I can feel the onslaught of football withdrawal symptoms as they begin to circle my wagon. The CFL semifinal playoffs take place this Sunday and the teams that underachieved just enough to miss first place and a bye will be on the field.
First up on the schedule is the East Division playoff between mortal football enemies. The Toronto Argonauts and Hamilton Tiger-Cats have a long history of nastiness that will undoubtedly influence this game. You could almost throw a football from Toronto to Hamilton, but they are philosophically removed from one another. Bay Street attitudes do not fit very well into a blue-collar town like Hamilton.
So Hamilton fans would like nothing better than a beat-down of the hated football team from Toronto. It is good for the civic soul in Hamilton. But I believe that this game might be close, despite the fact that Hamilton won every game against the Argonauts this season.
Hamilton will rely heavily upon the arm of quarterback Kevin Glenn, who has the ability to look like the best pivot in pro football — until he starts to get whacked in a game. He is not a big man, so the physical punishment from football beats him up mentally as well.
Glenn relies upon a lightning-fast release to avoid the pain. His receivers will have to get open quickly and often to make Glenn happy.
The Hamilton defense will also play a big role in this game. The addition of Stevie Baggs has made a good defense great, and they will exert enormous pressure on Toronto quarterback Cleo Lemon.
I give the nod to Hamilton in this game. They are at home in their own jungle and I have little faith in Cleo Lemon as a quarterback. The x-factors that will make it close will be Argonaut return man Chad Owens, tailback Cory Boyd and a tenacious Toronto secondary.
There will be little western hospitality shown to the B.C. Lions in Saskatchewan on Sunday. The Lions will be tough to tame, but I believe that the Riders will win this prairie showdown.
All tired 13th man jokes aside, the Roughrider faithful will factor into the equation. B.C. quarterback Travis Lulay has only started a handful of games in pro football and I doubt whether he can shut out the madness at Taylor Field/ Mosaic Stadium.
Snap counts will be compromised and the Roughrider defense will continue to pressure Lulay like they did in their last meeting a few weeks ago. The Rider defense also managed to control the B.C. run game in their last meeting, so Lulay will have to pass or run the ball himself to be effective in the game.
The return game of the Lions is very strong. That poses a problem for the Riders, but it will be counter-balanced by the punting and kickoff abilities of aging Lion kicker Paul McCallum. Here’s a helpful hint Paulie; when you play a physical game like football in your 40s, try to drive past every McDonald’s on the way to the gym.
Saskatchewan is a talented football team, but they will have to bring their best to become lion-tamers. That message definitely includes Rider quarterback Darian Durant and the special teams. I think they are up for the task. Riders win in a blowout.
Jim Sutherland is a local freelance writer whose CFL columns appear on Tuesdays and Fridays. He can be reached at mystarcollectorcar.com