CFL Previews - Week 15 - October 4-5
From The Sports Network
By Gregg Xenakes, CFL Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
HAMILTON TIGER-CATS (6-7) AT TORONTO ARGONAUTS (9-4)
DATE & TIME: Friday, October 4, 7:00 p.m. (ET).
GAME NOTES: With a spot in the postseason already secured, the Toronto Argonauts now turn their attention to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats as the two teams get together on Friday night at Rogers Centre.
The Argonauts, even without key performers like Ricky Ray and Chad Owens, have been tearing it up as of late, winning four straight in order to put considerable distance between themselves and the rest of the East Division. In fact, the team has even established league records by winning four straight games in as many weeks away from home, thanks to a 34-22 triumph over Edmonton last week at Commonwealth Stadium.
Toronto had just a single point at intermission and trailed 22-1 in the third quarter before mounting the comeback bid, putting up 33 unanswered in the team's fourth straight come-from-behind victory.
Toronto running back Chad Kackert scored a pair of touchdowns, accounting for 155 yards on the ground. Quarterback Zach Collaros threw for just 152 yards and a major on 17-of-32 passing, while Marcus Ball returned an interception 57 yards for a score in the final minute to put the game out of reach.
Toronto has won a franchise-record six road games this season and is 9-0 when scoring at least 30 points. The team can clinch a home playoff game with a win this week and should the Argos come out victorious and Montreal also fall to Edmonton, the team would capture first place in the division with several weeks of action still to come.
As for the Tiger-Cats, a team which is sitting in second place in the East Division, but six points behind Toronto, there is still hope for the postseason, but the squad will need a little bit of help.
In order for Hamilton to sew up a spot in the playoffs, it must not only defeat Toronto, but at the same time have both Winnipeg and Edmonton bow to their opponents in Week 15 action.
The last time out, Hamilton scored the first points of the meeting against visiting Calgary, but then saw the Stampeders rip off 17 straight and eventually lead by a 17-4 score at the break, en route to a 35-11 victory on the road over the 'Cats.
Alternating wins and losses over the last five games, Hamilton saw both Henry Burris and Dan LeFevour get considerable time under center, combining for five interceptions and less than 250 yards through the air. Neither signal caller threw a touchdown pass, although LeFevour did make it into the end zone on a one-yard run in the third quarter.
Burris, who was sacked twice, entered last week's contest with 50,367 career passing yards and needed just 169 more to move past Ron Lancaster (50,535 yards) to become the fourth-leading passer in CFL history, but he ended up with just 134 yards before heading to the bench in the third quarter.
C.J. Gable, a rookie running back out of USC, had his best game yet for the Ticats as he carried the ball 13 times for a career-high 132 yards, but still that wasn't nearly enough to offset all of the turnovers suffered by Hamilton. With 569 yards on 92 carries here in 2013, Gable currently sits fifth on the leader board for rushing yards in the CFL.
As well as Gable ran the ball last week, Hamilton is still a team that takes its cues from Burris, although his mounting mistakes are beginning to overshadow his league-leading 3,899 passing yards and .659 completion percentage. Burris is third in the league in TD passes with 20, but at the same time he has 15 INTs, most among regular starters.
While the Tiger-Cats operate with a seasoned veteran at the helm, Toronto continues to go to battle with Collaros calling the shots, while Ray remains on the injured list. Collaros, who has four rushing TDs this season, is connecting on about two-thirds of his pass attempts and has an efficiency rating of 100.3, reducing his mistakes along the way in order to push the Argos to the top of the standings.
This is the first of back-to-back meetings for the teams, with another encounter set for 10 days from now in Hamilton. The 'Cats own a 123-91-2 advantage in the all-time, regular-season series dating back to 1950, but it was Toronto that captured a 39-34 victory in the most recent matchup when the teams kicked off the 2013 slate against each other in late June.
Toronto has won four straight and five of the last six battles in the series.
With so much still to be playing for, the Tiger-Cats can not get ahead of themselves on Friday night, but if Burris tries to force the issue and is handled by the Toronto defense, expect yet another victory for the Argonauts.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Toronto 30, Hamilton 26.
SASKATCHEWAN ROUGHRIDERS (8-5) AT BRITISH COLUMBIA LIONS (9-4)
DATE & TIME: Friday, October 4, 10:00 p.m. (ET).
GAME NOTES: Now that Geroy Simon has finally assumed his position as the CFL's all-time career receptions leader he, like the rest of the Saskatchewan Roughriders, can focus their attention on the British Columbia Lions as the teams meet up at BC Place on Friday night.
Simon, who is now in his 15th CFL season, 12 of which were spent with BC, reeled in three passes for 47 yards last week in a 17-12 loss at Montreal. The receiver logged his record-breaking 1,018th career reception on a seven-yard pass from quarterback Darian Durant during the first quarter and now has 1,020 catches in his illustrious career. For the season, Simon has posted 31 catches for 448 yards and three TDs, which isn't bad for an aging slotback from the University of Maryland.
Unfortunately, while there was clearly reason to cheer for Simon's monumental accomplishment, the Riders still came up short against a Montreal team that has been juggling quarterbacks for several weeks now. Since ripping off eight wins in nine games to start the 2013 campaign, Saskatchewan has now bowed in four straight and that has the team in third place in the West Division standings, on the outside looking in when it comes to the postseason for the time being.
Fellow receiver Chris Getzlaf responded with six catches for a team-best 124 yards and Weston Dressler added 92 yards and a major on six grabs as well, but at the same time Durant was having his problems in the pocket. The signal caller managed to complete 24-of-46 pass attempts for 339 yards and that one score to Dressler, but he was intercepted three times and sacked on four occasions.
Providing almost no support was a running attack that accounted for a woeful 15 net yards on nine carries.
While Saskatchewan was being sent to the loss column yet again last week, the Lions were putting a serious beating on Winnipeg, delivering a 53-17 blowout win on the road last Friday night.
There were more than a few highlights to be found on both sides of the ball for the Lions during their dominant performance, the team owning a 33-7 advantage in the second quarter and going up 47-14 in the second half. The defense for the Lions picked off three passes and registered four sacks, not to mention recovering three of the five fumbles committed by the Blue Bombers.
In fact, the first points of the night came on a fumble return of 30 yards for a touchdown by Adam Bighill. The linebacker, who is fifth in the league in tackles with 67 and is tied for second on the Lions with five sacks, finished with ten tackles, one sack, two forced fumbles as he picked up CFL Defensive Player of the Week honors.
BC quarterback Thomas DeMarco converted 15-of-21 passes for 170 yards and a touchdown, adding another major on the ground before giving way to Buck Pierce who stepped in and hit half of his eight passes during the dominating performance.
Thanks to Bighill, the BC defense garnered some much-deserved attention last week and now the team can brag about being tops in the league with just 308.6 ypg allowed. The squad is first in the CFL when it comes to stopping the run, permitting just 83.9 ypg, the average rushing attempting yielding only 4.8 yards.
The Lions will have to go on the attack once more this week as well, considering Saskatchewan leads the league in offense (385.0 ypg) and is second in scoring (29.8 ppg). While he may have had his struggles last week, most of the offensive success for the Riders can be attributed to Durant, who is second in passing with 3,361 yards and is tops with 27 touchdowns through the air. Durant's play continues to be of the utmost importance given that Kory Sheets, the league's leading rusher with 1,222 yards, is still on the injured list.
In terms of the all-time series between the clubs, one that takes into account only regular-season meetings dating back to 1954, the Riders hold a 92-83-4 advantage over BC. However, the Lions have won two straight matchups, including a 24-22 final just two weeks ago on the road when kicker Paul McCallum knocked through a 42-yard field goal as time expired for the visitors.
The teams are also slated to face each other once more in the regular season, with an Oct. 19 matchup set for Saskatchewan.
Should the Roughriders come out on top this week, or Edmonton suffer a loss against Montreal, Saskatchewan will ensure itself a spot in the postseason according to potential playoff scenarios. The problem is, while BC has already secured a playoff appearance, the Lions are still in a battle for a potential first-place finish in the division with Calgary and now is not the time to have a let-down
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: British Columbia 28, Saskatchewan 24.
MONTREAL ALOUETTES (5-8) AT EDMONTON ESKIMOS (3-10)
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 5, 3:30 p.m. (ET).
GAME NOTES: A couple of historic franchises that have certainly seen better days get together at Commonwealth Stadium on Saturday afternoon, as the Montreal Alouettes pay a visit to the Edmonton Eskimos.
Edmonton, which had won only once through the first 10 games, had actually put together a two-game win streak with victories over Winnipeg in a span of just six days and appeared to be well on its way to extending that minor run last weekend as well. However, after allowing just a single point to Toronto in the first half and leading by three touchdowns in the third quarter, the Esks completely fell apart, surrendering 33 unanswered points in a 34-22 setback at home.
The Eskimos saw starting quarterback Mike Reilly exit in the second quarter with concussion-like symptoms. Reilly did have one passing score before exiting.
Backup signal caller Kerry Joseph completed 13-of-26 passes for 197 yards and a touchdown to Fred Stamps, adding a three-yard rushing score in the third period as well. Stamps, playing in his 100th career game, registered his 10th receiving TD of the season and also crossed the 1,000-yard mark for the fifth straight year.
Marcus Howard logged three sacks for the Eskimos and now has nine sacks on the campaign, placing him fourth in the league in that department.
As for the Alouettes, their season has been one disappointment after another. For a team that fired first-year head coach Dan Hawkins just weeks into the campaign, perhaps the biggest issue for the squad has been the loss of quarterback Anthony Calvillo. The league's all-time leader in countless categories, Calvillo was placed on the nine-game injured list for precautionary reasons in early September, forcing the team to go in a different direction.
Unfortunately, with Calvillo unavailable, the quarterback position has been handled similar to fantasy football, with changes made almost on a weekly basis. In addition to Calvillo, the Als have also positioned Tanner Marsh, Josh Neiswander and even Troy Smith under center, with results being marginal at best. Like Calvillo, Marsh is also on the injured list now as well.
Last week versus visiting Saskatchewan, a team which was the most dominant in the league through the first half of the season, Montreal and Neiswander played just well enough to notch their fifth win of the campaign, a 17-12 decision. The signal caller converted 21-of-36 passes for 264 yards and a score, while Smith added a 54-yard toss to Jerome Messam for good measure.
Duron Carter scored the only major of the game for the Als on a 45-yard reception, finishing the contest with six catches for a game-high 152 yards.
Defensively, Montreal picked off three Darian Durant passes and recovered a fumble to keep the Roughriders from coming out on the winning side.
Not surprisingly, the once prolific passing attack for the Alouettes has slowed considerably in 2013. Ahead of only Winnipeg when it comes to passing yards, Montreal has thrown for a collective 3,209 yards and 14 touchdowns, and at the same time watched 19 attempts get picked off.
With the passing attack struggling, Montreal needs to find a way to kick the running game into gear, but that's simply not happening. In fact, in addition to tying for the fewest rushing touchdowns in the league with eight, the Als are at the bottom with regard to first downs produced running the ball (70), and are second-to-last in both yards per game (306.2) and scoring (23.2 ppg).
While the Als had just two quarterbacks on their active roster as of Wednesday morning, Edmonton discovered that Reilly had indeed suffered a concussion versus Toronto, even though he did not experience any concussion-like symptoms immediately following the hit. Edmonton has continued to monitor and evaluate the progress of Reilly in order to determine his availability for this week, but a final decision is still pending.
Edmonton leads the all-time series with the Als by a count of 37-28-2, dating back to 1961 and taking into consideration only regular-season matchups. However, Montreal won the most recent battle back in July by a 32-27 margin and has taken seven straight from the Eskimos.
Unlike Montreal, which is having to assemble a passing attack almost every week with different pieces to the puzzle, at least the Eskimos have the luxury of falling back on an experienced passer like Joseph and that, more than anything else, should be enough to carry the home team to victory this time around.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Edmonton 27, Montreal 23.
WINNIPEG BLUE BOMBERS (2-11) AT CALGARY STAMPEDERS (10-3)
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 5, 6:30 p.m. (ET).
GAME NOTES: Not only does Calgary have a spot in the postseason already sewn up, the team also owns the best overall record in the CFL, but don't expect the Stampeders to take it easy on Winnipeg when the Blue Bombers drop in at McMahon Stadium on Saturday.
With five games remaining in the regular season, Calgary leads the Western Division standings over British Columbia by two points, while Saskatchewan lingers in third, four points behind. There's still plenty of football to be played before final seedings in the playoffs will be set, so now is not the time for the Stamps to take their foot off the gas.
Winners of all but one of their six home games this season, the Stampeders were out on the road last week picking up their fifth victory in the last six outings overall with a 35-11 triumph versus Hamilton. It was a bit of a slow start for Calgary, the team going scoreless in the first quarter, but the pace picked up in the second with 17 points and another 10 in the third frame to send the Tiger-Cats back to the loss column.
Kevin Glenn handled the quarterbacking duties for the Stamps, converting 17 of his 26 pass attempts for 238 yards and three touchdowns, offsetting his one interception and two sacks. Although he caught a total of just four passes, Jabari Arthur turned those receptions into a game-high 103 yards and a pair of majors for the visitors.
For his efforts, Arthur was named the CFL's top Canadian last week as he helped fill the void created by an injured Nik Lewis. A two-time winner of the award, Arthur has already established new career highs in receptions (34), receiving yards (445) and touchdowns (three) in a season.
Backup quarterback Drew Tate stepped in to register a touchdown on one of his four rushing attempts, while Jon Cornish continued his pursuit of the league lead in rushing as he produced 114 yards on just 15 attempts. Cornish now has 1,207 yards on 183 carries this season, second only to Saskatchewan's Kory Sheets (1,222 yards) who has been out of action with injury.
Defensively, Calgary registered five interceptions, two of which came from Jamar Wall. Because of the huge effort, the Stamps are first in the league in turnover margin at plus-18, tied with three other teams for the most interceptions with 17.
While the Stampeders have made it a habit to take the ball away from the competition and limit their own mistakes, the same cannot be said for the Blue Bombers who were throttled by British Columbia in Week 14 action, 53-17, at home. Winnipeg threw three interceptions in that outing and lost possession of three of its five fumbles, as almost nothing went right for a team which has lost three straight and all but two games this entire season.
The quarterback tandem of Max Hall and Jason Boltus combined to hit on 19 of their 37 pass attempts for 228 yards and two touchdowns, but they also suffered four sacks. The supposed rushing attack for Winnipeg manufactured a mere 32 net yards on 12 carries.
Perhaps the only bright spot for the Winnipeg offense was Clarence Denmark who caught six passes for 118 yards and both TDs for the club.
While Calgary is the best in the business when it comes to turnovers, the Bombers are all the way at the other end of the spectrum with a staggering minus-26 in that department. The team has the fewest interceptions (seven) on defense and has thrown the most (22) on offense, numbers that go a long way in explaining why the squad is struggling so much here in 2013.
Thankfully, there is at least one player that the Blue Bombers can get excited about, that being defensive end Alex Hall who leads the league in sacks with 15. Hall, who broke into the CFL last year with nine sacks, has done his damage this year on only 30 total tackles.
By all means, Hall is someone the Bombers should be celebrating, but if he is not careful he could easily be overtaken in the sacks department by either of a couple of Calgary players. Sporting 13 and 10 sacks, respectively, Charleston Hughes and Cordarro Law bring the pressure for the Stampeders, and that should cause some concern for the Winnipeg offensive line and whomever might be handling the quarterback duties this week.
In a series that includes 190 regular-season meetings dating back to 1945, Calgary has a 101-89 advantage over the Bombers. Not only did the Stampeders win the most recent matchup in convincing fashion (37-24) in late July, the team has taken eight straight in the relationship now and nine of the last 10 clashes overall.
With the season already lost, this is a time for Winnipeg players to prove that they deserve to be kept on the roster and considered for a position next year, so consider this game to be on-the-job training for the Blue Bombers while they are being taken down by the Stampeders.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Calgary 35, Winnipeg 17.
2013 Sports Network Predictions: 30-22; Last Week's Predictions: 1-3.
10/02 11:11:53 ET