The Edmonton Eskimos (3-12) prepare to host arch rival Calgary on Friday night as the only team in the league eliminated from the playoffs.
The CFL-leading Stampeders, meanwhile, still have plenty to play for with just three weeks left in the season, needing a win over the Eskimos and the B.C. Lions to beat the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Saturday to cement first in the West Division.
Calgary (league-best 12-3 record) has won both previous meetings this season, a 37-34 home decision Sept. 2 before capturing a 22-12 rematch at Commonwealth. Edmonton's defence has been vulnerable against the run this year — allowing a CFL-high 135.1 yards per game — but has held league rushing leader Jon Cornish to a combined 106 yards rushing on 23 carries.
Cornish figures to be a key figure Friday night for a Calgary offence averaging a CFL-high 143 yards rushing per game. The native of New Westminster, B.C., had 130 yards rushing and a TD on 15 carries in the Stampeders' 40-26 win over the Lions on Friday night.
Calgary's offence will certainly present the Eskimos with a formidable challenge. The Stampeders lead the CFL in TDs (47), points (32.4 per game) and yards (395.4 per game) while Cornish has scored a league-best 13 touchdowns.
And when the offence stalls, Calgary counters with the league's top kicker in Rene Paredes, who has hit on 46-of-48 field goals. The Stampeders also rarely beat themselves, having committed a league-low 22 giveaways.
Edmonton does possess a formidable passing attack with quarterback Mike Reilly and slotback Fred Stamps but Calgary has too much to play for.
Pick — Calgary
Toronto Argonauts (9-6) at Winnipeg Blue Bombers (3-15) on Saturday.
The defending Grey Cup champions dropped two straight to arch rival Hamilton and now have just a two-point lead atop the East Division. But Toronto has starter Ricky Ray back, which is certainly bad news for the Bombers.
On July 19, Ray set a CFL record by completing 19-of-20 passes for 286 yards and two TDs in a 35-19 victory over Winnipeg before suffering a knee injury. Ray returned Monday after missing six games with a shoulder ailment and completed 26-of-34 attempts in a 24-18 road loss to Hamilton for 303 yards and two TDs, along with his first interception of the year.
Toronto is expected to have cornerback Pat Watkins back after he missed the second loss to Hamilton due to personal reasons.
The Argos can't afford to look past Winnipeg, which forced seven turnovers in a 34-27 win Monday against Montreal. Quarterback Max Hall finished 16-of-27 passing for 223 yards and two TDs while Will Ford had 93 yards rushing and a TD on 13 carries.
Toronto can clinch a home playoff game with a victory — or Montreal loss to Hamilton — and is still gunning for first in the East. That should be more than enough motivation.
Pick — Toronto
B.C. Lions (9-6) at Saskatchewan Roughriders (10-5) on Saturday.
B.C. has just three road wins this year, one being a 24-22 decision at Mosaic Stadium on Sept. 22. But it was a different story the last time the two teams met as the Riders captured a 31-17 victory in Vancouver on Oct. 4.
The Riders were minus running back Kory Sheets in the September contest, but the CFL's second-leading rusher had 80 yards and two TDs in leading Saskatchewan to its 14-point win earlier this month.
And although Saskatchewan's offence struggled in last weekend's 14-9 win over Edmonton, Sheets ran for 106 yards and a TD on 24 carries. But Riders' quarterback Darian Durant threw for just 170 yards with two interceptions.
B.C. has dropped two straight. Quarterback Thomas DeMarco finished 23-of-39 passing for 301 yards and two TDs — with an interception — against Calgary while Nick Moore recorded six catches for 109 yards and a touchdown.
But running back Andrew Harris ran for just 31 yards on nine carries and had four catches for 28 yards.
Saskatchewan can clinch a home playoff game with a win and considering the game is at Mosaic the Riders should enjoy a solid home-field advantage.
Pick — Saskatchewan
Hamilton Tiger-Cats (8-7) at Montreal Alouettes (6-9) on Sunday.
Hamilton should be brimming with confidence after a home-and-home sweep of Toronto. And a win over Montreal would give the Ticats their first home playoff game since 2010.
But Montreal's defence is tough. It has recorded a league-high 48 takeaways, is ranked first against the run (84 yards per game) and fourth in sacks (46).
That last stat is significant considering Hamilton has allowed the most sacks (57).
However, the Ticats also boast the CFL's top aerial attack with quarterback Henry Burris having thrown for a league-high 4,523 yards. Rookie running back C.J. Gable ran for 118 yards Monday against Toronto and is averaging a solid 6.3 yards per carry.
Hamilton's defence showed significant improvement in the wins over Toronto, worth noting after Montreal committed seven turnovers in its loss to Winnipeg.
Quarterback Josh Neiswander had led Montreal to consecutive wins and passed for 515 yards with five TDs and no interceptions over that span. But against Winnipeg, Neiswander was 19-of-38 passing for 199 yards and three interceptions.
Montreal can clinch a playoff berth with a win or Winnipeg loss to Toronto.
Pick — Hamilton