By Greg Xenakes, CFL Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
HAMILTON TIGER-CATS (1-4) AT EDMONTON ESKIMOS (1-4)
DATE & TIME: Friday, August 2, 9 p.m. (ET).
GAME NOTES: A pair of teams with just two wins between them after five weeks of action, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Edmonton Eskimos are set to square off at Commonwealth Stadium on Friday night.
Edmonton, which is playing in front of the hometown crowd for the first time in three weeks, has dropped three consecutive decisions and is all alone in last place in the Western Division with a record of 1-4. Having given up 40 more points than they've scored, the Eskimos are the only squad in the division with a losing record at the moment.
As for the Tiger-Cats, their early play has been just as disappointing with only one win in five chances as well. Winless in both of their road dates, the Cats are currently tied with Winnipeg for last place in the Eastern Division standings , but even at a mere 1-4 they are just two points behind Montreal for second place.
Hamilton had a chance for an upset versus Saskatchewan last Saturday at home, opening the contest on a 10-0 run versus a Roughriders squad that was fielding a backup quarterback in Drew Willy, but the defense failed to hold up their end of the bargain in what turned into a 32-20 defeat.
Hamilton registered just three points over the final 30 minutes of action, courtesy of a 36-yard field goal by Luca Congi in the fourth quarter.
Quarterback Henry Burris put the ball in the air 41 times, resulting in 26 receptions and a hefty 395 yards and a pair of touchdowns, but even that was not enough. While moving into fourth place on the CFL's all-time list for passing touchdowns with 308, Burris also had to fight off constant pressure that produced seven sacks. Even Burris, who is now fifth on the all-time completions list in league history with 3,410, could not weather the storm brought on by the Riders as they remained the lone undefeated squad in the league.
While the Ticats were being set down by Saskatchewan, Edmonton was mounting a late comeback bid against Montreal on the road that just fell short last Thursday night in a 32-27 decision. The Esks tallied a total of only six points in the first half, but came alive in the third and fourth quarters with a combined 21 points, but still the visitors were sent home with yet another defeat.
Mike Reilly saw the most time under center for Edmonton, hitting on 16-of-28 passes for 262 yards and two scores, but he was also picked off once and had to deal with three sacks as well. Kerry Joseph managed to get off one pass attempt for the Esks, while Jonathan Crompton threw four passes in the meeting and completed as many to his own teammates (one) as he did to the Montreal defense.
Fred Stamps led all receivers with six catches for 103 yards, but it was Cary Koch who stole some of the spotlight with not only a 24-yard catch for a score in the final period, but also an 81-yard punt return for a touchdown to kick off the scoring in the second half in order to give Edmonton a fighting chance.
Running back Hugh Charles, who had a season-high 119 yards rushing on 11 carries against Hamilton in the first meeting of the season thanks to a long of 70 yards, was limited to just five carries for 27 yards by the Montreal defense.
From a defensive standpoint, Edmonton had no answers on how to even slow down Brandon Whitaker who rumbled for 162 yards and a score on 24 attempts. It also didn't help that the Eskimos were again beaten down by their own poor execution, suffering 13 penalties for a loss of 111 yards.
Heading into Week 5 action, Edmonton was one of the most penalized clubs in the league with an average of just under 12 flags per contest, and that trend continued to the dismay of head coach Kavis Reed who continues to seek an answer to his team's troubled play on both sides of the ball.
The Esks won the first meeting of the season between the squads back on July 7 by a score of 30-20 on the road. In that contest, Edmonton's Reilly threw for two touchdowns and ran for another, while Burris threw for 234 yards and a score for Hamilton, but was picked off twice and sacked four times.
With the victory, their fourth in the last five encounters with Winnipeg, the Eskimos pushed their lead to 54-39-1 in the all-time series, taking into consideration only regular-season bouts played since 1950.
Neither one of these teams has put together solid efforts on a consistent basis. Hamilton might be winless on the road thus far, but at the same time the Eskimos have yet to win at home in two tries, which means almost anything can happen in this particular meeting.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Edmonton 27, Hamilton 22.
WINNIPEG BLUE BOMBERS (1-4) AT BRITISH COLUMBIA LIONS (3-2)
DATE & TIME: Monday, August 5, 7 p.m. (ET).
GAME NOTES: The Winnipeg Blue Bombers try to bring an end to a three-game slide on Monday night as they pay a visit to the British Columbia Lions at BC Place.
Tied with Hamilton for last place in the Eastern Division standings with just a single win in five opportunities, the only victory coming against Montreal on the road back on July 4 by a score of 19-11. In every other contest the squad has given up at least 25 points, with 37 being permitted to the Calgary Stampeders in a 13-point setback the last time out on July 26.
Prior to that contest, Winnipeg held a players-only meeting in an effort to clear the air and get on track but it didn't help on the scoreboard.
Filling in for an injured Buck Pierce at quarterback, Justin Goltz threw a pair of touchdown passes to Jade Etienne in the first and second quarters, respectively, the receiver finishing with a total of three catches for just 18 yards. Goltz hit on just 19-of-35 passes for 194 yards, was picked off once and sacked three times as the team controlled the ball for less than 22 minutes.
Running back Chad Simpson, who finished with 13 carries for 73 yards, notched a two-yard scoring run in the fourth period.
Defensively, the Blue Bombers had no answer for Bo Levi Mitchell, a backup quarterback himself for the Stampeders, who missed on just four of his 33 pass attempts, leading to 376 yards and three majors. Jon Cornish was allowed to roam free as he not only registered a game-high 88 rushing yards on 16 carries, he also caught a game-high six passes for another 87 yards.
In the case of the Lions, they just played on Tuesday night against Toronto at Rogers Centre and based on the key injuries to Argos quarterback Ricky Ray and running back Chad Kackert, BC figured to have an edge even though it was on the road. Unfortunately, the visitors simply could not get their offense on track as they suffered a 38-12 defeat.
Filling in for Ray was Zach Collaros who threw a trio of TD passes, while subbing for Kackert was Curtis Steele who ran for 74 yards and two majors, not to mention coming up with a team-best five catches for another 35 yards.
The first half saw the Lions score just six points on a pair of short field goals by Paul McCallum. The kicker added two more field goals in the third frame, but clearly quarterback Travis Lulay was not finding his receivers with any regularity as the team saw a six-game win streak in the series versus Toronto come to an end.
Lulay, who finished the 2012 campaign with the second-best efficiency rating in the league at 100.7 as he completed close to two-thirds of his pass attempts, was in the same neighborhood versus the Argos as he converted 20- of-29 for 226 yards, but had one pass picked off and was sacked three times.
Nick Moore stepped up with six receptions for a game-high 116 yards, while Andrew Harris continued to assault defenses by generating a game-high 107 rushing yards on 16 attempts, but still neither was able to get into the end zone.
Harris, who ran for 1,112 yards on 187 carries a season ago, is now up to 403 yards on 70 attempts in 2013 thanks to a trio of 100-yard efforts.
Lulay and the offense suffered a significant setback late in the first quarter when guard Kirby Fabien, who earlier in the period recovered a teammate's fumble, went down with an apparent knee injury and was carted off the field. Fabien was taken to a local hospital for additional evaluation.
The least penalized team in the league after four weeks of play with a total of just 21 miscues, for a loss of 250 yards, the Lions were hit with a hefty 13 flags for a staggering 126 yards on Tuesday night, compared to just five penalties for 45 yards assessed to the Argonauts.
Last season, the teams kicked off the campaign against each other in British Columbia, with the hosts capturing a convincing 33-16 triumph. In Week 9 action, the Bombers made the game much more competitive before bowing in a 20-17 final at home.
Even with the sweep in 2012, the Lions still trail the all-time series between the teams, taking into account only regular-season bouts dating back to 1954, by a count of 83-73-2.
These two clubs are set to meet once more during the regular season in late September in Winnipeg.
Back home where they are 2-0 this season, the Lions should be able to figure out their issues from Tuesday night and put their best foot forward against a Winnipeg squad that is clearly having some serious problems of their own at the moment.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: British Columbia 35, Winnipeg 20.
2013 Sports Network Predictions: 14-6; Last Week's Predictions: 3-1.
07/31 19:44:32 ET
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