Things get serious this weekend because the upper echelon of the CFL West Division will finally throw punches at each other after a summer of light speed bag work against East Division teams.
Injuries have changed the game for the West Division leaders, but now they will face each other many times as we head into the back nine of the 2014 CFL season.
First up is an East Division meeting between the 1-10 Ottawa RedBlacks and the improved 4-8 Montreal Alouettes.
Ottawa blew a big lead in Regina and lost a heart-breaker in double overtime last Sunday, while the Als blew the Calgary Stampeders right out of La Belle Province last weekend.
The competent play of Als quarterback Jonathan Crompton has steadied the Montreal offence enough for the team to make a move in the East Division.
RedBlacks pivot Henry Burris has been a case study in inconsistency this year behind a porous O-line, while saddled with poor receivers and a suspect run game.
None of this bodes well for Ottawa and I strongly suspect they will solidify their hold on the number one 2015 draft pick with a loss to Montreal.
The 9-3 Saskatchewan Roughriders visit the 8-4 Edmonton Eskimos in the late game on Friday and I can say with confidence the Edmonton Eskimos number-crunchers are the only Edmontonians happy about the Saskatchewan visit.
The game was already the Eskimos’ biggest 2014 attendance at Commonwealth by this past Monday and all those ’Riders fans are paying customers.
The ’Riders used to be the lovable losers of the league when they were doormats and now they are despised in Alberta because they win games. Amazing factoid: every Saskatchewan fan in the known universe can live without Eskimo and Stampeder fan love if it means success for their ’Riders.
The big question is whether they can win at Commonwealth and the answer has been “not often” over 36 years.
The game will be decided by ’Rider relief quarterback Tino Sunseri’s ability to deal with an Eskimo pressure defence and find his receivers in a hurry.
The sub-plot will be the ’Rider special team play on punt and kickoff coverage.
Sunseri is reputed to be a fast-learner, but the lesson will be harsh in Edmonton. ’Riders win this game with pressure defence against a suspect Eskimo O-line and a conservative ’Rider offence.
The 4-7 Hamilton Tiger-Cats are on a roll as they head west and visit the 6-6 Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
The health of Bomber pivot Drew Willy is the big question for this game because he is the undisputed starter for the team.
However, I doubt whether even a healthy Willy would make a big difference in the game because the ‘Cats are currently one of the best teams in the league after a shaky start.
Hamilton quarterback Zach Collaros makes it easy to understand why Henry Burris is a former Ticat because Collaros is already one of the best young stars in the CFL. The Ticat defence now has a big bite and I pick Hamilton to win this game.
The last game of the weekend is another big one because it is a Saturday night clash between the 7-5 B.C. Lions and the 10-2 Calgary Stampeders. These teams met in mid-summer and the Lions eked out a close one-point victory over Calgary in the Aug. 1st game.
Superstar Calgary tailback Jon Cornish was not available in August and will face the Lions for the first time in the regular season. He will not be enough because the Stamps are missing too many starters on both sides of the ball, including quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell.
I pick the Lions to win the last game of Week 14 in the 2014 CFL season.