It’s been nearly two weeks since Ed Gainey and the Saskatchewan Roughriders last played.
On Aug. 13, the Riders dispatched the B.C. Lions 41-8 the week after dropping a 30-15 decision in Vancouver. Gainey played a major role in that victory, registering a club-record four interceptions and fumble return.
So Gainey and the Riders (3-4) should definitely feel refreshed Friday night when they visit the Edmonton Eskimos (7-1). But the bye didn’t help Saskatchewan on July 22 when it dropped a 27-10 decision in Calgary following a 37-20 home victory over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
Edmonton should also be anxious to make up for its 33-26 loss last Thursday night to Winnipeg. The Eskimos still lead the West Division but are just one point ahead of Calgary (6-1-1) and two in front of the Blue Bombers (6-2-0).
The Riders are fifth, four points behind B.C. (5-4-0) and just 1-3 within the West Division. What’s more, they’ve won just one of their last five games coming off a bye week.
The loss to Winnipeg was Edmonton’s first this season. But given their injury woes, it’s a testament to the Eskimos’ resolve that they continued winning as long as they did.
On Tuesday, Edmonton announced long-snapper Ryan King (knee), defensive end Marcus Howard (Achilles) and offensive lineman Jean-Simon Roy (knee) were all going to miss the remainder of the season. That leaves 16 players on the Eskimos’ six-game injured list, including receiver Adarius Bowman, linebacker J.C. Sherritt and kicker Sean Whyte.
So it’s no surprise the Eskimos acquired veteran defensive lineman John Chick from Hamilton. Chick, the CFL’s top defensive player in ‘09, had 14 sacks last year but just two and 16 tackles in 2017.
A constant for Edmonton has been quarterback Mike Reilly, who threw for 356 yards and two TDs and ran for another against Winnipeg. D’haquille Williams had four catches for 110 yards and a TD
The good news is receiver Brandon Zylstra, defensive tackle Almondo Sewell and defensive back Garry Peters could all return against Saskatchewan. The Eskimos are also 4-0 at Commonwealth Stadium while Saskatchewan is 0-3 on the road.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers versus Montreal Alouettes (Thursday night)
Winnipeg kick-started its four-game win streak by rallying for a 41-40 home victory over Montreal (3-5) on July 27, erasing a 12-point deficit with under a minute to play. Quarterback Matt Nichols has a gaudy 70.2 completion percentage with 14 TDs and just four interceptions while running back Andrew Harris had over 100 yards rushing and receiving versus Edmonton. Montreal (3-5) comes off a lacklustre 38-6 road loss in Toronto, managing just nine first downs and 138 net yards. Slotback Nik Lewis needs nine catches to break Geroy Simon’s all-time mark (1,029).
B.C. Lions versus Ottawa Redblacks (Saturday afternoon)
B.C. has dropped two straight and three of its last four games. Quarterback Jonathon Jennings has a 59 per cent completion average with six interceptions in two games since returning from injury. Ottawa (2-6-1) comes off a 37-18 win over Hamilton as Trevor Harris, who leads the CFL in passing yards and TDs, threw for 394 yards and two touchdowns. Greg Ellingson is the league’s leading receiver and had 10 catches for 155 yards and a touchdown versus the Ticats, and the Redblacks’ defence has a league-high 67 quarterback pressures. But it’s hard to look past the West’s 17-2-1 head-to-head record versus the East, with Montreal recording both wins.
Toronto Argonauts versus Calgary Stampeders (Saturday night)
Ricky Ray had 377 passing yards and four TDs in leading Toronto (4-5) past Montreal 38-6 last week while the Argos defence allowed just 138 net yards. Ray missed the previous week with a shoulder injury suffered in a 41-24 home loss to Calgary on Aug. 3. S.J. Green had nine catches for 145 yards in the win over the Als while running back Brandon Whitaker ran for 195 yards on 31 carries (6.3-yard average) in the home-and-home series. Stampeders’ starter Bo Levi Mitchell was 15-of-31 passing for 231 yards and an interception in last week’s win over B.C. but this week downplayed the severity of an unspecified issue that’s affecting his throwing motion. CFL rushing leader Jerome Messam, who suffered a knee injury against the Lions, is expected to play.
Last week: 3-1.