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Tiger-Cats’ stumble gives Eskimos an opportunity to boost their playoff position

Andrew Bucholtz
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Can Kerry Joseph and the Eskimos take advantage of Hamilton's stumble?

It could be a very good weekend for the Edmonton Eskimos. They're already in playoff position thanks to the CFL's crossover rule, and they could solidify their spot in the postseason if they pull off a home win against Saskatchewan Saturday (4 p.m. Eastern, TSN/ESPN3). Their chief competition for a playoff spot is the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, and Hamilton's thumping by B.C. Friday could prove a huge boon to Edmonton. If the Eskimos can't come up with a victory Saturday, the status quo holds and they're still in a playoff spot, but if they can beat the Riders, they're in excellent shape for at least a crossover berth and perhaps even a higher seed. There's a lot on the line, so it will be interesting to see how Edmonton responds.

This won't be an easy clash for the Eskimos, as the Riders are hot. They've won three straight games, including downing the league's top team two weeks ago and thumping Toronto this past week. Quarterback Darian Durant's looking more like the guy who tore up the league in 2009 and 2010 than the player who struggled in 2011 and was up-and-down earlier this year; over the last three games, he's thrown for 911 yards (303.7 per game) and six touchdowns with just a single interception. The Saskatchewan defence has also improved dramatically; after early-season struggles, they've bounced back, and they're now second in the league in yards allowed per game (just 318.0). Sure, the Riders aren't as great on the road (they're 3-4 away from Mosaic Stadium), but this still is a tough matchup for the Eskimos.

Yet, there are elements of hope for Edmonton. Eric Tillman (sort of) wished to turn back time earlier this season, but if he has found a time machine, he's used it for a different purpose than many expected. He didn't undo the Ricky Ray trade, but he's somehow replaced current-day Kerry Joseph with the 2007-era Kerry Joseph, who was actually effective. Joseph threw for 359 yards and three touchdowns last week against Hamilton, and although he was picked off twice, he still gave the Eskimos perhaps the best aerial offence they've had all season. Against all probability, Edmonton's bizarre offensive play-calling situation seems to be working, and when you combine that with a talented running back in Hugh Charles and some remarkable defensive playmakers, the Eskimos can't be taken lightly.

Will that be enough to give them a win against a resurgent Saskatchewan team Saturday? That's hard to predict. The Riders have been thoroughly the better squad on the year, and they're certainly the team in form at the moment, but weird things can and often do happen in the CFL. There's also perhaps more on the line for Edmonton; a win would help Saskatchewan in the playoff positioning battle, but a victory for the Eskimos would go a long way towards securing any sort of postseason berth. Motivation isn't always enough, though, as Hamilton proved Friday. We'll see if the Eskimos can take advantage of the Tiger-Cats' stumble.

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