Charles-André Marchand is a CFL analyst and play-by-play announcer for CKAC-730 AM.
Toronto Argonauts at Edmonton Eskimos (-7, 49.5)
Argonauts fans must feel like they are stuck in Groundhog Day, but without any trace of Bill Murray to make them laugh. The defense tries to keep it close at each game but the attack goes nowhere and the special units are pretty much invisible. Plagued by injuries in the last few weeks, the Eskimos D, the worst in the league, will breathe a little against the worst offensive attack. Even more so since head coach Bart Andrus might give the ball to rookie QB Stephen Reaves, a 24-year-old left-hander out of Southern Mississippi, to rest his No. 1 Kerry Joseph.
Opposing QB Ricky Ray, although leading CFL passers, has not been a shadow of himself since Kevin Strasser replaced Rick Worman as offensive coordinator and that could be a problem against one of the best defense in the league. The Eskimos are in a must-win situation to keep any hope of getting out of the West Division cellar and any chance they may still have of making the playoffs. Of course to achieve that they will also have to beat the Lions next week in Vancouver. The job of GM Danny Maciocia, whose team won’t host a playoff game in Edmonton for a fifth year in a row, may depend on it.
Pick: Edmonton -7
Saskatchewan Roughriders at Hamilton Tiger Cats (-1, 55)
The Tiger Cats have greatly improved since last year and are always tough to beat in front of their home fans in Hamilton where they have a 5-3 record. In their last two games, the OL didn’t give a single sack and the team committed only one turnover. Slowing down DE’s as aggressive as the Riders Stevie Baggs and John Chick might present a quite different challenge. These two are challenging each other for the lead in sacks this season. Baggs shares the lead with Lions Ricky Foley with 11 while Chick already made 10 sacks. This is almost enough to overlook the losses of two of the best Riders defensive players, halfbacks Eddie Davis (knee) and Lance Frazier (dehydration).
The Tiger Cats could have had a much better record since four of their nine losses ended with a margin of three points or less. But they are only 1-9 this season against teams with winning records. Tough luck because the Roughriders, who share the provisional first place in the West with the Calgary Stampeders, didn’t suffer a loss in their last three games and each time, they have put at least 32 points on the board. A win in Hamilton before squaring with Calgary in the regular-season finale for the pennant, would give the Roughriders a serious option on a title that eluded them since 1976 and that confers the privilege of hosting the western final. To achieve this, QB Darian Durant must avoid turning over the ball. He has already been picked 20 times this season.
Pick: Saskatchewan +1
Calgary Stampeders at B.C. Lions (+1.5, 53)
In the heat of a championship race the Stampeders can’t afford to lose against a Lions team they have beaten six times in a row. In the last two games, Henry Burris has been back at the top of his game, showing the stuff he did when he led Calgary to the last Grey Cup. Last time the Stampeders played the Lions, RB Joffrey Reynolds had fun at the expenses of the opposing front seven rushing for 151 yards. In two games against the Lions, Reynolds averaged 141 rushing yards per game.
Casey Printers is back, after 10 months of inactivity and both the Lions’ uniform and playbook suit him quite well. Last week, in a 33-30 loss to the Roughriders, Printers passed for more than 300 yards - not bad for someone who hadn’t played since November 2008. Of course, he can count on two of the best receivers in the CFL in Geroy Simon and Paris Jackson. Simon caught six passes from Printers last week for 142 yards. The Lions, who had more than their share of injuries (Only 40 percent of the team is considered healthy), have little chance of finishing in first place but they can hope to host the Western Division semifinal and that should be more than enough to give this team some extra motivation.
Pick: Calgary -1.5
Winnipeg Blue Bombers at Montreal Alouettes (-7)
The Blue Bombers are coming to Montreal fired up after inflicting the Alouettes with a rare 41-24 loss - the Birds’ only loss to an East Division rival this year. It was a fourth win in five games for Winnipeg, which can now challenge for second place in the East and therefore host the division’s semifinal. The Blue Bombers will play their last regular season game at home against the Hamilton Tiger Cats. WR Adarius Bowman, who lost consciousness after violently hitting the ground while trying to catch a pass, is considered doubtful for this rematch. Without their star QB Anthony Calvillo and top defensive players like Davis Sanchez, Shea Emry and Diamond Ferri, the Alouettes where outplayed last Saturday in Winnipeg. Could it be that the coaching staff of both the Tiger Cats and the Bombers found some weaknesses in Montreal’s armor?
In the Alouettes’ locker room, the defensive squad swears they will finish the season strong and make people forget these two bad performances. Sanchez, Emry and Ferri will be back in the lineup but the Als will be without excellent DT Eric Wilson (knee) and their possible Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate Jerald Brown (groin), both of them possibly not returning before the East Final on November 22. But since Anthony Calvillo will also be back in action, the Bombers might find it quite difficult to repeat last week’s feat.
Pick: Montreal -7
Last Week 3-1, season 37-26-1