Hamilton Tiger-Cats at Winnipeg Blue Bombers (+2, 52)
After clinching home-field advantage in the East Semifinal with last week’s victory, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats close their regular season with a visit to the lowly Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Saturday. Hamilton has defeated the Blue Bombers three times this season, including a 37-18 rout at Investors Group Field, where Winnipeg is just 1-7. The Tiger-Cats, led by quarterback Henry Burris and running back C.J. Gable, have a 7-2 record against East Division opponents and have won three of their last four games.
The Blue Bombers are beginning to look towards next season, assessing which players they will hang onto as they try to rebuild from a dismal 2013 campaign. Mike Sims-Walker, a recent addition to Winnipeg’s receiving corps, provided reason for hope with a solid debut performance (eight catches, 137 yards), but the question of who will be throwing the ball to him next year remains unanswered. Quarterback Max Hall will start for the Blue Bombers on Saturday, but a completion percentage under 60 and nine interceptions to nine touchdown throws, Hall’s position for next season is tenuous at best.
TV: 2 p.m. ET, TSN
ABOUT THE TIGER-CATS (9-8): Kick-returner Brandon Banks was named special teams player of the week after recording 210 combined return yards, including a 107-yard missed field goal return touchdown. Burris is 212 passing yards short of reaching 5,000 for the second straight season and third time in his CFL career. Of bigger concern for Hamilton than its offence is its defence, which has just 33 sacks and has allowed a league-worst 35 passing touchdowns.
ABOUT THE BLUE BOMBERS (3-14): Running back Will Ford’s role has increased from kick-returning to start the season and Ford is now 10 yards away from leading Winnipeg in rushing with 571 to go with 1,047 return yards. Linebacker Henoc Muamba leads the team with 97 tackles, as well as 18 special teams tackles. The Blue Bombers defence is vulnerable against the pass, allowing a league-worst eight 300-yard passing games.
* Under is 4-1 in the last five meetings.
* Over is 8-2 in the last 10 meetings in Winnipeg.
* Tiger-Cats are 5-1 ATS in their last six road games.
* Blue Bombers are 1-6-1 ATS in their last eight home games.
1. The Tiger-Cats and Blue Bombers are tied at the bottom of the league with 12 interceptions apiece.
2. Hamilton WR Bakari Grant is 53 receiving yards away from reaching 1,000 for the first time in his three CFL seasons.
3. Hamilton, which has played in Guelph all season, will open its new stadium next year hoping its inaugural year goes better than Winnipeg’s first season at Investors Group Field.
Edmonton Eskimos at Saskatchewan Roughriders (-4.5, 52)
Even though their season is lost, the Edmonton Eskimos would like nothing more than to end it with one win against a West Division opponent. The Eskimos will have that opportunity when they visit the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Saturday. Edmonton is 0-9 against divisional foes and is mired in a five-game losing skid, while Saskatchewan has defeated the Eskimos all three times the teams have faced each other this year.
The Roughriders are stumbling into the playoffs with a 3-5 record in their last eight games, raising questions about their mental toughness following a franchise-best 8-0 start to the year. Defensive back Dwight Anderson went so far as to claim “Calgary sucks” after the Stampeders defeated Saskatchewan last week to secure top spot in the West Division, which seemed like the Roughriders’ to lose not too long ago. Anderson and Saskatchewan’s league-best defence will need to play its best in the playoffs, and it will have a perfect opportunity to build confidence against Edmonton’s inconsistent offence.
TV: 5 p.m. ET, TSN
ABOUT THE ESKIMOS (3-14): Slotback Adarius Bowman is in top form after returning from a knee injury suffered last year, recording 199 receiving yards last week - the most by any receiver this season. “It would’ve been a lot better to be talking about it if we got the win, but personally it feels good. Just to know the leg is doing good,” Bowman said after the game. Despite missing most of the season, Bowman is only behind slotback Fred Stamps for the team receiving yards lead.
ABOUT THE ROUGHRIDERS (11-6): Quarterback Darian Durant reached 4,000 passing yards for the third time in his career while also setting a new career-high with 31 touchdown tosses, throwing 16 of them to slotbacks Chris Getzlaf and Weston Dressler, both of whom have caught over 1,000 yards this season. Running back Kory Sheets is 201 rushing yards behind Jon Cornish of the Stampeders for the league-lead. Saskatchewan is 8-0 this season when Sheets rushes for more than 100 yards in a game.
* Over is 4-1 in the last five meetings.
* Eskimos are 4-1 ATS in their last five meetings.
* Eskimos are 1-4 ATS in their last five games overall.
* Under is 6-0 in Roughriders last six games overall.
1. Stamps leads the league with 1,259 receiving yards.
2. Saskatchewan is 6-2 at home.
3. The Eskimos have won at least four games every season since joining the CFL in 1949.