Week 15 has arrived with a double-header on Thanksgiving Day, while Friday night kicks off the week with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers visiting the Hamilton Tiger-Cats for a final time this season.
Winnipeg has the season series after winning the last two meetings, but this game will still hold merit, as a loss for Winnipeg and Montreal puts the East in a three-way tie for first place.
Winnipeg, for the majority of the season, have been alone at the top spot, but having lost their last two, and four of their last five games, have the East division getting shaken up.
Head coach Paul LaPolice confirmed that Buck Pierce will get the start Friday night after missing the previous game due to bruised ribs.
During the first meeting in Week 1, Jamall Johnson gave Buck Pierce a big hit, which Pierce slowly got back up from. Pierce has taken his fair share of hits this season, large and small, and will need to be close to 100 percent if Winnipeg wants a shot to win against Hamilton.
Both Fred Reid and Carl Volny are out for the season, so Chris Garrett will continue to be their primary back, with recently signed Canadian-back Nick FitzGibbon playing the back-up role.
Chris Garrett had a decent sophomore debut against Montreal, rushing for 76 yards on 11 carries and one touchdown; however, the Bombers have yet to crack 100 yards rushing this season.
Terrence Edwards continues to lead the Bombers in receiving yards with 47 catches for 858 yards, but he's followed closely by sophomore receiver Cory Watson, who is having a break-out season at 55 catches for 690 yards.
Winnipeg’s defense continues to lead the league in several categories, one of which is fewest combined yards allowed per game at 325.75. They're coming off their best defensive game, holding Montreal to just 268 yards.
At the same time, Winnipeg has made note that Johnny Sears will make his return to the lineup this Friday night after being out for most of the season following an ankle injury suffered in the preseason.
For Hamilton, they won their first four of seven games before the bye week, but are .500 since. They have won their last two contests and are outscoring their opponents 82-48.
Kevin Glenn started the season hot, throwing 12 touchdowns to just five interceptions. However, in the second half, he only threw for seven touchdowns on five picks.
Kevin Glenn is on pace for over 4,000 passing yards this season; that's third overall in his career.
Although their record may not show it, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, for the most part, have welcomed the criticism and returned the favour by winning the games that mattered to put them in a position for a playoff run.
Running back Avon Cobourne has done well for the Black and Gold this season, rushing for 788 yards and eight touchdowns, but he's only rushed for over 100 yards twice this season.
Hamilton has four players who currently occupy the top ten list for players with touchdowns, which also leads the league.
For Winnipeg, their defense will need to dig deep and find the desire to win that they had at the start of the season if they want to grab that top spot and a bye in the play-offs.
Buck Pierce will need to be 100 percent, something he has not been at different times of the season. Any signs of struggle or of the game beginning to get out of reach, Alex Brink needs to come in for relief.
Hamilton will look for their third straight win and sixth win at home on Friday night, and Kevin Glenn will need to control the offense and maintain the game. Keep poised and calm, and they will win this game outright.
Hamilton has struggled with the Bombers at home over the years but had success last year, winning both contests, and they will do so again Friday night.
Saturday evening, the B.C. Lions will host the Calgary Stampeders with a shot at first place on the line for B.C.
As many fans remember, the B.C. Lions had another slow start to the season with their first win coming in Week 6. Since then they’ve won six of their last seven contests and are a win away from tying Calgary for first place in the West.
Quarterback Travis Lulay is second in the league for yards behind Anthony Calvillo and has really emerged as a legit starter in the league this season.
Henry Burris, on the other hand, has struggled more than we’ve been accustomed to seeing from the 2008 Grey Cup champion but has maintained his game and has the team first in the West.
Henry currently sits in third place for yardage at 3,429 with 19 touchdowns to 10 interceptions, similar to Lulay’s 20 touchdowns and nine interceptions with 3,456 yards.
Calgary had a good start to the season, something they’re accustomed to, but had to work through a few problems along the way. They’ve since won their last two of five contests; they sit first in the West with a potential tie to B.C. and Edmonton if they should lose and Edmonton wins.
For Calgary’s offense, it appears Joffrey Reynolds' days as a Stampeder are coming to an end, as Jon Cornish has been the primary back the last two weeks, taking full advantage of the opportunity.
Through the last two games, Jon Cornish has rushed for 233 yards and two touchdowns. Last week against Saskatchewan, Cornish rushed for 149 yards, the first time a Stampeder back was able to cross the 100-yard plateau.
Both Calgary and B.C. defenses have, on average, held their opponents under 100 yards rushing this season. Between the two teams, Calgary is the only team with to have more than one 100-yard rushing games.
As for Paul McCallum, he is one field goal away from tying Dave Ridgway and two from taking over the record spot. For Travis Lulay, however, he would like to find the end zone with his receivers.
With Edmonton leading the West for most of the season, seeing Calgary at the top is different, but they certainly want to stay there and find their way to the Grey Cup this season.
For B.C., they feel they have a strong team and believe they can win when they put themselves in the position.
For Henry Burris, he will need to maintain the ball better after four straight games with at least one interception. Last week, Burris had the second least amount of yards this season but didn’t commit any turnovers.
In the end, I see B.C. coming out on top behind a quality game from Travis Lulay, who has thrown for nine touchdowns and only two interceptions in his last five games.
Game 1 of the double header on Monday afternoon features the Toronto Argonauts visiting the defending Grey Cup champions, Montreal Alouettes.
It’s now guaranteed that each remaining game for the Toronto Argonauts will have a playoff-like atmosphere to it. As it currently stands, the only way Toronto is out of the playoffs now is one loss.
And for a team that needs to get each win possible, facing the defending Grey Cup champions isn’t an easy place to get that win.
Montreal is currently tied for first with Winnipeg and can take sole possession should Winnipeg lose to Hamilton, but for Montreal, they’re right where they want to be and will let no one get in their way.
The Toronto Argonauts are distraught and mentally exhausted after the kind of season they’ve endured. With the issues from management down to talent revolving around the Argonauts, I don’t see them winning another game this season, definitely not over Montreal.
For Montreal, it’s just another day at the office for quarterback Anthony Calvillo, who is closing in on the top spot for most passing yards in a career. Anthony needs just 257 passing yards to tie Damon Allen and 258 to become the all-time leader in passing yards.
Meanwhile, Brandon Whitaker will undoubtedly become the first running back this season to hit the 1,000-yard rushing mark. Currently at 981, Brandon will need just 19 rushing yards to make the peak.
Chad Owens is looking to get closer to the history books by becoming the first player to have consecutive 3,000 combined-yards seasons, down 569 yards, but he will be up against a team that allows a league-best 82 yards rushing per game.
Leading in three offensive categories for the Montreal Alouettes, a win by the Toronto Argonauts would have to virtually see Montreal self-destruct on all three phases, something I don’t see happen. Toronto’s season will undoubtedly end Monday.
The final game of the double header has the Saskatchewan Roughriders visiting Commonwealth Stadium and the Edmonton Eskimos, who are tied for second with B.C. but have lost their last two games.
For the Saskatchewan Roughriders, they’re not mathematically out of the playoffs just yet. However, like Toronto, they will need to treat each game as if it’s their last. No mistakes can be afforded as they try to get into the postseason.
The Edmonton Eskimos are trying to get back into the win column, and a struggling Saskatchewan team may just help them get there.
Darian Durant is currently working through what is being called a foot injury suffered against the Calgary Stampeders.
Although he has been on their roster all season, whether or not back-up quarterback Ryan Dinwiddie is ready to lead the team if Durant is unable to go is another question.
This is the perfect situation the Eskimos would like to be in, if the opportunity arises for them. Defensively, Edmonton hasn’t had the best of luck, however, currently fifth in pass- and run-defense; Edmonton has the third-worst defense behind Richie Hall.
When up against their own division, Edmonton has won four of their seven contests with only a seven-point lead overall. However, for Saskatchewan, they’re still hunting for their first win over a divisional opponent.
Saskatchewan is currently six points behind Hamilton for a shot at a cross-over spot, as well as six points behind Edmonton. A loss would further increase that lead.
Unfortunately for Saskatchewan, their 2-4 road record is troubling, and, factoring them being winless against divisional opponents and Edmonton’s strengths, I don’t see a win for Saskatchewan any time soon.