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Macro-level parity only: Week Eight’s defensive showings see largest blowouts since Week One

Andrew Bucholtz
55 Yard Line

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Cauchy Muamba and the B.C. Lions' defence were crucial to one of Week Eight's blowouts.

A quick glance at the CFL standings following Week Eight's action would give you the impression this is an incredibly even league. Six of the eight teams are either 4-3 or 3-4, and the only standouts (5-2 B.C. and 2-5 Winnipeg) aren't that far off the mark. However, when you look a little closer and break down this week's games, the defining impression is of one-sided contests. Of course, there weren't any 32-point debacles like Edmonton's 42-10 thumping of Winnipeg in Week Three, but this week's closest game was the Bombers' seven-point win over Hamilton, and the four games had the largest average margin of victory (11.8 points) the league had seen since Week One. Thus, while there may not be a lot separating the CFL's teams in the standings, there were substantial differences on the field this week.

What's behind that? Well, a key part of it seems to be the defensive dominance many teams displayed. The Lions' defence held Saskatchewan to five points Sunday (two of which were from a safety conceded by their own offence), while Toronto kept Calgary to 14 (including a late touchdown) and Montreal and Winnipeg each only gave up 25. Meanwhile, while the victors' offences generally weren't spectacular (excluding that of the Alouettes), they didn't have quite the same struggles. This wasn't a function of home or road play, as road teams went 2-2 this week, but the winning teams were clearly better defensively than their opponents. In fact, that led to an average points total of 23.1, the second-lowest we'd seen this year (behind the 22.3 points averaged in Week Seven, which gets an asterisk thanks to a smaller sample size of two games).

Are great defensive performances more likely to lead to lopsided games than great offensive performances? Let's look at the data. In Week One, which had an even larger average margin of victory (19.0 points against this week's 11.8), blowouts came from both directions; winning teams that week averaged 33.3 points (above this week's 29.0), while losing teams averaged 14.0 (below this week's 17.3). That suggests both offence and defence led to those blowouts. However, the 17.3 points losers averaged this week were well below what losing teams put up in every week other than Week One; the only other week that was even close was Week Seven, with 17.5 points recorded on average by the two losing teams. Meanwhile, the 29.0 points averaged by winning teams this week is only higher than two other weeks of the season, and most other weeks may have had more points from the winners, but they've generally featured closer games. Perhaps that's another reason to root for high-scoring games; sure, they're exciting to watch, but they also seem likely to produce closer contests, and that could help take some of this parity from the macro level to the micro one.

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