The Cumberland Panthers took on the Kingston Grenadiers this past week and improved to 3-3 on the season heading towards playoffs. The Panthers offense has been explosive of late and Licandro has been throwing the rock at a crazy clip right now; it seems every week he has 300 yards now and multiple touchdowns. He will need to continue that throwing ability moving forward but expect the Panthers to always try hard to get their run game going; if Simba is unable to get space and make plays this team will struggle. The Cumberland offensive line needs to be better but so does everyone’s offensive line that being said the Panthers will likely look to assert their run game this week knowing the Sooners have a good pass rush and backend. This week against Ottawa it will be a good time to give their OL and run game some confidence heading towards a playoff run. Cumberland on defense has struggled against the good teams but has been steadily improving since week 1. I expect the Panthers will be keying in on Lubemba and the Sooners power run game because if you stall that you have a great shot to win. On the backend the Panthers DBs will need to tackle well and not let anyone behind them. Sometimes it’s hard to not get tricked into thinking its a run and that’s how you allow big plays. Cumberland should continue to be good on defense but their run defense will allow a few plays to the Sooners.
Ottawa had a tough game this past week against the best team in the East division and were handed a 52-28 loss. Ottawa struggles on the offensive side of the ball due to the lack of passing attack; opposing defenses don't need to worry about any sort of deep threat and barely any passing attack at all. It makes life difficult as an offensive line and runningback because teams are constantly stacking the box, playing man coverage and daring the Sooners to throw the ball on them. In terms of run game, the Sooners offensive line has been pretty good this year considering they're always facing stacked boxes and teams blitzing non-stop. If this Sooners offense wants to take the next step and win a playoff game they will need to find some sort of pass game. On defense, the Sooners gave up 52 points and were essentially giving the Stamps anything they wanted. It’s tough being on the Sooners defense because you pretty much play the whole game and are rarely in good field position. Up front the Sooners need to play better against the run, they have size and athleticism but they will need to play more aggressive and tackle better if they want to be a good defensive front. On the backend when there are plays to be made the Sooners need to make them, any extra possession their defense can give their offense is extremely important. If the Sooners want to beat Cumberland this week they will need to force Licandro and company into at least 2 turnovers and have their offense have the best game of the season.
Cumberland is a very good football team and since Victome has come back Licandro has been lethal; it’s quite possible he’s the best WR in the league. I think the Sooners have some playmakers too but in the end the Panthers offense has too many weapons and is less one dimensional.
Predicted outcome: Panthers 31 – Sooners 17
Durham got a big win against Mississauga this past weekend and their defense stepped up in a defensive battle winning 13-11. The Durham offense has struggled all year long and they seem to be unsure of their identity, they have great athletes in most positions but are unable to consistently put them in good positions to make plays. QB Jaden Richards is constantly under pressure and has struggled at times to find his open WRs down field; it doesn't help Richards that the Dolphins can't seem to sustain a run game and that allows opposing defenses to play the pass and spy him. On defense, the Dolphins can thank this side of the ball for their win against the Warriors by only allowing 11 points. Durham will need to continue to be good on defense this week against the Stamps; if you allow Burlington to run the ball it only makes life more difficult for opposing defenses so the front 7 of the Dolphins will need to be good. On the backend if Durham wants a chance at an upset they will need to make some plays and intercept some passes to give their offense extra possessions otherwise this game could be ugly.
Burlington improved to 6-0 with a big win over the Sooners of Ottawa but I doubt their coaches are impressed with the amount of points given up. The Burlington offense has been maybe the best offense in the league this year and continues to put up rushing and passing yards. This may be the most balanced offense in the league. They have the ability to run their power game down opposing defenses throats and it only makes QB Keagan Hall's life easier when he drops back in the pocket. Burlington up front has an athletic OL that plays very aggressive and opens holes for their run game consistently as well as giving Hall time in the pocket on most occasions. Look for the offensive line and run game of the Stamps to take over this game early, Munoz is a big and powerful back that wears on you with each and every carry. The Stamps defense has not been good enough this year, at times they look like a very good group and other times they allow way too many points to offenses that shouldn't be doing that to them. Up front the Stampeders need to just simply be more aggressive, if you allow good football teams to get their run game going it will make life easier for the QBs to sling the football around. The Stamps backend hasn't been great on the season but has been the more consistent group of the two. I expect the Stamps defense to come out angry and aggressive this week and show their dominance early, they're the better team they should have a good showing on defense this week.
Burlington is the more talented team here and will look to assert that early, Munoz will get going early and the Dolphins will be playing catch up all game long. Stamps move to 7-0 going into the bye week.
Predicted outcome: Stamps 38 – Dolphins 14
The Cambridge offense has been good all season long but lately hasn't been as potent as the beginning of the year, part of the Lions problem is the inability to consistently run the ball when need be. The Cambridge run game has been decent but not as good as anyone would expect for a team that's 6-0 and putting up points like they are. Michael Warner has been the Lions best player all year long and has shown the ability to beat teams with his arm. He might be the best QB in the league but we'll find out this week when he goes up against Jake Heydon from Essex. The Lions offense is very discipline and turns the ball over at a very very low rate which allows them to never give away extra possessions or put their defense in ugly situations. Cambridge will need to run the ball better this week against an Essex team that I'm sure will be looking to take away the pass game of the Lions; if the Ravens load up with DBs Cambridge will need to be able to run downhill. On defense, the Lions don’t let teams get away with much. They don't allow teams to run and their front 7 lead by #52 Berry make life difficult from the very start. Cambridge has showed some weakness in the pass game in a couple games this year but I expect their coaches will be planning for Heydon and Pope this week in Essex. Cambridge's defense is an aggressive group and at times they can be undisciplined, it has yet to cost them but they've yet to play Essex.... in Essex, the Lions better clean their act up this week or they will be handed their first loss.
Essex in a massive game against Hamilton this past weekend put on an offensive clinic and defensively made enough plays to win the game 37-23. The Ravens have so many weapons on offense they sometimes have a hard time getting everyone involved; but it hasn't seemed to matter. QB Jake Heydon has been hot as of late and there's no better time then now to heat up and lead his team into the playoffs on a high note. The Ravens have balance on offense and can beat you in both the run and pass game depending on what your defense gives them. This week against Cambridge it is crucial for the big boys up front to get a push against the good front 7 of the Lions. Runningback Boriz Wright will need to have the best game of his season in order to give the Ravens offense the element of surprise against Cambridge. As good as the Essex pass game is, when you become one dimensional it makes things difficult on any team against a good defense – they’ll have to be careful not to let that happen. On defense the Ravens across the board will need to have their best game. The Ravens backend at times has given up multiple big plays and allowed WRs to get in behind them for scores. I cannot stress how important it is that they cannot do that this week. The Essex front 7 has been hard to read at times this year. They haven't been the most consistent bunch but they have many thumping LBs and playmakers up front they just don't always show up. That's one thing the Ravens can't allow is the Lions to run at will or this will be a long day.
I don't think either defense will be very good on the day. Both offenses are extremely explosive and talented - it's going to come down to a 3-hour bus ride and Cambridge's inability to consistently run the ball. I think Pope goes off for 150 with 2 TDs and the Ravens take the best game of the year.
Predicted outcome: Ravens 35 – Lions 31
Guelph pulled out some surprises on the weekend when they had the score at 27-10 for a bit against Cambridge. Cambridge may have had backups in but it still proves the Gryphs are making strides and have gotten better. Guelph's offense continues to struggle running the football and it makes things very hard on their QB when defenses can pin their ears back and rush the passer with next to know threat of a run game. Moving forward towards the end of the season and really towards next year for this team look for that to be an area of focus for the coaching staff. Up front the big boys need to get more aggressive and open some holes for the athletes the Gryphons have in the backfield. That being said a positive on the offense this past weekend was the passing game - the Gryphons had multiple drives moving the ball through the air with the short and intermediate passing game. This offense is way better than it was even 2 or 3 weeks ago and that's good to see, they'll continue to improve. On defense Guelph has a tough time tackling and it makes for a long day for their defensive players, teams have the ability to run nearly every play and the Gryphons being unable to tackle gives them first downs. On the backend the Gryphs had a decent day against a good passing offense of the Lions; they made a couple plays and did a decent job not allowing the big play too much keeping the Lions at bay. Luis Alfieri continued his league leading season by making or assisting on what seemed to be every tackle, if it wasn't for him the Gryphs would be in even more trouble.
London came so close to staying alive in the playoff chase this past weekend losing a nail biter to Niagara 29-23. The Mustangs are another team that continues to improve and make strides week in and week out. Their offense and defense have made adjustments to put them in better positions and their players are responding well. The Mustangs at all levels want to run the football and struggle when they are unable to do so. Lately, the big boys up front as well as the runningbacks lead by Scheele have been consistently getting the job done and for the most part London has been in every game. Now in the pass game they have been way to inconsistent and haven't made nearly enough big plays down field or at all; the QB position for the Mustangs hasn't been their strength this year but in most games they do enough to give them a chance to win. Look for London to keep that run game going this week and have their best offensive performance this year. On defense London has allowed too many rushing yards and in doing so has opened up passing lanes down field for opposing QBs to do damage and make plays. It will take a good start from the London front 7 to show Guelph they won't be able to run otherwise the Gryphons offense could take advantage. London has talented players in their front 7 and I expect them to also have their best game of the season and make the Gryphons life difficult up front. On the backend the Mustangs need to improve and when they get a 2nd and long they need to make plays; nothing gives a team momentum like continually converting on 2nd down.
London is the more talented and experienced team here, Guelph has a hard time stopping the run and that’s exactly what London wants to do. The Gryphons will get a few scores in the pass game but the Stangs run game will be the difference.
Predicted outcome: Mustangs 31 – Gryphs 14