Edmonton Eskimos starter Mike Reilly looks for a rebound Monday after completing just over half his pass attempts and throwing two interceptions for touchdowns in a 54-31 loss to Saskatchewan last week.
Calgary Stampeders counterpart Bo Levi Mitchell continues to play and practise with a troublesome throwing arm requiring careful management.
The two pivots have played solid this season, however, in leading their football teams to seven wins apiece at the halfway point.
The Stampeders top the West Division and the CFL at 7-1-1 ahead of the Esks at 7-2.
The Saskatchewan Roughriders did them both a favour Sunday by downing Winnipeg 38-24 and dropping the Blue Bombers to 7-3.
Monday’s Labour Day game at McMahon Stadium and Saturday’s rematch in Edmonton represent a huge swing in playoff fortunes if one team sweeps the back-to-back.
“These games are very important towards the final standings in the season,” Reilly said. “This game is not going to decide who wins the Grey Cup or not, but it sets a tone for the second half of the season.”
The Stampeders are riding a 14-game win streak at home dating back to 2015, when they lost 15-11 to the Eskimos on Oct. 10.
After a 5-0 start this season, the Esks dropped two in a row to division rivals including a 33-26 loss to Winnipeg in Week 9.
Sun and a high of 21 degrees is forecasted for Monday. With 31,000 tickets sold as of Friday, a season-high attendance is expected in Calgary.
A sore throwing arm clearly hampered Mitchell in Week 9 when the Stampeders eked out a 21-17 win over the B.C. Lions.
Mitchell looked more like his prolific self last week throwing for 383 yards and a pair of touchdowns in a 23-7 win over Toronto.
But he admitted “my arm didn’t give me what I wanted” on one adventurous TD throw to DaVaris Daniels.
The subject of Mitchell’s arm is one coach Dave Dickenson and the quarterback downplay with Dickenson calling it a “non-issue” Sunday.
“It’s an ongoing thing,” Mitchell said. “Good days, bad days, but obviously last week I had a good day and felt good. It’s about being smart during the week and not overthrowing, but I definitely feel good.”
Receiver Marquay McDaniel, one of Mitchell’s favourite targets, believes his quarterback’s arm won’t hold the offence back.
“Even though it hurt last week, he still threw for three eighty or something like that,” McDaniel said. “Bo’s a grinder. It sucks that it’s still nagging and bothering him, but he’s playing through it.”
After making “one mistake after another” in Week 10, Reilly says he needs to be more patient particularly against Calgary’s No. 1 ranked defence.
“Not try to force stuff down the field when it’s not there,” the Esks quarterback said. “Whether that’s 50 yards down the field or 10 yards down the field, if there’s a certain type of coverage that’s taking something away you’ve got to move on and get to the next guy in the progression.
“That’s something we’ve done a pretty good job of so far this year, but last week it was certainly not my best job of doing that.”
He and Mitchell are a compelling matchup. Even without an optimal arm, the 27-year-old Mitchell expertly sees and manages the game while Reilly, 32, can change momentum with his arm and his legs.
“We’re friends, we talk a lot off the field and congratulate each other after great games and ask how are families are doing,” Mitchell said.
“But you might not find two bigger competitors. We step on the field we’re definitely, maybe not enemies, but when we step on the field, there’s no friendship.”
Notes: The Eskimos signed kicker Chris Milo on Saturday to fill in for the injured Sean Whyte . . . Edmonton receiver Adarius Bowman returned to the active roster after missing six games with an injured hamstring . . . . Calgary OL Dan Federkeil drew in for Spencer Wilson, who went on the six-game injured list this week following thumb surgery . . . Calgary and Edmonton are 25-25-1 in Labour Day meetings dating back to 1959.