by Frankie Benvenuti, OSJ Staff Writer | Twitter: @FrankieVideo
We know there won’t be a repeat champion or a repeat finalist for that matter, but the Grey Cup playoffs are just heating up. Last week in the East semifinals, the Edmonton Eskimos and Trevor Harris put on a show, beating the Alouettes by a score of 37-29. In the West, the Blue Bombers beat the Stampeders 35-14. The matchups are set. In the East, it's the Edmonton Eskimos and the league-best Hamilton Tiger-Cats, and in the West, it's the Blue Bombers and the Roughriders in a Banjo Bowl rematch. There are plenty of interesting storylines going into the weekend, and the games promise to be highly competitive and entertaining. Let’s break things down!
East Final: Sunday, November 17, 1 p.m.
The Tiger-Cats have a chance at revenge on Sunday when Trevor Harris leads the Eskimos into Hamilton looking to become the first crossover team to ever make it to the Grey Cup game. History is certainly not on the Eskimos' side, but that may not matter.
Why they will win
Tiger-Cats: The Tiger-Cats have one of the best offences and defences in the Canadian Football League this season, and that’s with a first time starting QB in Dane Evans. There are weapons all over the field for the Tabbies, and Dave Evans isn’t afraid to use them. He has been slinging the ball to the likes of Brandon Banks, Bralon Addison, and Jaelon Acklin. The defence has been spectacular all season. With names like Simoni Lawrence, Richard Leonard, and Rico Murray, the Tiger-Cats are a force to be reckoned with on both sides of the football.
Eskimos: Trevor Harris. That’s the only reason they will win this football game. Harris has been a Ti-Cat killer in the past, and if he is able to replicate what he was able to do last season when the REDBLACKS played the Cats, the Eskimos will make it to the Grey Cup game. Last week in Montreal, Harris went 36/39 for 421 yards, but only threw 1 touchdown. That touchdown was matched with 1 interception as well. Harris needs to put the ball in the end zone this weekend, and if he is able to have another big outing the Eskimos will win this game.
Why they will lose
Tiger-Cats: The Hamilton Tiger-Cats haven’t played a meaningful football game for over a month now. They have essentially had the East division locked up since the start of the season, and haven’t played many ‘playoff-like games’ this year. In the past, this hasn’t been much of a problem for teams, and the team who has the bye week has been winning the game for the past few years, but something in my gut tells me the Ti-Cats have had too much time off to sit back and relax. With non-contact practices, I question if the Ti-Cats will be ready mentally for the intense atmosphere of an East final game.
Eskimos: This answer is also Trevor Harris. Harris has been labelled as inconsistent, and rightfully so. We saw this same song and dance last season. He had a fantastic East final in Ottawa against the Ti-Cats but laid an egg in the Grey Cup game going 20/36 with 288 yards, 1 touchdown and 3 interceptions. If Trevor Harris wants to shed this label, he needs another strong outing in Hamilton. Anything short of an outstanding ‘Elite Harris’ performance will result in an Eskimos loss.
I am firmly planted on the ‘Harris is inconsistent’ bandwagon, and I don’t trust him to go into Hamilton and play like he did last week. Despite the Tiger-Cats having so much time off, they are the best team in the CFL for a reason. They have fought through so many things this season, including an injury to Jeremiah Masoli. They were counted out by many, and many thought that Dane Evans would hurt the chances at a Grey Cup for the Cats, and they couldn’t have been more wrong. I was one of those people, and I was waiting for Evans to show cracks in his game. Long story short, he hasn’t. I don’t see it happening here, and I think the Tiger-Cats are going to win this game by a score of 39-28 and reach the Grey Cup game for the first time since 2014.
West Final: Sunday, November 17, 4:30 p.m.
The Bombers and the Riders make for one of the best rivalries in the CFL, and putting that on the big stage is going to be something you don’t want to miss. The Roughriders took the season series over the Blue Bombers 2 games to 1, but everyone knows the regular season means nothing come playoff time.
Why they will win
Roughriders: The Riders seem to me like the team of destiny this season. The team went into the season with many doubts surrounding them, especially at the QB position. Not many people thought they would be contenders when Zach Collaros went down in week 1 after the infamous cheap shot from Simoni Lawrence. Cody Fajardo has stepped up in a big way and is looking like the QB of the future for the Riders. Questions still surround Fajardo and his availability in the game Sunday, but the Riders did win their last game of the season with Isaac Harker at QB. The Roughriders have game-changers on both sides of the ball, but one thing the Riders will have going for them is the crowd at Mosaic.
Blue Bombers: The Bombers will be led by the former Rider, Zach Collaros and he will be looking for some revenge. As Collaros looks to have a big day, there is one member of the Bombers that can get the Blue Bombers the win all by himself, and that is Andrew Harris. Harris is one of the best running backs the CFL has ever seen, and he will be the reason the Blue Bombers win the football game.
Why they will lose
Roughriders: Cody Fajardo has been a limited participant this week in practice and hasn’t been throwing the ball much. Fajardo has been vital for the Riders finishing first in the West this season, and without him playing the way he has, the Riders wouldn’t have won the division. If Fajardo isn’t 100% this week, it seriously hurts the chances of the Roughriders reaching the Grey Cup. The Riders don’t have a bunch of depth at the QB position, and Isaac Harker won’t be winning them a playoff game if Fajardo can’t play.
Blue Bombers: Even though they walked into Calgary and knocked off a team that has gone to the Grey Cup 4 consecutive seasons, walking into Regina for the West final is a different animal. The crowd noise is going to be a factor in this game. This game could come down to the wire and could be a matter of who makes fewer mistakes. Communication is imperative to success in football, and not being able to effectively communicate in the unfriendly confines of Mosaic Stadium could cause the Bombers to make a mistake or two.
With the way the Cody Fajardo saga has gone, I believe that he will not be 100% come game time. I’m no insider, and I don’t know that for certain, but the fact that he hasn’t been throwing the ball much tells me all I need to know. If he were healthy, I would probably pick the Roughriders in this game, but I don’t think he is. For that reason, I have to pick the Bombers. Andrew Harris is going to have a huge afternoon, Zach Collaros will get revenge on his former team, and the Bombers will reach the Grey Cup game for the first time since 2011. Winnipeg wins 28-25.
Both of these games should be great. I am most looking forward to the Bombers-Riders game but I'll be watching both. I've picked the Tiger-Cats and Blue Bombers to punch their tickets to the Grey Cup game but, honestly, I’m okay with any Grey Cup matchup.