The silver lining to the Grey Cup cloud that has seen the Edmonton Eskimos fall back into the West Division pack over their last six games is they can get a foothold and stop the slide against teams they’re now battling for playoff spots. That has to start Saturday against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
Once in hot pursuit of the Calgary Stampeders for first, the Grey Cup host Eskimos have gone 2-4 in their last six games and are now 7-6 as they take on the 6-7 Blue Bombers at Commonwealth Stadium in a game that falls under the must-win category for both teams.
“Honestly, I’ve been in the situation where you have to depend on other teams and it’s the worst feeling in the world,” linebacker J.C. Sherritt said. “To control your own destiny as a competitor, as a team, it’s all you can ask for.
“We will have a say in what happens. We control it. If we take care of business and make the playoffs, it’s because of how we play. If things go bad, it’s because of what we did. That’s all you want as a team. You want to be able to control it.”
The Eskimos are coming off a 28-15 loss against the Ottawa Redblacks. The Blue Bombers stayed in touch with the playoff pack by beating the Montreal Alouettes 31-14 their last time out. The Eskimos play the Blue Bombers Saturday and host them again Nov. 3. Edmonton beat Winnipeg 33-30 to open the season.
“Everything is must-win for us,” Eskimos receiver Duke Williams said. “We know we put ourselves in a hole, but we knew this wasn’t going to be easy, either. We love challenges. That’s what it’s going to be.
“That’s what it’s about right now, taking care of business. It’s one team at a time. That’s all it is. We’re going to put in the work and make a run these last five games.”
Edmonton’s other games are against the 8-5 Saskatchewan Roughriders, the 6-6 B.C. Lions and 8-5 Ottawa. Simply put, while the 10-2 Stampeders and first place are out of reach for all intents and purposes, the Eskimos have a say about how the West Division playoff picture unfolds and their place in it.
“That’s the opponents we want,” Sherritt said. “We’re going to decide the final standings in the West. It’s us and us alone that controls our destiny and we wouldn’t want it any other way.”
Whether the issue has been slow starts, bad finishes or untimely penalties – the difference against Ottawa was seven field goals by rookie kicker Lewis Ward – the Eskimos simply haven’t been able to get any traction since a 5-2 start.
“It’s been ups and downs for sure,” quarterback Mike Reilly said. “Last year we were a streaky team, going on long win streaks, long losing streaks, back to winning streaks.
“We’re still streaky, just for short periods of time. We’ve had weeks where we played great football followed up by terrible football, followed by great football, so we’re certainly capable of playing at a high level.”
The Eskimos are 5-1 at Commonwealth Stadium and 2-5 on the road. Finishing in second place would get them at least one playoff game at home, but first things first.
“Trying to find that consistency,” Reilly said. “Trying to figure out how to do it week in and week out. Certainly, you can’t do it all at once. You’ve got to come out and take it one week at a time.
“We want to play this weekend like we know we’re capable of in the games that we’ve won in the past.”