Predicting the 2017 Canadian Football League

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The new CFL season kicks off this week, and the 5thDownUK will be bringing you all the news and updates throughout the season, both here on our website and the 5thDownUK Podcast.

We’ve got a team of experts from across the pond to tell you everything you need to know about the Canadian version of gridiron.

To get ready for the upcoming CFL season we’ve asked a few pundits to give us their previews for the year:


Marshall Ferguson, commentator for the Hamilton Tigercats

Who will win the Grey Cup?

Edmonton – Mike Reilly will be in his second season under Jason Maas offensive system. New GM Brock Sunderland has infused energy into the organization and the defence is as talented as ever especially up front with Mike Benevides as their leader on the sidelines.

Who is your dark horse for 2017?

Toronto – If Ricky Ray were paired with Jim Popp and Marc Trestman five years ago they would be a surefire favourite. In 2017 they’re a mystery but a team with loads of young talent and a veteran QB leading the ship. Very similar to the Ottawa Redblacks last season.

Which player is your one-to-watch?

BC QB Johnathan Jennings – That guy has more talent than most QBs in this league. He has been surrounded by speed and playmakers this offseason and if he can learn how to manage a game the BC Lions are as dangerous as any team in the CFL

Follow Marshall on Twitter: @TSN_Marsh


Rod Pedersen, commentator for the Saskatchewan Roughriders

Who will win the Grey Cup?

I’ve got B.C. picked to finish in first place in the CFL West Division, and then likely to advance to the Grey Cup in Ottawa. After seeing them firsthand last week (a 42-10 preseason win over the Riders in Vancouver), I’m even more certain they’ll be the team to beat. Calgary will always be near the top as long as John Hufnagel is in charge but the Lions already seem like a team on a mission. Anything less than a Grey Cup appearance will be a bitter disappointment for them.

Who is your dark horse for 2017?

I’ve got to go with my Roughriders. They’re in the toughest division in the CFL but if they’re able to beat Winnipeg and Edmonton in their head-on matches, that would go a long ways to securing third place in the West and a playoff berth. Not much is expected from the Riders by those outside this province and their showing in B.C. last week left them with a good share of detractors even inside the Rider Nation. However this club seems fine with the “underdog” tag, and flying under the radar.  I wouldn’t sleep on them.

Which player is your one-to-watch?

My player to watch through training camp and the preseason was Roughriders wide receiver Duron Carter and he didn’t disappoint. He scored the first-ever touchdown in the new stadium in Saskatchewan in the first preseason game, and made a highlight reel catch the next week at BC. He’s a player that you’ll always know is on the field! Many believe he’s the best receiver in the CFL and could the best overall player in the league if he keeps his head on straight. Unfortunately that’s been a big problem for him throughout his career so his first season in Green & White promises to be very intriguing.

Follow Rod on Twitter: @rodpedersen


Check us out for your CFL news throughout the season, and subscribe to our podcast, 5thDownUK, for your weekly CFL round-up.

You can also watch CFL games live on BT Sport throughout the season.

5th Down UK @ Wembley!

While Sundays AFC South divisional game between the Colts and the Jags wasn’t the best exhibition of clinical Quarterback play, it proved a fantastic opening to the 2016 International Series!!

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The NFL had Wembley rocking once again, as a full house got behind their adopted Jags to help them to a narrow victory. Just like in last years fixture, the Jags had to weather a late comeback, but ultimately a 4th quarter Allen Hurns TD was enough to get that vital 1st win, making the flight home a little more comfortable for Blake Bortles and Gus Bradley.

“There’s a million decisions in every game. In hindsight, you look at it and you say I wish or I shoulda, coulda.”

Despite the predictable late rally, Andrew Luck had a day to forget, and the game turned on a 4th & 1 decision to toss the ball to Dwayne Allen rather than tucking and running himself.

Blake Bortles had a hot and cold afternoon in the October sun; in the 1st half he seemed to have problems getting the ball released, but with Allen Robinson in fine form, he did enough to get an early lead. In the second half he improved, and despite one bizarre play which he threw and caught himself, he was able to find the game winning play to Hurns, and keep the Jags alive in the AFC South.

 


The 5th Down’s own fearsome threesome we’re working hard on Sunday, and recorded a special show from the bowels of Wembley Stadium. KB, Dubs and Dave caught all the reaction from the Colts vs Jags game; grabbing interviews with Jalen Ramsey and Paul Posluszny, along with lots of UK fans. There’s also an exclusive tour from inside the Colts’ tunnel and a special interview with Team GB linebacker Niall Scott-Grant.

5th Down UK interviews… Steffan Powell

In the 2nd of our series of interviews with UK NFL fans, we spoke to Steffan Powell; reporter and presenter for Newsbeat, BBC Radio 1, and 1 Xtra.

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How did you fall in love with Football?

When I was growing up there was a TV show on Channel 4 every Saturday morning called BLITZ! Presented by the wonderfully sarcastic Gary Imlach. It had highlights of the weeks action and I immediately loved the colourful kits, mascots and helmets. I would have been around 8 or 9 then. The more I watched the more I fell in love with how dramatic the sport is; the big hits, hail mary’s and last gasp victories. Finding Madden (1996 I think was my first) then cemented my love of the sport for ever more.

Who’s your team, and why?

I’ve always been and always will be an Oakland Raiders fan! It all started because my big sister had a Raiders jumper (that I stole and wore myself obviously). 250px-oakland_raiders-svgI also loved the Raiders logo and mascot growing up. It also helped that while in secondary school the team was doing really well! Rich Gannon, Tim Brown, Bill Romanowski and the Woodsons were great to watch! Learning more about the history of the team as well has been fun. It’s cool to follow a team with such a tradition of being mavericks and outsiders. I’ve seen some good times (AFC titles in the early 2000s) and the bad times (Andrew Walter anyone?).

What is your favourite footballing memory?

My favourite footballing memory is not actually NFL related – it’s lifting a national trophy as defensive co-ordinator for the Cardiff University Cobras. But in NFL terms my favourite footballing memory is getting to see the Raiders play in the flesh at Wembley – I’d been following the team for more than 15 years by then so that was pretty cool even if they did get a beatdown!

Who is your favourite player of all time?

Charles Woodson is my favourite player of all time. He was a star when I first really followed and got to know the sport and was a top pro ever since. 800px-charles_woodson_2014_2I also played (I use that term in the loosest sense of the word!) in the secondary for my team, so have always loved safeties and corners! As well as being the top player in two positions and winning the Lombardi trophy, Woodson was class act off the field. Rich Gannon, Rod Woodson and Ray Lewis would also be in the mix for me.

And your favourite player currently playing?

Controversially I might have to opt for a non-Raider here… I adore watching Aaron Rodgers play football. His goofy persona and skill set makes him eminently likeable in my eyes. The way he evades pressure and slings the ball downfield, without being a freak athlete like Cam Newton, is fun to watch. He’s the NFL equivalent of an old sharpshooting cowboy in the wild west making trick shots with his pistol for money.

With the elite quarterbacks either retiring, or in their 30s, who is the next superstar?

This one’s easy! Derek Carr. 800px-derek_carr_2015He’s already an efficient, competent pocket passer and he’s not even scratched the surface of his potential. He makes good decisions and has a big arm. Now with more confidence he’ll start making even more big plays. It helps that he has an ever improving cast of players around him. Watch him blossom into an elite quarterback in the NFL soon. Not that i’m biased of course…

You were a coach at university?

I played corner for the Cardiff University Cobras and captained the team but I blew out my ACL at the start of my 3rd year. jjbciwe7_400x400I loved the game and the guys I played with so much that I hung around and coached. Starting as assistant DB coach and ending up as DC. University teams in the UK are better on the ground than passing so we ran a mean 3-5 defence! In 2011 we won the second tier national title – easily the proudest moment of my football life (we shutout the opposition in the final as well!).

If we get a team in the UK, can you see UK universities starting up their own football programmes?

I think there are around 80 universities in the UK that have football teams at the moment. Obviously they’re no way comparable to US university programmes. I can’t see that changing much either to be honest even with a franchise coming here. University sport in the UK is just not the same as the US because you can become professional at any age. NCAA eligibility rules, and how they work with the NFL, are part of the reason college football is so big in the US. But what it will do is increase the visibility of the sport in the UK which should help those 80 teams get access to better funding and facilities – something I know that lots of them struggle with at times.

What do you think has to happen for us to get a London franchise? Would it have to be an Eastern divisional team?

I don’t think it does. Given it seems the owners don’t want another expansion of the league, to get a London franchise it’ll most likely have to be a relocation. I think therefore that whichever team is most suited to relocate will come here – regardless of which division they’re in.

With that in mind, if we were to get a UK-based team should the draft extend out to this country?

I think it’s good news that international players are now starting to get drafted. However it should only be on merit. If we see that, with a team here, more young people are taking up the sport and are good enough to get drafted then that’s great. The league has tried to artificially place foreign talent into squads before and they didn’t quite make it. Therefore we should wait until the players are good enough.

And finally, if a younger Steffan were to be drafted in the 2016 draft what position would you play?

Corner. They used to call me shutdown Steffan*

*Disclaimer – no-one called me that…


You can follow Steffan on Twitter at @SteffanPowell

5thDown Podcast: Episode 4 – The Knights of Farnham

KB & Dubs turn their attention to the British American Football League and hear the remarkable story of the Farnham Knights, a team who were forced to cease operating in 2012. They speak to the head coach who has brought them back to the top division.

Plus, the guys read out your tweets and what you would call a Las Vegas franchise.

5thDown Podcast: Episode 3 – A Texan Tailgate

KB & Dubs speak to Bengals Special Teams Coordinator Darrin Simmons about their visit to London and what makes a good coach. Also joining the show is former Bills WR Donald Jones III and the illness that shortened his promising career. Plus the guys talk Carson Wentz, Michael Bennett, Marshawn Lynch and the CFL Draft.

5th Down UK interviews… Nat Coombs

In the 1st of our series of interviews with UK NFL fans, we spoke to the host of talkSPORT 2’s all new All American Sports Show, and massive NFL fan, Nat Coombs.


How did you fall in love with Football?

As a kid, watching this remarkable technicolour sport on Channel 4, not understanding any of it, but knowing I completely loved it.

Who’s your team, and why?

The Miami Dolphins… because I’m a sucker for pain, and because as a kid they were all about the offense (Marino, Marx brothers) and always gallant, cavalier losers which appealed.

What is your favourite footballing memory?

So many – covering a game in New Orleans at the Superdome was incredible. The SuperBowls I’ve been involved with have been great for various reasons – and the Wembley games I’ve anchored have been a privilege. Looking out over the stadium and digesting that we’ve got regular season games, looking back and seeing say, Jim Kelly sitting 6 feet from me – pretty special.

Favourite of all time?

The 51-45 Jets/Fins game from the 80’s (O’Brien vs Marino) stands out. And I always remember Chad Johnson scoring, putting on the HOF jacket in celebration, as that was my first ever game.

Who is your favourite player of all time?

It has to be Marino, but I loved Jim Kelly too back in the day. Sucker for the flashy receivers so Carter, Marx brothers, TO, Johnson.

Defensively – the Giants front 7 that included Strahan & Osi (have to give my man props!) was great to watch, and the tape I see of the Bears ’85 Defense is stunning. Love for hardcore players too that give everything – like Hines Ward, Anquan Boldin & JJ Watt.

And your favourite player currently playing?

I think right now it’s AJ Green – electrifying and can’t wait till the Bengals come over to Wembley.

With the elite Quarterbacks either retiring or in their 30’s, who is the next superstar?

12 months ago I would have said Andrew Luck, but there’s an element of doubt. Wilson is arguably there. Cam has to be in the mix – he’ll bounce back.

What do you think has to happen for us to get a London franchise, and would it have to be an Eastern divisional team?

I think it would have to be a relocation as I can’t see the owners voting on adding expansion franchises. It would be very interesting to see how it would play out – because the appeal of say 6 regular season games with different teams if possibly as strong for most fans and of course much easier to action long term.

If we get a team in the UK, can you see UK universities starting up their own football programmes?

Many already have of course, though I doubt we’ll get a college circuit like in the US – mainly because of geography and tradition. Though more and more players will get a shot in the NFL, like Efe Obada has.

And finally, if a young Nat were to be drafted in the 2016 draft, what position would you play?

I had a bit of pace when I was younger, so a low round WR gamble – but these days, let’s just say I was made to be a backup QB!


Each week Nat Coombs and guests round up all the action from across the pond, from the NBA to NFL and MLS to NHL, plus everything in between on the talkSPORT 2’s all new All American Sports Show.

You can find the podcasts on talkSPORT & iTunes: