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CFL Previews - Week 13 - September 20-22From The Sports Network
By Gregg Xenakes, CFL Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
EDMONTON ESKIMOS (2-9) AT WINNIPEG BLUE BOMBERS (2-9)
DATE & TIME: Friday, September 20, 8:00 p.m. (ET).
GAME NOTES: In a battle of division cellar dwellers, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers get together with the Edmonton Eskimos on Friday night at Investors Group Field.
These same two squads met in Edmonton last weekend where the hosts captured a comfortable 25-7 victory, snapping an eight-game slide in the process and registering their first home win of 2013. The Eskimos, who are still just 1-4 on the road this season, leaned heavily on quarterback Mike Reilly who threw a pair of touchdown passes to Fred Stamps and another to Adarius Bowman in the triumph.
Reilly, who was named the CFL Offensive Player of the Week for his efforts, finished the outing 16-of-25 for 196 yards and shook off three sacks while still leading all rushers with 113 yards on nine carriers.
Over on the other side for the Blue Bombers, the quarterback picture wasn't nearly as bright with Max Hall and Justin Goltz combining to take the majority of the snaps. Import quarterback Jason Boltus was credited with one pass attempt, but it was primarily Hall and Goltz who handled the action as they combined to convert 20-of-32 attempts for 214 yards and a pair of interceptions. Goltz was also sacked four times.
Despite coming up with a modest 322 yards of total offense, the Blue Bombers did little to justify even being in contention against Edmonton. The only points of the contest for Winnipeg, which has yet to nail down a starting quarterback for this week, came from Sandro DeAngelis who knocked through a pair of field goals in the second and fourth quarters and also added a single in the third.
As was the case last week, the offense for the Blue Bombers is the weakest in the CFL, producing just 20.4 ppg. The team may have the most rushing touchdowns with 15, but this is a league that is built and sustained on passing and in that department the Bombers are sorely lacking with a mere five passing TDs. Only one other team (Montreal) has fewer than 20 passing majors at this stage of the season, and the Alouettes have good reason for that with their star quarterback on the injured list.
The Blue Bombers thought they had a top-notch quarterback for the future in Buck Pierce, but he always seemed to be injured and was just recently traded to British Columbia, which means Winnipeg is preparing to weather the rest of the season with what it has on the roster.
What's on the Winnipeg roster and depth chart is a group of quarterbacks that has very little experience, and even less success, in the CFL. Goltz, who has been a Bomber since 2010, has thrown for less than 1,000 yards and has more INTs (seven) than TDs (three), while Hall had great success at BYU and had some opportunities in the NFL but has attempted a total of just 54 passes north of the border.
In the case of Reilly, he is finally starting to come into his own and making it a bit easier to forget that Ricky Ray once played for this team before being traded away to the Argonauts. Reilly is fourth in the league in passing yards with 2,667 and is tied for fourth with 19 passing scores, but with an interception percentage of 3.1, Reilly is still trying to boost his efficiency rating to a more respectable level.
Making the road a little less bumpy for Reilly is Stamps who is now the league leader in receiving yards with 821 on 44 catches. Stamps is also tops in receiving touchdowns as well with nine. Cary Koch had been a solid second option for Reilly and the Eskimos, but he's currently on the nine-game injured list, which means Nate Coehoorn has to up his production and find a way to finally get into the end zone.
A bigger challenge for Reilly right now is to relinquish his role as the top ground gainer for the Eskimos, having produced 530 yards on 55 carries. Hugh Charles (409 yards, 78 attempts) might not be averaging the same lofty yards per carry as the signal caller, but he's better built to absorb hits down the field. Should Reilly suffer a significant injury, while it won't change the outcome of the season, it could slow down the growth of the Esks at this point.
With the victory last weekend, the Eskimos now lead the all-time series between the squads by a count of 93-80-3, considering only regular-season matchups dating back to 1938.
With Winnipeg floundering, trying desperately to find an identity on offense, expect to see Edmonton feed off last week's win and actually put together a winning streak.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Edmonton 27, Winnipeg 24.
MONTREAL ALOUETTES (4-7) VS. HAMILTON TIGER-CATS (5-6)
DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 21, 4:00 p.m. (ET).
GAME NOTES: A couple of East Division clubs trying to get back into the win column meet at Moncton Stadium in Moncton on Saturday afternoon, as the Hamilton Tiger-Cats entertain the Montreal Alouettes.
Both squads are under-achieving this season and are playing below .500 at the moment, but considering the fact that Toronto is the only team in the division with a winning record, perhaps these two slumping clubs are not completely out of the postseason picture just yet.
However, the prospects for the Alouettes continue to look more and more bleak, particularly with quarterback Anthony Calvillo still recovering from a head injury. Calvillo has been placed on the nine-game injured list which means Montreal is having to turn to a host of unproven performers.
Against British Columbia on the road last Sunday, the Alouettes struggled to find consistency at the position as Tanner Marsh and Josh Neiswander combined to hit on 23-of-40 passes for 229 yards and two touchdowns, but both were sacked twice and the latter had a pair of attempts picked off, returned for a combined 83 yards in the 36-14 setback versus the Lions.
Montreal came up scoreless in the first half of the meeting and managed just 289 yards of total offense on 79 plays. In addition to a sluggish offense and numerous turnovers, the Als also were flagged 15 times for a loss of 115 yards.
S.J. Green and Brandon London both had receiving touchdowns for Montreal, but still the team bowed for the second straight game and third time in four tries.
As for the Tiger-Cats, who are currently in second place in the standings, they appeared to be on their way to a potential road win over Calgary during Week 12 action, ahead by nine points in the third quarter, but the defense allowed kicker Rene Paredes to get close enough for a pair of field goals and then watched as Bo Levi Mitchell hit Marquay McDaniel with the game-winning touchdown with less than two minutes remaining in the 26-22 decision.
Hamilton, a loser in two of the last three outings, was paced by quarterback Henry Burris who converted 26-of-39 passes for 408 yards and a couple of majors, but he was picked off twice and sacked five times. Despite the rough treatment and the loss, Burris still reached a significant milestone as he became just the fifth player in CFL history to throw for at least 50,000 yards in his career.
The pass that put Burris over the threshold was a six-yard TD strike to Onrea Jones in the second quarter. Jones finished the outing with four catches for 38 yards, while the other aerial score landed in the hands of Andy Fantuz who grabbed six passes for 96 yards. C.J. Gable also had six receptions for a team-best 108 yards.
Burris, who leads the league with 3,589 yards passing and is the only quarterback in the CFL with more than 2,800 yards at this stage, needs only 346 more passing yards to pass Ron Lancaster for fourth on the CFL's all-time list. Seeing as how he has averaged 309 ypg passing in his 29 games as a Tiger-Cat, Burris should be moving up the charts within the next couple of weeks.
While Burris is certainly a top-notch passer in the league again this year, having thrown for at least 300 yards in each of his last five outings, defenses have been capitalizing a bit more on his mistakes recently, recording seven interceptions in the last four games. In the seven games prior, Burris had been picked off only four times.
While the Alouettes are well aware of who they are facing when they line up on defense, the same can't be said for Hamilton which is trying to figure out which quarterback will be taking the majority of the snaps for Montreal this time around. Marsh did have back-to-back games with more than 300 yards with Calvillo on the sidelines, but the youngster can be a wild gunslinger at times, one who has already tossed eight interceptions and is completing only 52.8 percent of his attempts.
The story doesn't get any better with Neiswander unfortunately, with him having been picked off five times and completing only 48.2 percent of his attempts to teammates.
Last season, these teams met a total of three times, with Hamilton taking two decisions and losing the other by just two points on the road during Week 9 action. With those outcomes the Als saw their advantage in the all-time series, one that takes into consideration only regular-season matchups going back to 1950, to reach 88-79-7.
This is the first of three meetings on the schedule between the teams here in 2013, with back-to-back contests awaiting during a six-day stretch in late October.
As long as Burris has the ball in his hands and is free to do as he pleases, the Tiger-Cats have the edge in this meeting. Should the Hamilton defense go on the attack and get after whomever is lining up under center for the Alouettes, this could turn into one ugly event.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Hamilton 30, Montreal 21.
TORONTO ARGONAUTS (7-4) AT CALGARY STAMPEDERS (9-2)
DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 21, 7:30 p.m. (ET).
GAME NOTES: The top teams in their respective divisions get together on Saturday night, as the Calgary Stampeders host the Toronto Argonauts at McMahon Stadium.
Calgary had been chasing Saskatchewan in the Western Division for most of the campaign, but last Friday night the Stampeders rustled up their fourth straight win and the eighth in the last nine outings with a 26-22 triumph over a pesky Hamilton squad at home. With the victory Calgary improved to a league- best 9-2 on the season, and moved two points ahead of the Roughriders in the standings.
Trailing by nine points in the third quarter, the Stamps turned up the pressure against Hamilton on both sides of the ball, ripping off 13 unanswered points in order to claim the win. The deciding score came on a 15-yard pass from Bo Levi Mitchell to Marquay McDaniel with just over a minute remaining in regulation.
Mitchell finished the night 20-of-30 for 257 yards and two touchdowns, was sacked twice and intercepted two times by the Tiger-Cats. Maurice Price caught five balls for 108 yards, one of those going 80 yards for a score, while Jon Cornish picked up a game-high 72 yards rushing on 13 attempts for the hosts.
While he didn't exactly steal the spotlight from the regulars, Calgary punter Rob Maver did attract some attention as he averaged 48.8 yards on five kicks, earning CFL Special Teams Player of the Week honors.
As for the Argonauts, they needed a strong fourth quarter in order to surpass the Roughriders and hold on for a 31-29 victory on the road, helping out Calgary in the process. Quarterback Zach Collaros not only threw for 225 yards and a score, he also ran in for a one-yard major for the visitors.
Running back Chad Kackert made his first appearance since being injured, but he lasted only a few plays before heading back to the sidelines. In his place, Toronto took advantage of Jerious Norwood who carried the ball 12 times for 73 yards and a score.
Saskatchewan, which was plagued by a staggering 16 penalties for a loss of 163 yards on the night, had a chance to tie the game in the waning moments, but during a two-point conversion attempt quarterback Darian Durant was swarmed under and never got off a pass.
With regular starter Ricky Ray out of action with an injury, Collaros has brought some stability to the Toronto offense with his 68.2 percent accuracy and eight aerial touchdowns. More importantly, the signal caller has thrown just four interceptions in 120 attempts, minimizing his mistakes in order to push the Argos to the top of the standings.
But as good as Collaros has been, not having Chad Owens at his disposal could pose a problem. Owens, dealing with a concussion, is doubtful for this weekend's outing as well, which means Toronto will again be missing one of the most electrifying performers in the game.
Kackert may not be back on the shelf officially, but one has to wonder if he is ready to try and take on more of the load for the Argos with Owens missing in the lineup. Norwood filled in nicely last week for Kackert and Andre Durie (60 catches, 669 yards) can stretch the field for Collaros, so it might be better to rest the players who are not 100 percent and get them ready for the postseason instead.
For the time being, Mitchell appears to be the go-to passer for the Stamps, particularly since he has three more touchdown tosses (10) than Kevin Glenn on 29 fewer completions. Mitchell has completed 70.3 percent of his passes and it has been only in the last two games that opponents have caught on to him and logged three interceptions.
McDaniel may lead the team in receptions (46) and yardage (556), but it is Price who has one more receiving touchdown (five) on nine fewer catches. Both receivers will again have to be at the top of their game in order to get over on the Toronto pass defense.
Helping to stretch the field will be Cornish, the only active 1,000-yard rusher in the league, tied with Saskatchewan's Kory Sheets for the most rushing TDs with eight.
These teams faced off against each other last month in Toronto, with the Stampeders coming away with a 35-14 victory. In that meeting the Argos, who had won five in a row in the series, failed to score in the second half as Collaros took over at quarterback and converted 16-of-26 passes for 221 yards, was sacked four times and intercepted once.
Glenn took care of the action for Calgary as he turned his 14 completed passes into 228 yards and two majors, while Rene Paredes accounted for another 13 points for the visitors.
With the win, Calgary moved ahead in the all-time series by one game, 42-41-1, taking into consideration only regular-season matchups dating back to 1961.
Calgary, which is still undefeated at home after five games, is also a perfect 5-0 versus East Division foes but you figure those streaks will have to end at some point. However, with so many key pieces missing for the Argonauts right now, it would be difficult to pick them for a win on the road.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Calgary 31, Toronto 24.
BRITISH COLUMBIA LIONS (7-4) AT SASKATCHEWAN ROUGHRIDERS (8-3)
DATE & TIME: Sunday, September 22, 4:30 p.m. (ET).
GAME NOTES: Geroy Simon will try to make history on Sunday against his former mates when the Saskatchewan Roughriders challenge the visiting British Columbia Lions at Mosaic Stadium.
Simon, who spent a dozen years as a member of the Lions after he broke into the league with Winnipeg, is on the verge of becoming the CFL's all-time leader in receptions, needing just five more to match Ben Cahoon who set the mark with 1,017 receptions just a few years ago. Already the all-time leader in receiving yards with 16,128, Simon had five grabs last week for the Roughriders, but still the team came up short against Toronto at home, 31-29.
Saskatchewan, a winner in eight of the first nine games this season, has now dropped back-to-back decisions which means the squad has fallen to second place in the West Division standings behind streaking Calgary.
The Riders were led by quarterback Darian Durant who completed 24-of-49 passes for 369 yards and three touchdowns, but he was also picked off three times and suffered two sacks. One of those takedowns behind the line of scrimmage came on a late two-point conversion attempt that would have tied the score and possibly sent the meeting into overtime.
Durant tossed a pair of TDs to Chris Getzlaf who reeled in five balls for 133 yards, but still Simon garnered more than enough attention as he closed in on the all-time receptions record and made a spectacular one-handed grab during the meeting.
Despite the efforts of Durant, Getzlaf and Simon, there were more than a few sour notes played by the Riders, namely their 16 penalties for a loss of 163 yards. The other bad news came when league-leading running back Kory Sheets went down with a right knee sprain and did not return to action.
On Tuesday it was announced that Sheets would miss this weekend's matchup, which means the Riders have to find a replacement for a player who had compiled 1,222 yards and eight touchdowns on 213 rushing attempts through 11 games. When it comes to the second-best option for running the ball in Saskatchewan, Durant has the most yards with 249 yards. However, a more telling stat might be that no one else on the roster has scored a rushing touchdown this year other than Sheets.
While the Roughriders are trying to figure out their next move when finding a replacement for Sheets, the Lions have similar issues concerning their quarterback. During BC's lopsided 36-14 win over Montreal on Sunday, Travis Lulay went down with a shoulder injury and never returned, not that the Lions needed him with their significant scoring margin.
Lulay scored a touchdown on a 14-yard run early in the fourth quarter and was visibly shaken up after hitting the turf. He favored his arm coming off the field as medical staff tended to him. The signal caller finished 19-of-28 for 197 yards through the air and it was recently announced that Lulay will most likely miss the next two weeks while he heals.
British Columbia, which has alternated wins and losses over the last five outings, is now third in the West Division standings with a record of 7-4 overall, just two points behind the Riders and four off the pace set by the Stampeders. The Lions will try to pick up ground over the next couple of weeks with quite possibly Thomas DeMarco as the starter at quarterback.
DeMarco came in after Lulay left last week, converting four of his six passes for 47 yards and a score. An import from Old Dominion, DeMarco has completed a grand total of 15 passes over the past two seasons with the Lions, which means he'll be thrown into the fire if he is the one to get the start this week.
In an ironic twist, just recently the Lions decided to trade for Winnipeg quarterback Buck Pierce and bring him back to BC where he spent a number of years. Pierce is also supposed to be preparing for this weekend as if he were to be given the start, so while he might not be as familiar with all of the schemes and players, his experience in game action far exceeds that of DeMarco.
No matter who it is handling the snaps this time around for the Lions, the team will need running back Andrew Harris to make much more of an impact in order to level the playing field. Harris has three games this season with at least 100 yards rushing, but over the last several weeks he has been almost a non-factor with a total of just 135 yards amassed in the last four outings.
This is the first of three meetings between these division rivals, the other two coming in a span of just over two weeks in the month of October. In terms of the all-time series, the Riders are ahead by a count of 92-82-4, although BC won the most recent meeting last November in a 17-6 final.
It would be poetic justice for sure if Simon were to break the receptions record against his old team, but you can be sure the veteran receiver would say that winning the game is the most important part of those 60 minutes on the field. As long as Durant isn't exposed to too many hits and he can stay upright for the entire game, this is one that should favor the Roughriders.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Saskatchewan 36, British Columbia 24.
2013 Sports Network Predictions: 27-17; Last Week's Predictions: 2-2.
09/18 14:17:06 ET