Willy is Back and There is Still Hope… Slim, But There is Hope

Let’s not sugarcoat this in any way. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers are as close to being eliminated from playoff contention as a team can be without being the Ottawa RedBlacks.

Granted, had they beaten the Ottawa RedBlacks two weeks ago, they’d still have a solid chance to reach the post-season, but as it stands, after seven straight losses and nine losses in their past 10 games, the 6-10 Bombers are in a very difficult situation.

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Bombers Coach Mike O’Shea (Photo by Jeff Miller)

Here’s how they make the playoffs:

1. They win their final two games of the season – at home to B.C. this coming Saturday and then next week in Calgary.

2. They hope B.C. loses its final three games – in Winnipeg this week, in Edmonton next week and at home to Calgary in the final week of the season.

3. They hope Toronto loses two of its final three games – at home to Hamilton this week, in Montreal next week and at home to Ottawa in the final week of the season OR they hope Hamilton or Montreal lose all three of their remaining games. Hamilton goes to Toronto this week, goes to Ottawa next week and then plays the Alouettes in the final game of the year. Montreal goes to Ottawa this week, plays host to Toronto next week and then finishes the year in Hamilton.

That’s the only way the Bombers secure the crossover.

Yeah, the Bombers do need a lot of help and if they lose this week at home to B.C., they’re done, but to be fair, with a win over B.C. this Saturday, their chances expand. And if they beat B.C. and Calgary to finish the season, they have a life.

Then again, head coach Mike O’Shea, one of the most laid back head coaches in the CFL didn’t sound like a guy who expects much this Saturday when the Lions come to town.

“I think we progressed this week over the previous two,” O’Shea said when asked about last weekend’s performance against Calgary. “But it still wasn’t good enough. Obviously, it wasn’t good enough to get the win.”

Paris Cotton who played well last week against Calgary will start at tailback. On Monday, former Bombers No. 1 tailback, Nic Grigsby, signed with Hamilton.

Paris Cotton Willy is Back and There is Still Hope... Slim, But There is Hope

Paris Cotton

Meanwhile, this week against B.C., Drew Willy will return to the lineup and start at quarterback while Robert Marve and Josh Portis will back him up. Brian Brohm suffered a broken thumb last week against Calgary and won’t return until training camp 2015.

“Drew looks fine. He threw Monday,” O’Shea told the news media this week. “He’s getting better. As I’ve said before, this is Drew’s team and if he’s able to play he’ll be going as the No. 1.”

There is no reason to believe the Bombers can’t beat B.C. After all, the Bombers whipped the Lions 23-6 in Vancouver in Week 5 although the Lions came back and thrashed the Bombers 26-9 in Vancouver on Sept. 13.

Still, the Bombers will be at home with the dwindling Investors Group Field crowd behind them. Last week, only 22,320 (announced) showed up to watch Winnipeg lose 33-23 to Calgary. Even if this losing streak doesn’t ultimately knock the Bombers from the playoff hunt (and, yes, it probably will), it has certainly hurt the team at the gate.

Game time Saturday night is 6 p.m. It will be televised on TSN. A completely different team than the one that lost to Calgary last weekend will have to show up in Blue this week. Whether that’s possible at this stage is anyone’s guess.



Flames Burn Grounded Jets in Listless Night Downtown

It’s a good thing the Jets gave away scarves on Sunday night. Had it been peanut butter, it might have been messy inside the MTS Centre.

Winnipeg’s 4-1 loss to Calgary could have caused a riot.

Scarves pic Flames Burn Grounded Jets in Listless Night Downtown

Jets fans and their spiffy new scarves (Photo by James Carey Lauder)

Back in November of 1993, the marketing geniuses at Jets 1.0 gave away small jars of peanut butter to fans as they entered the old Winnipeg Arena for a game against Ottawa, one of the worst teams in the NHL. The Jets built a 6-3 lead and had it in the bag when the Sens scored four unanswered, including Bob Kudelski’s overtime winner. Fans rained peanut butter jars on the ice in a post-game display of disgust. Sunday night at MTS Centre, the only things the fans had to throw were their nice new scarves.

Sunday night, the Jets fell to 1-4-0 on the season, lost their fourth straight and second straight at home as they were beaten by a Calgary Flames team that really wasn’t very good.

Granted Flames goaltender Jonas Hiller was solid, but after awhile you have to admit to yourself that every goaltender in the NHL isn’t Georges Vezina in his prime. The Jets get plenty of chances and outshot Calgary 35-29, but Winnipeg just can’t finish. The Jets have now scored two goals in their last four games. That won’t cut it.

Here were some of the best Tweets of the night from the rink:

From @SKBigBluJetsfan: “Somewhere Claude Noel is going, “See, SEE!”

From @jtwpg: “What is the liability issue for True North if the Jets play so poorly we all hang ourselves with the free scarves.”

From @TBonnar: “If this game is any indication, the #NHLJets eventual third jerseys will be pylon orange.”

From @jtwpg: “Right now, the entire Jets team would clear waivers if Chevy wanted to call up the IceCaps.”

“The record is accurate,” said Jets head coach Paul Maurice. “The record is reflective of the way we’ve played.

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Scheifele scores Jets first and only goal (Photo by James Carey Lauder)

On a night when Rogers/CBC had a full complement of 22 cameras in the building, there wasn’t a lot (at least, not a lot of good) to see.

In the first period, the Jets made Calgary look like an American Hockey League team. Winnipeg outshot the Flames 13-6, had the only two power plays and led 1-0 on a goal by Mark Scheifele (the Jets best player). But it should have been a 3-0 lead and the game should have been in the bag already.

In the second period, the Jets were blindsided by a combination of their own bad luck and inability to score.

Let’s not pull any punches here. The Flames were generally horrible and yet they escaped the second period with a 3-1 lead.

As an example of how messy this whole thing has become, the Flames had two clear-cut breakaways before the two minute mark of the second period (one in each period) and shot one was fired right at Ondrej Pavelec’s stick and the other, a slapshot from 15 feet away, went 10 feet over the net and 20 feet wide.

Still, after Dennis Wideman scored early in the second period, the Flames had tied it at 1-1 and it was hard to decide which team was worse – a team that had completely controlled play and had at least a dozen chances to score or a team that did not have the quickness or skill to maintain a prolonged attack in the opposing zone.

Then came the Flames power play. It was a microcosm of the Jets 2014-15 season. During the Flames first power play, the Jets had two shots and three legitimate chances to score. But the Jets got nothing and the Flames managed to score on a Johnny Gaudreau wrap around. 2-1 Calgary.

Then, before the period ended, Mason Raymond, the former Moose who had a three-point night, ripped a wrist shot under the bar that Pavelec barely saw and suddenly it was 3-1.

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Head coach Paul Maurice coaching up the only player who will apparently listen to him (Photo by James Carey Lauder)

“That second period was not the way we’re supposed to play,” said Maurice. “That’s on me.”

In the third period, TJ Brodie made it 4-1 as the Jets got caught standing around in their own zone, but later in the period, Winnipeg hit rock bottom. On a two-on-one break, Andrew Ladd was given a green light from the one Calgary defenseman in the vicinity, to take his big shot and he fanned on it. Missed the pick completely. Struck out.

The building began to empty.

Later, the two teams started a 10-man pillow fight along the boards and a lousy hockey game had degenerated into farce. The officials handed out a couple of minor penalties and more people headed home. No wonder there is now a Splash page on the Jets website offering available tickets for games in November. After three seasons and five games in Winnipeg, the fans are getting restless.

Perhaps this core of ex-Atlanta Thrashers will snap out of it and play the way Paul Maurice and Kevin Cheveldayoff believe they can play. Or maybe they won’t.

Sunday night, the Winnipeg Jets made the Calgary Flames look like Stanley Cup contenders. That’s not a sign of good things to come.



No Offence Leads to Heartbreak by the Lake

It would be easy to sit back and blame the latest Minnesota Vikings defeat on a defense that just couldn’t put the game away.

But Sunday’s 17-16 loss to the Buffalo Bills on, essentially, the final play of the game was hardly the fault of a defensive unit that allowed only 17 points for the second straight week.

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Poor Teddy.

The major problem with the 2-5 Vikings is not, and I repeat NOT, the defense. It is, instead an offence that has lost its heart and soul, an offensive coordinator who looks more like the head coaching failure in San Diego than the guy who is supposed to be an offensive genius, a terrible offensive line that was made even more terrible by two crushing injuries and a quarterback who has absolutely no time to throw a pass.

Sure, Vikings fans will remember an obviously injured Xavier Rhodes trying to cover Sammy Watkins, a Buffalo wide receiver who just might be the NFL’s rookie of the year, on the game’s final play. They’ll remember Watkins catching the pass to win the game. They’ll remember linebacker Chad Greenway blowing an assignment on fourth-and-20 on the final Buffalo drive. And they’ll remember an outclassed Buffalo QB Kyle Orton whooping it up on the Bills’ sideline.

They’ll remember all of that because they’ll want to forget how dreadful the offence was for the third straight week.

“I think we did some good things today. I don’t think we won the football game but I think we improved in some areas,” said head coach Mike Zimmer (who looked like he’d been hit by a bus) in his televised post-game news conference. “We were in a position to win, but credit goes to Buffalo with a couple of plays they made at the end of the game. We have to learn to win when we get in these situations.”

No kidding.

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Sammy Watkins beats Xavier Rhodes for the winning touchdown.

Now, to be fair, the Vikings did lead the football game 16-10 when Buffalo took possession on its own 20 yard line and drove 80 yards in 15 plays in the final 3:06 to win a game it never should have won. The Vikings defense had six sacks and seemed to be in total control when Orton suddenly turned into Peyton Manning without ever going into a phone booth.

But the offence was just horrendous. Rookie Teddy Bridgewater, playing behind that porous offensive line, completed 15-of-26 passes for a measly 157 yards, a touchdown pass to Cordarelle Patterson and two interceptions. It was the first TD pass of Bridgewater’s career.

Minnesota led 13-10 at halftime and then proceeded to put nothing more on the board than a single Blair Walsh field goal in the entire second half.

Bridgewater was sacked five times on Sunday behind a line that lost centre John Sullivan – the best of a bad lot – and guard Valdimir Ducasse to injuries. Sullivan suffered a concussion and Ducasse hurt his knee and it’s hard to imagine, but the Vikings O-line could be worse than ever. That’s like having no O-line at all. This is, after all, an offensive line that has allowed 19 sacks in the past three weeks (six, eight and five) and makes you wonder if Christian Ponder was really the problem.

Amazingly, Vikings tailback Jerick McKinnon carried 19 times for 103 yards and while it was a terrific performance, it just made you wonder why he didn’t get the football more often.

This was a game the Vikings could have — and should have — won. Until the final drive (and often during the final drive), the defense was flawless. Everson Griffen had three sacks and was a monster. Anthony Barr played like a first-round draft pick should play. Brian Robison was a tough SOB all day.

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The Vikings defense was solid all day but the offence just couldn’t get it done.

But it wasn’t enough. A horrible offensive line combined with a lousy offensive scheme left the Vikings with 16 points – the fifth time in seven games that the Vikings have scored fewer than 20 points in a game – and that was one point too few.

This Vikings team just can’t score (in seven games it has scored fewer than 10 points on three different occasions) and as a result they are 2-5 and pretty much out of the playoff hunt in a division that features the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions.

Next week, the Vikings go to Tampa Bay to face a lousy Bucs outfit. The really sad thing about the Vikings’ plight is that the schedule isn’t that tough.

Sad.



Bombers Fall to Cornish and Calgary, Lose Another Quarterback In the Process

The best player in the Canadian Football League ate up both yardage and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ defense on Saturday night.

Calgary Stampeders runningback Jon Cornish carried 21 times for 160 yards and the touchdown that put the game away as the Stampeders built a 16-6 first-half lead and then scored a late touchdown to beat the Blue Bombers 33-23.

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Brian Brohm (Photo by Jeff Miller)

With the win, the Stampeders improved to 13-2 and wrapped up first place in the West. The Bombers meanwhile lost their seventh straight and ninth in the last 10 and fell to 6-10 on the season. Winnipeg still has a remote shot at the playoffs, but they’ll have to win their final two games and hope B.C. loses its last three and Toronto loses two of its last three.

Bo Levi Mitchell returned from injury and completed 18 of 28 passes for 258 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions as the Stamps won their eighth straight game coming out of the bye week. Calgary finished the game with 453 yards of total offence.

However, Cornish was the story. Last year’s CFL Most Outstanding Player and Most Outstanding Canadian put a halt to a Bombers comeback effort when he ate up 43 yards on Calgary’s final drive and scored an eight-yard touchdown to put the Stamps up for good.

The Bombers, meanwhile, had another horrible night. With No. 1 quarterback Drew Willy out of the lineup nursing an injured throwing hand, backup Brian Brohm got the start. Brohm had completed 14-of-23 passes for 194 yards when he was rushed, hit and jammed his hand against a Calgary helmet. He was taken to the locker room and later returned to the bench in street clothes. He was replaced by Robert Marve who almost brought the Bombers back from a 23-7 deficit.

Marve got a lot of help from runningback Paris Cotton. With the score 23-9, Cotton scored on a 35-yard romp to make it 23-16. After a Calgary field goal, Cotton ran nine yards for another Bomber TD to make the score 26-23.

But that’s when Mitchell and Cornish took over and Calgary put the game away.

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The trench. (Photo by Jeff Miller)

Cotton, who won the job from former Bombers tailback Nic Grigsby (now with Hamilton), finished with 108 yards and two TDs on 14 carries. Marve, the Bombers No. 3 QB, completed five-of-10 passes for 64 yards. Neither Bombers quarterback threw a touchdown pass.

Still, you have to give the Bombers backups some credit. The 23 points were the most the Bombers offence has put on the board since Week 11 when Winnipeg lost 30-24 at home in the Banjo Bowl to Saskatchewan.

This dreadful slump has really hurt the franchise. After putting 33,234 fans into Investors Group Field for the Banjo Bowl, the attendance has fallen to 28,534 in Week 14 and then to just 22,320 on Saturday night against the best team in the CFL.

The Bombers next home game is next Saturday night (6 p.m. on TSN) against B.C. It’s the most important game of the season inasmuch as a win will keep the team’s slim playoff hopes alive. But after having lost seven straight games, it’s hard to imagine there will be a big crowd waiting to greet them.

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It’s been a long season. (Photo by Jeff Miller).



Punchless Jets Fizzle in Home Opener, Shut Out by Rinne and The Preds

The Winnipeg Jets have now scored a grand total of one goal in the last 180 minutes of play.

Despite getting 31 shots at Nashville netminder Pekka Rinne, the Jets were shutout 2-0 by the Predators in the 2014-15 Home Opener at MTS Centre on Friday Night. Right now, this Jets team would have trouble putting the puck in a soccer goal.

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Pekka Rinne foiled the Jets all night (Photo by Tara Miller)

Mike Ribeiro scored on a beautiful tip-in at 16:20 of the first period to give Nashville a 1-0 lead. Then, in the third period, James Neal was credited with a goal on a nasty bounce that fooled Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec. Pavelec wasn’t horrible. He just wasn’t as good as Rinne.

As this game wore on, there was never a sense the Jets would beat Rinne. In fact, there was never a reason to believe the Jets big scorers were going to find the net. With the exception of Mark Scheifele, most of the Jets Top 6 forwards were passengers and captain Andrew Ladd was invisible until the final few minutes.

Winnipeg, now 1-3-0 on the season, outshot Nashville 31-27, but it didn’t matter. Rinne was the best player on the ice and that’s all the first-place Predators (3-0-1) needed.

“Obviously a tough game for us, we have to find a way to score some goals,” said Jets centre Mathieu Perreault.

“We had a ton of chances, but when we had them we didn’t bear down. I don’t think we had a lot of really great chances, but had a few. He (Rinne) had to make a few good saves but we didn’t have a lot of great chances. We have to settle down and make plays. We waste a lot of (attacking) zone time just passing the puck blindly. We have to get some pucks to the net, bear down and find a way to get some goals.”

It wasn’t as if the Jets didn’t have any chances. In the second period, Jim Slater went in alone on Rinne and was foiled on an attempted deke. In the third period, Mark Scheifele was alone in front of the Predators goaltender and was foiled on an uncontested shot from the edge of the crease.

For the third straight game, the Jets had plenty of shots and some terrific opportunities but couldn’t find the back of the net. This time, at least, they weren’t stymied by a backup goalie.

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Ondrej Pavelec made 25 saves in the Jets net (Photo by Tara Miller)

Last Friday, they were beaten 3-0 by San Jose backup Alex Stalock. On Sunday, they lost 4-1 to Los Angeles Kings backup Martin Jones. Friday night at the MTS Centre, they were shot out by one of the premier goalies in the NHL.

Jets fans were loud and proud when the game began. From the introduction of the players, to the national anthems and almost right through the first period, the Winnipeg crowd was as loud as head coach Paul Maurice and the players hoped it would be.

However, by the middle of the third period, the building had become eerily quiet and it was starting to empty. By the end, more than half the fans had departed and when the final buzzer sounded, the Jets were booed.

“It was a tight-tight game and there weren’t many chances to be had,” said Maurice. “We have to put the puck to the net so maybe we can bang in an ugly one. We aren’t going to throw a party after that. We’ve lost three straight and scored one.

“We knew it was going to be a tight game and it was. We wanted to get the crowd into the game and we couldn’t. It’s a disappointing start, a disappointing game at home.”

On the upside, the Jets penalty-killing unit was perfect again (Nashville was 0-for-four on the power play) and has now gone through 18 shorthanded situations in four games this season without allowing a goal. Of course, the power play went 0-for-three and the Jets still haven’t scored with the man advantage this year.

TM Jets Preds Oct17 Little 3 Punchless Jets Fizzle in Home Opener, Shut Out by Rinne and The Preds

Nashville’s Mike Ribeiro scored the eventual winning goal on a great tip in (Photo by Tara Miller)

The Jets need some scorers and they need them quickly. After putting up six against Arizona in the season opener last Thursday, they have been horrible in the attacking zone.

The Jets get at it again on Sunday night when the Jets face the Calgary Flames at MTS Centre. Game time is 7 p.m.



Week 17 CFL Picks: Bombers Need a Miracle

By The Coach and Dr. Football

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers still have a chance to make the playoffs. I know, it sounds like a ridiculous statement, but it’s true.

This week, when the 6-9 Blue Bombers play host to the 12-2 Calgary Stampeders, the home side will still be in a fight with the B.C. Lions for a crossover birth in the post-season. In the East. Toronto, Montreal and Hamilton are all tied for first at 6-8. However, while there is a chance one of those teams won’t get to eight wins (they all have four games remaining), that’s unlikely. The Bombers are likely going to have to win all three remaining games to have a hope. When you’re four points out of the final playoff spot (the crossover) with six points up for grabs, you’d better win. By the way, the Bombers can’t possibly make the playoffs in the West.

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Brian Brohm

In order to win this week, the Bombers will have to play their best game of the season. And they’ll probably have to do it with Brian Brohm at quarterback and Paris Cotton at tailback. This week, Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea has called starting quarterback Drew Willy “questionable,” with an injured hand while RB Nic Grigsby, the fourth leading rusher in the CFL, asked for his release after he was told he would be a healthy scratch for the second straight week. It was almost as if Grigsby was being scapegoated for the Bombers slump – six straight losses and eight losses in the past nine games.

All will be forgotten, however, if the Bombers can upset the first-place Stampeders this Saturday night. A win and Winnipeg is right back in the crossover hunt. It’s unlikely, but not impossible. As they say, “That’s why they play the games.”

Last week, Dr. Football went 3-1 while The Coach swept four straight for only the second time this season.

This week, they’re back at it. The Doc writes the story of our brilliant selections while The Coach, drinks coffee and whines about the officiating. Let’s take a close look at Week 17 in the CFL:

Friday Night

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Jonathan Williams, Ottawa RedBlacks

Ottawa (2-12) vs. Hamilton (6-8) Line – Hamilton by 11 ½

Ottawa was humiliated in B.C. last week while Hamilton took their foot off the gas in the fourth quarter and squandered a chance to take a dominant lead in the East by allowing the Argos to beat them. There is far more talent on the Ti-Cats roster, and they’ll show why they chose to let Smilin’ Hank go. The Coach says: This will be over by the end of the first quarter.

Dr. Football: Take the Tiger-Cats to win and cover.

The Coach: Take the Tiger-Cats to win and cover.

Saturday Afternoon

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Duron Carter, Montreal Alouettes

Montreal (6-8) vs. Toronto (6-8) Line – Toronto by 4

Both teams came up big last week and are really starting to roll. Experience is on Toronto’s side with Ricky Ray. But it will be close. The Coach says: Game of the week.

Dr. Football: Take the Argos to win but not cover.

The Coach: Take the Argos to win and cover.

Saturday Night

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Paris Cotton (Photo by Jeff Miller)

Calgary (12-2) vs. Winnipeg (6-9) Line – Calgary by 9

Another embarrassing loss. Another injured quarterback. Guys quitting. At least Wade Miller didn’t announce a ticket price increase. That counts for something right? The Coach says: The amazing thing about this game is that the Blue Bombers are still in the playoff hunt.

Dr. Football: Take the Stampeders to win and cover.

The Coach: Take the Stampeders to win but not cover.

Sunday Afternoon

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Chris Getzlaff

Edmonton (10-5) vs. Saskatchewan (9-6) Line – Edmonton by 4

Kerry Joseph gets the start for the Roughriders this week. Chaos will ensue. Not the good kind. The Coach says: On the up side, Kerry Joseph is a big improvement over that poor Tino Sunseri. He might have been the worst quarterback to start a CFL game since Troy Kopp.

Dr. Football: Take the Eskimos to win and cover.

The Coach: Take the Eskimos to win and cover.



Week 7: Tough Week for the Vikings on the Road

By the Coach and Dr. Football

After Ready Teddy and the Minnesota Vikings were carved up by the Detroit Lions at home last week, it doesn’t look like this week’s offering will be a whole lot more inviting.

It’s Week 7 in the National Football League and the Vikes are off to Buffalo where Kyle Orton, of all people, has take the Bill by the horns and made it work. There is no reason to believe that Buffalo has a date at Super Bowl XXXVVIIXXVIII anytime soon, but this team is playing much better football than it has in years. It doesn’t hurt that there is a new owner and a new sign of life.

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Poor Vikings left tackle Matt Kalil. He was almost completely absent against Detroit.

The Vikings, meanwhile, have the worst offensive line in the NFL (their quarterback was sacked eight times last week) and as a result, they put their highly touted rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater in harm’s way every week. If Mike Zimmer doesn’t fix his O-line, this is going to be a long, long season.

Here in Prognostication City, we’re starting to tune in. The Boys had a so-so week last week, although The Coach had his best week against the spread. This week, there are only a few games on the schedule.

Last week Dr. Football went 8-6-1 (59-31-1) straight up and 4-11 (40-51) against the spread while The Coach had one of his best weeks of the season, going 11-3-1 (53-37-1) straight up and 10-5 (41-50) against the spread.

This week, the Doc writes our rationalizations while The Coach complains about the officials, the announcers, the penalties, the length of games….

Let’s look closely at Week 7:

Thursday Night

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Julian Edelman

New York Jets (1-5) at New England Patriots (4-2) 
Line: Patriots by 9.5.

Tom Brady has thrown for 652 yards his past two games. He won’t even break a sweat this week. The Coach says: This won’t be close.

Dr. Football: Take the Patriots to win and cover.

The Coach: Take the Patriots to win and cover.

Sunday Afternoon

Cincinnati Bengals (3-1-1) at Indianapolis Colts (4-2) 
Line: Colts by 3.

After a strong start, the Bengals have started to stall, while Andrew Luck and the Colts have won four straight and are rested after blasting Houston on a Thursday night. The Coach says: As a dear Colts fan I know always says, “It’s better to be Luck-y than good.”

Dr. Football: Take the Colts to win and cover.

The Coach: Take the Colts to win and cover.

Tennessee Titans (2-4) at Washington Redskins (1-5) 
Line: Redskins by 6.

Two teams that are early season disappointments. The Titans barely beat Jacksonville and the Redskins have not found a groove with Kirk Cousins, and have turned over the ball way too much. They should win at home but it won’t be a classic. The Coach says: Change the nickname.

Dr. Football: Take the Redskins to win but not cover.

The Coach: Take the Washingtons to win but not cover.

Miami Dolphins (2-3) at Chicago Bears (3-3) 
Line: Bears by 3.5.

The Dolphins threw everything at Green Bay last week, and came up short. The Bears return home after a few weeks on the road, and looked good last week beating Atlanta and will carry that momentum for a big win at Soldier Field. The Coach says: I’ll never fall in love with the stuff Jay Cutler does, but he has won three games and he’s at home this week.

Dr. Football: Take the Bears to win and cover.

The Coach: Take the Bears to win and cover.

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Brian Hoyer

Cleveland Browns (3-2) at Jacksonville Jaguars (0-6) 
Line: Browns by 5.5.

The Browns blasted the Steelers last week while the Jaguars played tough on the road but still lost in Tennessee. They have shown improvement and should get the home win. They can’t go 0-16. The Coach says: The Browns are living up to everything that happened in the movie Draft Day. It’s hard not to like that team. Blake Bortles is getting better, but he won’t win this week.

Dr. Football: Take the Jaguars in an upset.

The Coach: Take the Browns to win and cover.

Seattle Seahawks (3-2) at St. Louis Rams (1-4) 
Line: Seahawks by 7.

The Rams came out quick in the Monday Nighter but still came up short while the Seahawks were pushed around at home against the Cowboys. I think that this will be a statement game for the defending champs and Russell Wilson will have a big day. The Coach says: Poor St. Louis. Austin who?

Dr. Football: Take the Seahawks to win and cover.

The Coach: Take the Seahawks to win and cover.

Carolina Panthers (3-2-1) at Green Bay Packers (4-2) 
Line: Packers by 7.

Cam Newton vs. Aaron Rodgers should be fun to watch until the Packers wear out the road weary Panthers. It will be high scoring game, one that the Packers will win at home. The Coach says: The Panthers have a cute little team but they’ll beat the Panthers.

Dr. Football: Take the Packers to win and cover.

The Coach: Take the Packers to win and cover.

Atlanta Falcons (2-4) at Baltimore Ravens (4-2) 
Line: Ravens by 7.

The Ravens absolutely mauled the Bucs last week and now return home to face a Falcons team reeling after a home loss against the Bears. The Ravens momentum carries through this week in front of their fans. The Coach says: The Falcons can’t stop the run. They won’t stop the Ravens.

Dr. Football: Take the Ravens to win and cover.

The Coach: Take the Ravens to win and cover.

Minnesota Vikings (2-4) at Buffalo Bills (3-3) 
Line: Bills by 5.5.

Both teams are coming off losses; the Vikings looked dreadful at home against the Lions. This will be Teddy Bridgewater’s first road start, a test against a tough Bills defense, especially against the run. Things will get worse for Minnesota. The Coach says: The Vikings offensive line is the worst in the NFL. I fear for Teddy Bridgewater’s safety.

Dr. Football: Take the Bills to win and cover.

The Coach: Take the Bills to win and cover.

Matthew Stafford1 Week 7: Tough Week for the Vikings on the Road

Matthew Stafford

New Orleans Saints (2-3) at Detroit Lions (4-2) 
Line: Lions by 3.

The Saints will be rested coming off the bye, and have a tough test against the Lions top ranked defense. Drew Brees will wish he had another week off. The Coach says: The Saints are lost on the road while the Lions have the No. 1 defense in the NFL.

Dr. Football: Take the Lions to win and cover.

The Coach: Take the Lions to win and cover.

Kansas City Chiefs (2-3) at San Diego Chargers (5-1) 
Line: Chargers by 4.5.

The Chiefs are coming off the bye while the Chargers might have been guilty last week of taking the Raiders a bit too lightly. Phillip Rivers won’t let that happen at home. The Coach says: It appears that Philip Rivers has completely forgotten that Norv Turner coached there once. That’s good news for the Chargers.

Dr. Football: Take the Chargers to win and cover.

The Coach: Take the Chargers to win and cover.

New York Giants (3-3) at Dallas Cowboys (5-1) 
Line: Cowboys by 6.5.

The Giants were terrible last week in Philadelphia, while the Cowboys return home after a big road win in Seattle. They played hard against the defending champs, and might not have a lot left in the tank, but they’ll have enough to win a close one. The Coach says: America’s Team just could be America’s Team again.

Dr. Football: Take the Cowboys to win but not cover.

The Coach: Take the Cowboys to win and cover.

Carson+Palmer+Oakland+Raiders+v+San+Diego+2UBUtpVVtjMl Week 7: Tough Week for the Vikings on the Road

The Cardinals Carson Palmer. I just love this picture because it pulls the collective chain of my Raiders’ friends.

Arizona Cardinals (4-1) at Oakland Raiders (0-5) 
Line: Cardinals by 3.5.

The Raiders get Carson Palmer back, but he won’t be able to do much against a very good Arizona team. Look for a blowout. The Coach says: There is a very good chance that the Cardinals are the best team in the toughest division in the NFC.

Dr. Football: Take the Cardinals to win and cover

The Coach: Take the Cardinals to win and cover.

Sunday Night

San Francisco 49ers (4-2) at Denver Broncos (3-1) 
Line: Broncos by 6.5.

The 49ers battled back for the road win against the Rams on Monday, while the Broncos return home after coasting to a win over the Jets. The key to the game is for the Broncos to slow down the San Fran running game then let Peyton do the rest. The Coach says: I’ll always take Peyton. Especially at home.

Dr. Football: Take the Broncos to win and cover.

The Coach: Take the Broncos to win and cover.

Monday Night

Ben+Roethlisberger+Philadelphia+Eagles+v+Pittsburgh+T3RzSGsufm3l Week 7: Tough Week for the Vikings on the Road

Ben Roethlisberger

Houston Texans (3-3) at Pittsburgh Steelers (3-3) 
Line: Steelers by 3.5.

Pittsburgh is hardly the Steelers team that always looked good on Monday nights of years gone by, and must stop the bleeding on defense. That being said, Heinz Field is still a tough place for road teams to play. The Coach says: Neither of these teams is a good as we expected. Pittsburgh is at home and J.J. Watt can’t win games all by himself.

Dr. Football: Take the Steelers to win and cover.

The Coach: Take the Steelers to win and cover.



It’s Not His Fault: Bombers Release Nic Grigsby

He came to Winnipeg without much fanfare and made the team in training camp. He carried 21 times for 122 yards in his first Canadian Football League regular season game

On Wednesday, however, the Blue Bombers released the CFL’s fourth leading rusher.

Nic Grigsby Its Not His Fault: Bombers Release Nic Grigsby

Nic Grigsby (Photo by Jeff Miller)

Upon his release, Nic Grigsby almost immediately tweeted: “To all my teammates & fans here in the peg I love and wish you guys nothing but the best. I asked for my release!!”

Grigsby is currently No. 4 in rushing in the CFL with 744 yards in 162 carries. With 55 catches, he leads all CFL runningbacks in receiving and is sixth in passes caught this season (he has 444 yards receiving, 23rd in the CFL).

He had done all that behind one of the worst offensive lines in the CFL, a porous unit that neither pass blocks nor even run blocks with the league’s playoff-bound units.

Last weekend, Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea and his offensive coordinator Marcel Bellefeuille decided to go with Paris Cotton and bench Grigsby, the 25-year-old back out of Arizona State.

In pre-season, Cotton, 24, had out-rushed Grigsby, but an injury kept Cotton out of the lineup early in the season. Grigsby took the ball and ran with it and kept his job for 16 weeks. During that time, the Bombers got off to a 5-1 start, but have faltered as the offensive line took some injury hits and then just got progressively worse. Winnipeg has lost six straight games, eight of their last nine and are now four points out of fourth place in the West with six points remaining on the table.

On Monday in Edmonton, Cotton rushed for 31 yards on eight carries in his first start, although to be fair, the Bombers have almost abandoned the running game and Cotton carried only four times in each half.

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Grigsby gone.

The Eskimos (now 10-5) won the game 41-9 to wrap up a playoff spot. The loss left the 6-9 Bombers in dire straights with three games remaining. It’s now likely that Cotton will be the team’s tailback for the remainder of the season.

It’s impossible to blame Nic Grigsby for what’s happened to the Blue Bombers. He just happens to be the odd man out because this team has left itself so thin along the offensive line.



Jets Host Division-Rival Preds in Home Opener

For Winnipeg Jets head coach Paul Maurice, the team he’ll face on Friday night at MTS Centre looks just like every team in the National Hockey League.

Even with a new coach (Peter Laviolette) and a number of new players (James Neal, Mike Ribeiro, Derek Roy and Olli Jokinen).

Head coach Paul Maurice of the Carolina Hurricanes addresses the media 1024x779 Jets Host Division Rival Preds in Home Opener

Paul Maurice

“Right now, Nashville looks like every other team in the National Hockey League,” Maurice said, during his televised (Jets TV) news conference yesterday. “They’re trying to play well defensively and when they get something going offensively, they’re trying to make the best of it.”

Maurice expects to see the energy of a home crowd and the excitement of the first home game when the Jets play host to the Nashville Predators Friday night at 7 p.m. (TSN3). However, because his 1-2-0 Jets have already played three road games, he does not expect the nerves or fear of the unknown some teams get before the home opener. After all, his Jets have already played three games and with a core group that’s been around since before the Jets arrived in Winnipeg, there is no reason to expect anything from the Jets that goes too far beyond the same-old, same-old.

The Jets will get their initial opportunity to face a rival within the Central Division with the 2-0-1 Preds arrive in town. It will be the first game of a five-game homestand for the Jets, a team that has demonstrated some good signs and bad ones in its first three games.

On the upside, the Jets have not allowed a powerplay against this season – the penalty-killing unit is 14-for-14 this year — and goalie Ondrej Pavelec has turned aside all 11 shots he’s facedwhile the Jets have been short-handed.

Meanwhile, despite losing 3-0 in San Jose the other night, they did hold the Sharks to no shots on goal in the third period even though Winnipeg was short handed for eight minutes in the frame. The Jets outshot San Jose 14-0 in that final period, but couldn’t score against San Jose backup goalie Alex Stalock.

On the down side, Winnipeg has had real trouble scoring against good teams. The Jets lost 3-0 in San Jose and 4-1 in Los Angeles and played against two backup goalies – Stalock and the Kings’ Martin Jones. Scoring only one goal in 120 minutes against two backup goalies is not a good sign.

That will make it tougher on Friday night when the Jets face one of the strongest defensive units in the division – Shea Weber, Seth Jones, Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, Anton Volchenkov, Victor Bartley and Mattias Ekholm.

940 little bryan Jets Host Division Rival Preds in Home Opener

Bryan Little.

The Jets have not been particularly good in home openers in Winnipeg, either. The team is 1-2-0 in Winnipeg home openers and while history isn’t normally a big deal, it is with the Jets, a team with a core group that has been with the team since it arrived in 2011. In fact, three Jets players – Jim Slater, Bryan Little and Toby Enstrom — are set to play in their eighth home opener with the Jets/Thrashers franchise.

Little, meanwhile, has scored three of Winnipeg’s seven goals this season, including the Jets’ only tally in a 4-1 loss in Los Angeles on Sunday night. Little also began last season on a blistering pace by compiling 12 goals in his first 23 games. The 26-year-old is coming off of a career-year after reaching new career highs in assists (41) and points (64) in 2013-14. Little scored shorthanded in the season opener, recording the fifth SHG of his career.

A milestone could be surpassed in the opener: Andrew Ladd is just two assists short of 200 in his career.

Three Preds, meanwhile, have ties to Winnipeg: Olli Jokinen played the last two seasons with the Jets, James Neal played five games and picked up five points with the AHL’s Manitoba Moose in November of 2008 and Nashville forward Colin Wilson calls Winnipeg his hometown.

It’s the Jets-Predators on Friday night at MTS Centre in downtown Winnipeg. It’s the first of 41 in Winnipeg this season and the players expect the crowd to make a difference.

“It’s always exciting playing here,” said Jets defenseman Adam Pardy. “Especially home opening night. They’ll be amped up.”



Bombers Carved and Served By Eskimos

The Edmonton Eskimos carved a turkey on Thanksgiving Monday. Along with the evisceration, the Esks punched their ticket to the post-season.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers, meanwhile, will now require a miracle to make the Canadian Football League playoffs. A team that started the 2014 campaign with a 5-1 has now lost six straight and eight of the last nine to fall to record is now 6-9 on the season.

JM BombersEsks July17 OShea 6 950 Bombers Carved and Served By Eskimos

Poor Mike O’Shea (Photo by Jeff Miller)

They are now four points behind fourth-place B.C. in the West with only three games remaining, after getting cooked 41-9 by the Eskimos in Edmonton yesterday.

Now, to be far, it’s not like the Eskimos weren’t heavy pre-game favorites. In fact, some Vegas books had Edmonton favored by as many as 13 points. Regardless, the outcome was even uglier than the odds might have suggested.

The Bombers didn’t get a first down until the 6:40 mark of the second quarter. At one point, late in the first half, Edmonton had 170 yards of offence while the Bombers had one. That’s right, one yard. It was 37-0 at halftime.

Edmonton won this game every way possible. They were better on both sides of the football and better on special teams. Of course, it didn’t help that Winnipeg’s offensive line was so porous that starting quarterback Drew Willy got banged up again and didn’t finish the first half.

While Winnipeg’s own Eddie Steele (North Winnipeg Nomads, Kelvin High School, U of M Bisons) was an absolute force in the middle, Odell Willis and Dexter McColl put on a defensive show for Edmonton. Willis had two sacks and two forced fumbles while McColl recovered a fumble and returned it 88 yards for a TD and also stopped Willy in the end zone for a safety that made the score 30-0.

Eddie Steele by Jeff Miller Bombers Carved and Served By Eskimos

The great Eddie Steele (Photo by Jeff Miller).

The Eskimos, now 10-5 on the season were simply too much for Winnipeg right from the opening kick-off. At halftime, the Bombers had 11 penalties and only three first downs. Two Bomber quarterbacks – Willy and Brian Brohm – threw for a total of 46 yards while Paris Cotton, who had replaced a healthy Nic Grigsby in the Bombers backfield, had carried four times for six yards.

No matter what happened in the second half, it didn’t matter a lick. The Bombers were done like Thanksgiving dinner at halftime and the final 30 minutes was of little interest to anyone. Especially the 28,065 souls who had purchased tickets for the game. Most of them had left for home by the end of the third quarter. The Eskimos, meanwhile, seldom rushed more than three (or maybe four) D-linemen at any time in the second half.

Meanwhile, Willy was injured just before halftime (an “upper body injury,” according to the Bombers brain trust) and Brohm finished the game. While Willy completed four-of-nine passes for 23 yards, Brohm went 18-for-33 for 219 yards, no touchdowns and one interception. In all, the Eskimos defense had four sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception.

The best player on the field for the Bombers was linebacker Ian Wild who had 10 tackles, one special teams tackle and a forced fumble. Nobody else was in Wild’s league.

Cotton finished with 31 yards rushing on eight carries. During the game, Grigsby tweeted, “I’m trying my hardest to be a pro right now about this situation.” The decision to go with Cotton made absolutely no difference since Cotton carried the ball only four times in each half. He didn’t catch a pass.

crop 20859894409 Bombers Carved and Served By Eskimos

Mike Reilly led the way for Edmonton.

Reilly led the Eskimos with 19 completions of 31 attempts for 197, no TDs and no INTs. However, two of Reilly’s passes in the end zone resulted in pass interference calls against the Bombers secondary. Both resulted in one-yard TD plunges by Reilly. The league’s leading receiver, former Bomber Adarius Bowman, caught 10 passes for 94 yards to lead the Esks. Edmonton tailback John White carried 16 times for 96 yards.

The Bombers will now play host to the Calgary Stampeders next Saturday night. The Bombers must win their three remaining games and hope B.C. loses all three, if they intend to have a chance to make the playoffs. B.C. has the bye next weekend. The Bombers and B.C. meet on Oct. 25 at Investors Group Field.