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CFL Previews - Week 18 - October 26-28
From The Sports Network

By Greg Xenakes, CFL Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -

BRITISH COLUMBIA LIONS (12-4) AT CALGARY STAMPEDERS (10-6)

DATE & TIME: Friday, October 26, 9:00 p.m. (ET).

GAME NOTES: The top two teams in the Western Division get together once again this week, as the Calgary Stampeders clash with the British Columbia Lions at McMahon Stadium on Friday night.

The Lions, the defending Grey Cup Champions, are sitting pretty right now with 12 wins in 16 opportunities, their 24 total points leading the entire league. Already having sewn up the regular-season title in the West, BC is assured of hosting the division finals on Nov. 18.

While Calgary has had to bounce back from a disappointing 2-3 start to the campaign, the team has also wrapped up a spot in the postseason and is due to host an as-yet-unknown opponent on Nov. 11 in the Western Division Semifinals as well.

Last week, the Stamps posted their second straight win and the third in the last four outings with a narrow 34-32 decision over Hamilton at home. Calgary actually went scoreless through the first period of play and then turned up the heat from the second quarter on, beginning with a 100-yard interception return for a touchdown by Keon Raymond.

Running back Jon Cornish was limited to just 27 rushing yards on 13 carries, his longest single run clocking in at 14 yards, but he did score once on the ground and was a critical piece in the aerial game as he caught seven passes for 108 yards and a touchdown as he was named the CFL's Canadian of the Week.

Quarterback Kevin Glenn had TD passes of seven and 56 yards to Cornish and Maurice Price, respectively, while backup signal-caller Bo Levi Mitchell recorded a one-yard scoring run of his own to help the cause. Unfortunately for Glenn, he allowed the Tiger-Cats to hang around and make things interesting due to his four interceptions on the day.

While Calgary was holding on for dear life in order to pull off the win against the 'Cats, British Columbia had no such worries as the team throttled visiting Edmonton in a 39-19 final last Friday night. Perhaps most surprising about the lopsided win for the Lions was that Travis Lulay was nowhere to be found as he rested an ailing back instead of putting himself in the cross- hairs.

Stepping in for Lulay was backup Mike Reilly who, in anticipation of Lulay's potential absence, took snaps with the first team during practice and the extra work proved beneficial as he converted 19-of-28 passes for 276 yards and two touchdowns, against just one interception. Reilly, who is again ready to go if Lulay opts to rest his ailing body once more, was sacked four times in the meeting yet still added to the team's overall rushing attack with his 43 yards on just four carries.

Continuing to show just how valuable he is for the Lions, kicker Paul McCallum was at it again last week with six field goals in as many tries, finishing with 21 points which means he now has an astounding 173 points in 16 games.

On the defensive side of the ball, BC produced seven sacks of Edmonton starter Kerry Joseph and eight sacks overall as they assumed the top spot in the league in that department with 41. Adam Bighill and Brandon Jordan both registered a couple of sacks, but it is defensive end Keron Williams who still paces the league with his 11 quarterback takedowns.

Even though the BC defense tends to hit anything that moves, it should be noted that because the offense has taken such great care of the ball through 16 games, the Lions currently lead the league with a plus-10 in the turnover department. The league record for the fewest turnovers in a single season stands at 28 recorded by Ottawa in 1967 and this same BC club just six years ago. Unless something dramatic takes place in the coming weeks, these Lions should blow that number away.

At the other end of the spectrum, the Stamps have the same number of takeaways as BC (29), but are still sixth in the league overall with a minus-seven in total turnovers.

In terms of the all-time, regular-season series between these two clubs, Calgary owns a 94-77-5 advantage over the Lions, but it was BC that posted a 27-22 victory in the most recent meeting earlier this month in Vancouver. With the victory British Columbia has now taken four in a row and six of the last seven in the series, one that dates back to 1954.

Both of these teams have their postseason tickets already punched so you never know who might be taking a seat on the bench and when in order to save them for the more important games in a few weeks. As long as Reilly can continue to develop and learn the BC way, expect to see the Lions back in the win column again.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: British Columbia 31, Calgary 24

WINNIPEG BLUE BOMBERS (5-11) AT HAMILTON TIGER-CATS (5-11)

DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 27, 1:00 p.m. (ET).

GAME NOTES: With the hopes of making the playoffs becoming more and more dire, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats try desperately to stay alive as they collide this weekend in the final regular-season game ever at Ivor Wynne Stadium.

Scheduled to be demolished in December to make room for the new Hamilton Pan Am Soccer Stadium, Ivor Wynne will see one of the combatants on Saturday afternoon leave the building knowing that their postseason aspirations have been dashed. Should Hamilton come out on top and also defeat Toronto in the regular-season finale on Nov. 1, there's still no guarantee that the Tiger- Cats will make the cut because there are a host of variables that need to fall in their favor to ensure life after Week 19 action.

Winnipeg still has an opportunity to take third place in the standings but must win the final two games of the regular season and have Edmonton bow in both of its outings to close things out. Even though both of these teams are sporting 5-11 records and are tied for third in the Eastern Division, there are several different scenarios that are possible that will dictate who will move on and who will start prepping early for the 2013 campaign.

The Bombers, who will try again this week to win back-to-back games for the first time this season, scored a season-high 44 points in a 12-point win against Toronto on the road last week. In that meeting, Buck Pierce returned to the huddle and converted 13-of-22 passes for 200 yards, but it was backup signal-caller Alex Brink who made more of an impact with his 31 yards and two touchdowns on 10 rushing attempts.

In fact, the passing attack for Winnipeg took a back seat to what the team was able to accomplish on the ground as it ran the ball 43 times for 260 yards and four majors. The 43 rushing attempts marked the most in the league since Saskatchewan had the same number, leading to 290 yards at Edmonton some 11 years ago.

Chad Simpson recorded a game-high 136 yards on 20 carries and landed in the end zone on a 14-yard effort late in the second quarter. Will Ford contributed another 85 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries as well.

While Winnipeg was having its way on the road, the Tiger-Cats were being frustrated by host Calgary last Saturday night as Hamilton came up short in a 34-32 final. The loss for the 'Cats was their third in a row and the fourth in the last five outings. In fact, since winning three straight back in July the team has posted a record of only 2-9.

Hamilton rolled up an impressive 489 yards of total offense against the Stamps on the road, but the team certainly didn't help itself by committing 14 penalties for a total of 98 yards. The squad also turned the ball over three times, twice by quarterback Henry Burris who tossed a couple of interceptions while completing 24-of-33 passes for 354 yards and two touchdowns. The other knock on Burris, even though he piled up the yards, was that he allowed himself to be sacked six times.

Receiver Chris Williams made a significant impact for the visitors as he caught seven balls for 122 yards and a score, adding another 30 yards in punt returns which means he now has 2,399 combined yards on the season, good enough for second place in the league. With the touchdown he is also all alone in first place when it comes to total majors in the league with 14, registering eight on receptions and a staggering six on returns, the latter making Hamilton one of the most accomplished clubs in that department in the last several years.

Along with Williams, Burris creates one of the more exciting duos in the league, but there are times when the Tiger-Cats simply can't get out of their own way. True, Burris is second in the CFL in passing with 4,699 yards and thanks to a league-best 37 TDs he also has the top efficiency rating (104.6), but those numbers also go along with 16 interceptions, which means Hamilton is last in the CFL in turnover margin at minus-12 overall.

Not that much better in the turnover department, Winnipeg is seventh in the league at minus-10.

Dating back to 1950 and taking into account only regular-season matchups, Winnipeg holds a 59-45 edge in the all-time series thanks in part to a current run of five straight victories over the Ticats. The Bombers, winners of six of the last nine encounters overall, delivered a 34-12 decision at home in the most recent meeting back in September, a victory that served to snap the team's four-game slide but was still the only triumph during a six-game stretch for the club.

All of the flip-flopping at quarterback for the Blue Bombers this season has prevented them from showing just has strong they can be, and trying to get straightened out this late in the season probably won't work either.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Hamilton 28, Winnipeg 22

TORONTO ARGONAUTS (7-9) AT SASKATCHEWAN ROUGHRIDERS (8-8)

DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 27, 4:00 p.m. (ET).

GAME NOTES: With a spot in the playoffs already secured, the Saskatchewan Roughriders try to improve their standing in the Western Division as they tangle with the Toronto Argonauts at Mosaic Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

Saskatchewan can't catch British Columbia for first place in the division, the Lions already have that sewn up, but at least the Roughriders are not fighting for their playoff lives like Toronto which needs to win at least one of the next two outings to clinch a postseason berth.

The Argos have been shooting themselves in the proverbial foot over and over again in recent weeks. It wasn't that long ago that Toronto was making a serious run in the Eastern Division with a record of 6-4, but since then the team has dropped five of six contests, including three in a row after bowing to Winnipeg at home last week, 44-32.

Against the Blue Bombers in their own building, the Argonauts allowed double- digit scoring in each quarter and, more specifically, a Winnipeg squad to run the ball an astounding 43 times for 260 yards and four touchdowns. The rushing attempts were the most allowed in any game in more than a decade, and the Bombers showed that it most certainly, when done correctly, can earn a team a victory.

Attempting to counter for the Argonauts was quarterback Ricky Ray who converted 20-of-33 passes for 383 yards and four touchdowns, but unlike the visitors, Toronto gained just 53 yards on the ground.

Receiver Jason Barnes lit up the scoreboard by taking three of his four receptions into the end zone, while Andre Durie added six catches for a game- high 128 yards and a major as well.

Chad Owens, who is trying to become the first player in history to register 4,000 combined yards in a single season, was left with a mixed bag against Winnipeg as he caught five passes for 108 yards, produced another 122 yards on six kickoff returns and tallied 56 yards on punt returns, but at the same time fumbled the ball away twice.

Owens, already the only player in CFL history to register three straight seasons with at least 3,000 combined yards, now has 3,557 yards with two games remaining to reach what could easily be considered CFL immortality. However, a more reasonable goal or expectation would have Owens gaining at least 284 yards in the final pair of outings in order to set a new single-season record in the league, surpassing Mike Clemons who in 1997 piled up 3,840 yards.

Another milestone that is certainly within reach is becoming the first player in CFL history to lead the league in both kick return yards and receiving yards in the same campaign.

Like the Argos, Saskatchewan also landed in the loss column last week, the second time in as many games, but dropping a 34-28 decision to Montreal at home was not nearly as devastating for the Roughriders.

Against the Alouettes, Saskatchewan trailed by 20 points in the final frame but made a game of it as Darian Durant threw a nine-yard TD pass to Weston Dressler and then Kory Sheets recorded a one-yard TD run later in the fourth before the team was finally defeated. Sheets finished with just 45 yards on 10 carries and Durant was 24-of-40 for 219 yards in the losing cause. Dressler did manage to notch a 66-yard punt return for a score in the second period.

Although he completed just one pass for a single yard, backup quarterback Drew Willy made it count as he found Graeme Bell for a touchdown early on.

Now tied for second in the league in touchdowns with 13, Dressler leads the league in receiving yards with 1,189, tying his career high, while his 92 catches are also a personal best. For the third straight year and fourth time in five seasons, Dressler is up over 1,000 receiving yards.

In terms of the all-time, regular-season series between these two clubs, the Riders hold a 45-35-1 edge dating back to 1945. The teams faced each other earlier this month with Saskatchewan posting a 36-10 victory on the road, which means the Riders have now won two straight and seven of the last nine encounters overall.

In that most recent meeting, the teams combined for 28 penalties, leading to a ridiculous 221 yards of lost field position. While he wasn't the deciding factor in the 26-point decision, kicker Sandro DeAngelis did play a pivotal role with five field goals and 18 total points.

The top priority for the Argonauts is for them to make a strong play for the postseason and then comes the chemistry between Ray and Owens, which could put Toronto over the top this weekend.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Toronto 31, Saskatchewan 27

EDMONTON ESKIMOS (7-9) AT MONTREAL ALOUETTES (10-6)

DATE & TIME: Sunday, October 28, 1:00 p.m. (ET).

GAME NOTES: With the Eastern Division title already locked up, the Montreal Alouettes now turn their attention to the Edmonton Eskimos as the two squads collide on Sunday afternoon.

Last Saturday, the Als recorded a 34-28 win over Saskatchewan on the road, the team's second straight win and the 10th overall for the season. Because Toronto was sent packing by Winnipeg a day earlier, the Alouettes were in control of their own destiny and are now assured of hosting a division finals game on Nov. 18.

Edmonton's chances of making the postseason are slightly more convoluted at the moment. Because the Eskimos hold a tie-breaker over Saskatchewan, the squad has to at least win one of the last two games on the schedule in order to secure a cross-over spot in the playoffs, or wait and see if Hamilton and Winnipeg both split their final two games in order to sneak in.

For a team that opened the 2012 campaign with three wins in four tries, the Eskimos could have made it much easier on themselves if they hadn't dropped five straight games in the month of September. Last week, Edmonton saw a brief two-game win streak come to an end when it bowed to British Columbia on the road in a 39-19 final.

If it wasn't for kicker Grant Shaw, the final score against the Lions would have been even more dismal as he produced all 10 points for the Eskimos in the first half. As a unit, Edmonton generated 293 yards of offense, but the squad was also slowed by 10 penalties which cost them 86 yards as well.

Kerry Joseph took more than his fair share of hits as he was sacked seven times. The signal-caller converted a mere 6-of-24 passes for 146 yards and a score, but was also intercepted once.

Part of the problem for the Eskimos was that running back Hugh Charles sustained an injury and that curtailed many of the options Edmonton may have had on offense. Charles gained 35 yards on seven carries and Jerome Messam had a single 22-yard run on his lone attempt, which may be why the team was prompted to bring back Cory Boyd whom they had released just 10 days prior.

Boyd, who began the season with the Toronto Argonauts and was the league's leading rusher with 447 yards before being released by them, appeared in four games for Edmonton previously and was credited with 18 carries for 76 yards and another 40 receiving yards on four catches.

Having someone like Boyd ready to pick up the slack right off the bat is something that the Eskimos should be thrilled about being able to do on such short notice, but if Joseph isn't able to direct the offense it might not make much of a difference.

As for the Alouettes, they started off slow in their meeting with the Roughriders last Saturday afternoon, but then picked up the pace in the second and third quarters when they tallied a combined 27 points in order to surge ahead. Down the stretch the defense did permit a pair of touchdowns to Saskatchewan which closed the gap significantly, but still the Als held on.

Anthony Calvillo had a modest day passing the ball by his standards, converting 16-of-28 for 262 yards and a score, but while the signal-caller was sacked twice by the Riders, he also ran the ball three times for a collective 36 yards and two touchdowns. Any other time an effort like that may have earned Calvillo the CFL's Offensive Player of the Week award, but in this case that accolade went to teammate Jamel Richardson who caught eight passes for 161 yards.

Richardson has been rather quiet this season when it comes to statistics, at least compared to years gone by. Last year, he led the entire league in receiving yards with close to 1,800, resulting in 11 touchdowns stemming from 112 catches, but this year he has half that number of receptions for 949 yards and five majors.

The receiver really can't blame Calvillo for his dip in production because the quarterback is again on pace to throw for more than 5,000 yards for the second straight year and the seventh time in his career, needing just 239 yards in the next two games to reach that plateau. However, Calvillo has seen his accuracy dip to 60 percent and his interceptions rise to 12 after throwing just eight picks all of last season.

While Calvillo is preparing to break the tie he holds with Doug Flutie for the most 5,000-yard passing seasons in CFL history, Edmonton is dealing with the fact that it is next-to-last in the league in passing yards (4,154) and has nearly as many INTs (16) as TDs (20), as it juggles quarterbacks depending on their health and effectiveness.

Montreal won the only prior meeting this season between these two teams back on Aug. 17 by a score of 38-25, as Calvillo threw for 327 yards and four touchdowns. With that decision, the Als have now taken five in a row from Edmonton, but still trail in the all-time, regular-season series by a count of 37-26-2 dating back to 1949.

With the understanding that their place in the playoffs is now solidified, the Als might take their foot off the gas in the final weeks, but that doesn't necessarily mean Montreal is destined to fall in this one.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Montreal 27, Edmonton 22

2012 Sports Network Predictions: 32-32. Last Week's Selections: 3-1.

10/24 13:16:09 ET