Eskimos imploding at worst possible time

Dan Ralph, Canadian Press

The Edmonton Eskimos couldn’t have picked a worse time to go into a slump.

Edmonton has lost three straight and six of its last eight, including a 19-12 defeat to the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Monday that dropped the Eskimos into last in the West Division standings.

With the win, Saskatchewan (10-5) clinched a playoff spot.

The Eskimos (7-8) are actually tied on points with fourth-place B.C. (7-7), two points behind third-place Winnipeg (8-7), but the Lions have a game in hand. Regardless, it’s a monumental fall from grace for an Edmonton squad that not long ago was regarded as the CFL’s second-best team behind the West Division-leading Calgary Stampeders (12-2).

In fact, one of Calgary’s two losses this season was a wild 48-42 decision to Edmonton on Sept. 8. But the Eskimos are 0-3 since while the Stampeders have clinched a home playoff date.

On Aug. 8, the Eskimos beat Saskatchewan 26-19 at home for their third straight win to improve to 5-2 overall. But Edmonton is just 2-6 since then while the Riders are 6-2 to stand second in the West Division and in position to secure their first home playoff game since 2013.

Despite its losing streak, Edmonton remains very much in playoff contention. The Eskimos, Lions and Bombers are battling for two post-season berths as for the third straight year there will be a West Division crossover.

That means the fourth-place finisher in the West will assume the East Division’s third playoff seed. But while Edmonton will finish its regular season facing Ottawa, B.C. and Winnipeg, the Eskimos will now need help to reach the CFL post-season.

Mike Reilly, last year’s MVP, remains the CFL’s passing leader with 4,605 yards. But he was intercepted three times Monday, including Willie Jefferson’s game-winning 49-yard pick-six – Saskatchewan’s seventh defensive TD this season – and has 17 on the season, the most of any league starter.

Reilly finished 13-of-27 passing for 222 yards and also had a team-high 57 yards rushing on eight carries. But he was sacked five times and faced constant pressure from Saskatchewan’s defence.

During Edmonton’s current losing streak, Reilly has been sacked 11 times. He’s completed 57-of-99 passes for 662 yards with six interceptions and just one TD strike.

However, Reilly nearly completed the miracle comeback Monday with a 71-yard Hail Mary completion to Bryant Mitchell with two seconds remaining. But Ed Gainey was able to make the game-saving tackle.

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