Thanksgiving has come and gone here in Canada and we can all be thankful for the great round of fixtures last week to set up what will surely be a close-run race to the playoffs. Week 11 throws us up three games this week and here’s a preview of what’s coming up starting up at Edmonton this Friday.
Edmonton Elks (2-6) Vs. Winnipeg Blue Bombers (7-1)
In what has been a tough, tough season for Edmonton, especially so in the last week, the green and gold are probably just happy to get back on the field. Unfortunately for them that game just so happens to be against the darling of Canadian football at the moment, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
These two teams squared off last week at IG Field in a game that Edmonton will want to forget, a 30-3 blowout win for Winnipeg lead by star running back Andrew Harris who had a monster game with 150 yards, as the Elks defence couldn’t slow him down. Edmonton will need to play much better on defence, but that is much easier said than done against Winnipeg.
If you can slow down the run, quarterback Zach Collaros has shown this season to led an effective bombers air attack with 13 touchdowns to just five interceptions, 2355 yards of passing and an impressive 9.3 yards on average per completion. The way to stop this offence is, however, becoming increasingly more apparent with last week being particularly glaring. Ali Mourtada, the Bombers kicker has only made four out of 10 field goals attempted this season including just one in four attempts being made the week before and even a missed extra point. If the Elks can stop the bombers on second down and limit them to field-goal opportunities, then Edmonton will fancy their chances of holding them to drives that come up scoreless.
If the Elks defence can managed to slow down the Bombers offence, an even more daunting prospect lies for newly crowned starting quarterback Taylor Cornelius and the offence. Winnipeg’s defence, led by stars such as Willie Jefferson and Adam Bighill, have given up only 12.2 points per game, a league-leading 12 interceptions and 23 sacks on the season so far. They have suffocated most teams this season and Elks coach Jaime Elizondo will need a perfect game plan for his offence. In week three, Toronto rushed for 149 yards in what has been Winnipeg’s only defeat this season. Edmonton will need a big game from James Wilder Jr. if they want to have success in this game and give themselves the best chance they can.
Edmonton has to play better against the Bombers this week. Especially at home at Commonwealth Stadium where they are yet to record a win. They have a point to prove and will want to salvage some pride in what’s been a lost season. They’ll give a better account of themselves this week but ultimately against a Bombers team that can clinch a playoff spot with a win, expect the Blue Bombers to pull away and win this one.
Ottawa RedBlacks (2-7) Vs. Montreal Alouettes (4-4)
Another rematch of the thanksgiving weekend will see the Alouettes head into the nation’s capital to face the Ottawa RedBlacks for the third time this season. Last week was one of the games of the season with the game coming down to the final minute where Montreal, lead by Matthew Shiltz in relief of Vernon Adams Jr. pulled out a last-minute win. Now, with Adams looking to be out for the foreseeable future, Montreal will be looking to Shiltz now to secure a win and the season series against Ottawa to set themselves up well for what looks to be a tough schedule to end the season that features the Blue Bombers twice, the Argos and the Riders before another game against Ottawa to close out the regular season. Shiltz and the Ottawa defence are the keys to this game.
While Adams Jr. doesn’t always play the cleanest football, his ability to extend plays and be a dual-threat makes him one of the biggest X-factors in the league and always gives Montreal a chance. Ottawa has 22 sacks this season, and while Shiltz has shown he can be mobile in the pocket it’ll be crucial to see if he can stand up to Ottawa’s pass rush. If Ottawa can contain the Als as they did for most of the game on Monday then it will be up to Caleb Evans and the offence to go and try and get Ottawa’s third win of the season. Ottawa rushed the ball for 140 yards in their last meeting, and if Evans can play mistake-free football as he did against Edmonton in week 9 then Ottawa will have a fighting chance for sure.
This game may be much closer than past form and the standings may say. Outside of a freak third quarter against the Argonauts in week 10, the RedBlacks have been very competitive the last three weeks and not the pushovers they may have been earlier in the season. This game can go either way, and I have a gut feeling Ottawa pulls off an upset win this game.
BC Lions (4-4) Vs. Calgary Stampeders (4-5)
Death, taxes, and the Calgary Stampeders being in the playoff race. Hard to believe that many people had written them off, but at 2-5 their season was on life support. Now, if they can exact revenge on BC after their 15-9 loss back in week two, they overtake both the Lions and the Roughriders into second place in the west.
Bo Levi Mitchell may be the face of the franchise, but it’s been the Stamps defence that has been the main architect of their two wins over the Roughriders holding their offence to just two touchdowns and less than 100 yards rushing in both games. The Lions, who were 4-2 before back-to-back home defeats to Saskatchewan and Winnipeg just prior to their bye week will be looking to get back on track as the race for playoffs tightens up.
With quarterback Michael Reilly at the helm and the Lions will be looking to attack the Stamps in the air as they boast one of the most dangerous offences in the CFL. Reilly so far this season has thrown for 2047 yards and 10 touchdowns to just one interception. Reilly will however be without leading receiver Lucky Whitehead so will be looking to connect with the team’s other receivers like Bryan Burnham and Jevon Cotty. Those are two pretty good options to fall back on, especially as the ground game has been pretty pedestrian.
The Stampeders cannot afford to give BC short fields. Mitchell has thrown at least one interception in every game this season and a BC defence with 11 interceptions already this season will be more than happy to pounce on any mistake. The Stamps should look to running back Ka’Deem Carey to carry the load for the offence after a stellar performance against Saskatchewan last week. The more they can keep Reilly off the field, the better chance Calgary has.
Calgary’s defence has been playing stout football in recent weeks and will more than likely have to do it again against this Lions team. If they can contain the Lions, and their offence is able to play mistake-free then they should be able to continue riding their momentum to second place in the West. Can Mitchell erase mistakes out of his game on Saturday is another story entirely, however, as there’s not much evidence to suggest that being the case. In what has been an unpredictable season for so many teams in CFL, I think the Lions snap both their losing and Calgary winning streak on Saturday night as the race for the playoffs keeps heating up.