Calgary, Montreal host division semifinals as CFL playoffs set to begin

Calgary, Montreal host division semifinals as CFL playoffs set to begin

Zach Collaros and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers have a tough road to hoe.

Collaros is expected to start for the Bombers (11-7) when they visit the Calgary Stampeders (12-6) in the West Division semifinal Sunday. He took first-team reps Wednesday.

The winner will face the Saskatchewan Roughriders (13-5) in the West final Nov. 17.

Winnipeg is chasing its first Grey Cup title since 1990. But the ‘05 Edmonton Eskimos are the last team to win a CFL title after finishing third in the West Division standings.

Now, the Bombers do have some things going for them.

Winnipeg won the season series 2-1 and Collaros has won his last three starts versus Calgary. The 31-year-old Ohio native was 22-of-28 passing for 221 yards with two TDs and an interception in his Bombers debut, a come-from-behind 29-28 home win over the Stampeders on Oct. 25.

However, Winnipeg was a dismal 3-6 on the road this season and lost 37-33 in its only regular-season visit to McMahon Stadium on Oct. 19. Calgary quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell — who has an 11-3 regular-season mark against the Bombers — is 5-0 all-time at home during the playoffs since becoming the Stampeders starter in 2014.

But after finishing atop the West Division the previous three seasons, Calgary faces a longer road to a fourth straight Grey Cup appearance and second consecutive title win.

The offence will ride Mitchell’s strong right arm considering Calgary averaged a CFL-worst 73.4 yards rushing per game this season. The Stampeders ran for just 44.7 yards in the three contests versus Winnipeg, whose defence surrendered a league-low 64.2 yards rushing per contest.

However, Calgary will counter with the CFL’s No. 2-ranked aerial attack (312.3 yards a game). Mitchell has two 1,000-yard receivers at his disposal in Reggie Begelton (100 catches, 1,492 yards, 11 TDs) and Eric Rogers (85 catches, 1,080 yards, 10 TDs).

As solid as Winnipeg’s defence was against the run, it was ranked sixth against the pass (303.4 yards per game). But the Bombers finished second overall in interceptions (24, two behind league-leading Calgary) with Winston Rose (CFL-high nine interceptions) leading the way.

Winnipeg’s biggest advantage, though, is its rushing attack. The Bombers averaged a CFL-high 147.9 yards per game, anchored by Canadian Andrew Harris (league-best 1,380 yards).

It marked the third straight CFL rushing title for Harris, who registered the achievement despite missing two regular-season games following a positive drug test.

Calgary’s defence allowed 96.3 rushing yards but led the CFL in forced turnovers (47) and interceptions.

Calgary was 7-2 at home this season and 8-2 within the West Division. Winnipeg struggled away from IG Field but was 7-3 against conference competition.

Pick: Calgary.

EAST DIVISION SEMIFINAL

Edmonton Eskimos at Montreal Alouettes

The Alouettes (10-8) host their first playoff contest since 2014 after finishing second in the East Division behind Hamilton (15-3).

The two teams split their season series 1-1 but haven’t met since Montreal’s 20-10 home victory July 20. The Alouettes ran away with that game, outrushing Edmonton by a 132-49 margin while forcing three turnovers (two interceptions, downs).

Vernon Adams Jr. was 15-of-22 passing for 191 yards and a TD and was on the receiving end of Eugene Lewis’s 21-yard scoring strike. Adams also ran seven times for 44 yards.

The Ticats will host the winner in the East final Nov. 17.

Adams was a key figure in Montreal’s resurgence under first-year head coach Khari Jones, who’s also the club’s offensive co-ordinator and quarterback coach. Adams threw for 3,942 yards and 24 TDs while running for 394 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Montreal’s offensive line will have to deal with an Edmonton front that finished tied with Saskatchewan for most sacks (56). But Adams has the ability to run upfield or use his legs to extend plays.

And there’s the matter of Jones, a former CFL quarterback who’s an imaginative playcaller with a deep bag of tricks.

Trevor Harris starts for Edmonton (8-10), which finished the regular season with two straight losses. Harris has played just once since suffering a shoulder injury Sept. 7.

But Harris had an Eskimos debut to remember June 14, completing 32-of-41 passes for 447 yards and three TDs in a season-opening 32-25 home win over Montreal. Running back C.J. Gable ran for 154 yards on 20 carries while Ricky Collins had nine catches for 175 yards.

Last year, Harris threw for 367 yards and a CFL-record six TD passes in leading the Ottawa Redblacks past Hamilton 46-27 in the East Division final.

Harris finished second in CFL passing (4,027 yards) and was intercepted just six times in 478 pass attempts. Edmonton’s offensive line surrendered a CFL-low 25 sacks.

Harris has plenty of weapons at his disposal. Collins (78 catches, 1,103, eight TDs) and Greg Ellingson (86 catches, 1,170 yards, five TDs) anchor the receiving corps while Gable is coming off a second straight 1,000-yard rushing campaign.

Montreal was 6-3 at home and 5-5 versus West Division competition. Edmonton was 3-6 away from Commonwealth Stadium but 5-3 against Eastern rivals.

Two factors hard to overlook are a) Harris’s playoff experience and b) Edmonton’s offensive line facing a Montreal defensive front that had a CFL-low 27 sacks.

Pick: Edmonton.

Last week: 3-1

Overall: 58-23.

Just Posted

An incredible closing ceremony capped off the 2019 Canada Winter Games. (File photo by SUSAN JUDGE/2019 Canada Winter Games)
2019 Canada Winter Games Legacy Fund Society hands out $655,000

35 not-for-profit groups across Alberta to get money

Dr. Verna Yiu, president and chief executive officer of Alberta Health Services, says COVID ICU patients have increased by more than 100 per cent in the past month. (Photo by The Government of Alberta)
Record number of people in ICU: says AHS president

The head of Alberta Health Services says hospital staff are treating more… Continue reading

The Red Deer Rebels have acquired goaltender Connor Ungar from the Brandon Wheat Kings, the team announced Monday. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Red Deer Rebels acquire goaltender Connor Ungar, forward Liam Keeler in separate trades

The Red Deer Rebels have acquired goaltender Connor Ungar from the Brandon… Continue reading

Alexander Michael Talbot, 29, was found guilty of operating a vehicle while prohibited, flight from police and vehicle theft in Red Deer provincial court recently. (Advocate file photo)
Man charged following police chases in central Alberta last summer is sentenced

Alexander Michael Talbot sentenced to 22 months in prison

Red Deer musician Curtis Phagoo is glad the Alberta government is investing $2 million to help the province’s live music industry, but he would have liked the criteria to be expanded, so the money could be used as relief to cover revenue shortfalls. (Contributed photo by Cory Michaud)
Red Deer musicians welcome $2M in grants to help live music, but would have preferred relief program

The money is for future projects and can’t be used for retroactive expenses

FILE - In this Feb. 3, 2021, file photo, exile Tibetans use the Olympic Rings as a prop as they hold a street protest against the holding of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, in Dharmsala, India. Groups alleging human-rights abuses in China are calling for a full boycott of the Beijing Olympics, which is sure to ratchet up pressure on the International Olympic Committee, athletes, sponsors, and sports federations. A coalition of activists representing Uyghurs, Tibetans, residents of Hong Kong and others, issued a statement Monday, May 17, 2021 calling for the “full boycott,” eschewing lesser measures like “diplomatic boycotts" and negotiations with the IOC or China. (AP Photo/Ashwini Bhatia, File)
AP Exclusive: Full-blown boycott pushed for Beijing Olympics

AP Exclusive: Full-blown boycott pushed for Beijing Olympics

Canada's Eric Lamaze riding Fine Lady 5 during the CP International competition at the Spruce Meadows Masters in Calgary, Alta., Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019. Canada's most decorated show jumper has withdrawn from consideration for the Tokyo Olympics. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Canadian show jumper Eric Lamaze withdraws from Tokyo short list

Canadian show jumper Eric Lamaze withdraws from Tokyo short list

Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse questions a foul call during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Cleveland Cavaliers Monday, April 26, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. Nurse says it was the COVID-19 outbreak in March that spiked his team's chances for a post-season run.THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Chris O'Meara
Nurse faces a busy off-season, much busier if Canada qualifies for Tokyo Olympics

Nurse faces a busy off-season, much busier if Canada qualifies for Tokyo Olympics

Hockey Hall of Fame inductee Danielle Goyette speaks to reporters during a press conference in Toronto on Friday, November 10, 2017. Goyette has been named director of player development for the NHL's Toronto Maple Leafs and their American Hockey League affiliate. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov
Hayley Wickenheiser, Danielle Goyette together again on Toronto Maple Leafs staff

Hayley Wickenheiser, Danielle Goyette together again on Toronto Maple Leafs staff

Carolina Hurricanes center Jordan Staal (11) falls on Nashville Predators center Yakov Trenin (13) during the first period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series in Raleigh, N.C., Monday, May 17, 2021. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Staal, Niederreiter lift Hurricanes past Predators 5-2

Staal, Niederreiter lift Hurricanes past Predators 5-2

Washington Capitals center Lars Eller (20) watches the puck get past Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask (40) on a shot by Washington Capitals right wing Garnet Hathaway during the first period of Game 2 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series Monday, May 17, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Marchand scores in OT, Bruins beat Capitals to even series

Marchand scores in OT, Bruins beat Capitals to even series

Toronto Maple Leafs former players Darryl Sittler, centre, Johnny Bower, centre right, are joined by Ted Kennedy's son Mark for a ceremonial puck drop with Montreal Canadiens' Andrei Markov, left, and Toronto Maple Leafs' Dion Phaneuf, right, before NHL action in Toronto on Wednesday, October 8, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Leafs, Canadiens legends eagerly awaiting playoff series

Leafs, Canadiens legends eagerly awaiting playoff series

Conservative MP Ron Liepert rises during Question Period on Parliament Hill, Friday, March 10, 2017 in Ottawa. Ron Liepert says these days, the phone calls and emails from people wanting to talk about his party's climate plan have slowed. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Western MP pitches Conservative carbon price with a 24-pack of Pilsner

Western MP pitches Conservative carbon price with a 24-pack of Pilsner

Most Read