Calgary (12-2) can clinch first place — and home-field advantage for the West final — with a road win Saturday night over the slumping Winnipeg Blue Bombers (6-9), who have dropped six straight and eight of nine games overall.
By comparison, the Stampeders have been a model of consistency despite injuries to the likes of quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell, running back Jon Cornish and rush end Charleston Hughes. Calgary is 6-1 at McMahon Stadium, owns the league's top road mark at 6-1 and has won five of its six games against West Division rivals.
Unfortunately for Winnipeg, Mitchell is expected to start after missing three games with knee and ankle ailments and Cornish — the CFL's outstanding player last season — has received medical clearance after tweaking a knee injury in Calgary's 31-24 victory over Saskatchewan on Oct. 3. Despite appearing in just seven games, Cornish is second overall in rushing with 817 yards and is averaging a sparkling 7.7 yards per attempt.
Saskatchewan's Anthony Allen is the league's rushing leader with 849 yards but has 56 more carries than Cornish. Calgary leads the league in both rushing (143.6 yards per game) and scoring (28.0 points), not exactly encouraging numbers for a Winnipeg defence ranked last against the run (129.3 yards) and second-last in points allowed (27.1).
Hughes, who has been sidelined since mid-September with a foot injury, could also return against Winnipeg. Despite his absence, Hughes is tied with Shawn Lemon for the team lead in sacks with eight.
Defensive lineman Corey Mace, who has been out since early September with ankle and toe injuries, is expected back Saturday.
Winnipeg will be without one of its top offensive threats as running back Nic Grigsby was released Wednesday. He had scored a league-high nine TDs this season, was second overall in yards from scrimmage (1,188) and fourth in rushing (744 yards, 4.6-yard average).
Grigsby didn't dress for Winnipeg's 41-9 road loss in Edmonton on Monday as Paris Cotton ran for 31 yards on eight carries. Even with Grigsby in the lineup, the Bombers struggled to establish the run as they're ranked last in rushing with an average of 71.5 yards per game.
That has put the onus offensively on first-year starting quarterback Drew Willy, the CFL's second-leading passer with 3,526 yards who also has thrown more interceptions (14) than touchdowns (13). Willy is tied with B.C.'s Kevin Glenn for most interceptions this season.
Winnipeg has also had issues protecting the passer, allowing a league-high 58 sacks.
No matter what scenario is presented here, Calgary comes out the decided favourite.
Pick — Calgary.
Ottawa Redblacks versus Hamilton Tiger-Cats, 7 p.m. ET on Friday night.
Hamilton (6-8) can erase the bitter memory of its 34-33 road loss to archrival Toronto on Friday with a home win over Ottawa (2-12). The Ticats are 4-0 at Tim Hortons Field and remain very much in contention for first in the East, having won five of seven home games overall. The same can't be said for the expansion Redblacks, who've been eliminated from playoff contention and are coming off a 41-3 road loss to the B.C. Lions. Ottawa is also 0-7 away from TD Place.
Pick — Hamilton.
Montreal Alouettes versus Toronto Argonauts, 4 p.m. ET on Saturday afternoon.
Another week, another crucial contest for Toronto (6-8), which outscored Hamilton 21-3 in the fourth quarter last week to erase a 17-point deficit and capture a third straight victory. Montreal (6-8) has also won three straight and five of six games since Jonathan Crompton became the starter, including Monday's 40-9 win over Saskatchewan. Crompton threw for 225 yards and three TDs against the Riders but Toronto's Ricky Ray had 431 passing yards and three touchdowns against Hamilton. Ray gives the Argos an edge at home.
Pick — Toronto.
Edmonton Eskimos versus Saskatchewan Roughriders, 4 p.m. ET on Sunday afternoon.
Edmonton (9-6) can move closer to clinching second place in the West — and home field for the division semifinal — with a win. Saskatchewan (9-6) has lost three straight and four of five games since starter Darian Durant (elbow) was hurt. Veteran Kerry Joseph had a one-yard run against Montreal and could see more action Sunday but it's hard to overlook how dominant the Eskimos' defence was versus Winnipeg. Former Bomber Odell Willis led the way with two sacks and two forced fumbles.
Pick — Edmonton.
Last week — 4-0.
Overall — 43-22.Suggest a correction