The CFL is a quarterback-driven league but it seems the best team is the one with the best backup.
Just ask the Montreal Alouettes, who lost the East final last November when starter Anthony Calvillo went down with an injury and inexperienced Ted White took the controls.
The same thing could happen this season to a number of teams. Only one second-stringer has yet to throw a pass this season -- Edmonton's Jason Maas -- but White and Ottawa's backups, Brad Banks and Darnell Kennedy, have had no real game experience this season.
Until Saturday, neither had Calgary's Jason Gesser but the first-year CFLer played the entire fourth quarter against Winnipeg.
So pencil B.C. in as the Grey Cup favourite, based solely on Casey Printers' performance Friday against the Eskimos. In stepping in to replace Dave Dickenson, Printers proved once again the Lions have the best one-two punch in the CFL.
Backups could start this week for Toronto (Michael Bishop), Saskatchewan (Marcus Crandell), Winnipeg (Tee Martin or Russ Michna) and Hamilton (Khari Jones or Marcus Brady) and while they may not win the games, the experience will be valuable down the road.
OPENING DRIVE: Mark down Trey Young as the official starting safety for the Stampeders. The club released Don McGee yesterday after Young's strong, physical performance against the Bombers Saturday ... Jesse Lumsden's hip is sprained and he's only expected to miss two weeks at Seattle Seahawks camp, which could be bad news for the CIS star running back but good for the Tiger-Cats. If he can't practise and play in pre-season games, Lumsden is closer to getting cut ... One has to believe Winnipeg should give up on bringing in former Stamps by now. After cutting overrated receiver Wane McGarity last week, the Bombers went out and found a replacement: Darnell McDonald. The lanky receiver did have a 1,000-yard season in 2003 but whas been cut twice since then, by Calgary and Montreal. How does Bombers coach Jim Daley expect to win stocking his team with players from the losing 2003- and '04 seasons in Calgary? ... With the injury to Ben Cahoon, Montreal's recent transactions aren't looking too sharp. Of the four 1,000-yard receivers the team boasted last season, none will start against the Argos this week. Jeremaine Copeland is catching passes for Calgary, Thyron Anderson is trying to catch on in the NFL and Kwame Cavil caught a plane to Edmonton last week ... Toronto WR R. Jay Soward injured his shoulder during the bye week and could be sidelined indefinitely. The sophomore doesn't catch many passes but seems to have the knack for snagging TDs. Further compounding the problem with the Argos is QB Damon Allen is still nursing a tender ankle and is questionable this week.
ENDZONE TOSS: If there was ever a time to bet on the Tiger-Cats ending their winless streak, this would be the week. Let's predict Khari Jones enters in relief and sticks it to Winnipeg, the team that started his four-team, one-year trek through the CFL ... Sco
tiabank signed on yesterday as the sponsor for the divisional championship games. An unidentified source said the two-year deal is worth in the neighbourhood of $4 million ... We always thought those Edmonton boys were dirty scoundrels but how about these stats: The Eskimos lead the league with 802 yards in penalties this season and have been flagged 80 times in seven games ... One has to feel good for Montreal FB Mike Vilimek, who was contemplating retirement last year. After signing with the Als from Ottawa, the career blocking back has 14 carries for 50 yards and four TDs. Coming into the season, Vilimek had career numbers of five carries for seven yards ... B.C. can set a franchise
record for consecutive wins Friday at McMahon Stadium. The Lions finished 2004 with three straight victories, then opened this season with six in a row, tying their record of nine in 1998-99 ... The Stamps travel plans were nearly turfed this past weekend. Toronto was forced to move up their Aug. 25 game a day earlier due to problems changing the Field Turf in the Rogers Centre for baseball games. As a result, the Stamps won't come home from their trip to Montreal, instead staying to practise in the Toronto area.
EXTRA POINTS: Friday Night Football continues to be a ratings smash for TSN. An average of 518,000 viewers tuned in for the B.C.-Edmonton game last week, which is 47% higher than the average for football this season. The previous best was Calgary's loss to the Lions the previous Friday, proving the late starts don't affect viewership ... Argos OL Mike Mihelic has lost his Grey Cup ring, believed to be taken when someone stole his car in downtown Toronto. The ring was sitting in the cupholder and the lineman is pleading with the public to get it back. That's as bad as leaving your credit card in a debit machine ... The only thing controversial about the QB problem in Saskatchewan is the name Henry Burris. After three straight poor outings by Nealon Greene, the only arm the to which 'Riders can turn is Marcus Crandell, making Burris' early struggles and Greene's success against weak teams a little funny in hindsight ... Week 7 leaders: Passing, Ottawa's Kerry Joseph, 340 yards passing; rushing: Montreal's Robert Edwards, 147 yards; receiving: Calgary's Jeremaine Copeland, Ottawa's Jason Armstead, 173 yards ... A week off didn't hurt Dave Dickenson's chances at some CFL records. The former Stamps pivot has a completion percentage of 74.9%, which would blow away Tom Clements' record of 67.58%. If he keeps protecting the ball, Dickenson has a chance at besting Casey Printers' record for 115 efficiency rating. This season, the veteran has a rating of 117.2.
The amount of fumbles the Saskatchewan Roughriders have committed in seven games. The team has only lost 10 of those bobbles. The only other team in double digits in fumbles is Winnipeg, who have fumbled 10 times, losing eight.
ON THE FIELD
Sask. at Ottawa, 5:30 p.m. (TSN)
Montreal at Toronto, 5 p.m. (TSN, RDS)
B.C. at Calgary, 8 p.m. (TSN)
Hamilton at Winnipeg, 9 p.m. (CBC)
WHAT DID YOU SAY?
"I want to be the Michael Jackson of football. I want everybody to know who I am. No, no, cut. Not Michael Jackson. Just say I want to be the next great one. I want to be a guy people cry when they see."
-- Outspoken Ottawa DB Korey Banks, who leads the league with six interceptions and can boast with the best of them.