SPORTS

Toronto hosts arch-rival Hamilton at home following four-game road trip

10/02/2013 05:01 EDT | Updated 12/02/2013 05:12 EST
The CFL's road warriors return home with an opportunity to punch their ticket to the East Division final.

The Toronto Argonauts host their arch rivals, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, on Friday night in their first home game since Sept. 9. They return after making CFL history by becoming the first club ever to win all four games of a four-game road trip.

The Argos (10-4) are a CFL-best 6-1 on the road and 3-3 at home, their last Rogers Centre contest being a forgettable 20-9 loss to the Montreal Alouettes. That was Toronto's first game without starter Ricky Ray, who suffered a shoulder injury the week before against Calgary.

Toronto is 4-1 under backup Zach Collaros. Ray has resumed practising but its unclear when he'll return, so Collaros's remains the starter for now.

Collaros has a 64.5 per cent completion average since Ray's injury for 1,299 yards with nine touchdowns and four interceptions. He was just 17-of-32 passing for 152 yards with a TD and interception in Toronto's 34-22 win over Edmonton on Sunday as running back Chad Kackert (155 yards rushing, two TDs) and cornerback Pat Watkins (two interceptions, a sack, forced fumble) helped rally Toronto from a 21-point deficit.

Toronto, which surrendered six sacks against Edmonton, can clinch a home playoff game by beating Hamilton (6-7). The Argos would earn first in the East Division — and home field for the conference final — if Edmonton also defeated Montreal on Saturday.

Hamilton will qualify for the playoffs with a win over Toronto and losses by Edmonton and Winnipeg, which visits Calgary on Saturday. The Argos beat the Ticats 39-34 at Rogers Centre in their previous meeting to open the regular season.

Hamilton starter Henry Burris was just 13-of-24 passing for 134 yards with three of his club's five interceptions in last weekend's 35-11 road loss to Calgary. Rookie C.J Gable was a bright spot with 132 yards rushing on just 13 carries.

Hamilton and Toronto have identical 4-1 records within the East Division this year. But only one of the Ticats' wins — a 37-29 decision over B.C. — has come against a team with a winning record and they're 2-4 away from Alumni Stadium in Guelph, Ont.

Pick — Toronto.

Saskatchewan Roughriders (8-5) at B.C. Lions (9-4) on Friday night

After winning eight of their first nine games, the Riders have lost four straight.

Saskatchewan quarterback Darian Durant has registered three straight 300-yard passing games but has as many touchdowns (six) as interceptions over that span. Durant also lost two fumbles in a 24-22 home loss to B.C. on Sept. 22.

Saskatchewan has surrendered 16 sacks over its last four games, including eight in a 25-13 loss to Winnipeg on Sept. 8.

A staple of the Riders' early-season success was their ability to run the ball with Kory Sheets (CFL-high 1,222 yards). But with Sheets (knee) out the last two weeks, Chris Garrett has run for just 39 yards on 14 carries and Saskatchewan had only 15 rushing yards in last weekend's 17-12 loss to Montreal.

The good news is Sheets will return to the Riders' lineup against B.C.

The Lions are not only the CFL's lone unbeaten home team (6-0) but are 2-0 with backup Thomas DeMarco. And he'll remain under centre with incumbent Travis Lulay (shoulder) sidelined at least another two weeks.

B.C. cemented a playoff berth with last weekend's lopsided 53-17 win over Winnipeg. Linebacker Adam Bighill had 10 tackles, a sack, two forced fumbles and a 30-yard TD run after recovering a fumble.

Pick — B.C.

Montreal Alouettes (5-8) at Edmonton Eskimos (3-10) on Saturday

A crucial game for Montreal to not only keep pace with second-place Hamilton in the East Division but create separation with Edmonton, which amazingly remains a cross-over playoff threat.

A bright spot this season for Edmonton has been Mike Reilly. The first-year starter has over 3,000 passing yards with 21 TDs but has also impressed with his toughness playing behind an inconsistent offensive line.

Reilly suffered a concussion last weekend against Toronto and the club says he's out indefinitely. Backup Kerry Joseph threw for 197 yards and a TD and ran for 37 yards and a touchdown in relief, but also surrendered two interceptions and lost a fumble.

Defensive lineman Marcus Howard had three sacks against Toronto.

Montreal rode a solid performance from rookie receiver Duron Carter and its staunch defence to victory over Saskatchewan. Carter, the son of NFL Hall of Fame receiver Cris Carter, had six catches for 152 yards and a TD while defensively the Alouettes had three interceptions and four sacks.

Montreal quarterback Josh Neiswander was a workmanlike 21-of-36 passing for 264 yards and a TD.

Pick — Montreal.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers (2-11) at Calgary Stampeders (10-3) on Saturday

On paper, this appears to a be a huge mismatch but this game features the league's top two pass-rushing defences.

Winnipeg leads the way with 48 sacks, one more than Calgary. Alex Hall of the Bombers has a CFL-best 15 sacks, two more than the Stampeders' Charleston Hughes.

Trouble is, Hall and Co. haven't received much support from a Winnipeg offence averaging a league-low 20.6 points per game. The Bombers' defence has been on the field way too much, a big reason why it's allowing a league-high 32.4 points per contest.

Max Hall starts at quarterback for Winnipeg after completing 14-of-24 passes for 169 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions against B.C. before being replaced by Jason Boltus.

Calgary's Jon Cornish, last year's CFL rushing leader, is just 15 yards behind Sheets. The native of New Westminster, B.C., anchors a Stampeders offence ranked first in time of possession and scoring.

Enough said.

Pick — Calgary.

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