Edmonton Eskimos @ Calgary Stampeders
Sunday, November 23rd – 4:30PM EST
Edmonton: 12-6, 492 points for, 340 points against
Calgary: 15-3, 511 points for, 347 points against
Previous results: Week 5 Calgary won 26-22, Week 10 Calgary won 28-13, Week 11 Calgary won 41-34
The Edmonton Eskimos have made monumental strides from 2013 to 2014. Throughout the regular season this year, Edmonton was the hardest team to score on; surrendering an average of less than 20 points per game. Couple that with an offense that averaged nearly 30 points/game and you have yourself a tough team to subdue. In last week’s victory over the Saskatchewan Roughriders, Matt Nichols and Mike Reilly split the reps behind center. Chris Jones stated that his gut feeling was to put Reilly into the game after halftime. What might be of concern is that Reilly was considerably less mobile in the pocket than he typically is. With that said, the plays being called by his coaching staff called for the ball to be put into John White’s hot-hands. White rushed for 134 yards against the Riders thanks in large part to Edmonton’s offensive line.
What was the deciding factor on Sunday, and what will be the deciding factor again in the Western final was Edmonton’s defense. A simple look to the statistics shows that any mistake against these defenders, and you’re liable to pay big. Against Saskatchewan, Edmonton tallied 7 sacks, a forced fumble, and 5 interceptions. With linemen like Almondo Sewell, Odell Willis, Gregory Alexandre and Eddie Steele, Calgary will have their hands very full. Add to the mix: Rennie Curran, JC Sherritt and Most Outstanding Rookie nominee; Dexter McCoil, and you have the most potent sack machine of 2014. Edmonton will need to stop Calgary’s rush and limit their trips to the red-zone. With another week to prepare Mike Reilly should be close to 100%, which means that his mobility should re-introduce the versatility that became signature of Edmonton’s offense this season.
Calgary has done what many teams struggle to do; display dominance, and do so consistently. Simply put, the Stampeders have not been defeated in a decisive manner all season. Yes, they have a strong starting lineup in all 3 phases of the game, but what might be most impressive about this iteration of the Stampeders is the success they have enjoyed despite the bumps and bruises that come along with playing football. The key to that is depth, and the Stampeders have it in spades. With weeks left to play Calgary secured themselves 1st place in the league which meant that they had the opportunity to rest while the division semi-finals took place. Calgary should be healthy by Sunday which means we should see Bo Levi Mitchell throwing passes to the likes of: Maurice Price, Marquay McDaniel, Nik Lewis, Joe West and Anthony Parker. Now consider 2013 MOP Jon Cornish back in the fold, and Calgary’s offense will hum. Against Edmonton they will need to, as the Eskimos have tightened their play even more since the last meeting between these two juggernauts.
Much has been said about the Eskimo defense, but don’t overlook the prowess of the Stampeders’ defenders. Calgary only gave up a total of 7 points more than Edmonton this season, and did so with a larger average margin of victory. The Stampeders will need to be ready for Edmonton to rush the ball up the middle. Although Reilly was relatively static this past weekend, he too will likely be throwing from different launch points. To that end; linebackers like Juwan Simpson and Deron Mayo will need to be scraping to the ball all afternoon. Should they limit Edmonton’s offensive reps, the Stampeders offense should be able to take the game away.