Before the CFL season kicked off, oddsmakers decided the B.C. Lions and Calgary Stampeders should share top billing as co-favourites to capture the 2007 Grey Cup.
Clearly, however, the Lions have no equals. They are peerless, in a stratosphere by themselves.
They are 5-0 and, hell, they are prompting this outrageous prediction from me: I think they’ll go 18-0. And, believe me, in three decades of CFL coverage, I’ve never envisioned an undefeated season for any team. Until now.
I mean, if the Lions were going to lose a game, it should have been last Saturday, when they visited the Stamps, who had trounced the Toronto Argonauts thoroughly the week before and who are consistently strong at home.
The Lions were without their star quarterback, Dave Dickenson (concussion) and were relying on backup Buck Pierce, banged up himself with an assortment of ailments. Pierce couldn’t finish the game, in fact, and was replaced by third-stringer Jarious Jackson.
The Lions also travelled to Calgary without a starting cornerback, Dante Marsh, and without a starting receiver, Tony Simmons. And then, during the game, defensive halfbacks Mark Washington and Korey Banks suffered ankle injuries, triggering a series of moves in which general manager/head coach Wally Buono needed to use bench players in positions they never before played.
“That was nuts,” said B.C.’s LaVar Glover. “It was crazy, I’m sure the coaches were thinking, ‘Well, what are we going to do now?’ But it just shows you the depth on our team.”
It did indeed because, when all was said and done in Calgary, the Lions prevailed rather easily. And, last month on Friday the 13th, they gave the Saskatchewan Roughriders a nightmare in the form of a 42-12 thumping. This was noteworthy because the Riders were responsible for three of the Lions’ five losses last season. Tomorrow night, despite the Lions’ injuries and likelihood that Jackson will be starting, oddsmakers have made B.C. a four-point favourite over Saskatchewan.
So, what makes the Lions so darned good?
Buono, for starters. Parts surrounding him change constantly — QBs, offensive co-ordinators, defensive players — but the results remain the same.
Then there’s Brent Johnson, a defensive end who handles offensive linemen as if they were shaving cream. The Lions have scored 149 points this season, 81 of which were produced after turnovers.
Johnson’s never-quit style is largely responsible for that. He’s the CFL’s top defensive player and top Canadian. And, if the Lions do indeed turn in an undefeated season, Johnson may well become the first defensive lineman in history to be chosen the league’s most-outstanding player.