CFL Week 17: Battle of First Place in the East Heats Up; Drew Tate to Start

Dorian McLean@Quartz87Contributor IIIOctober 21, 2011

Friday night will feature a double-header, first with the Edmonton Eskimos hosting the Toronto Argonauts. The Argonauts were eliminated from the playoffs two weeks ago, following their loss to the Montreal Alouettes, and will play the spoiler role once again.

Not all is lost for Toronto however as two players are looking for milestones of their own.

Chad Owens looks to break the 3,000-yard barrier in back-to-back seasons, setting him apart from many great players. Veteran receiver Jermaine Copeland is hoping to hit the 10,000-yard receiving mark Friday night.

Steven Jyles is continuing to get adjusted to the offense after missing the first half of the season. He played well against Calgary but it was the lack of discipline from Calgary that ultimately set up the winning field goal for Toronto.

Those mistakes are less likely to be repeated under head coach Kavis Reed's lineup. Ricky Ray, while not putting up huge numbers, sits fourth among quarterbacks at 3,632 passing yards. Jerome Messam, acquired by the Eskimos in the offseason, is just 151 yards away from his first 1,000-yard rushing season.

As this game holds no merit if Toronto wins, they will simply do what they can to stop Edmonton from winning as they did last week against Calgary, scoring 28 of their 31 points in the first quarter.

Edmonton will continue to roll with their offensive unit intact again, with Fred Stamps also eyeing the 1,000-yard plateau, down just 64 yards from that goal.

With the playoffs around the corner, Kavis Reed will have his troops in playoff mode and Toronto will attempt but fail at breaking their stride.

The second game of Friday night’s double-header has the Saskatchewan Roughriders heading into Calgary to face the Stampeders.

Last week’s loss eliminated Saskatchewan, and they will wait until the 2012 campaign before attempting to make the postseason again.

Darian Durant has been named the starter, but to what purpose is unclear. Darian is currently playing with an injured foot and with no real standings coming from this game should simply sit while backup Ryan Dinwiddie takes in some reps.

A lot of questions surround the Roughrider franchise but none is more important than who will be the new head coach next season. Current coach Ken Miller stated earlier in the year that he would not be behind the bench in the new season.

Under Calgary, head coach John Hufnagel confirmed that Henry Burris will sit ahead of this week’s game while backup Drew Tate will start behind center.

Drew Tate came in relief for Henry Burris last week in the Stampeders' loss to Toronto after Calgary’s first offensive possession. At first it was reported that Hufnagel would most likely rotate the two quarterbacks, but Burris simply struggled and Tate finished out the game.

Calgary has yet to lose to Saskatchewan since last season’s divisional finals. Drew Tate will have all the reps this week and Joffrey Reynolds is expected back in the lineup due to injuries.

All of this will simply lead up to another Calgary win as they look to bring themselves closer to B.C. and Edmonton for that first-round bye.

Saturday afternoon will feature a double-header as well, with first place in the East up for grabs between the Montreal Alouettes and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

The season series is tied while Montreal holds one win over Winnipeg. A win for the home team will certainly go a long way down the final stretch for Winnipeg when determining who ends up winning a bye in the playoffs.

Buck Pierce is expected to start and retain his starting offensive receivers, but will most likely work with a revamped offensive line.

During practice this week Brendan LaBatte held the center spot over Obby Khan while Chris Greaves filled in at left guard. This would be the first significant change to the offensive line this season.

Winnipeg’s defense will continue to roll forward with the same squad, but there’s no question some players are working through more injuries than others. That was noticed this week as defensive end Kenny Mainor rotated with Odell Willis more often than in the past.

This is also a line that has held the rest of the league to under 95 yards a game, allowing only three games with over 100 yards rushing.

Montreal will look to exploit the secondary as they attempted to in their previous meetings—but they go up against the best in the league against the pass at just 233 yards a game.

Anthony Calvillo has accomplished all he needed to stat-wise this year and will certainly just focus solely on winning games from here on out as the Alouettes look for a third straight Grey Cup.

Winnipeg will have their hands full covering the assortment of receivers Anthony likes to incorporate while also having to stop an explosive back in Brandon Whitaker.

Jamel Richardson and S.J.Green have combined for over 2,500 yards and will look to build on their total  for Montreal Saturday.

The key for Winnipeg here is to pressure Anthony and get him out of his rhythm —if they do that, they will have a good shot at winning this game.

The final game of the week has the B.C. Lions taking to the road to face the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

For the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, things could not have gotten tougher than last week against Montreal. It was announced early on that quarterbacks Kevin Glenn and Quinton Porter would split duties, Glenn was pulled after one series before returning in the second half.

Not a great way to build chemistry with playoffs around the corner

Then to top things off ,the Tiger-Cats lost by two after a blown no-call on pass interference allowed Montreal to run away with the victory.

With Hamilton two games behind Winnipeg, three behind Montreal and having lost the season series to Winnipeg, Hamilton will be lucky to find themselves in second place with a perfect finish to the season.

B.C. on the other hand has been on an uptick ever since their loss to Winnipeg in Week 5 and will look to keep that momentum behind the hot hand of Travis Lulay.

In his last five starts, Lulay has thrown for 11 touchdowns and 1,316 yards to just one interception. The team has been nothing but success ever since Lulay continued to grow into his role as the team leader.

With the club hosting the Grey Cup this year, they are doing everything capable of ensuring they are on the home side of the field.

At the same time, receiver Geroy Simon is zoning in on Milt Stegall’s record of all-time receiving yardage, needing just 268 yards to pass that milestone.

Hamilton will need the services of potential rookie-of-the-year receiver Chris Williams Saturday as well as Avon Cobourne’s rushing abilities for a shot at beating B.C.

Hamilton won the first meeting back in Week 4, 39-31, but things have changed and B.C. has grown by leaps and bounds.

For Hamilton to win this game they will need the assistance of their defense, which has had just one interception in their last five games and six forced fumbles against a team that has committed very few turnovers.

In the end, B.C.’s determination to stay atop the West and the continuity they've had this season at quarterback will give them their 10th win of the season.

Not since 2008 have they hit that mark.


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