After an unpredictable season, where the CFL saw every starting quarterback suffer an injury, the first round of the playoffs finished with two games on Sunday, November 10th. The Edmonton Eskimos were able to hold off a late charge by the Montreal Alouettes to win the crossover game and move into the Eastern Conference final where the Hamilton TigerCats await them like predator stalking their prey. Meanwhile, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers defeated the Calgary Stampeders rather handily behind dual QB-play from Zach Collaros and Chris Streveler. The Blue Bombers travel to do battle against the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the Western Conference final that is sure to be explosive and dynamic.
Eastern Conference Final: Edmonton Eskimos v. Hamilton TigerCats
The one seed Hamilton TigerCats has been the best team in entire CFL finishing with a 15-3 record. Hamilton has been the best offensive team in the league; they lead the league in the yards and points per game. In addition to, the TiCats have also given up the least amount of points on the season, defensively. Lead by the Eastern Conference Offensively Player of the Year, wide receiver Brandon Banks had career numbers catching 112 passes for 1,550 yards and 13 touchdowns. Quarterback Dane Evans has been great for the TiCats stepping in for injured starting quarterback Jeremiah Masoli; he has lead Hamilton to a 10-2 record as starter. On the other side, we have the crossover team: the Edmonton Eskimos. After a late season losing streak, the Eskimos saw their record drop to 8-10, as they slid into the crossover game. During that losing streak, starting quarterback Trevor Harris was hurt with an arm injury that landed him on the six game injury list. Trevor came back last week and lead the Eskimos to a win over Montreal; Harris played a fantastic game starting 22-22 and finishing 36-39 for 421 yards and a touchdown and interception. Edmonton will need Harris to be even better this week to have a chance against Hamilton.
My prediction: Hamilton 34 Edmonton 23
Western Conference Final: Winnipeg Blue Bombers v. Saskatchewan Roughriders
The Western Conference was the most competitive conference in the league this year. The last week of the regular season decided who the top three seeds were for the playoffs. Saskatchewan was able to clinch the one seed with a win over Edmonton finishing with a 13-5 record. Saskatchewan quarterback Cody Fajardo, the Western Conference Most Outstanding Player, finished the season with 4300 passing yards, 18 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. The amazing season for Fajardo started as the backup to Zach Collaros (we will talk about him soon), before Collaros got injured, and eventually Fajardo’s play got him traded. Saskatchewan is the number 2 scoring offense, they also wield the second best scoring defense in the CFL, which is also the best in yards against. Winnipeg has had a very emotional and rollercoaster season, they finished 11-7 but looked like they would run away with the west division early in the year. Season ending injury to starting QB Matt Nichols threw a wrench mid-season into the Bombers plans. Backup quarterback Chris Streveler limited the offense through the air, but improved their running game significantly. Streveler suffered an injury a few weeks ago and Winnipeg made a late season trade for QB Zach Collaros, the former starting quarterback for the Roughriders. Last week, Collaros and Streveler helped in a dual style QB offense in their vcitory against the Stampeders. Winnipeg boasts the best run defense in the league, this combined with having one of the best offensive scoring teams in the league makes it tough for opposing teams to move the ball. The Blue Bombers have benefited, offensively, from the defense and special teams; they have had the shortest average field to work with in the CFL this season, giving the offense a shorter field. The Bombers are also field the best running back in the CFL in Andrew Harris, who is averaging 6.1 yards per carry on the season. For Winnipeg to get back to McMahon stadium next week they will need to use that defense and run game to control this Saskatchewan offense.
My prediction: Winnipeg 21 Saskatchewan 18
Note: Roughriders starting QB Cody Fajardo is dealing with an oblique injury but should be good to start.
Mark My Words Winnipeg and Hamilton will meet in the Grey Cup!
Alternative Football News Network journalist and analyst