The most interesting game in Week 17 was Montreal's dominate 36-5 win over Hamilton. I wondered when the Montreal Alouettes were going to find a new bright light at quarterback, our game's most important position. Well, after watching Troy Smith play, going 17-35 for 247 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions, you wonder if that bright light is beginning to shine.
Now, both Josh Neiswander and Tanner Marsh are good quarterbacks, but that is the problem; they are good and not necessarily great. Neiswander, from Angelo State, and Marsh, from Arkansas Tech, have each had their opportunities to perform. Smith is from Ohio State and already was a proven performer.
Football is a tough sport and one of the toughest aspects of the sport are getting chances; you have very few. Most get just one, a minority get two and if you do not overwhelm ASAP you will not get a third.
Smith did not overwhelm but he did look good. He impressed enough for a second chance to be the transition from greatness in Anthony Calvillo to hopefully more greatness for the Alouettes.
The next question is where does that leave Calvillo? The truth is we won't know until as late as March or April. You can't dismiss the 20 years of CFL football, 16 with Montreal. You can't dismiss the 455 touchdown passes or the 79,816 passing yards as those accomplishments have extreme value. But you can't dismiss age either, Calvillo's being 42.
The hardest thing for Calvillo to do is leave the game under the circumstances he did: being assisted off the field due to head trauma rather than walking off, head held high.
And let's not rationalize it, a concussion is head trauma. It's just not the way you want to go out and if so, it will grind inside of you for a long time. I speak from experience here. I would not be surprised if AC tried to play one more year, not only for the closure but to keep the “what if” demons away.
Very slowly but in logical fashion GM and head coach Jim Popp is making the Alouettes a winner again. Smith, Duron Carter, Tyrell Sutton and others are being filtered into the roster, being evaluated in the games remaining, and will inevitably improve the team in the future.
On the opposite side with Edmonton and Winnipeg, the 2014 season starts now. It's terrible to say as I am sure if you are a fan of either of those teams you didn't want to hear that but as teams out of the playoffs, it is a unique opportunity to see what you have for the future.
If both Winnipeg and Edmonton won the last two games, so what? If they found a couple of gems at specific positions, that would be extremely beneficial.
There may not be a more negative or even depressing atmosphere than a pro football locker room without playoff goals. It is very subtle but you can feel its insecurity. Both Edmonton and Winnipeg should pay the price for future success right now.
In Toronto and Hamilton, it is time to rededicate. Toronto did not look good in their 26-20 win over the Blue Bombers and after two good performances, the Tiger-Cats did not have the focus and concentration needed to be respected on Sunday.
Having said that, I would not be surprised if both team won in dominate fashion this week. Both Scott Milanovich and Kent Austin have been exceptional hires for each organization. To me, they're more similar than different. They're demanding, have excellent attention to detail, and are confronting. Both teams will play with greater execution this week because of those two coaches.
In Calgary only two words come to mind: complete team.
In Saskatchewan, it is still up in the air; a Grey Cup game at home is out there for the taking. That's an experience that, if accomplished, no one will forget. Forcing eight turnovers against the BC Lions was special.
The best game of Week 18 is easy: Saskatchewan at Calgary on Saturday night. Which leads me to BC; it looks like they will have to do it the hard way: two road games in the playoffs to make it to Regina.
Most impressive aspect of Lions football right now is Stefan Logan. They found a running back from the past to help in the present and future. Logan and Andrew Harris, and maybe even Tim Brown too, that could be very effective. The Lions are dangerous because their back is against the wall.