The Hamilton Tiger-Cats face a difficult test in continuing their late-season playoff push.
Hamilton (4-10) has climbed into playoff contention in the East Division with four wins in its last six games, including last weekend’s impressive 30-13 road victory over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (10-4). But on Friday night, the Ticats will host the Calgary Stampeders (league-best 12-1-1 record).
Not only is Calgary a stellar 6-1 versus the East Division this season, but it’s also 5-1-1 away from McMahon Stadium, also a league best. The Stampeders have outscored Eastern opposition by a whopping 183-99 margin.
What’s more, fatigue shouldn’t be a factor as Calgary heads to Hamilton coming off a bye week following a 59-11 home win over Montreal on Sept. 29. On July 29, the Stampeders embarrassed the Ticats 60-1 at McMahon Stadium.
Hamilton is just 2-7 against the West Division this season but those wins came Sept 22 against B.C. (24-23) as well as last Friday night versus Winnipeg.
Toronto (7-8) leads the East Division, one point ahead of Ottawa (6-9-1). The Argonauts finish up with games against three West Division opponents but do hold the tie-breaker against the Redblacks and Ticats.
Hamilton has a game in hand on Toronto and two on Ottawa and faces the Redblacks on Oct. 27. Two of the Ticats’ final four regular-season games will also be against the Montreal Alouettes (3-12), who’ve been eliminated from playoff contention.
Toronto can clinch a playoff spot with a Calgary win Friday night or by defeating the Edmonton Eskimos at Commonwealth Stadium on Saturday night. The Argos would secure home field for the East final with a victory and if the Saskatchewan Roughriders defeat Ottawa on Friday night.
An Ottawa win over Saskatchewan and Calgary victory over Hamilton would give the Redblacks a home playoff game.
Despite owning the league’s best record, Calgary still has much to play for. A win over Hamilton and Winnipeg loss to B.C. on Saturday would give the Stampeders home-field advantage for the West Division final.
But the Bombers could secure a playoff berth with a win or tie against the Lions. Winnipeg would clinch at least second in the West Division with a win and losses by both Saskatchewan and Edmonton.
The Riders and Eskimos would both secure at least a crossover playoff spot by winning their games and having B.C. lose its contest. In that scenario, the Lions would also be eliminated from playoff contention.
Finally, if Hamilton loses to Calgary, the fourth-place finisher in the West is assured of the crossover.
HISTORIC QUEST: Andrew Harris remains well within recording a historic first despite being contained during the Blue Bombers’ loss to Hamilton.
Harris ran for 26 yards and five carries and added four catches for 65 yards against the Ticats. So with four regular-season games remaining, Harris has run for 819 yards and registered 88 catches for 783 yards.
Harris needs 191 yards rushing and 217 receiving yards to become the first player in CFL history to record 1,000 yards rushing and receiving in the same season. That works out to an average of 48 yards on the ground and 54 receiving yards per contest.
Winnipeg’s remaining games are against B.C. (twice), Toronto and Calgary.
DOESN’T MATTER: The Saskatchewan Roughriders have a solid 1-2 quarterback tandem with veteran Kevin Glenn and Canadian youngster Brandon Bridge.
Glenn, 38, is the starter but Saturday night Bridge relieved Glenn in the second quarter and rallied the Riders to a 27-24 road win over the Toronto Argonauts. Bridge, of Mississauga, Ont., finished 20-of-28 passing for 292 yards and two TDs.
While he only ran for 13 yards on two carries, the six-foot-five, 230-pound Bridge effectively avoided Toronto’s pass rush by using his mobility to escape the pocket and give his receivers more time downfield.
Veteran receiver Duron Carter said it doesn’t matter which quarterback plays because the Riders’ receivers understand what each one brings to the table.
“Obviously they have different playing styles,” he said. “They’re both completely different quarterbacks.
“If one aspect of the game isn’t working we definitely have a switch-up. With him (Bridge) being mobile it allows us to play the defence in a different way. And it worked this game.”
QB NEWS: It looks like Mike Reilly and Matt Nichols won’t miss any injury time.
Reilly left Edmonton’s 42-24 win over Montreal on Monday with a lower-body injury in the fourth quarter. But afterwards Reilly said he’ll be ready to go Saturday when the Eskimos host the Toronto Argonauts.
The win was a big one for Edmonton as it halted a six-game losing streak.
Nichols suffered a hand injury in Winnipeg’s 30-13 loss to Hamilton last weekend. But while Nichols didn’t speak to reporters after Tuesday’s practice, he did work out with the starting offence and threw the ball downfield.
The Bombers host the B.C. Lions on Saturday.
SENRA DEPARTING: Paulo Senra is leaving the CFL.
After 2 1/2 years as the league’s director of communications, Senra was appointed Tuesday as the head of public relations in Canada for DAZN, a live sports streaming service.
The appointment is effective Oct. 19.