The Bombers wrap-up another year of disappointment

By Dr. Football and The Coach

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers will complete the 2015 Canadian Football League season on Friday in Toronto.

For the 5-13 Bombers, the game means absolutely nothing in the standings. The team missed the playoffs after B.C. won last week and Friday night’s game is only of value for the coaching staff. Assuming, of course, that the current coaching staff will be back next season.

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

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

It appears that head coach Mike O’Shea, who will be honored by the Argos for his playing days in Toronto at halftime, plans to start young Dominique Davis at quarterback.

“I just want to show that I know how to play this game, that I can go out there and get a win even though we’re eliminated from the playoffs,” Davis told reporters this week. “This game does mean a lot for guys that don’t get opportunities to play.”

True enough, and perhaps those guys can get something done on Friday night. There is very little doubt that the players who take the field for the Bombers on Friday will (a) play to win, (b) play to save their jobs, (c) play to impress other people in the league and (4) play for their own pride.

Whether that’s enough to beat a team preparing for the playoffs and playing in their own building is anybody’s guess, but if the Bombers have one thing going for them it’s that so few people watch the Argos anymore that there might be more Bomber fans in Toronto on Friday than Argos fans.

Meanwhile, our fearless prognosticators have a week left to save their seasons.

Last week, The Doc went 4-0 straight up (48-30) and 4-0 against the spread (45-32) while The Coach went 3-1 (44-34) straight up and 3-1 (41-36) against the spread.

This week, The Doc again writes our erudite observations while The Coach just continues to whine about all the penalties.

Remember, all games are on TSN. And as we remind you each and every week, for your own personal mental health, always keep the mute button handy. However, having said that, no matter how bad the game announcing is – and how much worse the half-time panel is – nothing on television is worse than the Rogers Sportsnet hockey team that was foisted on us on Wednesday night. That was nothing short of obnoxious. I must thank Shaw for my mute button.

Let’s take a close look at the final week of the 2015 regular season:

Friday Night

So much for the Matt Nichols Era. Dominique Davis will start for the Bombers.

So much for the Matt Nichols Era. Dominique Davis will start for the Bombers.

Winnipeg (5-12) vs. Toronto (9-8)

Line – Toronto by 7

Toronto still has plenty to play for as they need this as a tune up for the playoffs. One has to wonder how much effort the Bombers will put into this after their bye week… The Coach says: I can’t imagine the Bombers have so little pride that they’ll get whipped in the final game of the year.

Dr. Football: Take Toronto to win and cover.

The Coach: Take Winnipeg and the points.

Saturday Afternoon

Hamilton (10-7) vs. Ottawa (11-6)

Line – Ottawa by 3 ½

Ottawa can’t afford to coast into the playoffs and will want the home playoff advantage with the win. Hamilton can’t and won’t win with their third or fourth string QB. The Coach says: Henry Burris makes his final bid for CFL Most Outstanding Player.

Dr. Football: Take Ottawa to win and cover. 

The Coach: Take Ottawa to win and cover.

Saturday Night

Bo Levi Mitchell

Bo Levi Mitchell

Calgary (13-4) vs. B.C. (7-10)

Line – Calgary by 1

The Stamps can afford to sit their starters as they will meet the Lions in a game that matters next week on their own field. They should have an easy time both weeks. The Coach says: I don’t believe the Lions will roll over in their final home game of the year.

Dr. Football: Take Calgary to win and cover.

The Coach: Take B.C.

Sunday Afternoon

Saskatchewan (2-15) vs. Montreal (6-11)

Line – Montreal by 9

The Saskatchewan nightmare ends for 2015 but I think they’ll give the other last play team a run for their money. The Coach says: Perhaps the most irrelevant game in pro sports this week: two teams that can’t make the playoffs in a game that starts at the same time the NFL games start.

Dr. Football: Take Montreal to win but not cover.

The Coach: Take Montreal to win and cover.



Jets don’t quit, but lose in shootout

By Scott Taylor

You have to give the Winnipeg Jets a little credit. Despite losing 3-2 in a shootout in Ottawa on Thursday night, they certainly didn’t quit.

After falling behind 2-0, the Jets got a goal from Andrew Ladd, his fourth of the season, at the 17:19 mark of the second period and then another from Dustin Byfuglien (also his fourth of the year) at the 26 second mark – in a four-on-four situation – of the third to tie the game and send it to extra time.

Big save by Michael Hutchinson.

Big save by Michael Hutchinson.

Nothing was settled during the rather exciting five-minute three-on-three circus, but in the shootout, Jets goalie Michael Hutchinson was beaten three straight times — by Bobby Ryan, Kyle Turris and Mika Zibanejad — as Ottawa picked up the 3-2 win and the extra point.

Ryan and Cody Ceci scored for Ottawa in regulation time but there was little question that the star of the game was Ottawa goaltender Craig Anderson. This was a game that could have tilted in the Jets favor at any time. In fact, Bryan Little missed three perfect chances in regulation and another in overtime as the Jets outshot Ottawa 40-31 – 14-7 in the third period and 7-3 in overtime.

Byfuglien was the best player on the ice for the Jets. He had a goal, five hits and seven shots on goal in a whopping 28 minutes and four seconds of ice time.

Despite the loss, the Jets did pick up a point and finished the four-game road trip with a record of 2-1-1. Getting five points out of a possible eight on the road isn’t perfect but it’s not bad.

Bryan Little heads to the net.

Bryan Little heads to the net.

Still, the Jets had so many glorious chances to not only win this game, but to bury the Senators early. This was a case of too many missed opportunities. Anderson was so good that after giving up a goal to Blake Wheeler in the shootout, he stopped Andrew Ladd and that’s all he had to do. His teammates beat Hutchinson three times and that was it.

The Jets fell(?) to 8-4-2 on the season and with 18 points are alone in third in the Central Division (Minnesota and Nashville, tied for fourth, have played three fewer games). Hutchinson, who suffered the OT loss, is now 4-1-1 on the season.

The Jets will return home and play a single game on Saturday against the Philadelphia Flyers at MTS centre at 6 p.m., before heading back out on the road for another four-game stint against Minnesota, Dallas, Nashville and St. Louis.

The Jets celebrate Andrew Ladd's goal.

The Jets celebrate Andrew Ladd’s goal.



Burmistrov’s big goal gives Jets a win

By Scott Taylor

It was one of those plays that will be remembered fondly by Jets fans when Winnipeg is battling for a playoff spot in the dead of winter.

Alexander Burmistrov scores the winner.

Alexander Burmistrov scores the winner.

Alexander Burmistrov took a chintzy holding the stick penalty at 15:47 of the third period and the Jets were forced to kill a penalty late in the game. They killed it, and right at the end of the two minutes, Burmistrov jumped out of the box, took a beautiful clearing pass from Bryan Little (it was as much a clear as a pass), skated up the ice against Toronto defenseman Jake Gardiner, passed it to Blake Wheeler who passed it right back to Burmistrov who banged it past Toronto’s James Reimer.

It turned out to be the winning goal in a 4-2 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs and it salvaged a less-than-impressive effort against a less-than-fearsome opponent.

Granted, the Jets didn’t play a great hockey game in Toronto on Wednesday night, but they bounced back from a 5-1 shellacking in Montreal on Sunday to beat the Leafs in their own barn and improve their record to 8-4-1 this season. They are now 5-2-0 on the road.

The Leafs are now 2-8-2 on the season and 1-4-1 at home.

The Jets opened the scoring at 3:41 of the first period when Dustin Byfuglien beat Reimer with a quick shot from Mathieu Perreault and Toby Enstrom.

Toronto tied it at 8:22 on a power play as P.A. Parenteau beat Ondrej Pavelec, but the Jets went ahead again, just 37 seconds later, when Mark Scheifele fired one of his patented wristers into a gaping Toronto cage. Enstrom and Perreault again picked up the assists.

Winkler's Byron Frose battles the Jets Jacob Trouba

Winkler’s Byron Froese of the Leafs battles the Jets Jacob Trouba

The Leafs tied it in the second period when Leo Komarov beat Pavelec and this time it remained tied until Burmistrov scored his beauty at 17:55 of the third period, from Bryan Little and Wheeler.

Little scored his sixth goal of the year into an empty net at 19:34 of the final period to put the game away. Wheeler drew the assist, his 10th helper of the year.

“We got the job done tonight,” Little told Rogers Sportsnet. “It was good win after that game we played in Montreal. The guys kept working and we got a good break there at the end when we needed it. It was a good win.”

The Leafs were one-for-three on the power play while the Jets were zero-for-two. Pavelec made 26 saves to get the win while Reimer stopped 33 of the 36 shots he faced. Mark Stuart had three shots on goal, a team-high six hits and three blocked shots. Byfuglien, who had a goal and was plus two, had a team-high five shots, one hit and a team-high four blocked shots.

The Jets left right after the game for Ottawa. They’ll face the Senators in the nation’s capital on Thursday night at 6 p.m. on TSN 3.

Ondrej Pavelec makes a huge save

Ondrej Pavelec makes a huge save



NFL Picks Week 9: Vikes play a team with a winning record

By The Coach and Dr. Football

So far this season, the Minnesota Vikings and their 5-2 record are somewhat of a myth. In fact, a couple of stats mavens have the Vikings 27th best in the NFL right now, simply because of the weakness of their schedule.

This week, the Vikings face the St. Louis Rams and, if they beat Jeff Fisher’s group, it will be the first time since Week 1 (when everybody was 0-0) that the Vikes have beaten a plus-.500 team.

Adrian Peterson. "We have to beat a team with a winning record."

Adrian Peterson. “We have to beat a team with a winning record.”

Sure the Vikings are 5-2, but they’ve beaten lowly Detroit twice, Chicago, San Diego and Kansas City. That’s hardly impressive.

However, to be fair, this week, the Vikings start the toughest part of their schedule and according to ESPN, for the rest of the season, they have the toughest schedule in the NFL.

On the up side, the Vikings do play five for their final nine games at home and they don’t lose very often at TCF Bank Stadium. If they can sweep at home, it won’t matter what they do on the road. They’ll be 10-6 and likely in the playoffs.

Of course, that would require a win this week against the improving Rams plus wins later against the Packers and Seahawks. Even though Teddy Bridgewater has won his last eight at home, all streaks do come to an end.

Meanwhile, our boys are finding that the schedule is getting a tad easier. Last week, The Doc went 11-3 straight up (72-47) and 6-8 (52-67) against the spread. The Coach went 11-3 straight up (75-44) and 8-6 against the spread (61-58).

This week, the Doc once again captures the brilliance of our erudite selections while The Coach just cries about the officiating and keeps screaming, “Oh, yeah, the fix is in!”

Let’s take a close look at Week 8. There are six byes and only 13 games.

Thursday Night 

Johnny Manziel

Johnny Manziel

Cleveland Browns (2-6) at Cincinnati Bengals (7-0)

Line: Bengals by 10

The Bengals are 7-0 for the first time in club history and four of their wins are one the road. They are for real. They’ll be 8-0 Monday morning. The Coach says: The Browns won’t win and they aren’t very good, but with Johnny Manziel at quarterback, they’ll have a better chance than they ever did with Josh McCown.

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

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

Early Sunday Afternoon

Oakland Raiders (4-3) at Pittsburgh Steelers (4-4)

Line: Steelers by 4.5

The Raiders have won two straight and are over .500 in November for the first time in four years. The Steelers have proven this season they can beat teams with winning records but fall flat against teams that have losing ones. This one breaks that trend. The Coach says: Perhaps Derek Carr has matured and perhaps the Raiders are real. We’ll find out this week.

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

The Coach: Take the Raiders.

Jacksonville Jaguars (2-5) at New York Jets (4-3)

Line: NO LINE

The Jets will start a rookie at QB which shouldn’t really matter against a terrible Jacksonville team. The Coach says: Jets are at home.

Dr. Football: Take the Jets to win.

The Coach: Take the Jets to win.

Ready Teddy Bridgewater.

Ready Teddy Bridgewater.

St. Louis Rams (4-3) at Minnesota Vikings (5-2)

Line: Vikings by 2.5

If you like old school run based football this is your must see game. The NFL’s top two running backs Todd Gurley and Adrian Peterson will tear up the field in a close game. The Coach says: There is no reason to believe the Vikings can stop Todd Gurley. The Vikings haven’t beaten a team with a winning record. And still, because Teddy Bridgewater is now 8-0 at home, I’m going with Minnesota.

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

The Coach: Take the Vikings to win and cover.

Miami Dolphins (3-4) at Buffalo Bills (3-4)

Line: Bills by 3

The Bills crushed the Dolphins 41-14 five weeks ago in Miami before the Dolphins made the coaching switch. It’s a different team now with Dan Campbell running the show. The Coach says: Neither of these teams will make the playoffs, but they are both about as awful as each other so it’ll be a good football game.

Dr. Football: Take the Dolphins in an upset.

The Coach: Take the Bills (and hold your nose)

Drew Brees

Drew Brees

Tennessee Titans (1-6) at New Orleans Saints (4-4)

Line: Saints by 8

The Saints are riding the momentum of a three-game winning streak while this week Tennessee fired Head Coach Ken Whisenhunt. Don’t expect any Miami magic from the Titans, especially since they’re in the Saints dome. The Coach says: Drew Brees threw seven touchdown passes last week. I’d say he might be ready to take a run at the Divisional title.

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

The Coach: take the Saints to win and cover.

Washington Redskins (3-4) at New England Patriots (7-0)

Line: Patriots by 13.5

The last time these two teams met was in 2007 and the Patriots won 52-7 and went on to finish the season 16-0. Both are possible this season. The Coach says: Dr. Football makes a heck of a point.

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

The Coach: Take the Patriots to win and cover.

Green Bay Packers (6-1) at Carolina Panthers (7-0)

Line: Packers by 1.5

The Packers have allowed over 500 yards the past two games and now play another unbeaten team on the road. Even the great Aaron Rogers can’t put up enough points to make up for the defense. The Coach says: Had the Packers won last week against Denver, I’d have said they’ll blow out Carolina. Now, with Green Bay on the road, I’m not so sure.

Dr. Football: Take the Panthers in an upset.

The Coach: Take the Panthers.

Late Sunday Afternoon

Atlanta Falcons (6-2) at San Francisco 49ers (2-6)

Line: Falcons by 4.5

The Falcons haven’t been playing well the last few weeks but a game against the lowly 49ers should get them back on track. The Coach says: Colin Kaepernick will be traded soon. The Jets perhaps?

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

The Coach: Take the Falcons to win and cover.

Jameis Winston

Jameis Winston

New York Giants (4-4) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-4)

Line: Giants by 2.5

The 614 yards the Giants surrendered to the Saints last week was the second most in Giants history but they can still score. The Bucs are coming off a hard fought victory in Atlanta. Both teams will be tired, but I think the Giants will be in for a surprise. The Coach says: The only reason the Giants are favored is because they’re from New York.

Dr. Football: Take the Buccaneers in an upset.

The Coach: Take the Bucs

Denver Broncos (7-0) at Indianapolis Colts (3-5)

Line: Broncos by 4

Peyton Manning returns to Indy to face a Colts team in disarray. After losing three straight, the Colts are scrambling, and they won’t stop the Denver defense. The Coach says: The Colts will lose this week, but they’ll still win their division.

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

The Coach: Take the Broncos to win and cover.

Sunday Night

Philadelphia Eagles (3-4) at Dallas Cowboys (2-5)

Line: Eagles by 2.5

The last time the Cowboys won was against the Eagles and have dropped five games since then. The Eagles get their revenge. The Coach says: Without Tony Romo, the Cowboys might lose 10 straight.

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

The Coach: Take the Eagles to win and cover.

Monday Night

Jay Cutler

Jay Cutler

Chicago Bears (2-5) at San Diego Chargers (2-6)

Line: Chargers by 4

I wonder if ESPN regrets paying all that money to broadcast MNF when the NFL schedules them games like these. I’ll be watching Dancing with the Stars. The Coach says: I’ll watch this game because the two quarterbacks might throw for 900 yards – each.

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

The Coach: Take the Chargers to win and cover.



Jets sliced up by buzz saw in Montreal

By Scott Taylor

Winnipeg Jets goaltender Michael Hutchinson suffered his first loss of the season on Sunday night. It was probably a good thing that he was no longer in net when the game ended.

The Montreal Canadiens built a 4-0 lead just three minutes and two seconds into the second period and coasted to a 5-1 victory over the Jets at Le Centre Bell in Montreal.

Thomas Fleischmann celebrates his first of two goals.

Thomas Fleischmann celebrates his first of two goals.

Paul Byron and Thomas Fleischmann scoded in the first period to give the habs a 2-0 lead after the first period, then Fleischmann and David Desharnais each scored by the 3:02 mark of the second period and the Habs were on their way.

Before the second period ended, Lars Eller deflected a shot from Andrei Markov and beat Ondrej Pavelec on the power play to make it 5-0 Habs.

The Jets scored the only goal of the third period when Chris Thorburn wrested one past Montreal’s Michael Condon. Mark Scheifele and Nikolaj Ehlers drew the assists. Ehlers parents were at the game.

This one was all Montreal right from the opening faceoff. The Habs took the play to the Jets, outskated Winnipeg and took advantage of the fact that Winnipeg’s defensive play was marginal – the Jets D was far too aggressive and they were caught early and often. Combine Winnipeg’s shaky goaltending with a Montreal team that has been terrific this season and you have a recipe for disaster.

Michael Hutchinson stops Thomas Fleischmann. That was rare.

Michael Hutchinson stops Thomas Fleischmann. That was rare.

Fleischmann had two goals, Desharnais had a goal and two assists and the line of Fleischmann, Desharnais and Winnipeg’s Dale Weise (one assist) combined for six points as the Habs improved to 5-0-0 at home this season. It’s the first time in 36 years that the Canadiens have started a season 5-0-0. Montreal is now 11-2-0 on the season, first overall in the NHL.

With the loss, the Jets fell to 7-4-1 on the season and 4-2-0 on the road. It was the first time this season that the Jets lost the second game of a back-to-back on the road. Winnipeg beat Columbus 3-2 on Saturday night. The Jets have already played three back-to-backs on the road this season.

Hutchinson started the game but was taken out after allowing Montreal’s fourth goal at 3:02 of the second period. Hutchinson stopped only five of the nine shots he faced.

Micheal Condon stops Nikolaj Ehlers.

Micheal Condon stops Nikolaj Ehlers.

Pavelec was better, stopping 14-of-15 Montreal shots, but no one was as good as Montreal netminder Michael Condon. Condon started ahead of Carey Price who is nursing a lower body injury. The undrafted rookie out of Princeton who spent the better part of two seasons in the ECHL, stopped 18-of-the-19 shots he faced.

Montreal outshot Winnipeg 26-19. Montreal was one-for-five on the power play while the Jets were zero-for-three.

The Jets continue this four-game road swing on Wednesday night with a game at Air Canada Centre in Toronto against the Maple Leafs. Game time is 6 p.m. on Rogers Sportsnet’s Wednesday Night Hockey.



Copp scores first NHL goal to lead Jets past Jackets

By Scott Taylor

Halloween certainly wasn’t haunted for Andrew Copp.

Copp, a National Hockey League rookie, scored his first NHL goal to help lead the Winnipeg Jets past the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-2 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus on Saturday night.

With the win, the Jets improved to 7-3-1 overall this season but also to 4-1-0 on the road as the Road Warriors continued to play better away from Winnipeg than they do at MTS Centre. With the loss, Columbus fell to 2-10-0 this season. The Jackets have not won at home this season. In fact, Columbus and Toronto are the only teams in the NHL that haven’t won at home this season.

Andrew Copp celebrates his first NHL goal.

Andrew Copp celebrates his first NHL goal.

It would be impossible to say this was “all Winnipeg,” but after the Jets scored the game’s first goal, there was never any sense Columbus was going to score three times.

“It was a good confidence builder going into the road trip,” Little told Rogers Sportsnet. “It was a little close in the third, but we were able to hold them off and it was a big win for us.

“Our line played well again and it’s really a lot of fun when everybody’s going.”

Bryan Little opened the scoring at 5:52 of the first period as he came off the right wing and blasted a big shot under the crossbar that completely fooled Columbus’ starting goalie Sergei Bobrovsky. Then, just 53 seconds later, at 6:45 of the first, Copp scored the first of his career as Tyler Myers and Anthony Peluso drew the assists.

Then after Brandon Saad scored for the Jackets to make it 2-1 at 10:32, Blake Wheeler scored a power play goal at 16:59, his sixth of the year, to give the Jets a 3-1 advantage after the first 20 minutes.

At that point, Columbus coach John Tortorella replaced Bobrovsky with 32-year-old veteran Curtis McElhinney and he shut out the Jets for the next 40 minutes. Meanwhile, the Jackets made it interesting with 1:14 to go when Scott Hartnell scored with McElhinney on the bench.

However, the Jets held off the Blue Jackets and recorded their second straight road victory.

The Jets outshot Columbus 27-21 as Ondrej Pavelec got the win and improved his record to 3-3-1 this season. Bryan Little and Blake Wheeler led the Jets with a goal and an assist each.

Anthony Peluso and Jared Boll drop the gloves.

Anthony Peluso and Jared Boll drop the gloves.

Peluso had quite a game. He dished out his first assist of the year, won the Jets first fight of the year (against Jared Boll) and had a shot and a hit in just six minutes and nine seconds of ice time.

The best aspect of the Jets game on Saturday was the penalty killing unit. The Jets held Columbus scoreless on five power-play chances, including a double high-sticking minor to Mark Stuart midway through the third period.

The Jets continue their four-game road swing with a big game in Montreal against the Canadiens. It goes at 6 p.m. CST on Rogers Sportsnet.



CFL Picks Week 19: All the Bombers Can Do is Watch

By The Coach and Dr. Football

Well, it was quite a week in Winnipeg. Seems the beautiful new Investors Group Field needs an upgrade so taxpayers are on the hook for another $35 million and change.

As we’ve seen — at least of us who are still going out there have seen – IGF is only three years old, but still faces some serious leaking and cracking difficulties.

The province has guaranteed another loan (?) of $35 million to rip up the concrete and replace all the concourses. Of course, the government has already loaned the Football Club $213 million to build it and then repair it a first time.

A lawsuit filed in Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench alleges errors in the design and con

Selinger's Folly? It still ain't right.

Selinger’s Folly? It still ain’t right.

struction the stadium. The contractor and the architect deny the lawsuit’s charges and, instead, say the Bombers board was in such a hurry to get into the new stadium that they told the builders to cut corners. In the end it didn’t matter all that much. Last week the Bombers drew only 23,773 fans. The Bombers are the only team in the past 50 years of North American professional sports that has failed to see any bump in attendance with a new stadium.

IGF cost $209 million to build, nearly $20 million over budget, and was about a year overdue. It’s been a money pit, not just for the taxpayer, but also for the Football Club. The Bombers are 7-20 since moving into the new building. Of course, this team is 6-20 in its last 26 games under this current coaching staff and management group.

It’s painfully obvious the Bombers have to make changes at the top but there is one problem with that. As questionably managed as the club has been and as poorly as it’s played, this year’s team still has a chance to get to the Grey Cup.

The Bombers are 5-12 while B.C. and Montreal are 6-10. If B.C. and Montreal lose their final two games — and it’s certainly possible — then the Bombers need a win in Toronto in their final game to make the playoffs. It won’t be easy, but in a league like the CFL – a league where the back door to the playoffs might be bigger than the front door – it wouldn’t even be considered a miracle.

In the meantime, our fearless prognosticators are definitely ready for a couple of miracles this week.

Last week, The Doc went 3-1 straight up (44-30) and 4-0 against the spread (41-32) while The Coach went 1-3 (41-33) straight up and 1-3 (38-35) against the spread.

This week, The Doc again writes our erudite observations while The Coach just continues to whine about all the penalties.

Remember, all games are on TSN. And as we remind you each and every week, for your own personal mental health, always keep the mute button handy.

Let’s take a close look at Week 18:

Friday Night

Andrew Harris.

Andrew Harris.

B.C. (6-10) vs. Toronto (9-7)

Line – Toronto by 3

B.C. has played well as of late while the Argos will start Ricky Ray who may or may not be 100 per cent Ricky Ray at 50 per cent is pretty darn good, but one team still has a shot at the playoffs and won’t be coasting. The Coach says: I’m still convinced that the Lions and Alouettes will lose out and Winnipeg will secure a win in Toronto next week and make the playoffs. Do I believe in Grey Cup fate or am I just crazy?

Dr. Football: Take the Lions in an upset.

The Coach: Take the Argos to win and cover.

Saturday Afternoon

Saskatchewan (2-14) vs. Calgary (12-4)

Line – Calgary by 14

What a quiet plane ride it will be from Regina to Calgary…similar to the walk to the electric chair I would imagine. Calgary will be giving them both barrels after a week off. Imagine the plane ride home. The Coach says: Saskatchewan fans deserve better.

Dr. Football: Take Calgary to win and cover.

The Coach: Take Calgary to win and cover.

Early Sunday Afternoon

Henry Burris (Photo by Jeff Miller)

Henry Burris (Photo by Jeff Miller)

Ottawa (10-6) vs. Hamilton (10-6)

Line – Hamilton by 4

One team is on a hot streak right now while the other got thumped in B.C. The taste of success is addictive and Ottawa will want more. The Coach says: Ottawa is a real Grey Cup contender.

Dr. Football: Take Ottawa in an upset.

The Coach: Take Ottawa.

Late Sunday Afternoon

Montreal (6-10) vs. Edmonton (13-4)

Line – Edmonton by 8

Edmonton basically took the first half off last week in Regina and still clobbered the Riders while Montreal destroyed Toronto. But the Eskimos have something to prove to their southern neighbours and won’t want to go into their bye week squandering their chance for first place. The Coach says: The Edmonton defense will destroy Kevin Glenn. Or whomever.

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

The Coach: Take Edmonton to win and cover.



Hutch brilliant: Jets Continue to Have Hawks Number

By Scott Taylor/Photos by Jeff and Tara Miller

They might be the defending Stanley Cup champions, but the Winnipeg Jets still have the Chicago Blackhawks number.

Thursday night, the Cup champs invaded MTS Centre and took the play right to the Jets from the opening faceoff. Trouble is, undefeated Michael Hutchinson was almost perfect and Blake Wheeler, Andrew Ladd and Mark Scheifele each scored a goal as the Jets beat the Blackhawks 3-1.

It was a big night for Jets goalie Michael Hutchinson (Photo by Jeff Miller)

It was a big night for Jets goalie Michael Hutchinson (Photo by Jeff Miller)

“Clearly Michael (Hutchinson) has played very well against the Blackhawks, but he’s played very well against other teams, too,” said Jets head coach Paul Maurice. “He’s built a routine for himself that he follows and his routine never changes. He’s a good goaltender. We have very good goaltending here.”

Last year, the Jets got the better of the Blackhawks, going 3-1-1 against the eventual Cup winners. Ladd led the team with a goal and seven points and on Thursday night he was all over the Hawks, Not only did he score the winning goal, but he had four shots, three hits and two blocked shots.

The Blackhawks opened the scoring on the power play at 1:26 of the first period as Patrick Kane fired a wrister over Hutchinson’s shoulder. At one point, early in the first period, the Hawks had outshot the Jets 9-2 and finished the period outshooting Winnipeg 14-9.

But before the period ended, Wheeler scored his fifth of the year from Bryan Little and the Jets went to the break, deadlocked 1-1 with the Hawks.

Giving up the first goal doesn’t seem to bother the Jets. In eight of Winnipeg’s first 10 games this season, they’ve given up the first goal to their opposition. Yet the Jets now have a 5-2-1 record in those games.

It was a rough night for Jonathan Toews (Photo by Tara Miller)

It was a rough night for Jonathan Toews (Photo by Tara Miller)

In the second period, Ladd scored his third of the year from Little and Perreault at 5:09 and then, in the third, Scheifele took a nice pass from Nikolaj Ehlers and beat Corey Crawford on the short side. Ehlers now has a five-game point-scoring streak and with the win, the Jets improved to 6-3-1 on the season.

The Blackhawks outshot the Jets 46-31 But Hutchinson was rock solid. In the second period, he stopped Marian Hossa on a clear cut breakaway and then beat him again, in close, late in the third period. He also made superb saves off Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.

Chicago went to a sixth attacker with 2:40 left to play in regulation time, but even though they had a couple of great scoring chances (including an uncontested point blank shot from Tanner Kero), Hutchinson, who is now 4-0-0 this season, was equal to the task.

“I’m not sure what it is against Chicago,” said Hutchinson. “I just saw the puck real well tonight. It’s always easier, the more shots I see. I got a little tired, but I always find I’m sharper when I see a lot of shots like I did tonight.

“The fans were great tonight and we all really appreciate it.”

Both teams were one-for-three on the power play. Jets defenseman Mark Stuart, the game’s second star, had nine hits and five blocked shots and drilled Hawks captain Jonathan Toews with a solid bodycheck at the Jets blueline in the third period.

Nikolaj Ehlers made a good play to set up Mark Scheifele with the Jets third goal. (Photo by Jeff Miller)

Nikolaj Ehlers made a good play to set up Mark Scheifele with the Jets third goal. (Photo by Jeff Miller)

“He had a real strong game,” said Maurice. “He’s played strong for a very long time. He’s got the compete right. He was very good tonight, standing up at the blueline, moving the puck, he played well in all aspects of the game.”

Winnipeg also completed a six-game homestand, the longest homestand of the season, with a record of 3-2-1.

The Jets will now head out onto the road and play in Columbus on Saturday night, in Montreal on Sunday night, in Toronto on Wednesday night and in Ottawa on Thursday before coming home to play the Philadelphia Flyers next Saturday at MTS Centre.

It’s an odd month for the Jets. They play only four games at home in November.



NFL Picks Week 8: The Boys Like the Vikes in Chicago

By The Coach and Dr. Football

The Minnesota Vikings head back out on the road this week and that’s never a good thing. Not even when the opposition is the marginally talented, less-than-consistent Chicago Bears.

The Vikes won their first road game in the North Division since 2012 last week, with a 28-19 win over the truly lousy Detroit Lions. The Vikes are 4-2 and have won four of their last five and that’s why they’re favored heading into Chicago.

Teddy Bridgewater.

Teddy Bridgewater.

The Bears meanwhile, started the season with three straight losses, but have won two of their last three and that’s probably why the Vikings – with maybe the best defense in the NFC – are only two-point favorites.

The difference in this one won’t be Adrian Peterson and it won’t be Teddy Bridgewater, although the Bears secondary is pretty weak so Charles Johnson, Stefon Diggs, Mike Wallace and Kyle Rudolph could have a field day. The difference, however, will be the Vikings lockdown defense.

The Vikes D is third in the NFL in points allowed per game and seventh in yards allowed per game. Granted, the Bears’ offense is improved since Jay Cutler returned from injury while Matt Forte has been outstanding and Alshon Jeffery is back in the lineup. Still, this Vikings defense can shut people down. Even good people.

The Bears are better than they were a month ago. The Vikings defense is as good as it gets. This is a must win for both teams. After this one, the Vikings have four tough ball games while it’s pretty obvious that if the Bears lose this one, they fall to 2-5 and are pretty much out of the playoff hunt.

It should be close. Two mediocre offenses against one great defense. The lesser of the two teams is at home. A Vikings win a late field goal does not seem out of the question

Meanwhile, speaking of mediocre, that would pretty much sum up our fearless prognosticators this season. The Doc went 10-4 straight up (61-44) and 7-7 (46-59) against the spread. The Coach went 10-4 straight up (64-41) and 7-7 against the spread (53-52).

This week, the Doc once again captures the brilliance of the boys picks while The Coach whines about the Lions offensive line, the Browns’ coaching staff and the Texans reprehensible owner.

Let’s take a close look at Week 8:

Thursday Night

The Dolphins Ryan Tannehill.

The Dolphins Ryan Tannehill.

Miami Dolphins (3-3) at New England Patriots (6-0)

Line: Patriots by 7.5

The Dolphins have outscored their opponents 82-36 in Dan Campbell’s first two games as Head Coach. But those opponents weren’t coached by Bill Belichick. The Coach says: Despite a makeshift offensive line and all their other problems, the Patriots might be better than ever because Tom Brady is still pissed off at the NFL.

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

The Coach: Take the Patriots to win and cover.

Sunday Morning (8:30 a.m. CDT from London, England)

Detroit Lions (1-6) vs. Kansas City Chiefs (2-5)

Line: Chiefs by 6

The Lions cleaned house on Monday, turfing three members of the offensive coaching staff, two popcorn boys, and a 93-year-old man who sold programs. Not a bad start, but not enough. The Coach says: Matthew Stafford was sacked seven times last week. There is not likely an offensive line in professional football that’s worse.

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

The Coach: take the Chiefs to win and cover.

Early Sunday Afternoon

Minnesota Vikings (4-2) at Chicago Bears (2-4)

Line: Vikings by 2

The Vikings haven’t won in Chicago since 2007. They might be the only ones. A new era begins for the Purple. The Coach says: Mike Zimmer is not stupid. He said Jay Cutler was a good quarterback who “has beaten us in the recent past.” No bulletin board crap coming from the Vikes this week.

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

The Coach: Take the Vikings to win and cover.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-4) at Atlanta Falcons (6-1)

Line: Falcons by 7

The Bucs squandered a 24-0 lead last week on the road against a terrible Washington team ,while the Falcons eeked out a road victory. Tough times in Tampa Bay. The Coach says: Blowing a big lead against the Washingtons pretty much ended the Bucs season.

Dr. Football: Take the Falcons to win and cover

The Coach: Take the Falcons to win and cover.

Drew Brees

Drew Brees

New York Giants (4-3) at New Orleans Saints (3-4)

Line: Saints by 3.5

The Saints have won two straight and are starting to win in different ways. Won’t be a happy homecoming for Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr. The Coach says: Talk about a team finding its bearings. The Saints are starting to look very good.

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

The Coach: Take the Saints to win and cover.

San Francisco 49ers (2-5) at St. Louis Rams (3-3)

Line: Rams by 8

Imagine how good the Rams would be with a talented quarterback? This one won’t be on “NFL Classics” anytime soon, but the 49ers will put up a fight. The Coach says: Bet Minnesota would love to have a do-over on that season opener.

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

The Coach: Take the Rams to win and cover.

Johnny Manziel, Browns

Johnny Manziel, Browns

Arizona Cardinals (5-2) at Cleveland Browns (2-5)

Line: Cardinals by 4.5

With all the issues the Browns are having the Cardinals might feel they have Sunday off after a tough Monday Nighter against the Ravens so they will have to stay focused. The Coach says: The worst coach in football resides in Cleveland. The best team ion the NFC might be in Glendale, Ariz.

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

The Coach: Take the Cardinals to win and cover.

Cincinnati Bengals (6-0) at Pittsburgh Steelers (4-3)

Line: NO LINE

Big Ben is expected to return for the Steelers, who need him to get the team back on track. Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton has a 79.2 passer efficiency rating and is 2-6 all-time against the Steelers. It will be 2-7 after this won is over. The Coach says: Toss up, in Pittsburgh, a good team against the most inconsistent team in the league. Until somebody beats the Bengals, I’ll ride that tiger.

Dr. Football: Take the Steelers.

The Coach: Take the Bengals

San Diego Chargers (2-5) at Baltimore Ravens (1-6)

Line: Ravens by 3

Both teams have been dismal this year but the Ravens have at least been in every game so far this year. The Chargers defense is horrible which should make life easier for Joe Flacco and company. The Coach says: One of these teams will find a way to screw it up. Hope I pick the right one.

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

The Coach: take the Ravens to win and cover.

Marcus Mariota, Titans

Marcus Mariota, Titans

Tennessee Titans (1-5) at Houston Texans (2-5)

Line: NO LINE

Stinkeroo alert. Both teams are awful. The Texans will have Marcus Mariota back for this one. Go with the home team. The Coach says: One good thing for the stinkin’ Texans,: There is no flight to miss.

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

The Coach: Take the Titans.

Late Sunday Afternoon

New York Jets (4-1) at Oakland Raiders (2-3)

Line: Jets by 1.5

Both teams have equalled their 2014 win totals six games into the season, but does anyone expect Oakland to win many more. I think they threw everything into last week’s game and will come out flat. The Jets meanwhile took their lumps against the Patriots, but will remained focused. The Coach says: I just kind of like the Raiders at home and I don’t know why.

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

The Coach: Take the Raiders.

Seattle Seahawks (3-4) at Dallas Cowboys (2-4)

Line: Seahawks by 6

The Cowboys have lost four consecutive games which isn’t good for morale. The Seahawks may have turned things around last week in San Francisco. I think they’re due for a big game. The Coach says: Dallas will find a way to lose.

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

The Coach: Take the Seahawks to win and cover.

Sunday Night

Aaron Rodgers

Aaron Rodgers

Green Bay Packers (6-0) at Denver Broncos (6-0)

Line: Packers by 3 

The Broncos have won 10 consecutive regular season games at home while the Packers are just 6-5 away from Lambeau Field since 2013. I think Peyton will silence his critics and the Broncos’ defense will silence Mr. Rodgers. The Coach says: I love the Broncos defense and they’ll keep it close. This will be an outstanding football game.

Dr. Football: Take the Broncos in an upset.

The Coach says: Take the Packers to win and cover.

Monday Night

Indianapolis Colts (3-4) at Carolina Panthers (6-0)

Line: Panthers by 6.5

A battle of former number one draft picks that are going in different directions. Cam Newton is getting it done while Andrew Luck just tosses interceptions. The Coach says: Cam Newton is making a pitch to be NFL player of the year. That is, he’ll be player of the year if Tom Brady gets hit by a truck.

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

The Coach: take the Panthers to win and cover.



Kings Trap Jets, win sixth straight

By Scott Taylor/Photos by Jeff Miller

Winnipeg Jets rookie Nikolaj Ehlers scored the first goal on Tuesday night.

Trouble was, the Los Angeles Kings scored the next four.

Jets celebrate Nikolaj Ehlers goal. (Photo by Tara Miller).

Jets celebrate Nikolaj Ehlers goal. It was a short celebration. (Photo by Tara Miller).

The Kings won their sixth straight game in front of another capacity crowd of 15,294 at MTS Centre as Los Angeles managed 14 shots and three goals – two into the empty net — in the third period and came back to beat the Winnipeg Jets 4-1.

On a night when Jets captain Andrew Ladd played his 700th NHL game and linemate Blake Wheeler was trying to extend his franchise record-setting eight-game points streak (from the start of a season), the Jets got trapped.

As a couple of NHL scouts in the building pointed out, “the Kings just skate and check and chip it in and chip it out and wait for you to make a mistake. The Jets made a couple of mistakes and the Kings pounced on them.”

“They (the Kings) controlled the flow of the game in the third period,” said Jets head coach Paul Maurice. “They owned the third.”

In a fast, physical game, the two teams played a scoreless first period. Then, at 8:45 of the second, Ehlers scored his fourth goal of the season and his third in the last three games to give the Jets a 1-0 lead. Little did the partisan crowd know, that was it for Winnipeg.

Kings defenseman Jake Muzzin scored his first of the year for the Kings on a big slapshot from the point to tie the game at 1-1 at 15:50 of the second and the two teams went to the second intermission deadlocked.

Blake Wheeler's scoring streak was stopped. (Photo by Tara Miller)

Blake Wheeler’s scoring streak was stopped. (Photo by Tara Miller)

However, in the third period, it was all L.A. The Kings outshot the Jets 14-5 and picked up the eventual winner at 15:19 when the game’s first star, Milan Lucic, tipped home a pass from Tyler Toffoli. However, it might have been Toffoli’s goal. On replay it appeared as if the puck went in off Tyler Myers’ stick. Regardless, Toffoli got his seventh of the season into the empty net at 19:06 and then Trevor Lewis wrapped up the scoring with another empty netter at 19:33.

“(On the winning goal) we were set up for a shot, but they made the play and they’re fast,” said Maurice. “They were good at what they’re good at tonight and they got better at it as the game went on. You have to make adjustments to your game and we didn’t do that well enough tonight.”

With the win, the Kings improved to 6-3-0 on the season. The Kings lost their first three games to start the campaign, but have now won six in a row. The Jets meanwhile, fell to 5-3-1 as netminder Ondrej Pavelec lost his third straight start.

Andrew Ladd played his 700th NHL game. (Photo by Tara Miller)

Andrew Ladd played his 700th NHL game. (Photo by Tara Miller)

However, it’s impossible to blame Pavelec for this one. The Jets were outshot 32-25 and Pavelec allowed two goals on 30 of those shots (plus two empty netters). A couple of big mistakes cost the Jets in this one. Jonathan Quick was very good in the Kings net, but he wasn’t tested like Pavelec was.

Both teams were 0-for-one on the power play.

Wheeler’s eight-game points streak was stopped. Ehlers three-game scoring streak became a four-game scoring streak.

Winnipeg will get back to work with practice on Wednesday and will then face the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks at MTS Centre on Thursday night at 7. The Jets will wrap up a six-game homestand, the longest of the season, on Thursday. So far, the Jets are 2-2-1.