I am happy the bye weeks are over. Two games is 50 per cent less preparation time for me but two games compared to four is just not the same.
As a former player, the bye week always came at the right time but as a fan and public conduit, the flow is not the same. The meaning of who wins and how they do it does not relate in the standing as directly. Four games a week for the rest of the season is great.
At this point of the season - heading into Week 8 - the best team playing their best game are the Toronto Argonauts. Three dominate wins over Winnipeg, BC, and last week a 38-13 win in Montreal, makes the Argonauts the team to beat in the East. Yes, when you evaluate that Montreal game, the Alouettes did beat themselves as much as Toronto beat them - five fumbles, one interception and a turnover on downs is a disaster - but Toronto took those moments and produced points.
The Alouettes are in trouble! A statement of the obvious, I realize, but as I look to the future I see next week in Saskatchewan coming off a loss, than BC - who is going to improve - followed by the Argos again back-to-back. The reason for the Als' regression and the reality of 2-4 in the standings do begin with the calculated mistake of the head coaching change to begin the season. But the Argos' game showed a lack of emotion and passion that has to be a concern as well. Seven turnovers do depress a collective team's ability to regroup but this is pro football not college and pro football players have to have the ability to concentrate on the present moment and nothing else. I have never seen Montreal lose its "fight" the way that team did and it has to be a concern. The other team, Toronto, showed a killer attitude that all coaches love to be a part of. Avoiding mistakes is so important in football - as important as making great plays. Of equal value is taking advantage of opponents' mistakes. Toronto crushed Montreal in the first quarter and the Als never recovered.
Switching topics completely, Argos defensive coordinator Chris Jones is the next head coach candidate to be considered. Dave Dickenson and Jacques Chapdelaine in BC are two others, but Jones has the ability to see CFL talent and then see them make it happen on the field. Cornerback Alonzo Lawrence played his first game and looked like he can play many more. What's amazing to me is that out of the starting 12 on defense for the winning Grey Cup team, only three remain - Patrick Watkins, Robert McCune and Marcus Ball. Yet, you get the feel that this defense is going to be as good as last year's defense soon. Argos safety Matt Black is also improving game-by-game.
The second game of Week 7 lived up to the hype. Well, if you're a Stampeders fan, that is. The season is a grind, that is a given, but the secret to making the grind productive is to look at the practices professionally and take the games personally. Calgary's win over the Riders happened because it became personal. John Cornish was tired of hearing how great Kory Sheets is. The front five of the Stampeders was tired of hearing about how good the front five of Saskatchewan is. Both had something to prove more than winning the game. Players know about other players - who are playing well and who aren't playing so well, and every aspect in between. Players want to be all-stars, gain individual recognition for a job well done and everything that goes with it. It is natural and normal in the "human" world of competition. I thought Friday's win by the Stamps was great because Calgary took it personally while Saskatchewan took it professionally. Next time these two teams play again is Saturday, October 26th, Saskatchewan at Calgary, and could be for first place in the West.
Ok good; the bye weeks are over. Winnipeg will regroup with all the management changes, both Hamilton and Edmonton are improving, Montreal has major challenges, Saskatchewan will bounce back, and Toronto and BC are on a major roll. Now, staying healthy is as important as anything else with 12 straight weeks and four games a week. Let the grind begin at practice but always make the games personal.