The Calgary Stampeders will kick-off their game against the Eskimos this afternoon with a chance to return to familiar ground.
A share of first place in the West is on the line for this Battle of Alberta as the winners will move to 5-2 to tie the suddenly reeling Blue Bombers, while the loser will drop into a tie for third with the surging Roughriders at 4-3.
For Calgary, this marks the seventh straight year they have entered game seven with at least four wins, and the ninth time in the last decade. There is a little different feel to this Calgary squad though, as evidenced by everyone but this faithful scribe picking the Eskimos to win this week.
Let us take a look back at the first third of the season for Calgary….
Bo Levi Mitchell went down late in the fourth quarter in Week 2 and it looked like the Stamps were in serious trouble. Down 10, with five to go, the reigning CFL MOP was on the sideline (and headed to the six-game injured list) when the team turned the ball over to Nick Arbuckle.
Arbuckle would go on to win that game engineering two TD drives and riding the wave of confidence that seems to buoy this team in the face of injuries.
Since then, Arbuckle has gone on to throw for five touchdowns, completing just under 74 per cent of his passes and leads all regular QB’s in the league with a 108.4 efficiency rating.
Interesting stat headed into this game though which defies traditional wisdom. Arbuckle has gone over 300 yards twice and been short of the mark twice. When he goes over, he hasn’t thrown a touchdown pass. When he hasn’t hit 300 yards, he’s thrown for two scores in each of those games.
The Eskimos have held teams to under 200 yards on average, so look for Arbuckle to have a couple TD tosses this afternoon.
The Stamps have been bitten often and severely by the injury bug this season. Given that Romar Morris will make a seemingly miraculous return from an Achilles tear after just nine months this week, that still leaves the Stamps with nine starters on the six-game list and another two guys on the one game.
The offensive line right now has the biggest issues, with Brad Erdos gone for the season, Shane Bergman will also be sitting out this week.
Other offensive starters include Don Jackson and Ka’Deem Carey at running back, Kamar Jorden and Juwan Brescacin at receiver and Mitchell at QB.
So to clarify, the Stamps are down their QB, RB1, RB2, SB1, WR2, RG1, and LG1 on offence.
Defensively, they have lost an entire defensive line with Ese Mrabure, Ivan McLellan, Junior Turner, and Folarin Orimalade all out for six or more games.
They have also lost both of the backups to Cory Greenwood in Riley Jones and Eric Mezzalira, which had led to the emergence of Fraser Sopik as a playmaker when called upon.
The Stampeders currently have 14 interceptions on the year. Last year the Roughriders and Lions led the league with 21 for the entire season. Tre Roberson has already tied last season’s single player total with five. He is on pace to tie the CFL single-season record of 15, set by Al Brenner in 1972.
In the starting secondary, only Jamar Wall hasn’t gotten his hands on a pass yet. Rookies Robertson Daniel, DaShaun Amos, and Raheem Wilson have combined for six of those turnovers and are getting better every game that goes by.
Even ageless wonder Brandon Smith has a pair, which has him half way to tying a career-high he set at four in 2010.
Stamps defensive back coach Joshua Bell has his unit functioning at a high level, which makes defensive coordinator Brent Monson’s job that much easier.
They will be in tough to grab one today potentially as Trevor Harris has thrown just two picks this season.
The Stampeders have been a little sloppy at times with their ball security this season coughing up the ball on the ground on seven occasions. Last season, the Stamps were guilty of putting the ball on the turf for a turnover just 13 times.
Given how frequently the defence is getting the ball back, and the efficiency with which the offence turns those turnovers into points, doing better with ball security would move mountains when it comes to the close games the Stamps have been involved in this season.
Paredes Nearly Invisible
A kickers stats are usually a great indicator of how an offence is performing. At least when it comes to attempts anyway. This year, with the exception of the last game against the Redblacks where Paredes was trotted out six times making five, Rene hasn’t touched the field that often.
He has attempted a total of 24 kicks. 15 field goal tries and nine converts. The Stampeders have gone for the two point conversion on eight of their touchdowns so far this season, but the 15 FGs attempted paces out to the lowest total of Paredes’s career in Calgary.
Sean Whyte has made 37 kicks, Justin Medlock 34, and Boris Bede has booted the ball 32 times so far this season. Now, as yet the Eskimos haven’t gone for two yet this season (because…Jason Maas?) and they will attempt a first down field goal so that might have inflated Whyte’s stats just a little.