There’s something about coming off a bye week that agrees with quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell and the Calgary Stampeders.
Calgary (3-0) returns from the bye Thursday night in Ottawa against the Redblacks (2-1) in a matchup of division leaders. The Stampeders are 16-0 coming off the bye since 2005, their last loss following a bye week coming July 1, 2005, when they hadn’t yet played a game that season.
Calgary has outscored its opponents 567-346 over that span, winning by an average of 13.8 points. The Stampeders’ last in-season postbye loss was in July, 2004, at Montreal.
Mitchell, in his fifth season as Calgary’s starter, said consistency and not deviating from routine are two keys to the Stampeders’ bye-week success.
“Honestly, man, we just don’t change our approach to any game no matter the week or situation,” he said. “We stick to our schedule, we stick to what we do and I think we’re very good at what we do, it’s something the guys can trust in.
“They know exactly how the week is going to work out every single week ... but this week is a little bit stressful and different for us because you’ve got a team you just played and it’s always very, very hard to beat anyone twice in a row. We know it’s going to be a battle; we know it’s going to be a chess game.”
Calgary’s last game was a 24-14 home win over Ottawa on June 28 as Mitchell threw for 251 yards and two TDs with an interception. The Stampeders cemented the victory by outscoring the Redblacks 17-8 in the second half.
Calgary’s Don Jackson ran for 84 yards and a TD while DaVaris Daniels had five catches for 91 yards. But the Stampeders will be without receiver Eric Rogers (11 catches, 201 yards, three TDs), running back/returner Terry Williams and offensive lineman Spencer Wilson for this contest.
CFL rushing leader William Powell had a game-high 123 yards for Ottawa in the loss. But starter Trevor Harris was 13-of-29 passing for 135 yards and an interception before giving way to Dominique Davis (5-of-7, 41 yards, TD) in the second half.
Ottawa returns to TD Place for the first time since winning its home/season opener 40-17 over the Saskatchewan Roughriders on June 21. But Calgary has a 10-0 road record over its postbye win streak.
Both teams boast solid defences. Calgary is tops in fewest points and yards allowed (11.7, 282.7 a game, respectively) while Ottawa is second in points (17.7) and third in yards (329.3).
Calgary holds a commanding edge in punt return average (17.9 to 6.9) but Williams (league-best 17.9-yard average) isn’t playing.
Stampeders kicker Rene Paredes has been perfect this season, going 7 for 7 in field goals and 8 of 8 in converts. Despite its start, Calgary is tied for seventh in red-zone efficiency (40 per cent, well behind the CFL average of 58 per cent). Ottawa is sixth (44 per cent) while Winnipeg is tops (81 per cent).
It’s certainly safe to assume Harris will play better this time around, but so, too, is that Calgary won’t be penalized 14 times for 150 yards like it did in the first meeting. Another consideration is the Stampeders’ defence has allowed just one passing TD this season.
Toronto Argonauts versus Edmonton Eskimos
At Edmonton, James Franklin looks to give Toronto (1-2) a sweep of the home-and-home series after leading the Argos to last weekend’s 20-17 win. Franklin threw for 217 yards and a TD and ran for another in his Argos debut but it was James Wilder (21 carries, 120 yards, TD) who helped anchor the win. Mike Reilly had 370 yards passing and a touchdown for the Eskimos (2-2) but fell to 2-6 all-time versus the Double Blue. Coming off a 165-yard rushing performance, C.J. Gable ran for just 39 yards at BMO Field.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers versus BC Lions
At Vancouver, Matt Nichols looks to lead Winnipeg (2-2) to the home-and-home sweep. Nichols threw for 162 yards and a TD in last week’s 41-19 win, his 2018 debut coming off a knee injury. But he got help from running back Andrew Harris (109 yards rushing) and former Lions linebacker Adam Bighill (six tackles, two interceptions, one 55-yard TD return). It’s unclear if Jonathon Jennings or veteran Travis Lulay will start for B.C. (1-2). Lulay, 34, is coming off major knee surgery. Jennings hasn’t thrown for more than 200 yards this season and was 15-for-24 passing for 105 yards last week.
Last week: 2-2