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CFL Previews - Week 14 - September 27-29From The Sports Network
By Gregg Xenakes, CFL Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
BRITISH COLUMBIA LIONS (8-4) AT WINNIPEG BLUE BOMBERS (2-10)
DATE & TIME: Friday, September 27, 8:00 p.m. (ET).
GAME NOTES: Losers of two straight and nine of the last 10 outings overall, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers continue to fight through a troubling campaign as they host the British Columbia Lions at Investors Group Field on Friday night.
More often than not the Blue Bombers have taken it on the chin this season, losing by double figures, but last week the squad could have easily landed back in the win column. Ahead 27-11 in the third quarter, Winnipeg appeared destined to break through against visiting Edmonton, but then the Eskimos went on a run, forced overtime and scored the game-winning touchdown on a nine-yard run by Hugh Charles.
Max Hall took over at quarterback for the Blue Bombers, hitting on 18-of-27 passes for 253 yards and a score, but he was sacked two times and had a couple of attempts picked off. With three lost fumbles and 14 penalties for a loss of 129 yards, Edmonton tried to hand the game to the Bombers, but it just didn't happen as Winnipeg allowed 521 yards to the visitors.
A distant fourth in the East Division standings, the Bombers are easily the weakest team in the league overall, sporting records of only 1-5 both at home and on the road.
As for British Columbia, which still has a combined four games against Calgary and Saskatchewan, teams which are 9-3 and 8-4, respectively, left on the schedule, it captured a thrilling 24-22 win over Saskatchewan on Sunday. The victory was the second in a row and the third in four games for a BC squad that is tied with the Roughriders for second place in the West Division standings.
Kicker Paul McCallum, who knocked through the game-winning field goal from 42 yards out as time expired, finished with three field goals and 11 points overall for the Lions in the road win.
Youngster Thomas DeMarco made the start at quarterback for BC, converting 18- of-33 passes for 208 yards and two touchdowns, while being sacked twice. Making a brief appearance was newly-acquired Buck Pierce who hit on two of his three pass attempts for 16 yards, but he too was sacked twice in limited action.
British Columbia came away with the win even as the team ran for only 67 yards and compiled 291 yards of total offense.
As of Tuesday, the BC roster was a bit crammed with quarterbacks, although Travis Lulay may still not be ready for heavy contact. Pierce has shown that he is a viable option should DeMarco have any problems this weekend and now Joey Elliott is back in the mix as well. Honestly, the offense runs most efficiently when Lulay is handling the snaps, so don't be surprised if he's back on the field sooner than expected.
Over on the other side, the picture could not get any murkier at the quarterback spot, particularly since the Blue Bombers sent Pierce packing. Hall and Justin Goltz have been left to sort out the mess in Winnipeg, and at this point both are probably hoping just to get through the remaining games without suffering major injury.
Neither signal caller has done much to distinguish himself as a leader for the future, with both having tossed just two touchdowns while being intercepted a combined 12 times. As a team, Winnipeg is last in the league in passing with just 2,490 yards and a woeful six majors against 19 interceptions, which is tied for the most in the CFL.
These two teams met back during Week 6, with the Lions capturing a 27-20 win at home. Back when he was still on the BC roster, Lulay converted 28-of-39 pass attempts for 268 yards and three touchdowns, surviving four sacks along the way. While coming up with only 337 yards of total offense, the Lions may have thought they'd be at a disadvantage, but Winnipeg managed a mere 227 yards on 78 plays.
Goltz handled the quarterback duties for the Bombers, converting 13-of-28 passes for 112 yards and an interception. Goltz did score once on the ground, as did Chad Simpson in the setback.
Despite coming out on the losing end the first time around, Winnipeg still holds an 83-74-2 advantage in the all-time, regular-season series between the clubs, dating back to 1954. Nevertheless, British Columbia has still won three in a row over the Bombers.
The irony here would be if Pierce were to get into the game for the Lions and play well enough to be a key factor in his current team's win over his former employers. Even if that doesn't happen, assume BC will still come out on top.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: British Columbia 28, Winnipeg 22
CALGARY STAMPEDERS (9-3) AT HAMILTON TIGER-CATS (6-6)
DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 28, 6:00 p.m. (ET).
GAME NOTES: The only team already locked into the postseason, the Calgary Stampeders attempt to bounce back from just their third loss of the 2013 campaign, as they challenge the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on the road at Alumni Stadium on Saturday.
Calgary, which not only leads the Western Division standings but also owns the best overall record in the league after 12 games, had a four-game win streak brought to a halt by Toronto last weekend in a 33-27 final. The loss was the first at home for the Stamps, who are now 5-1 in their own building.
Against the visiting Argonauts, Calgary led at the break in front of the hometown fans, but then scored just two points in the final period of play. Quarterback Kevin Glenn connected on 22-of-33 passes for 225 yards and two touchdowns, but he was also picked off twice in the close call. Fellow quarterbacks Bo Levi Mitchell and Drew Tate also saw action, the latter being credited with two rushing attempts, one of which led to a touchdown in the second quarter.
Calgary ran a total of 81 offensive play, resulting in 363 yards, and yet the Argos came away with 435 yards on five fewer snaps. The pass defense for the Stamps surrendered 330 yards and four touchdowns to Zach Collaros.
As for the Tiger-Cats, while they may have been considered the home team last weekend, their matchup against Montreal actually took place at Stade Moncton Stadium in New Brunswick. In unfamiliar territory, Hamilton still managed to pull off a 28-26 win, thanks to a 15-point, fourth-quarter explosion.
Currently second in the Eastern Division standings with a 6-6 mark, trailing only Toronto, the Ticats leaned on kicker Brett Lauther who knocked through all four of his field goal attempts and finished with 14 points overall. Quarterback Henry Burris completed just 15 of his 27 pass attempts, resulting in 176 yards and an interception. While Burris was being sacked four times and failed to get a pass into the end zone, Andy Fantuz took care of the latter with a 10-yard major to Marc Beswick in the second frame.
Also reaching the end zone for Hamilton was backup signal caller Dan LeFevour who, during one of his nine rushing attempts, crossed the goal line from a yard out in the first half. LeFevour accounted for 62 of the team's 102 rushing yards.
With 187 rushing yards on the season, LeFevour is actually third on the team in that department, his three majors placing him second behind only CJ Gable who has paired his five touchdowns with a team-best 437 rushing yards to give Burris at least some measure of an option coming out of the backfield.
The production by Burris the last time out fell far short of his typical effort over the last several weeks. As the leading passer in the CFL with 3,765 yards, on 66.6 percent accuracy, Burris saw his run of consecutive games with at least 300 yards passing snapped at five in a row. The signal caller also saw his run of consecutive games with at least one passing touchdown halted at seven straight. Only twice this season has Burris failed to hook up with a teammate for an aerial score.
Over on the other side, Glenn has been sporadic at best, missing time along the way and given Mitchell a chance to show his ability. Glenn has thrown at least one touchdown in seven straight games, but still he has just nine TDs overall, while completing 68.2 percent of his throws. Mitchell has 10 TD passes and one less interception (three).
Despite being held out of the end zone for four straight games, running back Jon Cornish is still someone that defenses have to keep an eye on because when he gets on a roll he is difficult to stop. Cornish, one of the top Canadians in the league, has four games with at least 100 yards rushing and is averaging 6.5 yards per carry, his total of 1,093 yards being good enough for second in the CFL heading into action this week.
These two teams met up just a couple of weeks ago in Calgary where the hosts pulled off a 26-22 win. Trailing by nine points in the third quarter, the Stamps closed out the contest on a 13-0 run, with the game-winning touchdown coming on a 15-yard pass from Mitchell to Marquay McDaniel.
With the victory, Calgary has now won three in a row and seven of the last eight encounters with the 'Cats. The win also pushed Calgary's series advantage, in games during the regular season dating back to 1961, to 54-30.
With the pressure mounting on all the teams in the CFL as the regular season winds down, at least the Stampeders know that they'll be playing into the postseason. While there's no guarantee yet for Hamilton, the Tiger-Cats have to make sure they play mistake-free football this weekend, or at least keep miscues to a minimum.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Hamilton 30, Calgary 27
TORONTO ARGONAUTS (8-4) AT EDMONTON ESKIMOS (3-9)
DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 28, 9:00 p.m. (ET).
GAME NOTES: After winning just one of the first 10 games on the schedule this year, the Edmonton Eskimos find themselves celebrating a two-game win streak as they prepare for the arrival of the Toronto Argonauts to Commonwealth Stadium on Saturday night.
Edmonton, which is all alone at the bottom of the West Division standings, having lost all six matchups against division foes, has shown signs of life recently by first taking out Winnipeg by a convincing 25-7 score back on Sept. 14, and then slipping by those same Blue Bombers six days later in overtime, 35-27.
Trailing by 16 points in the third quarter, the Eskimos turned to kicker Hugh O'Neill who knocked through three field goals in the second half, four overall. The last of those made field goals, a 17-yard try with just 23 seconds left in regulation, came after Kerry Joseph scored a touchdown on a one-yard run.
In the overtime period, it was Hugh Charles who put Edmonton on top with a nine-yard touchdown run. Quarterback Mike Reilly then hit Shamawd Chambers with a two-point conversion to give the visitors a little more breathing room.
Reilly finished the meeting 31-of-46 for 418 yards and one score, while surviving four sacks. Fred Stamps put up game highs of eight receptions and 157 yards, pushing him to the top of the CFL receiving yards list with 978 on 52 grabs. Stamps is also first in the league with nine TD catches, averaging almost 19 yards per reception along the way.
While the Eskimos took advantage of Winnipeg the last few weeks, Toronto is also riding a hot streak made up of three straight victories. Last Saturday, the Argos earned a season split versus Calgary with a 33-27 road win. Still battling without an injured Chad Owens, Toronto followed the lead set by quarterback Zach Collaros who threw for 330 yards and four touchdowns, picking himself off the ground after four sacks.
Andre Durie, who was credited with two rushing attempts for 17 yards, caught a game-high nine passes for 64 yards and a major in the triumph. For his efforts, Durie was named the league's top Canadian player of the week, while Collaros claimed CFL Offensive Player of the Week honors.
Collaros, who has taken over the Toronto offense after Ricky Ray went down with an injury, has now thrown eight TDs in the last four games and has 12 on the season overall. His 68.4 percent accuracy picks up where Ray left off, although the latter was hitting targets at a staggering 78.3 percent before taking a seat on the sidelines.
Durie may lead the Argos in receptions (69) and receiving yards (733), but he's still notched just two receiving touchdowns, six behind John Chiles who has at least one TD in four straight games while making the most of his 37 catches on the campaign.
While Durie is a key figure in the passing attack for the Argonauts, Stamps is still grabbing most of the headlines for Edmonton. Although, Nate Coehoorn continues to register key receptions for the Eskimos. Coehoorn has registered 33 catches thus far, but somehow he has been kept out of the end zone, something that needs to change moving forward.
During Week 8 these teams clashed at Rogers Centre, with the host Argos slipping by in a 36-33 decision, even as Edmonton outscored the home team 17-3 in the final period. Ray was the quarterback of record for Toronto back then, converting all but five of his 35 pass attempts for 413 yards and three touchdowns, while Collaros also threw a 45-yard TD pass to Alexander Robinson early in the first quarter.
Reilly countered for the Esks, throwing for a staggering 511 yards and three TDs on 35-of-46 efficiency. Stamps stole some of the spotlight as he turned his six receptions into a game-high 172 yards and a score.
Despite the win, Toronto still trails in the all-time series by a count of 45-39-1, taking into consideration only regular-season meetings going back to 1961. The Eskimos have won seven of the last nine matchups between the squads.
Being at home this week, Edmonton will have a slight edge over Toronto and as long as Reilly can keep his composure, that should be enough to earn the Eskimos the victory.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Edmonton 28, Toronto 25
SASKATCHEWAN ROUGHRIDERS (8-4) AT MONTREAL ALOUETTES (4-8)
DATE & TIME: Sunday, September 29, 1:00 p.m. (ET).
GAME NOTES: Saskatchewan was the top team in the CFL through the first nine games of the season, but since then the team has hit a rough patch to say the least.
On Sunday afternoon, the Roughriders will attempt to put a three-game slide behind them when they clash with the Montreal Alouettes on the road.
Outside of a 42-27 setback against Calgary the second week of August, the Riders were unmatched in their success until a month later. This past weekend the team suffered a 24-22 defeat against British Columbia as time expired, dropping Saskatchewan to 8-4 overall, which means the club is now tied with the Lions for second place in the West Division standings.
Held scoreless in the first quarter against BC, the Riders could barely gain any traction on the ground as they generated a mere 39 net yards on 12 attempts. With running back Kory Sheets, the top rusher in the league with his 1,222 yards, out of action due to injury Saskatchewan leaned even more heavily on quarterback Darian Durant, who was called upon to let fly with 52 pass attempts.
Durant converted 35 of those throws for 326 yards and two touchdowns, 10 of which went to Taj Smith who generated a game-high 104 yards. Saskatchewan ran 91 plays in the meeting, yet generated only 365 total yards. It certainly didn't help that kicker Chris Milo missed two of his four field goal attempts, clearly more than enough to have changed the outcome.
Somewhat overlooked during the defeat was the fact that Geroy Simon caught five passes for 60 yards. Now with 1,017 career receptions, Simon is tied with Ben Cahoon for the all-time CFL record in that department.
As for the Alouettes, a team which is just 2-4 at home, they are sitting in third place in the East Division with just eight points. The team led Hamilton the last time out by six points after three quarters, but then the defense surrendered and the Ticats came up with 15 points, en route to the 28-26 win.
Josh Neiswander handled the passing responsibilities for the slumping Als, a squad which is stumbling through their second three-game slide of the season, and hit on 26-of-36 pass attempts for 294 yards and a couple of scores. His aerial majors went to S.J. Green and Duron Carter, while in between Troy Smith, the former Ohio State signal caller, scored his first CFL major on a one-yard run in the third quarter.
Carter turned his nine receptions into 112 yards, both of which were game highs versus Hamilton, but even those numbers were not enough to offset the fact that the Alouettes ran for just 47 net yards. Jerome Messam carried the ball nine times and had a long of 16 yards, but that means he had just 15 yards on his own eight attempts.
Montreal is not only tied for the fewest rushing touchdowns in the league with just eight, but it is also last in terms of average gain per rushing attempt with just 4.9 yards.
There hasn't been much to cheer about in Montreal this season, but at least there was one highlight for the team last week as Chip Cox was named the CFL Defensive Player of the Week. Cox logged eight tackles, two sacks and made an interception in the setback versus the 'Cats. With six games still remaining on the schedule, Cox has already surpassed his career high for tackles in a season, now with a league-leading 86 stops. While that's certainly a positive for Cox from a statistical standpoint, it also means he has been on the field far too long already.
Considering how many times Durant dropped back to pass last week, Cox will have plenty of opportunities to add to his sack total. However, Durant has already shown that he is more than capable of getting rid of the ball, resulting in a CFL-best 26 touchdowns. Making it even more frustrating for defenses, Durant has been picked off just five times on 370 attempts, the best ratio of any active quarterback.
The Riders squeezed out a 24-21 win over Montreal in the first meeting of the season last month, which means the all-time series is now 37-29-1 in favor of the Als, when taking into consideration only regular-season bouts dating back to 1961.
In that contest, Durant threw touchdowns to Weston Dressler and Taj Smith in the first and fourth quarters, respectively. Durant completed 18-of-32 for 250 yards, with Chris Getzlaf reeling in five balls for a team-best 95 yards.
That was also the game where Montreal's Anthony Calvillo suffered a head injury that has kept him out of action since. Calvillo hit on half of his eight pass attempts for 85 yards, one of those being a 74-yard hook up with Green who finished with seven catches for 146 yards. Stepping in for Calvillo was Neiswander who converted just 12-of-30 for 147 yards and was picked off twice.
The possibility of making the postseason is still there for the Alouettes, but the window is closing fast. Unfortunately, with Durant directing the offense on the other side, odds are the window will close a little bit more this weekend.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Saskatchewan 28, Montreal 24
2013 Sports Network Predictions: 29-19; Last Week's Predictions: 2-2.
09/25 10:58:30 ET