Edmonton Eskimos (10-8) at Hamilton Tiger-Cats (7-11)
Tim Hortons Field
Sun., Nov. 13
Game time: 1 p.m.
TV: TSN Radio: TSN 1150
The storyline for Edmonton: The Eskimos are trying to become the first team to win back-to-back Grey Cups since Montreal did it in 2010 and they come into the East Semi-Final on a hot streak, having won five of their last six. They have the league’s top two receivers in Adarius Bowman and Derel Walker as well as the CFL’s passing yardage leader in quarterback Mike Reilly. The Eskimo’s vulnerability is in the secondary, where they gave up the third most passing yards and rely on a strong front four to get to pressure. If Edmonton wins the battle at the line of scrimmage and doesn’t turn the ball over, they’ll be in position to win.
Key injuries: The Eskimos are a virtual picture of health with just two notable players – left tackle Tony Washington and wide receiver Nate Coehoorn – expected to be out. Fullback Calvin McCarty, guard Matt O’Donnell, defensive backs Patrick Watkins and Marcell Young as well as defensive end Marcus Howard are all expected to return to the line up.
One interesting move sees the removal of return man Troy Stoudemire, replaced by Shakir Bell and Brandon Zylstra. No explanation, as of yet, for that move.
Five funky Edmonton stats:
1. Quarterback Mike Reilly passed for more than 5,500 yards this season and the eight players who have reached that mark since 1998 are a remarkable 7-2 in the playoffs. They are, however, are a combined 0-5 in Grey Cup games.
2. The Eskimos have scored 40-plus points in three of their last five games and averaged 35.0 per game over that span.
3. Edmonton did not record a single sack against Hamilton and there were just three total turnovers in the two games.
4. The Eskimos outrushed Hamilton 230 yards to just 98 in the two-game series and running back John White had 132 yards in the Edmonton’s win on Oct. 28.
5. This is eighth divisional semi-final for the Eskimos since 2004, second only to Saskatchewan’s nine appearances.
The storyline for Hamilton: The Ticats capped a tumultuous season by losing five of their last six and have their lowest win total (7) of the Kent Austin era. Injuries have decimated the receiving corps and the secondary, which has been a patch job all year: they’ll start Cleshawn Page at the crucial boundary corner spot and he hasn’t played in a single CFL regular season game this season. To have success, the Hamilton offensive line will have to give quarterback Zach Collaros time to throw the football – while starting a Canadian rookie at right tackle – and Collaros will need a largely inexperienced group of receivers to step up. If the wind blows that will help, as would a few turnovers and a big play or two on special teams.
Key injuries and roster changes: The Ticats will be missing three of their top four receivers with Andy Fantuz, Luke Tasker and Chad Owens all on the shelf with injuries (only Tasker has a chance to return this season) while he defensive backfield is missing Johnny Sears, Johnny Adams and Rico Murray. On the plus side, Canadian safety Courtney Stephen will return after missing six games with a knee injury while defensive end Adrian Tracy, defensive back Emanuel Davis and special team standout Frederic Plesius are all back after missing the last regular season game. Cleshawn Page, who was cut in June after playing four games for the team last season, will replace Cassius Vaughn at the boundary corner after being re-signed a month ago. Canadian rookie Brandon Revenberg will make his second career start at right tackle in place of American Terrence Campbell to give the Ticats some ratio flexibility.
Five funky Hamilton stats:
1. The Ticats had 88 players on their roster this season, the second only to the 107 employed by Saskatchewan this season. A total of 81 players played at least one game for the Tiger-Cats in, the second-highest total in club history (88 in 2013.)
2. When receiver Luke Tasker played this season, Hamilton was 6-6: they are 1-5 without him in the starting lineup. Tasker will not play Sunday
3. Hamilton trailed at halftime in 13 of 18 games this season and were 3-10 in those contests.
4. The Ticats will be appearing in their sixth semi-final game since 2004 and against their first against Edmonton.
5. Hamilton has been crossover host just once before, losing in 2009 to a Casey Printers-led B.C. Lions team, 34-27 in overtime.
TSN play-by-play: Rod Black and Duane Forde.
Referee: Andre Proulx
Weather: Sunny, 10 degrees, winds out of the southwest at 29 km/h.