CFL Previews - Week 11 - September 6-8
From The Sports Network
By Gregg Xenakes, CFL Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
CALGARY STAMPEDERS (7-2) AT EDMONTON ESKIMOS (1-8)
DATE & TIME: Friday, September 6, 9 p.m. (ET).
GAME NOTES: The struggling Edmonton Eskimos will again shoot for not only their first win against a division opponent this season, but also their first home victory of 2013, as they entertain the Calgary Stampeders at Commonwealth Stadium on Friday night.
Edmonton, which has won only one game this season, placing it a distant fourth place in the West Division standings, has played some close games in recent weeks, but close doesn't count in the CFL, or anywhere else for that matter. The Eskimos put together a late charge against Calgary on Monday, posting 27 points in the final quarter, but still the team suffered the 37-34 setback.
During the first two games of this current seven-game slide, Edmonton lost by double digits to British Columbia in consecutive weeks, but since then the Esks have made things very interesting to say the least. In fact, the team has bowed by no more than five points in any one game and has lost by a combined 15 points in the last five outings.
After falling behind 17-0 in the first quarter and 37-7 early in the fourth, Mike Reilly brought the Eskimos back with four touchdown passes in a span of about five minutes, each major going to a different receiver. Reilly finished the meeting just 16-of-35 for 246 yards and two interceptions, not to mention being sacked six times.
Reilly also accounted for a team-best 58 yards rushing on seven attempts, while backup quarterback Kerry Joseph scored the first points of the game for Edmonton in the second quarter on a two-yard TD run.
While Reilly and the Esks were frantically trying to put together an epic comeback, Calgary was capturing a second straight win and the sixth in the last seven outings in order to settle into second place in the division standings, just two points off the pace set by Saskatchewan.
Kevin Glenn started at quarterback for the Stamps, hitting all but three of his 11 pass attempts for 108 yards and a score, but he left the game against Edmonton midway through the second quarter after being stepped on by one of his own offensive linemen. Glenn did not return to action, leaving Bo Levi Mitchell to assume control of the offense.
Mitchell stepped in and converted 11-of-18 passes for 226 yards and two touchdowns, adding another score on the ground on one of his four rushing attempts.
Maurice Price, who caught what proved to be the decisive score in the fourth quarter, a 66-yard TD pass play, finished the meeting with five receptions for 165 yards and three majors for the hosts.
Giving Calgary a lift on the defensive side of the ball was Fred Bennett who registered a pair of interceptions for a team that entered the ninth game of the season as the second-best club in the CFL in terms of turnover margin, with a plus-13.
Reilly, who now has 10 picks thrown on the season, is one of the league leaders in terms of passing yards with 2,277, completing 60.4 percent of his attempts, but still he needs to be consistent for a full 60 minutes in order to keep Edmonton from falling into the loss column yet again.
Unfortunately for Reilly and the Esks, going up against one of the toughest pass defenses in the CFL, the Stamps having given up just 245.1 ypg through the air over the course of eight games, is not necessarily a good sign for the home team this time around.
With the victory on Monday, Calgary has now taken six straight meetings with the Eskimos and 12 of the last 14 regular-season matchups as well. However, dating back to 1949, it is Edmonton that owns a 123-87-3 advantage in the all- time series.
Seeking to sweep the home-and-home series for a second straight year and for the fourth time in the last five seasons, Calgary might not have that easy of a time based on the status of Glenn. If Reilly can put together four solid quarters of football, instead of waiting until the last possible moment to claim the spotlight, Edmonton could be looking at a favorable outcome for a change.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Edmonton 27, Calgary 23.
BRITISH COLUMBIA LIONS (6-3) AT HAMILTON TIGER-CATS (4-5)
DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 7, 4 p.m. (ET).
GAME NOTES: A perfect 5-0 at home this season, the British Columbia Lions now try to find the secret to winning on the road as they clash with the Hamilton Tigers-Cats on Saturday afternoon at Alumni Stadium at the University of Guelph.
BC, which is a solid 6-3 at the moment, finds itself sitting in third place in the West Division where Saskatchewan (8-1) and Calgary (7-2) continue to ring up wins at an accelerated rate partly because the Lions are just 1-3 on the road in 2013. The good news, however, is that this week the opposition is one that has already bowed down to British Columbia, within the last week in fact.
On Friday, Aug. 30, the Lions hosted Hamilton at BC Place and, despite scoring in every quarter, still had to hold on down the stretch for a 29-26 victory over the Ticats. Quarterback Travis Lulay converted 26-of-36 pass attempts for 359 yards and three touchdowns, picking himself off the ground only once following a sack. The signal caller was also credited with three rushing attempts, one of which culminated in a trip to the end zone.
Receiver Emmanuel Arceneaux caught four balls for a game-high 113 yards and a major, the touchdown coming on a lengthy 80-yard pass play in the second quarter.
As for Hamilton, which is now a game under .500 overall on the season but still just two points out of the lead in the East Division standings where only one team (Toronto) has a winning record, Henry Burris missed only seven of his 36 pass attempts, leading to 352 yards and two touchdowns, but at the same time he was intercepted once and sacked four times. Dan LeFevour stepped in under center for a spell and he too was sacked once, showing just how aggressive the BC defense was during Week 10 action.
Neither team ran the ball particularly well, with BC coming away with just 65 yards on 18 attempts, but in the case of the 'Cats, they attempted only nine rushing plays, three by LeFevour who actually scored on a one-yard run in the third quarter. Hamilton was credited with just 50 yards rushing in the outing.
The mediocre rushing effort is nothing really new for the Tiger-Cats though, with the team averaging just 87.5 ypg on the ground through the first eight games of the campaign. Instead Hamilton, which had a three-game win streak snapped with the most recent setback, attacks almost primarily through the air, having attempted the most passes in the league through eight games with 285.
One positive for the Tiger-Cats through Week 9 action was the pass defense which had allowed a league-low 147 completions and 61.5 percent accuracy for opponents. Then again, the only other team to have a better percentage against foes in that department was BC (.613) which could cancel out any effort made by the Hamilton secondary.
Midway through the season Burris, now in his second year with the 'Cats, still had an efficiency rating of 101.8, but after setting a huge standard for himself a year ago with 43 touchdown passes, it will be hard for him to come up with a number close to that, considering he has just 14 aerial majors thus far.
British Columbia has now won three in a row over the Ticats, pushing its lead in the all-time series to 49-32-3, when taking into consideration only regular-season bouts tracing back to 1961.
Hamilton plans to celebrate a key moment in the team's history this weekend, honoring the 1943-44 squad that was known then as the Flying Wildcats and won the 31st Grey Cup over Winnipeg R.C.A.F., but that probably won't be enough of a boost to get the current squad back on track and into the win column.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: British Columbia 31, Hamilton 20.
TORONTO ARGONAUTS (5-4) AT MONTREAL ALOUETTES (4-5)
DATE & TIME: Sunday, September 8, 1 p.m. (ET).
GAME NOTES: The East Division standings got a little tighter on Tuesday night and there could be even more of a log jam at the top as the Toronto Argonauts and Montreal Alouettes face off against each other for the second time in less than a week, this time on Sunday afternoon at Molson Stadium.
In what should be a marquee matchup between top-flight quarterbacks will instead be an experiment testing the patience and growth of youngsters on both sides, as Toronto's Ricky Ray continues to nurse a right shoulder injury and Montreal's Anthony Calvillo tries to rebound from a concussion suffered in the middle of August.
Ray will be out of action for about six weeks after suffering a muscle tear in the home loss to Calgary on Aug. 23, opening the door for Zach Collaros to take over the offense for the Argonauts for the time being.
One of the all-time greatest quarterbacks in professional football, Calvillo's prognosis is not nearly as defined. Dealing with a concussion, his second in the last few years, the aging signal caller has been dealing with poor vision which is not a good sign for him and the immediate future for a Montreal squad that has gone through many changes this season already.
With Calvillo watching games from home, the Als opted to go with Tanner Marsh as their starting quarterback on Tuesday night, mainly because he lit up British Columbia in his first action back on Aug. 22, leading Montreal to a thrilling 39-38 upset victory.
After accounting for 400 yards of offense, a pair of touchdowns, but also four interceptions versus the Lions, Marsh was given the start against Toronto in Week 10 action and responded by guiding Montreal to a 20-9 victory on the road. Marsh was a bit shaky at times, tossing one interception and getting sacked four times, but still he completed 18-of-27 passes for 309 yards and a score in the triumph.
Brandon Whitaker was responsible for 13 of Montreal's 30 rushing attempts in the outing, leading to 59 yards, but he was forced to the sidelines with an injury, an issue that seemed to plague quite a number of performers on both sides of the ball. Jerome Messam, who at one point was seen limping, added a game-high 61 rushing yards on 10 attempts.
Taking over the Toronto offense again for Ray was Zach Collaros who appeared to suffer a shoulder injury in the second quarter and left the field, but he did return to action later in the frame. Collaros hit on 21-of-32 pass attempts for 256 yards and a score, a 34-yard effort to a wide open John Chiles in the first quarter, while being sacked twice and picked off once.
Collaros, who can bring the added element of a running quarterback to the game for the Argos, responded with just 25 yards on seven attempts on Tuesday and also lost a fumble that was returned 38 yards for a touchdown by Montreal's Shea Emry.
Chad Owens, one of the most electrifying players in the league, was also believed to have been banged up in the meeting, but still finished with four receptions for 35 yards, 15 yards on two rushing attempts, 43 yards on punt returns and 57 more yards stemming from kickoff returns, but still those efforts went for naught as the Argos lost their second in a row and fell to 3-3 at home in Rogers Centre.
Following Tuesday's result, Toronto is now just two points up on both Hamilton and Montreal in the division standings, the Argos being one game over .500 overall at 5-4.
Prior to Tuesday's decision, Toronto had won the most recent meeting between these teams back in August by a score of 38-13 on the road. In that contest, Ray threw for three touchdowns and Calvillo accounted for 202 yards and a score through the air as well for their respective clubs, but neither will be seen on the field this week.
Montreal has now won three of the last four encounters with the Argos and leads the all-time series by a count of 109-84-3 in regular-season bouts dating back to 1946.
Getting back home will not only benefit Marsh by having a favorable crowd cheering him on, it also means he'll be aided by Calvillo who will be on the sidelines to provide even more guidance. Sure, the youngster will continue to make mistakes, as do most quarterbacks in the CFL, but as long as he has a short memory he should be fine.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Montreal 21, Toronto 14.
SASKATCHEWAN ROUGHRIDERS (8-1) AT WINNIPEG BLUE BOMBERS (1-8)
DATE & TIME: Sunday, September 8, 4 p.m. (ET).
GAME NOTES: There's no time like the present for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers to finally pick up their first home win of the season as they entertain the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Sunday afternoon in the first-ever Banjo Bowl at Investors Group Field..
Winnipeg, which has come up empty in all four home dates thus far, joining Edmonton as the only teams in the league that have yet to celebrate with the hometown faithful, has won only once on the road this season as well, defeating Montreal in the second week of the season. Since then the team has been spiraling out of control, losing for the seventh straight outing last week by a score of 48-25 to the Roughriders.
The Bombers actually scored the first points of the game on Sunday when Henoc Muamba tackled Kory Sheets in the end zone for a safety in the first quarter, but Saskatchewan was just too powerful to overcome the rest of the way.
Quarterback Justin Goltz tried to give the Bombers a fighting chance as he converted 18-of-29 pass attempts for 182 yards, but he was picked off twice. Goltz was also the leader on the ground for the visitors as he gained 73 yards and scored twice on runs of six and 46 yards in the second and fourth quarters, respectively.
As for the Roughriders, they bounced back from that early safety and didn't miss a beat, scoring at least one major in each period, finishing with 24 points in the fourth frame alone as Darian Durant threw a pair of touchdown passes to Taj Smith and also clicked with Geroy Simon for a five-yard score late in the outing. Simon tallied two majors on five catches.
Durant completed 24-of-35 passes for 315 yards and four touchdowns, offsetting his one interception. Sheets also earned high marks after being taken down in his own end zone as he tallied a game-high 91 yards and crossed the goal line twice on 20 rushing attempts.
While he may have been held out of the end zone, receiver Chris Getzlaf had a strong game with seven receptions for 112 yards at Mosaic Stadium. The effort by Getzlaf was his best of the season in terms of yardage, the number of catches second only to his eight grabs logged against Calgary back in early July.
As for Durant, the man who continues to feed Getzlaf and his receiving mates, he has completed close to 68 percent of his pass attempts and is easily on pace to surpass his yardage total of 3,878 from 2012. Last season, the signal caller finished with 20 TD passes and 12 interceptions, and already in 2013 he has dialed up 21 aerial majors and has tossed just that single pick from the last outing.
Because Durant has been nearly infallible, Saskatchewan is leading the way in the West Division standings with an 8-1 mark, yet that's still only two points ahead of Calgary and four over British Columbia. Since losing to the Stampeders by double digits back on Aug. 9, the Roughriders have rattled off three straight wins
While the Riders know exactly what they are getting with Durant every time he steps onto the field, the same cannot be said for Winnipeg when it comes to their quarterback position this season.
Buck Pierce was expected to be a top-notch signal-caller in the league here in 2013, but once again injuries have derailed all of those hopes. Pierce, who is again out of the lineup with an unspecified injury, has just two TD passes and six INTs on the campaign. Max Hall is also going to remain on the sidelines with injury issues this week, which leaves Goltz as the starting option for the Bombers.
Prior to this season, Goltz had completed a total of just seven passes in three seasons in the CFL and being thrown into the fire has not really helped his development with an efficiency rating of only 63.4, based on having tossed only two TDs and five picks.
Saskatchewan has now won five straight regular-season meetings versus the Blue Bombers, 10 of the last 11 as well, and yet it is Winnipeg which maintains a 113-88-3 edge in the all-time series, counting only regular-season matchups going all the way back to 1936.
The only thing the Riders have to be careful of this time around is being too confident versus Winnipeg. The visitors are easily the pick in this matchup once again, and it is just a matter of how quickly this game will get out of hand.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Saskatchewan 38, Winnipeg 22.
2013 Sports Network Predictions: 25-11; Last Week's Predictions: 3-1.
09/04 12:26:41 ET