Last week, the Edmonton Eskimos looked like the team that started the season 6-2. Trevor Harris balled out, slinging the ball all over the field as he completed 36 of 39 passes for 421 yards in a game that set the record for most accurate playoff performance (92.3%).
C.J. Gable didn’t have eye-popping numbers but he averaged almost four yards a carry and kept Montreal honest against the run. He found the end zone twice and was crucial in the wire to wire win for the Esks.
I predicted Harris and Ricky Collins would need to have big games for the Esks to win, and both of them did as Collins went over the century mark in receiving yards. Greg Ellingson also went over 100 receiving yards and led the team with nine catches.
While Vernon Adams Jr. lead the Als in rushing yards with 57, the Esks held William Stanback in check all game and put Adams Jr. in situations where he had to force passes late, contributing to his three interceptions.
Overall, the three I said must do their job did their job en route to the Eskimos’ victory.
Edmonton Eskimos Keys to an Upset
Montreal was clearly vulnerable, much more than Hamilton will be. The Als played with grit all year and made the most of their talent but they are clearly not on the same level as the elite teams in the CFL.
But this week, the Ti-Cats are a different animal (no pun intended) and are certainly one of the elite. Can the Edmonton Eskimos win twice on the road after struggling away from The Brick all season? If they do, they need to win the turnover battle, preferably by at least two. At least ten points off turnovers would set the Esks up well to pull off the upset.
Meanwhile, the Hamilton offence averaged the most yards per game in the CFL and tied with Saskatchewan for the most yards per play at 5.4. Kwaku Boateng, Almondo Sewell and the rest of the Esks defensive line needs to get consistent pressure on Dane Evans and force second and long situations.
Hamilton Tiger-Cats Defence and Special Teams
Hamilton did not lose at home during the regular season and have a defence that can rival that of Edmonton, where the Als clearly did not. Harris barely faced any pressure in Montreal last week, but the defensive line of the Ti-Cats is rested and ready to go.
Dylan Wynn is a game wrecker with 11 regular-season sacks, but the next closest mark was Julian Howsare with six. Still, the Ti-Cats managed 54 sacks—just two fewer than league leaders Edmonton and Saskatchewan.
Expect plenty of double-teams from the Edmonton offensive line on Wynn. If he can be neutralized then Edmonton has a chance to win. Hamilton allowed the fewest points in the league, but they will allow other teams to get yards.
The Cats also grabbed 22 interceptions, and their offense feasted on turnovers all year. If Edmonton does not give Hamilton any cheap giveaways, they should be able to stay in it.
One area that Edmonton must win is special teams. Last week Mario Alford had a kickoff return touchdown for the Als. Hamilton’s Brandon Banks is one of the most dynamic special teamers in the CFL. To give Dane Evans short fields is simply asking for trouble. Keeping that area in check is a must for the Esks.
The Esks cannot afford to get into a shootout, but if they can keep the game in the mid-twenties and execute in the red zone, then Edmonton might just be the first team to reach the Grey Cup Final as a crossover team. It’s a longshot, but that’s why they play the games, as the old saying goes: any given Sunday.
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