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CFL Preview - Hamilton (5-8) at Edmonton (5-8)



From The Sports Network

By Gregg Xenakes, CFL Editor

DATE & TIME: Friday, October 5, 9:00 p.m. (et).

GAME NOTES: A pair of teams seeking their sixth win of the season get together at Commonwealth Stadium on Friday night, as the Edmonton Eskimos entertain the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

Since starting the 2012 campaign with five wins in eight opportunities, the Eskimos have been in a vicious downward spiral that has seen the squad drop five straight outings, including a 39-15 final at Calgary last week. Part of the problem was that the Esks were running out of quarterbacks, with injuries to both Kerry Joseph and Steven Jyles, which opened the door for Matt Nichols to earn his first start in the CFL by default.

A record-breaking passer at Eastern Washington where he threw for nearly 100 touchdowns, Nichols found himself trailing by a 20-7 score at the half versus the Stampeders and was never able to fully recover. The signal-caller completed 14-of-26 passes for 167 yards and a score, but was picked off once and sacked three times. Nichols did lead the team in rushing with 36 yards and a major on two attempts, but for him to leave the pocket with both Joseph and Jyles already injured may not have been the smartest thing in the world.

Overall, the Edmonton offense sputtered, generating just 242 yards on 66 plays which may have been the impetus behind head coach Kavis Reed also adding offensive coordinator as one of his titles on Sunday. One of the first moves for Reed is to reinstate Joseph as the starter beginning on Friday night, even though the quarterback is not quite 100 percent.

Unfortunately, with these last five games of the regular season being so important for an Edmonton squad that is last in the West Division standings with just 10 points, coach Reed really doesn't have much of a choice but to go with the most experienced quarterback who is the closest to being healthy, even though Joseph has thrown more interceptions (six) than touchdowns (five) here in 2012.

As for the Tiger-Cats, they too are well aware that it is crunch time with only about a month remaining in the regular season, and their third-place spot over in the East Division guarantees them nothing when it comes to playing into late November.

With opportunities to pick up victories running short, Henry Burris took control of the 'Cats last week and guided them to a 41-28 home win versus division-leading Montreal. Burris, named the CFL Offensive Player of the Week for the third time this season on Tuesday, connected on all but just four of his 32 pass attempts, leading to better than 300 yards and five touchdowns, the signal-caller shaking off four sacks and an interception along the way.

Andy Fantuz and Dave Stala caused quite a bit of damage as both receivers landed in the end zone twice. Running back Avon Cobourne carried the ball 19 times for a game-high 111 yards against his old team, while Burris placed second on the unit with 34 rushing yards on four chances.

During a long and storied career which has seen Burris, one of only three quarterbacks to start every game for his team this season, throw for 289 touchdowns and better than 45,000 yards, the quarterback again finds himself with the best efficiency rating in the league through 13 games at 108.1. Burris has thrown the most TDs (32) and is second in total passing yards (3,846), the former moving him to within one of the Hamilton single-season record and the latter putting him on the verge of his ninth season with at least 4,000 passing yards.

Burris has had some monumental outings against Edmonton over the years, even throwing for 418 yards and three touchdowns in the most recent meeting, but at the same time he has also put himself in many vulnerable positions, to the point where he has been sacked a total of 13 times in the last five encounters.

In 18 games against Hamilton in his career, Joseph has an impressive TD-to-INT ratio of 20-to-5, but at the same time he's had some trouble holding onto the ball with a total of nine fumbles, although he has tempered that with six rushing touchdowns so perhaps those miscues can be seen as a cost of doing business in the CFL.

Edmonton owns a 52-29-1 record in the regular-season series against the Bombers dating back to 1950, and still it was Winnipeg that blew away the Eskimos in the most recent meeting just three weeks ago in a 51-8 final.

Bouncing back and forth between starting quarterbacks can't be good for the Esks, or any team for that matter, which is why Hamilton has the inside track for the win this week.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Hamilton 27, Edmonton 17

10/03 11:20:56 ET