CFL Playoffs: Mike Beamish makes his picks for Sunday's East and West Division semifinals
Argonauts, Stampeders favoured to make the best of home-field advantage
Saskatchewan Roughriders' rookie head coach Corey Chamblin takes his Green Machine to Calgary on Sunday for the West Division semifinal, where the surging Stampeders are favoured to win. The winner meets the B.C. Lions on Nov. 18 in the West Division Final at BC Place.
Photograph by: Darryl Dyck, The Canadian Press
West Division Semifinal
Sunday, 1:30 p.m., TSN
at McMahon Stadium, Calgary
Saskatchewan Roughriders at Calgary Stampeders
Corey Chamblin insists his team is starting a new season level with the Calgary Stampeders at 0-0.
“We’re not on a losing skid,” he told reporters earlier this week. While we know he’s good at whistling through the graveyard, the Roughriders’ head coach can’t ignore the fact his team was 0-4 in its final four regular-season games to finish at 8-10.
The team they’ll be meeting at snowy McMahon Stadium on Sunday afternoon is the Stampeders, who won their final four regular-season games, including a 41-21 thrashing of the Lions, to finish 12-6.
Chamblin, not afraid to use psychological ploys to push buttons, tried one earlier this week when he attempted to ban the Roughrider media from practice, only to find he had contravened CFL regulations and had to backtrack. In September, he challenged his players to hold the league’s leading rusher, Stampeders’ running back Jon Cornish, under 100 yards “or I guarantee you somebody’s not going to be around here the following week.”
Middle linebacker Joe Lobendahn, who took the challenge personally, had five tackles, an interception, and was the key cog in holding Cornish to 67 yards in a 30-25 Roughrider win. If the Roughriders are to defeat the Stamps once more, it’s no secret they must start by canning Cornish, and Lobendahn is making a guarantee, albeit a qualified one.
“I need to stop whomever we’re playing against; it’s my guarantee,” he told the Regina Leader-Post.
Roughrider quarterback Darian Durant sat out the final regular-season game to rest his problematic hip flexor, and that should be another plus for the visitors. One more check box for the Riders: They’ll have so many of their fans at McMahon it will seem like a neutral site game.
After the snow settles: Lions have got to be hoping for a Saskatchewan victory. A Rider presence in the West Final practically guarantees a sellout at BC Place.
Plus, the Stamps have two QBs who can beat you — Drew Tate, Kevin Glenn. If the Riders need to rely on backup QB Drew Willy at any stage, they’re in big trouble.
East Division Semifinal
Sunday, 10 a.m., TSN
at Rogers Centre, Toronto
Edmonton Eskimos at Toronto Argonauts
If the CFL were to put out a poll to pick the league’s top newsmaker, it would have to be Eric Tillman, who generates copy and controversy, whether he’s employed or not.
Flayed by Eskimo fans for trading Ricky Ray to Toronto, Tillman was fired as GM at the end of the season, in the oft-chance the 7-11 Esks catch lightning in a bottle and end up in the Grey Cup game.
Still, despite his nonexistent profile in the East Division semifinal, Tillman-to-Toronto rumours swirled this week before Argo CEO Chris Rudge gave GM Jim Barker the kiss of death by declaring he’s “here for the foreseeable future.”
Conspiracy theorists believe Tillman was willing to trade Manhattan (Ray) for $24 worth of beads (journeyman Steven Jyles and friends) because of a clandestine plan hatched by ET to rejoin the Argos (he won a Grey Cup with them in 1997). A more likely connivance was the need for the Argos to be relevant in a year in which the 100th Grey Cup game will be played at Rogers Centre. Ray gives them a shot; Jarious Jackson, not so much.
For the Eskimos, the decision to start Kerry Joseph is seen as the last, desperate act of an ongoing comic/tragic quarterback saga that has gone from Jyles to Joseph to third-stringer Matt Nichols, then back again to Joseph. He quarterbacked the Roughriders to a Grey Cup five years ago, but his career started to go off the rails a year later when Tillman — him again? — sent Joseph in trade to the Argos. While we believe profoundly in the redemptive power of the human heart, it’s difficult to imagine the 39-year-old gunslinger outdrawing Ray Gun in his prime.
After the fibre settles: Anthony Calvillo — league’s most accurate passer (according to a CFL player poll) — and nastiest player — middle linebacker Shea Emry (same poll) — await the winner. Once again, the Eastern road to the Grey Cup goes through Montreal. Hard to bet against the Als in their barn, but a Braley Bowl (Lions-Argos) Cup final would be enticing.
Last Week: 2-2
Mike Beamish, Vancouver Sun
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