me should you’ve heard this earlier than). The 35-year-old quarterback is about to start out one other playoff recreation for the BC Lions, what was as soon as little greater than a pipe dream for the hard-luck Lulay.
It was barely on this decade when Lulay gained a Gray Cup and Most Excellent Participant again in 2011, however the veteran has been a winner on this league earlier than, enjoying at a excessive degree every time he’s been wholesome sufficient to play.
After all the things he’s been by way of, Lulay main the Lions to a Gray Cup in 2018 can be one of many biggest comeback tales in Canadian soccer historical past.
Banking on Brandon: Can the Ticats win with out their largest playmaker?
Jeremiah Masoli may need been the Ticats’ Most Excellent Participant this season, however was anybody extra invaluable to his staff, on any membership throughout the CFL, than Brandon Banks? Banks reeled in a league-best 11 touchdowns and was averaging 101.6 yards per recreation earlier than injuring his collarbone, leaving a big void on the Hamilton offence.
It’s a hen and egg state of affairs in Steeltown. Banks, Masoli and Head Coach June Jones all got here collectively on the similar time on Labour Day in 2017, serving to the Ticats go from winless basement dweller to respectable Gray Cup contender. How the workforce can fare with out both a part of this trio is completely up within the air.
Up to now it hasn’t been good for one of many league’s most efficient offences, a story the Ticats should rewrite shortly in the event that they’re going to make it via the East.
Holy Masoli: Can Jeremiah’s breakout season proceed?
One of many largest tales of the 2018 CFL season has been the emergence of Jeremiah Masoli, who licensed himself not simply as a bonafide beginning quarterback however a official candidate to win Most Excellent Participant in his first full season as a starter.
After confirming the glimpses we had seen in 2017, throwing for five,209 yards and 28 touchdowns whereas averaging 9.1 yards per try this season, Masoli is dealing with one other massive step in his transformation into an elite beginning quarterback.
In terms of the post-season, the good ones elevate. Assume Burris, Ray or Calvillo, legendary quarterbacks that simply knew easy methods to come by way of when it issues. Do the Ticats have a legend within the making?
The Breaux-muda Triangle: A true shutdown nook
Delvin Breaux is such an excellent cowl nook that he nearly erases his space of the sector on defence, forcing quarterbacks to awkwardly keep away from wherever it’s he’s lining up. So how can opposing offences recreation plan for the league’s prime cowl nook?
The matchup recreation with Breaux can be one to observe, because the Ticats boast one of many CFL’s stingiest defences towards the cross and can look to take the air out of the Lions and the REDBLACKS within the street to the Gray Cup. A matchup towards the latter can be notably fascinating, with the large three of Greg Ellingson, Diontae Spencer and Brad Sinopoli being a handful.
Both approach, the Ticats have a singular weapon on their aspect.
The Subsequent Step: Can Harris turn into a Gray Cup-winning QB?
Talking of re-writing a story, can Trevor Harris alter the notion surrounding his means to win massive video games? The REDBLACKS’ pivot has flashed elite potential in his time as a CFL starter, however the nice ones do it persistently and, most significantly, when the highlight is at its brightest.
At age 32, the story continues to be within the works for Harris, open for interpretation. It’s this subsequent half that may outline every little thing, as he searches for what it’s precisely that separates the great from the good in skilled sports activities.
Fluent in Rushin’: The bottom recreation issues extra within the playoffs
As inclement climate comes into play, the power to run the ball looms even bigger within the post-season. There’s no scarcity of high quality backs across the league, from dashing leaders William Powell and Andrew Harris to the ultra-productive Alex Inexperienced.
Then there’s Tyrell Sutton, the Lions’ mid-season addition who lastly, after years of dropping in Montreal, will get to play for a post-season staff, main a rejuvenated Lions floor recreation.
Considered one of these operating backs will play a big contributing position in a run to the Gray Cup, they usually’ve all received the power to be difference-makers alongside the best way. Who will it’s?
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