The Hamilton Tiger-Cats home field advantage has been virtually nonexistent in 2016. The 7-11 Ticats went 3-6 at home, the second-worst home record for playoff-bound teams, with only the Ottawa Redblacks holding a worse record. The Saskatchewan Roughriders and the Montreal Alouettes also hold 3-6 home records, and both teams are not participating in the playoffs.
Heading into the East Final against the West Division crossover team, the Edmonton Eskimos, the Tiger-Cats need to find a way to win at Tim Hortons Field.
The Hamilton Tiger-Cats Home Field Disadvantage
The Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ three wins at home came against all three non-playoff teams. In the Eskimos’ only visit in Week 19, they walked away with a 29-26 win. If history determines playoff games, the Ticats stand no chance to pull off this win. But then again, football is meant to be played on the field, and not in the past.
However, the Ticats performances at home this season generate a bit of doubt before Sunday’s game. There’s no clear explanation why they haven’t been getting results at home. They’ve scored 246 points, and allowed 243. Their offence, with 392 yards per game, is generating 24 yards more a game than they are conceding.
But the true problem for the Ticats is how they play against the stronger teams at home. In games in which they have played a playoff team, they are 0-5, with 346 yards per game for, and 400 yards per game against. They scored 99 points and allowed 151, with an average margin of defeat of 10.4 points.
That’s definitely not the standard of play the Ticats want against playoff teams. The good news for Hamilton is that Zach Collaros started in only two of the games against playoff teams at home. He left the game against the Calgary Stampeders at half with the team down 23-9, and narrowly lost his other start against the Eskimos.
Despite all his missed time due to injury, Collaros still managed to produce a 4-6 record, and finished the season with nearly 3,000 yards and 18 touchdowns in 10 games. The offence shouldn’t be in question because they have a strong potential to do damage – when Collaros is healthy. Will he stay healthy all game in the East Final? That remains up in the air.
Ticats Defence: Big Challenges
The defence could be the potential downfall to their season. The Ticats are facing an Eskimos team with an equally explosive offence on the road as at home. They went 5-4 away from Commonwealth Stadium, scoring 267 points – the third-most road points in the league. Their total road points are just 15 points shy of their total home points.
Edmonton is first in the league in first downs (448), net offence (7,536), offensive touchdowns (53) and completion percentage (71.0). They are also second in total points (549), passing touchdowns (32), rushing touchdowns (21), yards per play (7.0), fewest sacks allowed (31) and fewest interceptions thrown (12). Yes, Mike Reilly leads a really good offence.
It’s another story for the Ticats defence. They allowed the third-most points with 502 and the second-most first downs at 397. Opponents have a 70.0% completion percentage on them, the second-highest in the league.
Despite this, they do have some game-changers on defence. The monstrous defensive line, led by Ted Laurent, John Chick, Justin Capicciotti and Adrian Tracy, is second in the CFL with 50 sacks. The defence has 44 forced turnovers, third in the league, and are second only to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers with 17 interceptions. Their secondary, with Emanuel Davis and Dominique Ellis, and of course their star linebacker Simoni Lawrence, is no a pushover, either.
Every stat can be broken down, but one glaring stat looms over their heads: they are 3-6 at home. They haven’t won at home since Week 13, on September 16. Tim Hortons Field was a feared sanctuary for opposing teams, but now the Ticats are the ones who face the curse in the donut box.
There’s debate as to whether the Ticats should even be hosting a playoff game with their sub-500 record and their visitors’ better overall record. But with the current crossover rules, they are, and they need to win. To win, they need to forget about what happened at home this season, and show the Eskimos who owns Tim Hortons Field.