CFL Division Finals: What bettors need to know

Hamilton Tiger-Cats at Toronto Argonauts ( -4, 54)

Two of the CFL’s top quarterbacks will meet again when the Hamilton Tiger-Cats visit the Toronto Argonauts Sunday in the East Division Final. Tiger-Cats quarterback Henry Burris led the league in passing yards with 4,925, while Ricky Ray completed a CFL-record 77.2 percent of his passes for the Argonauts. Ray and Burris are veterans who squared off many times as members of the Edmonton Eskimos and Calgary Stampeders, respectively, before moving east to another provincial rivalry.

That rivalry extends beyond the quarterbacks and to the defenses, which have managed to find value in the other team’s releases. Linebacker Brandon Isaac was signed by Hamilton after being released by the Argonauts in July and has gone on to record four sacks, one interception and a fumble recovery for the Tiger-Cats, while defensive back Ricardo Colclough caught three interceptions and recovered one fumble for Toronto after being released by Hamilton in July. The Argonauts allowed a league-worst 298.2 passing yards per game and the Tiger-Cats gave up 35 passing touchdowns, so both teams will be in tough to stop one another’s fearsome passing game.

TV: 1 p.m. ET, TSN

ABOUT THE TIGER-CATS (11-8): Coach Kent Austin adopted a modified version of the wildcat offense in the East Semifinal, confusing Montreal’s vaunted defense by employing multiple quarterbacks on option plays. Backup quarterback Dan LeFevour was rewarded with the decisive scoring play and finished with 61 rushing yards on 18 carries and was effective all season in short-yardage situations, rushing for seven touchdowns. With three receivers (Bakari Grant, Andy Fantuz, Greg Ellingson) with more than 800 yards on the season and rookie running back C.J. Gable finishing fourth in the league in yards from scrimmage (1,380), Hamilton’s offense might have too many weapons for the Argonauts to handle.

ABOUT THE ARGONAUTS (11-7): Just when it appeared Toronto would be healthy heading into the playoffs, running back Chad Kackert broke his ankle in practice, ending his injury-plagued season and leaving a big hole in the team’s offense. Jerious Norwood and Curtis Steele have been unable to provide a consistent running game in Kackert’s absence, leaving the Argonauts with a one-sided attack. A deep and talented receiving corps - led by Canadian Andre Durie and total combined yards leader Chad Owens (2,298) - should help offset the loss of Kackert, but Toronto will need stops from defensive tackle Khalif Mitchell (five sacks), and linebackers Marcus Ball (four sacks, three interceptions) and Robert McCune (four sacks, 99 tackles) to keep pace with the Tiger-Cats.

TRENDS:

* Under is 12-5 in the last 17 meetings in Toronto.
* Tiger-Cats are 6-1 ATS in their last seven road games.
* Argonauts are 1-5 ATS in their last six home games.
* Under is 7-0 in Tiger-Cats last seven games overall.

EXTRA POINTS:

1. Hamilton lost the season opener to Toronto, but beat the Argonauts in back-to-back games in October to win the season series.

2. Toronto holds a 14-7-1 advantage on the Tiger-Cats in all-time playoff meetings.

3. Ray, 34, has won three Grey Cups; Burris, 38, has won two.


Saskatchewan Roughriders at Calgary Stampeders (-4, 51.5)

The two most dominant teams of the regular season will clash when the Saskatchewan Roughriders visit the Calgary Stampeders Sunday in the West Division Final. Calgary and Saskatchewan finished with the best point differentials in the CFL after beginning the season with different motivations. Calgary was eager to avenge last year’s Grey Cup Final loss and overcame numerous key injuries to finish with the best record in the league, while the Roughriders wanted to continue the recent streak of home Grey Cup wins and stormed out of the gate to a franchise-record 8-1 start.

Saskatchewan stumbled in the second half of the season, winning three of their last nine games, but came to life in the fourth quarter of the West Semifinal. The Stampeders spent their bye week trying to find replacements on their defensive line after losing Demonte’ Bolden and Micah Johnson to injuries in the final game of the regular season, leaving question marks in their ability to stop Roughriders running threats such as Darian Durant and Kory Sheets. Kevin Glenn will start at quarterback for Calgary, while league-leading running back Jon Cornish could be in for another big game after rushing for more than 100 yards in each of his last two meetings with Saskatchewan.

TV: 4:30 p.m. ET, TSN

ABOUT THE ROUGHRIDERS (12-7):
Durant ran for a surprising 97 yards last week against the BC Lions after being limited on the ground due to nagging injuries for most of the season. Injuries shortened Sheets’ season, holding the running back to 1,598 yards - 215 fewer than Cornish. Leading receiver Chris Getzlaf has been practicing with the team but is questionable for Sunday with a knee injury suffered against Calgary, but Durant still has Weston Dressler and Taj Smith - both of whom finished with more 1,000 receiving yards.

ABOUT THE STAMPEDERS (14-4):
Calgary also lost leading receiver Marquay McDaniel in its final regular-season game after losing Nik Lewis earlier in the season. McDaniel had 1,047 receiving yards but was also the smallest of the Stampeders' main receiving corps options at 5-foot-10, leaving Glenn with tall targets like Jabari Arthur and Brad Sinopoli - both 6-4. Despite Calgary’s defensive line injuries, Charleston Hughes and Cordarro Law - with 32 sacks between them - remain healthy.

TRENDS:


* Over is 4-1 in the last five meetings.
* Roughriders are 5-1 ATS in their last six Division Finals games.
* Stampeders are 0-5-2 ATS in their last seven playoff home games.
* Under is 4-1 in Roughriders last five Division Finals games.

EXTRA POINTS:


1. The Stampeders defeated Saskatchewan twice in Calgary during the regular season, including the Roughriders’ first loss in Week 7.

2. Calgary K Rene Paredes led the league with 213 kicking points. Saskatchewan K Chris Milo was second with 186.

3. Temperatures between minus-9 and minus-12 are expected in Calgary around game time Sunday, with a 60 percent chance of snow.

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