The Ticats (3-7) have won two of three games since their starter came back after missing five contests with concussion-like symptoms. And in the East Division this season, that's enough to move Hamilton into a first-place tie with the Toronto Argonauts and Montreal Alouettes (both 3-8 records).
Hamilton could easily be 3-0 over that span, save for a letdown Sept. 7 when the Alouettes outscored the Ticats 31-10 in the second half to claim a 38-31 victory.
Collaros has completed 86-of-117 passes (73.5 per cent) for 942 yards with five TDs and just two interceptions since returning while adding 99 yards rushing on 19 carries
Collaros was 29-of-36 passing for 287 yards and two TDs and had 49 rushing yards in Hamilton's 28-3 win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders last weekend. The Ticats' defence also did its part, holding the CFL's top ground attack to 100 total yards while limiting backup quarterback Tino Sunseri — replacing injured starter Darian Durant — to just nine completions in 21 attempts for 88 yards with an interception.
The Ticats announced Wednesday the return of defensive end Justin Hickman from the NFL's Indianapolis Colts, then dropped the bombshell that stalwart Canadian defensive tackle Brian Bulcke requires season-ending surgery for a torn bicep.
On Saturday night, Hamilton faces Edmonton (8-3) for the first time since the Eskimos' 28-24 victory July 4. Collaros left that contest and subsequently went on the six-game injured list after being hit by defensive end Odell Willis, who was later fined by the CFL.
The Eskimos can also appreciate the importance of having their starter back. They lost a home-and-home series with Calgary as Mike Reilly nursed a thumb injury.
Reilly returned last weekend, completing 22-of-32 passes for 271 yards while rushing for 56 yards and two TDs in a 33-16 victory over Montreal. Edmonton outscored the Alouettes 21-7 in the fourth and improved to 6-0 against East Division competition. Also tough to overlook is Hamilton's 1-6 record versus West Division rivals and 0-5 road mark.
Pick — Edmonton.
Toronto Argonauts versus B.C. Lions, 10 p.m. ET on Friday night.
The Argos can't afford to dwell upon last week's stunning loss in Calgary. They led 29-3 in the first half before the Stampeders rallied for the 40-33 victory. Once again, bad penalties and timely turnovers plagued Toronto. Slotback Chad Owens — who has played in just four games this season due to injury — could return. Toronto is 2-6 versus West Division teams — best in the East — but dropped a 33-17 decision to B.C. in their first meeting Aug. 17. The Lions (7-4) have won two straight. A big difference between the two teams is ball security as B.C. has just 18 giveaways (third-fewest) while Toronto has 32 (league-high).
Pick — B.C.
Calgary Stampeders at Montreal Alouettes, 1 p.m. ET on Sunday.
Drew Tate makes his first start this season for Calgary (10-1) replacing the injured Bo Levi Mitchell. Tate was six-of-six passing for 74 yards and two TDs in Calgary's comeback win over Toronto. But the real star was Jon Cornish, who ran for 174 yards and a TD while adding four catches for 35 yards and a touchdown. Montreal (3-8) has won two of its last three but is coming off a 17-point loss to Edmonton. Starting a backup could be concerning but Tate was Calgary's starter not long ago before getting hurt. Calgary's potent offence shouldn't skip a beat with Tate, which would be bad news for Montreal.
Pick — Calgary
Ottawa Redblacks at Saskatchewan Roughriders, 4 p.m., ET on Sunday.
Sunseri makes his second start for Saskatchewan (8-3) and shouldn't shoulder all the blame for last week's loss in Hamilton. The Ticats were solid against the run and also had five sacks and an interception. Consistent first-down production from the ground game would certainly make life easier for Sunseri. Ottawa (1-9) comes off the bye week having shored up its defence with the addition of linebacker Domaso Munoz, the former Edmonton Eskimo standout who was recently released by the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Riders won the last meeting 38-14 on Aug. 2 in Ottawa and are 4-1 at Mosaic Stadium.
Pick — Saskatchewan
Last week — 3-1.
Overall — 33-16.