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CFL Previews - Week 17 - October 19-20From The Sports Network
By Greg Xenakes, CFL Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
WINNIPEG BLUE BOMBERS (4-11) AT TORONTO ARGONAUTS (7-8)
DATE & TIME: Friday, October 19, 7 p.m. (ET).
GAME NOTES: With the weakest record in the league after 15 games, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers have certainly seen better days and the end might be coming near as the team prepares to take on the Toronto Argonauts on Friday night at Rogers Centre.
With a mere four wins in 15 attempts, the Blue Bombers are all alone in last place in the East Division, and yet there is still a slim chance that, if everything breaks the right way, that the team could slip into the postseason, but the odds of that happening are astronomical. The bottom line here is that Winnipeg has to win out and then get some help from either Edmonton, Toronto or Hamilton, or a combination of the three, in order to extend what has been an otherwise disastrous campaign.
Last week, the Bombers could have given themselves better odds, but the team suffered a 32-21 loss versus Calgary instead, marking their second setback in the last three outings.
In that game Winnipeg registered more yards than the Stampeders (438-381), but what kept the Bombers from remaining competitive was quarterback Joey Elliott and his four interceptions. The signal-caller converted 22-of-33 passes for 284 yards but was unable to get one into the end zone. After the game Elliott tried to accept all of the blame for the team's downfall, but his teammates refused to leave him high and dry when the walls came tumbling down on the Purdue product who has been forced into action this season following injuries to both Buck Pierce and Alex Brink.
Chad Simpson tried to keep hope alive for the Bombers against Calgary as he scored twice and raced for 84 yards on 14 rushing attempts, but the mistakes in the passing game were simply too great to overcome. Chris Matthews (seven catches, 116 yards and one TD) and Terrence Edwards (nine catches, 143 yards) tried to give Elliott plenty of scoring opportunities, but the team still played like they were two steps behind.
As for the Argonauts, they're sitting in second place in the East Division with a record of 7-8, but the team has been heading in the wrong direction in recent weeks with two straight losses and defeats in four of the last five games. On Sunday, the team was taken out by Montreal at home in a 24-12 final, which means Toronto has been outscored 60-22 in the last two outings.
Toronto actually led a slow-starting Alouettes group after 15 minutes of play, 2-0, but after that the Argos managed just 10 more points and simply gave up too much field position to a Montreal group that leaned heavily on their kicker to supply scoring opportunities.
Quarterback Jarious Jackson hit on half of his 40 pass attempts for 239 yards and a score, a 24-yard effort to Andre Durie in the second quarter, but at the same time Jackson was also sacked five times and one of his late pass attempts in the fourth frame was intercepted and returned for a touchdown by Montreal's Shea Emry.
Toronto, which was held to just 261 yards of total offense, ran the ball a mere six times for 22 yards. Chad Owens, who has already eclipsed the 3,000 yards mark in combined yards for the third season in a row, was again limited in his output by Montreal and now has averaged just 119 yards over the last three weeks after averaging a massive 243 yards over the first 12 outings of 2012. At this stage Owens, who has a league-leading 3,271 combined yards, needs to average at least 190 yards per game over the last three in order to surpass Mike Clemons who holds the single-season record with 3,840 yards set in 1997.
While all of the hits during a long season may finally be catching up with Owens, a guy like Chris Matthews is at least giving his team something positive to build upon as he is now third in the league in receiving yards with 1,090, landing in the end zone seven times on 71 catches. Matthews is the first true rookie in club history to reach 1,000 yards in his first campaign and could conceivably set a new CFL rookie record which currently stands at 1,530 yards by Matt Clark back in 1991, but the youngster will need to get his hands on the ball a lot more in these final three games to make it happen.
Toronto owns a 53-50-2 advantage in the all-time, regular-season series dating back to 1945, thanks in part to four straight victories over the Blue Bombers. The most recent of those triumphs came just a few weeks ago in Winnipeg when the Argos delivered a 29-10 triumph.
It will be tough for Elliott to bounce back from such a rough performance last week, but as long as his teammates can keep him from coming under fire again and having opportunities wasted, expect to see the Bombers put up a strong fight on the road.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Winnipeg 27, Toronto 23
EDMONTON ESKIMOS (7-8) AT BRITISH COLUMBIA LIONS (11-4)
DATE & TIME: Friday, October 19, 10:00 p.m. (et).
GAME NOTES: With a first-place finish is the West Division on the line and a berth in the Western Division Final within reach, the British Columbia Lions turn their attention to the Edmonton Eskimos on Friday night at BC Place.
Already having claimed a spot in the postseason with the best record in the CFL after 15 games, the Lions have won two straight and five of their last six outings thanks to a 37-17 romp over Hamilton last week.
In that contest quarterback Travis Lulay, who celebrated the birth of a new child earlier this week, converted 27-of-34 passes for 343 yards and two touchdowns, extending his streak of consecutive games with at least one passing major to 26 straight, which means he is closing in on the all-time CFL record held by Sam Etcheverry who put together a run of 34 games in a row.
Andrew Harris not only led the way on the ground for the Lions with 68 yards and a score on 16 carries, he also reeled in one of Lulay's TD strikes as he posted 53 yards on five receptions. Responsible for 93 yards on six catches, Courtney Taylor registered the other aerial major for the visitors against the Tiger-Cats.
Not to be overlooked in the 20-point decision on the road, kicker Paul McCallum connected on all three of his field goal attempts and finished with 13 points overall, giving him 152 points on the season which is easily the top mark in the league. McCallum has a league-best 43 field goals thus far, hitting the mark at an 81.4 percent clip. Not only has the kicker controlled a lot of the action this season for the Lions, he is now fifth on the all-time scoring list in the CFL with 2,698 points.
As for the Eskimos, they scored a similar outcome in their battle with visiting Saskatchewan last week as the team posted a 37-20 win at home over the Roughriders in order to move to 7-8 on the season and keep hope alive for the playoffs. At 7-8, Edmonton sits in last place in the West Division, but were the team over in the East Division that record would be good enough for a second-place tie with Toronto and just two wins out of first place.
After finally breaking the ice late in the first quarter, Edmonton ended up rattling off 20 straight points to take command of the meeting and capture a fifth home win in eight opportunities. Kerry Joseph was instrumental in the triumph as the quarterback hit on 19-of-29 passes for 280 yards and three touchdowns, all without throwing a single interception or even being sacked one time.
Fred Stamps, Cary Koch and Nate Coehoorn all landed in the end zone following receptions for Edmonton, while Hugh Charles raced 27 yards across the goal line on one of his 17 attempts, finishing with a career-high 152 rushing yards overall on his way to earning CFL Offensive Player of the Week honors.
Not to be overlooked was kicker Grant Shaw who earned himself CFL Special Teams Player of the Week accolades as he recorded 13 points, thanks to three of out four successful field goals for the Esks as they picked up their second win in a row after bowing in five straight outings and six of the previous seven decisions.
Despite being shuffled in and out of the lineup at quarterback, Joseph has responded favorably in recent weeks for Edmonton by throwing for six touchdowns, accounting for more than half of his scoring tosses (11) on the campaign. Stamps has made himself more of a factor in recent weeks for Edmonton as well, catching at least one TD pass in each of his last three games, half of his total for the entire season. With 58 receptions, Stamps leads the team and is just 37 yards away from posting a fourth straight season with at least 1,000 yards.
The top receiver for the Lions right now is Harris who has reeled in 69 balls for 682 yards and four TDs. Attacking from all angles, Harris is currently third in the league with 983 yards rushing on 160 attempts as well, adding another six majors by way of the run.
In Harris, Lulay has a safety valve like none other in the league and that has certainly contributed to the success of the quarterback who is having one of his finest seasons as a pro with more than 4,100 yards and 27 touchdowns, against just 10 INTs, which has served to generate a rating of 101.3 which is second in the league behind only Hamilton's Henry Burris.
British Columbia has lost a total of just four games this season, but one of those came against the Eskimos back on July 20 by a score of 27-14 on the road. In that meeting the Lions were held to a season-low in points and were outscored 21-7 in the second half even as Lulay threw for 360 yards. That was also the lone loss in the last 13 home games for the Lions since returning to BC Place.
More recently, BC posted a narrow 19-18 win over Edmonton during Week 13 action last month which means the all-time, regular-season series now stands at 103-72-4 in favor of the Esks dating back to 1954.
Knowing that they've secured a spot in the postseason might make the Lions take their foot off the pedal a bit at this stage, but as long as Lulay is calling the shots nothing is settled until his team hoists another Grey Cup.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: British Columbia 31, Edmonton 25
MONTREAL ALOUETTES (9-6) AT SASKATCHEWAN ROUGHRIDERS (8-7)
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 20, 3:30 p.m. (et).
GAME NOTES: Secure in the fact that they've carved out a spot in the postseason for the 17th straight year, the Montreal Alouettes try to continue their drive towards the best overall mark in the East Division this weekend as they clash with the Saskatchewan Roughriders at Mosaic Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
One of the more dominant teams in the league for the last several years, the Alouettes are the only team in the division at the moment with a winning record, even though they were in danger of possibly losing a third straight game last week when they clashed with Toronto on the road. However, Montreal managed to pick up a second straight victory in the series with the Argonauts by posting a 24-12 decision at Rogers Centre.
Following a bit of a slow start that saw the Als scoreless through one period of play and having just seven points at the break, kicker Sean Whyte provided a huge spark with three field goals and a single in order to get the visitors rolling. Quarterback Anthony Calvillo connected on 16-of-31 passes for 255 yards and a score, a 75-yard delivery to Jamel Richardson who finished with just three receptions for 109 yards.
Also making a significant impact for the Alouettes was linebacker Shea Emry who not only had four tackles and a sack, he registered an interception in the fourth quarter that he returned 46 yards for a score to seal the win for the visitors. For his efforts, Emry was named both the Defensive and Canadian Player of the Week in the CFL.
As for the Roughriders, they had been one of the hottest teams in the league since the start of September, winning five of six outings after suffering through a brutal summer stretch during which they lost five in a row. The team was hoping to add to another strong run last weekend, but instead was tripped up by Edmonton on the road in a 37-20 setback.
Against the Eskimos, Saskatchewan actually scored the first points of the meeting on a two-yard touchdown pass from Darian Durant to Weston Dressler midway through the first period, but from there the Riders gave up 20 straight points to the hosts and never recovered. Durant, who sat out the final minutes of the meeting after the outcome had all but been decided, finished the contest 17-of-27 for 204 yards and two touchdowns, but he was sacked twice and had a pair of attempts picked off.
Running back Kory Sheets delivered a decent 77 yards on 12 carries for the visitors, but it was barely half of what his counterpart, Edmonton's Hugh Charles (152 yards) was able to accomplish.
Now second in the league in rushing with 1,112 yards on 204 carries, leading to nine majors which is also second in the CFL for running backs, Sheets has cooled off as of late when it comes to making it into the end zone. In fact, the back has crossed the goal line just once in his last five games, which is a far cry from his efforts early on when he recorded at least one TD in five straight outings and had six scores overall to kick off the 2012 campaign.
Some might say the emergence of Dressler in recent weeks has helped to balance the scales for the Riders. Tied for the most overall receptions in the league (88) and first in both yards (1,161) and touchdowns (11), Dressler has landed in the end zone in four straight games, five times overall during the stretch for a Saskatchewan passing attack that has an efficiency rating of 94.8.
Speaking of efficiency rating, as the man who is responsible for all but two of his team's 4,501 yards through the air, Calvillo has a mark of 99.1 as he has thrown at least one TD pass in every game this season and is currently second in the league with 28 TD strikes overall. However, in each of the last five games Calvillo has completed less than 54.0 percent of his pass attempts, something that happened only once during his previous 10 outings in 2012. You hate to think about it, but you have to consider the fact that Calvillo isn't getting any younger and maybe his body is beginning to betray him in this his 19th season, the 15th with the Alouettes.
Saskatchewan won the first and only other meeting of the season between these two teams, capturing a 27-24 victory on the road in Montreal. Despite the setback, the Als still lead the overall regular-season series by a count of 35-29-1.
Both of these teams need to pile on the wins in the final weeks of the regular season, if for no other reason than to feel good about themselves when the playoffs finally roll around. As dominant as Calvillo has been in his career, it seems the signal-caller is finally beginning to slow down and that could open the door for Durant and the Roughriders this weekend.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Saskatchewan 31, Montreal 24
HAMILTON TIGER-CATS (5-10) AT CALGARY STAMPEDERS (9-6)
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 20, 7:00 p.m. (et).
GAME NOTES: Still fighting for a spot in the postseason, the Hamilton Tiger- Cats find themselves matched up against the Calgary Stampeders on Saturday night at McMahon Stadium.
The chances of Hamilton making it into the playoffs remain slim, given the team's mere 5-10 mark after 15 games, but it is not completely out of the realm of possibility at this stage. However, the team needs to finish strong these final few weeks in order to turn that dream into a reality.
Unfortunately, Hamilton hasn't done itself any favors in recent weeks by losing two straight and three of the last four contests, pushing it to third place in the East Division standings with a mere 10 points.
Over on the other side, Calgary already knows that a spot in the playoffs is secure, thanks to a 9-6 mark and a second-place spot in the West Division standings behind only British Columbia. Last week the team took out the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, 32-21, for their second victory in the last three outings.
The Stampeders opened with a 16-point burst in the first quarter at Winnipeg and led by a 26-14 score at the break, en route to the double-digit triumph as quarterback Kevin Glenn converted 21-of-29 passes for 286 yards and two touchdowns, shaking off three sacks along the way. Marquay McDaniel caught a total of six passes for 73 yards and a score, while Nik Lewis turned his four receptions into another 71 yards and a major as well.
Jon Cornish bulled his way to a game-high 87 rushing yards and crossed the goal line once on 22 carries for a team that managed to survive a total of 10 penalties that set them back 98 yards.
While Calgary was able to get off to a quick start last week on the road, the same could not be said for the Tiger-Cats who managed just three points through the first three quarters in front of their hometown fans, eventually leading to a 37-17 setback versus British Columbia which is not on the verge of securing the best possible position for the playoffs.
The biggest problem for Hamilton was the team's defense having to spend so much time on the field, just under 40 minutes, as it allowed 476 yards to the visitors, limiting the opportunities quarterback Henry Burris may have had. Burris finished the meeting 22-of-31 for 225 yards and a touchdown, an 11-yard effort to Bakari Grant in the fourth quarter.
Running back Avon Cobourne, who reportedly had questioned the efforts of some of his teammates just a day earlier, logged a team-best 56 rushing yards and scored once on his seven carries in the losing effort. Oddly enough, while Cobourne is seventh in the league in overall rushing with 620 yards, averaging 6.5 yards per attempt, his touchdown last week was just his second of the season so perhaps he needs to take a long, hard look in the mirror before putting his pads on for this week's encounter.
While Cobourne has been a stranger to the end zone for the most part in 2012, the same cannot be said for Cornish who leads the league with 10 rushing scores and is also first in the CFL in yards with 1,275, just one of two players to have eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark through 15 games. While he hasn't been utilized nearly enough in the passing game, Cornish is also third in the league in yards from scrimmage with just under 1,500.
While Cornish has been a serviceable receiver, considering how much time he spends on the field, the real spark in that department continues to be Lewis who is tied for the most catches in the league with 88, his 1,095 yards and nine touchdowns placing him second in both categories as Week 17 action approaches.
A member of the Stampeders since breaking into the league back in 2004 after being a standout performer at Southern Arkansas University, Lewis has never failed to register at least 1,000 yards receiving in a season and needs just one more touchdown grab to tie his career high set back in 2008. With six more catches he'll also establish a new career best for receptions in a season as well.
In terms of the all-time series between these two squads, Calgary is ahead by a count of 52-30, when taking into account only regular-season matchups dating back to 1950. The Stamps won the most recent battle in early August by a score of 31-20 on the road which means they have now taken five of the last six encounters overall versus the 'Cats.
Obviously the pressure is mounting on the Tiger-Cats to finish the regular season strong, but it appears the team may have run out of inspiration some time ago and now it is time for the big boys of the CFL to take over.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Calgary 35, Hamilton 20
2012 Sports Network Predictions: 29-31. Last Week's Selections: 3-1.
10/17 13:14:31 ET