Winnipeg Blue Bombers running back Andrew Harris is tackled by Montreal Alouettes defensive back Jonathon Mincy during second quarter CFL football action in Montreal. Harris, quarterback Matt Nichols and defensive back Maurice Leggett of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers were named the CFL’s top performers for August on Wednesday. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Edmonton Eskimos face very tough challenge facing Calgary Stampeders

Mike Reilly and the Edmonton Eskimos face a very stiff challenge getting back into the win column.

After reeling off seven straight wins, Edmonton (7-2) has dropped two straight. That includes a 54-31 home decision to the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Friday night.

On Monday, the Eskimos visit the West Division-leading Calgary Stampeders (7-1-1) who’re not only 3-0 within the conference but boast the league’s lone unblemished home record (4-0).

Reilly was just 15-of-26 passing for 160 yards and two interceptions against Saskatchewan, which not only earned its first road win of the year but handed the Eskimos their first home loss in five games.

The Eskimos are an impressive 3-1 on the road but have dropped two straight overall to West Division rivals.

Calgary’s Bo Levi Mitchell was an efficient 31-of-42 passing for a season-high 384 yards and two TDs in last weekend’s 23-7 home win over Toronto. The only blemish on his day was Vaughn Cassius returning a Mitchell interception for a touchdown and the Argos’ only points.

Calgary’s offence leads the CFL in total yards (399 per game), fewest sacks (12) and turnovers (eight) while standing second in offensive points (28.9). Running back Jerome Messam tops the league in rushing with 621 yards (4.9-yard average).

The Stampeders’ league-best defence (16.8 offensive points per game) kept Toronto’s pass-happy offence out of the end zone and forced the Argos to punt 11 times.

This is the first game of a home-and-home Labour Day showdown between the longstanding rivals, with the Stampeders visiting Commonwealth Stadium on Sept. 9. Edmonton has done a great job this season of winning games despite mounting injuries but now faces the CFL’s top and most consistent team.

Prediction: Calgary.

Ottawa Redblacks versus Montreal Alouettes (Thursday night)

Ottawa (3-6-1) has won two straight and can clinch the season series with a victory. CFL passing leader Trevor Harris threw for 326 yards and a TD but also had two picks as the defending Grey Cup champions stormed out to a 31-3 lead last weekend against B.C., then held on for the 31-24 victory. Montreal (3-6) has lost its last two contests, including a hard-luck 34-31 overtime decision to Winnipeg last week. Starter Darian Durant threw for 316 yards and three TDs while slotback Nik Lewis had 10 catches to boost his career total to 1,031, passing Geroy Simon (1,029) for the most in league history.

Prediction: Ottawa.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers versus Saskatchewan Roughriders (Sunday afternoon)

Winnipeg (7-2) has reeled off five straight wins to move into a tie for second in the West with Edmonton. The Bombers are also the CFL’s top road team with a 4-1 record away from Investors Group Field. They also boast the league’s top-scoring offence (32 points per game) and a bona fide two-way threat in running back Andrew Harris. Saskatchewan (4-4) has won two straight, having outscored its opponents 95-39. The Riders’ offence scored four TDs against Edmonton while Willie Jefferson blocked a punt, then returned it for a score. Veteran quarterback Kevin Glenn sports a solid 70.2 completion percentage and has twice as many TDs (16) as interceptions (eight).

Prediction: Saskatchewan.

Toronto Argonauts versus Hamilton Tiger-Cats (Monday night)

Backup Jeremiah Masoli gets the start for Hamilton (0-8) in June Jones’ head-coaching debut. The Ticats haven’t played since a 37-18 loss to Ottawa on Aug. 18 but have been in the news with Kent Austin stepping down as coach, Jones’s promotion and, of course, the club backtracking on the controversial addition of Art Briles to the coaching staff. Toronto (4-6) managed just 238 net yards last week against Calgary and failed to reach the end zone. The Argos’ defence, ranked second in fewest offensive points allowed (22.6 per game), faces a Ticats’ offence that’s last in offensive points scored (15.8).

Prediction: Toronto.

Last week: 2-2.

Overall: 29-11-1.

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