Fear of the unknown is keeping the Edmonton Eskimos awake at night, for good reason.
The Calgary Stampeders, who the Eskimos host in Sunday’s West semifinal, aren’t the same team Edmonton beat in two of three meetings during the regular season.
Calgary coach John Hufnagel’s late-season roster moves that added quarterback Drew Tate to the starting role and promoted running back Jon Cornish as the featured back, makes the Stamps a different animal in this weekend’s playoff matchup. The Stamps are undefeated in three straight since Tate assumed control and Cornish has added a new dimension to the Calgary running attack with his speed and agility.
Tate’s addition to the starting lineup was made, in part, because former starter Henry Burris couldn’t protect the football. In fact, the Stamps are a disappointing minus-4 this season in the all-important giveaway/takeaway stat. Tate hasn’t helped that figure by throwing more picks than touchdowns in his three starts, although Calgary still found a way to win each contest. Tate also has a knack for finding multiple receivers in each game, albeit sometimes to a target in the wrong-coloured jersey. Minimize turnovers and the Stamps will advance to the West final. Our Pick: Calgary by 3.
Tiger-Cats vs. Alouettes:
The Montreal Alouettes have never looked more beatable than this week entering Sunday’s East semifinal, but it’s unlikely the visiting Hamilton Tiger-Cats can stage an upset.
It was Wally Buono who once said, in his own peculiar way, that if you have two starting quarterbacks, you don’t have a starting quarterback. And while the Tabbies might think their offence is more dangerous with Kevin Glenn and Quinton Porter sharing the job, what really matters is establishing the run with former Als back Avon Cobourne. He played a crucial role in Hamilton’s two wins over Montreal this season and could be a key to victory Sunday, although history isn’t on Hamilton’s side.
While Montreal was posting 11 playoffs wins and earning three Grey Cup rings the past decade, Hamilton has been winless in the post-season since 2001. That won’t change on Sunday. Our Pick: Montreal by 6.
Riders GM gets one more chance: The Saskatchewan Roughriders have more faith in Brendan Taman than most of the team’s fans.
The Riders’ decision this week to retain Taman as general manager after missing the playoffs will be questioned by many among the Green and White faithful. But before they write off their football boss, they should remember it was Ken Miller, former V.P. of Football Operations, who made the ill-fated decision to hire untried head coach Greg Marshall.
Marshall was fired just eight games into the year, a disaster that can’t be hung on Taman. Now Taman can hire his own head coach and the pressure will be on the team to get off to a fast start in 2012 or Taman and his yet-to-be-named head coach could both join Marshall in the unemployment line.