Hamilton took the long drive to Windsor this past weekend and the result was similar to most as they came out with loss to Essex. The Ticats offense seemed a bit off from the get-go; they got behind early in the game and continued to chase the Ravens all game long eventually losing 37-23. QB Eldridge was hot for 3-4 weeks in a row up until last week, he continued to struggle and the Ticats were unable to pass the ball at the rate they had been in previous weeks. This week doesn't get any easier as the Niagara defense has plenty of playmakers and will not be giving the Ticats anything. Hamilton needs their WRs to step up and make more plays - it's the strongest group on their team and at some point your playmakers need to make your QB look good and these guys have the ability to do just that. The Ticats run game wasn't very effective this past week due to the fact they were behind early but I also find the Hamilton coaches tend to get pass happy and air it out way more than necessary; I think Smith is a great runningback and has the ability to make plays in the run game, he just isn’t being used enough. On defense Hamilton has struggled all year long stopping the pass. It has made playing defense in general tough because when you get torched in the pass game its harder to play downhill and stop the run. The Hamilton front 7 is very talented and gets pressure on QBs but in order to let their DBs make plays and stop the pass game, they need to be more consistent stopping the run. The Ticats defense will need to improve this week and in the coming weeks towards playoffs if they want a chance at winning the championship. The Ticats will be looking to secure the 3rd seed at least this week against Niagara.
Niagara won a crucial game this past weekend which clinched them a playoff spot. Since the OPFL has not failed in delivering tough match-ups week after week, the Spears now have another massive football game this weekend giving them the ability to take over the 3rd seed. The Spears will be looking to run the ball with their best player Nyambiya - if Hamilton allows them to do so it could be a long day for the Ticats. Nyambiya is one of the best players in the league and when teams let him get going it generally means that Niagara is going to win that game. That being said down the stretch of this season the Spears will need more out of QB Ethan Reid - he will have to show the ability to beat teams when they dare him to do so. Teams will be in man coverage and blitzing him so their will be WRs open he just needs to make more plays and find them. I also expect the Spears offensive line to be better. At times, they look like world beaters but other times they allow way too much pressure and don't get push up front. On defense Niagara does a good job scheming well against teams but their players just need to be better. They can't allow teams to be getting 5-7 yards a pop in the run game because it makes life as a defensive co-ordinator incredibly hard. They have a couple playmaking DBs that can make plays when they have the chance but if teams are able to run the ball consistently it just makes passing the ball that much easier. This week against Hamilton the Spears will need to be very good against the pass with the Ticats having multiple weapons. I expect the Niagara defense to step up and keep them in this game all day.
I think Hamilton gets more consistency from their QB position and if they stick with the run game a bit more they could be even more dangerous. The Spears are a good football team and if Nyambiya gets going they could very easily steal this one. Hamilton in a very close game to lock Niagara into the 4 seed.
Predicted outcome: TiCats 24 – Spears 17
Kingston coming off a big loss to more experienced and polished Cumberland team will look for their first win this week. The Grenadiers sitting at 0-6 are more likely than not eliminated from playoffs and will now be looking to improve for next year being such a young team. It's been tough sledding for Kingston all year long being unable to help their QB out with any consistent run game and it's shown in every game when they are forced into 2nd and long situations. The Kingston offensive line has underperformed for such a big and athletic looking group they should be consistently opening up holes in the run game and giving Robbie MacAdam time and space to throw the ball. On the defensive side of the ball I wouldn't say Kingston has been good but against the run they haven't been horrible – it’s just tough to be on the field most of the game with bad field position. In the front 7 they get production from many players but on the backend it seems they lack experience; in 3 down ball having your DBs be young and inexperienced is a disadvantage but saying that, they have been improving and next year will be key players. Moving forward Kingston will need to sustain the ability to stop the run and when they get offenses into 2nd and long get off the football field, I think this will be a good week for the Kingston defense against the Warriors offense.
The Warriors have struggled all year long to put up points and it continually costs them; it was no different in a 13-11 loss to the Dolphins this past weekend. Mississauga has been unable to find an identity on offense. They have a good runningback with Jayden Kerr but up front they seem unable to consistently give him time and space to run the football. When passing the football the Warriors have an inability to throw the ball downfield and it allows teams to play very aggressive and downhill towards their screens and short passing game. If Mississauga wants to improve in these last 2 or 3 weeks they will need to find an identity and be able to stay on the field - constant two and outs and next to know deep threat hasn't cut it and won't cut it. I also expect more out of the Warriors offensive line moving forward, they need to be challenged in these last couple weeks and who knows what kind of steps this offense could take. On defense the Warriors have held good and bad offenses in check all year long but when you're constantly on the field and close to your own endzone eventually the other team is going to make a play. Consistently the Warriors defense has been their strength and kept them in games they may have had no business being in, moving forward they will need to continue their success in order for this team to win. The Warriors this week will need to keep their momentum going and not allow Kingston to run the ball. Force the Grens to be 1 dimensional and it will cause turnovers no team needs extra possessions more than the Warriors.
I think Kingston is a young team but I also think they get more plays out of their offense than the Warriors. Mississauga's inability to throw downfield will allow the Kingston DBs to make a few plays. Look for the Grens to get their power run game going enough to will them to their first win.
Predicted outcome: Grens 21 – Warriors 17