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CFL Previews - Week 19 - November 1-3From The Sports Network
By Greg Xenakes, CFL Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
HAMILTON TIGER-CATS (6-11) AT TORONTO ARGONAUTS (8-9)
DATE & TIME: Thursday, Nov. 1, 7:30 p.m. (ET).
GAME NOTES: With the playoffs still a possibility, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats try their best to close out the 2012 regular season on a high note as they clash with the Toronto Argonauts on Thursday night at Rogers Centre.
Heading into the final week, Hamilton managed to stay alive by taking out Winnipeg on Oct. 27 by a score of 28-18, ensuring that the Blue Bombers were the first team in the CFL to be locked out of the postseason. Now the Tiger- Cats need to again help themselves with a win against Toronto and have Edmonton fall to Calgary on Friday to finish in third place in the East Division.
Against the Blue Bombers, quarterback Henry Burris completed 15-of-27 passes for 171 yards and a couple of scores, while defender Greg Peach recovered a fumble near the goal line and rolled into the end zone for a major by the defense in the first frame, as the 'Cats built a 22-point lead. Hamilton finished with a mere 240 yards of total offense but more importantly, was flagged just four times for a loss of 24 yards.
Burris, who needs just 130 yards for his second 5,000-yard passing campaign, also needs just one more passing score to establish a new personal high as well. As long as he refrains from making too many mistakes, the Temple University product should also finish with the best efficiency rating of his career, currently sitting at 104.3 to lead the league.
An interesting note about the Tiger-Cats, a team which has led the league in points just once in nearly four decades, they have the potential to turn the trick this year for the first time since 1999 and if it happens they'll become the only team in league history to achieve the feat while also owning a record below .500. At the moment, the team trails Calgary by just four total points.
As for the Argonauts, they made sure to take care of their own destiny last weekend with a 31-26 victory over Saskatchewan on the road. Just the second win in the last seven games for Toronto, the decision served to snap a three- game slide for the team and lock up second place in the East Division standings as well.
Quarterback Ricky Ray had one of his best games of the season for the Argos as he completed 24-of-30 passes for 305 yards and four touchdowns, working his way through just a single sack and an interception as his squad held on for the win.
While it was certainly a secondary consideration behind picking up the victory, the performance of Chad Owens was also of interest as he continued his pursuit of 4,000 combined yards. Owens tallied five receptions for 104 yards, including a 60-yard score, finishing with 211 yards overall, which means he has amassed an amazing 3,768 yards to this point. While 4,000 yards might be a stretch at this stage, the all-time record for combined yards in a single season is still within his reach as he needs just 73 yards to surpass Mike Clemons who tallied 3,840 yards back in 1997.
Another milestone Owens has in his sights is that of becoming the first player in CFL history to lead the league in both kick return yards and receiving in the same season. Unless something dramatic happens in the former category, Owens should have that one sewn up as he leads by 162 yards over his closest competitor and only figures to add to his total. In the receiving column, the Hawaii product has 91 catches for 1,289 yards, 48 yards ahead of Nik Lewis of Calgary for the top spot.
However, a wrinkle that could change how many yards Owens might be able to produce is the fact that Ray will not be starting this final game of the regular season. Because it is a short week for Toronto, Ray isn't necessarily 100 percent healthy and there's not much to really play for at the moment, the CFL's Offensive Player of the Week will be hanging out on the sidelines which means Jarious Jackson will get the start.
In addition to Jackson taking control of the Toronto offense, head coach Scott Milanovich will probably also use the opportunity to get some playing time for even more of his bench players, specifically Trevor Harris and Zach Collaros who could stand the exposure.
As far as the all-time series is concerned, Hamilton is still ahead by a count of 123-89-2 dating back to 1950, even though the Argos have won two in a row and three of the last four encounters. The most recent of those contests took place two months ago also at Rogers Centre with Toronto posting a 45-31 triumph, the top scoring effort of the entire season for the Argos.
Even though Ray will not be taking the field for the Argonauts this week, that doesn't mean Hamilton will have an easy time of it. In fact, preparing for Toronto is probably even tougher for the Tiger-Cats because they can't be sure what the Argos will throw at them, and that's a problem. However, rest assured that Burris will do everything in his power to put his team in position to win.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Hamilton 28, Toronto 20
CALGARY STAMPEDERS (11-6) AT EDMONTON ESKIMOS (7-10)
DATE & TIME: Friday, Nov. 2, 9 p.m. (ET).
GAME NOTES: With a place in the postseason still up for grabs, the Edmonton Eskimos try to put their best foot forward on Friday night at Commonwealth Stadium as they tangle with the Calgary Stampeders.
While the Stamps have already locked up a spot in the playoffs with a second- place finish in the West Division, the same cannot be said for Edmonton which currently sits in last place in the division with a record of just 7-10 after falling to Montreal on the road last Sunday by a score of 27-25.
Against the Alouettes it appeared Edmonton was doomed almost immediately, falling behind early and trailing 20-4 with 10 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, but a cut to a finger on Kerry Joseph's throwing hand forced the starting quarterback to the sidelines and opened the door for Matt Nichols to nearly pull off the impossible.
Now in his third season in the league, Nichols stepped in and threw three touchdown passes and also a successful two-point conversion following his first major. Nichols turned his nine completed passes into a massive 230 yards and was a two-point conversion away from tying the game with no time remaining in regulation, but his pass to Cary Koch failed which meant the team was left to ponder what-if.
Edmonton rolled up 406 yards of total offense in the meeting, but it didn't help itself with 12 penalties for a loss of 69 yards. Fred Stamps, who caught a 95-yard TD pass and a 13-yard scoring strike, finished with four receptions for a game-high 128 yards in an effort to offset a pedestrian effort in the running game which resulted in only 60 yards on 13 carries.
The league's defensive player of the month for July, August and September, middle linebacker JC Sherritt set a new Edmonton single-season record for tackles with 118, surpassing Willie Pless who tallied 117 stops back in 1998. Sherritt, now in just his second CFL season, shoots for the all-time league record for tackles in a season which stands at 129, established by Calvin Tiggle of Toronto back in 1994.
As for the Stampeders, they played in the early game last week and wasted little time in notching their third straight win with a 41-21 defeat of British Columbia at home. Calgary opened the meeting with 34 unanswered points and never looked back, although the Stamps did cool off quite a bit in the second half when they registered just seven points, courtesy of kickers Rene Paredes and Rob Maver.
Mixing up the action at the quarterback position, Drew Tate, Kevin Glenn and Bo Levi Mitchell each threw a TD pass for the Stampeders, the trio combining to hit on 16-of-25 passes for 242 yards as Nik Lewis posted five catches for 81 yards and a score and Maurice Price four receptions for 104 yards and a TD as well.
Perhaps flying under the radar a bit as the aerial attack took center stage, Jon Cornish accounted for 86 rushing yards on 15 attempts which means he now has a commanding 1,388 yards rushing to lead the league and is tied with Kory Sheets of Saskatchewan for the most rushing TDs with 11. Cornish now ranks third in the league in yards from scrimmage with 1,720, trailing only Sheets (1,760) and fellow Canadian Andrew Harris (1,767). The total by Cornish is the second-most by a Canadian in league history and there's still a possibility that the bruising back could catch up and overtake Harris in this final week of the regular season as well.
The offense stole most of the thunder in the win last week for Calgary, but there was also some excitement on the defensive side of the ball as well for 36-year-old Anwar Stewart who was appearing in just his third game with the team after being signed on Oct. 10. Stewart captured the CFL Defensive Player of the Week award by tying a club record with four sacks, the team logging a season-high eight sacks overall as they tied Montreal for second in the league in that department with a total of 42 through 17 games.
With respect to the all-time, regular-season series between these two clubs, Edmonton owns a 123-85-3 advantage even with the Stampeders taking four straight and 10 of the last 12 matchups. The most recent contest took place in late September with Calgary putting up a 39-15 victory.
Since the Stampeders know where they stand in terms of the postseason, it might be only natural to have a let-down this week. With Edmonton fighting that much harder to give itself some more time on the playing field before breaking for the offseason, expect the Esks to do their part to make it happen on Friday.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Edmonton 34, Calgary 28
MONTREAL ALOUETTES (11-6) AT WINNIPEG BLUE BOMBERS (5-12)
DATE & TIME: Saturday, Nov. 3, 3 p.m. (ET).
GAME NOTES: With the postseason no longer a possibility, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers finish out the string as they meet up with the Montreal Alouettes in the regular-season finale on Saturday afternoon at Canad Inns Stadium.
By virtue of their loss to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats last weekend, 28-18, the Blue Bombers took themselves out of playoff contention as they dropped their second game in the last three outings. Even though it doesn't have any bearing on the immediate future, the Bombers are having trouble identifying their starting quarterback for this week with Buck Pierce being sidelined.
Obviously, the Blue Bombers would like to finish a disappointing season on a positive note, but they are also using this opportunity to assess their current talent and figure out what their needs might be moving forward.
Not only does Winnipeg head coach Tim Burke have to make a decision between Alex Brink or Joey Elliott as his starter this weekend, he also has to sort out how much playing time key performers need and when/if he can insert others who are further down on the depth chart. One of those players would be quarterback Justin Goltz who has a grand total of just nine pass attempts since joining the Bombers back in 2010.
Judging by how erratic the offense has been this season for the Blue Bombers, due to injury more than anything else, the question might be why would Burke put anyone out there who isn't 100 percent healthy. With nothing on the line, this is a perfect opportunity to see Goltz and others in actual game conditions rather than the preseason where the talent level fluctuates greatly from week to week and team to team.
After 17 games the Bombers are last in the league in overall passing with 4,308 yards and have far more interceptions (22) than aerial touchdowns (16), resulting in just a 74.8 efficiency rating.
Over on the other side, Montreal has come on strong with three straight wins and five victories in the least seven outings. The Alouettes have played well enough to seal up the top spot in the East Division with a record of 11-6, thanks mostly to the exploits of quarterback Anthony Calvillo yet again.
In the narrow 27-25 home win over Edmonton last weekend, Calvillo completed 21-of-35 passes for 321 yards and two touchdowns, although he was also picked off twice. Backup quarterback Adrian McPherson contributed to the scoring with his one-yard touchdown run in the second quarter as well.
While it wasn't quite enough to alter the outcome, the Montreal defense went to sleep in the fourth quarter as they gave up three touchdowns as backup quarterback Matt Nichols converted just nine of his 15 pass attempts for a huge 230 yards and all three scores.
With his effort against the Eskimos, Calvillo reached 5,000 passing yards for the season, the first player in league history to reach that lofty total in seven different seasons during his career. Calvillo, who currently has the most passing yards in the league and leads Hamilton's Henry Burris by 212 yards heading into the final week of the season, could also tie Doug Flutie with a total of five seasons in which he has paced the league in passing, one behind the record held by both Ron Lancaster and Sam Etcheverry.
However, now comes word that the Alouettes plan to sit Calvillo since they've already carved out their spot in the playoffs, which means McPherson will be the primary under center for Montreal against Winnipeg.
Even though the two teams might not have anything to really play for this week, some individual players do have some goals that they can achieve, one of them being Montreal receiver Jamel Richardson. While a recap of the game between the Als and Eskimos notes that Richardson has eclipsed the 1,000-yard receiving mark for the fifth straight year, there seems to be a few discrepancies from several sources.
Richardson's own stats say he caught three passes for 44 yards to give him 59 grabs for 993 yards for the season, but the stats released by the league earlier this week state that he is ninth in the league in receiving yards with 998 yards on 60 catches. Needless to say, it might be prudent to leave no doubt and for McPherson to get the ball to Richardson several times just to be sure.
These two squads met up less than a month ago in Montreal where the Blue Bombers slipped by with a 27-22 victory in order to snap a two-game slide in the series. Nevertheless, the Als still own a 45-35-2 edge, taking into consideration only regular-season bouts, dating back to 1946.
If the defense for the Alouettes doesn't know who to plan for at quarterback it might just give Winnipeg a slight edge this week, but not enough for the Bombers to earn the upset.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Montreal 24, Winnipeg 18
SASKATCHEWAN ROUGHRIDERS (8-9) AT BRITISH COLUMBIA LIONS (12-5)
DATE & TIME: Saturday, Nov. 3, 10 p.m. (ET).
GAME NOTES: While they may not know where they are going to be playing once the playoffs begin, one thing is for sure, the Saskatchewan Roughriders will be participating in the postseason no matter how their meeting against the British Columbia Lions plays out in the final regular-season game of 2012 slated to be played at BC Place on Saturday night.
The Roughriders are a game under .500 and have lost three straight, yet still managed to back into the playoffs as they sit in third place in the West Division standings behind both BC and Calgary. Last week, the team was defeated by the Toronto Argonauts at home in a 31-26 final, which means Saskatchewan is now a game under .500 and is in danger of closing out the regular season on a four-game slide.
Against the Argos, Saskatchewan was held scoreless through the first period of play and then erupted for 16 points in the second quarter, but the effort fizzled in the second half. With the loss, the Riders now have to win this final game or have Edmonton lose earlier in the week in order to set up a meeting with Calgary in the West Semi-Final.
Darian Durant tried to get the Riders back on track last week as he completed 24-of-38 passes for 252 yards and a score, but he was sacked four times and had one pass intercepted, not to mention he failed on a two-point conversion to Weston Dressler in the fourth quarter which would have certainly made things more interesting.
Durant did complete a scoring pass to Dressler to give the receiver 13 majors on the season, which leads the CFL with one week of games remaining. Throw in a return for a touchdown and Dressler is second in the league in scoring among non-kickers with 14 TDs.
Joining Dressler among the most productive scorers in the league, running back Kory Sheets also landed in the end zone on a 24-yard run in the second frame against Toronto, which means he now has 13 TDs of his own overall.
As for the Lions, even though they had their three-game win streak snapped last week in a 41-21 loss to the Calgary Stampeders, they've still locked up the top spot in the division thanks to six wins in the previous seven outings. Against the Stamps, Travis Lulay remained on the sidelines, nursing an injury since putting him on the field meant nothing in terms of the team's playoff positioning, and turned the offense over to Mike Reilly who converted 19-of-26 passes for 261 yards and two touchdowns, but the signal-caller was also sacked seven times and had a fumble that was returned for a touchdown in the first quarter.
Also making an appearance for the Lions was Thomas DeMarco who completed 3- of-6 passes for 35 yards and was also sacked.
The good news for the Lions was that there was a Geroy Simon sighting as the receiver caught a team-best five passes for 43 yards. Simon, who early in the season became the league's all-time leading receiver in terms of yardage, had missed nearly a month of action due to injury but made sure to return in time for a tune-up heading into the playoffs.
While Simon will miss out on reaching the 1,000-yard mark for the 10th year in a row, having recorded just 54 catches for 700 yards and a couple of scores at this point, having him back on the field moving forward is ultimately the most important thing for the team as he demands attention from defenses and that tends to open up the field for other receivers.
On another positive note for the Lions, they currently lead the league in turnovers with just 22 over the course of 17 games. Barring a complete breakdown by the offense, BC is in line to register the fewest turnovers in CFL history with the current mark being held by Ottawa and these same Lions at 28.
Victorious in a 27-21 decision in the most recent meeting with BC in late September, the Roughriders have now taken two of the last three encounters with the Lions and because of that own a 92-81-4 advantage in the all-time series stretching back to 1954.
For the Lions, this is a game where they just need to get through 60 minutes without suffering any major injuries, which might mean you'll see plenty of players who might otherwise be buried on the depth chart. On the other hand, the Riders still have something to play for and as long as Durant can stand upright the quarterback will have his team fighting until the end.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Saskatchewan 30, British Columbia 22
2012 Sports Network Predictions: 35-33. Last Week's Selections: 3-1.
10/31 14:31:01 ET