A division final already in their pockets, the Calgary Stampeders feel urgency to get their game in order for the playoffs.
The offence posting season lows in a 30-7 loss to the visiting Saskatchewan Roughriders on Friday was a timely jolt for Calgary with two games remaining in the regular season.
The Stampeders (13-2-1) clinched the division the following day when the Winnipeg Blue Bombers lost to the Toronto Argonauts.
Stampeder quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell has been dealing with an undisclosed malady in his throwing arm for weeks.
He completed just over half his passes for 136 yards and zero touchdowns against the Riders and was intercepted twice.
But the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player in 2016 says he’s told head coach Dave Dickenson to play him Saturday against the Edmonton Eskimos (10-6) and in the regular-season finale Nov. 3 against Winnipeg (11-5).
“We have to get this offence moving in the right direction and get hot,” Mitchell said. “I want to play both games. I want to be ready to be the guy no matter what.”
The Roughriders, who secured a crossover playoff spot in the East Division with the win, aren’t mathematically eliminated from the West’s playoff picture at 9-7.
But if it’s Winnipeg or Edmonton travelling to Calgary for the division final No. 19, that makes the Stampeders’ two remaining games dress rehearsals for that eventuality.
That’s another reason Mitchell doesn’t want to rest.
“I think we have the opportunity these next two games to try different things, making sure we’re showing a bunch of different routes, making it hard on their defence, not giving them any hints on what we do,” he said.
Calgary has previous experience clinching the division early and managing time and personnel through games with no playoff implications.
The Stampeders secured last year’s West final Oct. 10 with two games to play plus a bye week. Drew Tate started for Calgary in the last game of the regular season.
Despite Mitchell not throwing a game ball for almost a month, Calgary dismantled the B.C. Lions (12-6) by a score of 42-15.
“We were playing very good football on offence last year,” Mitchell said. “Right now, I don’t feel like we’re there.”
It was the Grey Cup where favoured Calgary stumbled in a 39-33 overtime loss to the Ottawa Redblacks.
En route to winning the Grey Cup in 2014, the Stampeders clinched a spot in the division final with three games remaining in the regular season, then cruised to a 43-18 win over Edmonton to win the West.
Dickenson will practise some risk management over Calgary’s final two games.
“I want to try and play the guys that are healthy first off, but if anyone is nicked up and I feel they need it, I’m going to give them that week or two,” the coach said.
“There are definitely some guys that will sit that could play. Just not exactly sure who they’re going to be.
“Play Bo if he’s healthy, but if he’s not, same thing. If I feel like the week or two is beneficial to him, I will give him that, but I want him to come out and practice and show me what he can do.”
CFL leading punt returner Roy Finch, who was sidelined two straight games with injury, participated in full practice Tuesday.
Receiver Marken Michel, who went down clutching his right hamstring Friday, did not practise.