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East and West Finals: Prognostications

Posted: Fri Nov 20, 2015 1:32 am
by Sir Purrcival
With East and West finals coming up this weekend, it is time to once again look at the two games and 4 teams remaining.

In the East, we have a match-up that would have been seen as somewhat unlikely with the upstart heretofore 2-16 Ottawa Red Blacks facing the 2014 Grey Cup finalist Hamilton Tiger Cats who are hoping to make it to the big dance again.

First, the Ottawa Redblacks

This team went out and signed a lot of different players in the off season and it sure worked. Most of the additions were aimed at providing pivot Henry Burris with targets to throw to. And they got it right so it would seem. When you have 4 receivers the calibre of Price, Jackson, Ellingston and Williams, you think you have things pretty good. Then throw in a converted QB in his rookie year who simply caught everything thrown his way and you end up with 4 receivers over 1000 yards. Of course when you have a QB that is leading the passing stats by more than 1000 yards at the end of the regular season, you can see why the receiving core has been so prolific. Aside from the never aging arm of Burris, you have passing success by committee with no one receiver to key on in a given game if you are the opposition. The running game on such a team is by design less emphasized but don't count it lightly. After loosing their starting running back Jerimiah Johnson to a season ending ankle injury, the spot was taken by William Power whose 5.9 yard per carry average tied him with the best in the league Tyrell Sutton.

On defense, the Redblacks have a ball hawking secondary. They have 3 players in the top 10 for interceptions, more than any other team. The D line got more sacks than any other team this season.. Their linebackers are solid but not especially exceptional. I expect a lot pressure on the Hamilton QB from the front 4 while the secondary licks their chops in anticipation.

Overall, the Redblacks are healthy, rested and most importantly perhaps, they have a future hall of fame QB who has played lights out this year. Throwing for 26 TD's with 13 interceptions is pretty impressive for a 40 year old QB. Given that the opposition will be fielding a counterpart with all of 1 professional start and well, the advantages are clear.

The Hamilton TigerCats

Hamilton is going to be in tough for this game. On the road, a young QB making only his third start and stumbling into the playoffs going 2-4 in their last 6 regular season game; the fates have not been kind to the Hamilton Tigercats. What looked like a very good chance to go the distance took a serious hit in week 13 with the season ending injury to QB Zach Collaros. Since then the Hamilton squad has been anything but world beaters. No matter how you slice it, Jerimiah Masoli is going to have to be perfect this game. If the Cats are hoping to take this game, they are going to have to play effectively for more than 5 mins like they did in the Eastern semi-final against Toronto. A tall order for a young player in a high pressure game. At least they have capable run support in the form of CJ Gable.

The best chance for Hamilton lies in both the special teams and defensive sides of the game. Brandon Banks is always dangerous and if the Redblacks don't cover well, Banks can make you pay big time. The kicking game for Hamilton is also a strength with Jason Medlock kicking for more points than any other kicker this season.
On D, the Cats took yet another injury hit this week with the announcement that one of the anchors on the defensive line, Eric Norwood was unlikely to be available for the Eastern final. The defensive front four has looked more like a carousel in a field hospital all season and it will remain to be seen if the Cats who have been very good a plugging and playing new players can pull another rabbit out of a hat. Getting good pressure on Burris is going to be key for the Cats defense and so I expect to see some extra help from the Hamilton Linebacker corp anchored by Simoni Lawrence.

Most pundits are giving this game to the Redblacks. Simply put, it comes down to a situation of too many weapons against too few. While the Cats may enjoy some slight advantages on the defensive side of the ball, it isn't going to be enough especially if the offense for the Cats struggles to generate first downs like they did last week. In the game between the Cats and the Argo's, it seemed to be relatively even in the "who can struggle the most on O" dept.; the Cats are unlikely to have that fortuitous set of circumstance repeat again. The Redblacks for their part are going to have to continue to do what they have done throughout the season. Protect Burris long enough for him to get the ball to the cadre of receivers at his disposal. The Cats D is already hurting so if the Redblacks can keep them on the field by sustaining drives, attrition will play a role. The Redblacks are going to have to contain Brandon Banks on kicks.

Advanatage: Ottawa

Coming up next. Eskimos vs Stampeders

Update: Jerimiah Johnson may be available for the Eastern Final.

Re: East and West Finals: Prognostications

Posted: Fri Nov 20, 2015 12:31 pm
by Sir Purrcival
The West Final

To use a tired metaphor, the battle of Alberta rides again. In the 2015 installment of the West semi-final, we have the Calgary Stampeders visiting the Edmonton Eskimos in the confines of Commonwealth Stadium. These two teams stack up well against each other so it should provide for an interesting match.

The Edmonton Eskimos.

The Esks have taken a long path to respectability through many lean years. However, they have certainly returned and are knocking on the door of the Grey Cup. Their QB Mike Reilly is the heart and soul of this team. Leading by example, he leaves it all out on the field which the scars he now wears can attest to. When he is playing, the Esks generally win as their 8 game win streak going into the playoff proves. It isn't a coincidence that the current streak started when Reilly returned from a knee injury suffered early in the season. Even with his leg braced up, he still has the mobility to make defenses pay. He has a pretty good set of receivers to chose from as well. Adarius Bowman, Kenny Stafford and Derel Walker round out a receiving corp that was effective and dangerous. Bowman was second in the league for receiving yards and Walker was 5th. They also have a decent runner/pass catcher in Kendal Lawrence and can throw Calvin McCarty at you just for good measure. Reilly will need to push the ball downfield to try and utilize these weapons although they will likely try to establish the run early in order to shake the offensive cobwebs off (more on that below).

On defense, you only need to know a couple of things about Edmonton. First in the league defending against the pass, 2nd in the league against the run and 49 sacks on the season. The defense is certainly has few question marks coming into this game. The D Line has been solid, not stellar but pressure is going to be important against Bo Levi Mitchell. I expect to see them come hard and keep Mitchell from settling in the pocket. A task that should be made easier by a weakened Stamps Oline.

The Esks are coming in fresh. Some might argue too fresh given that they have had the last 3 weeks off. Timing may be an issue at the start of this game. We've all seen how even a two week hiatus can affect game time execution so it will be an interesting to see what kind of start the Eskimos will get off to. The first quarter may be a bit raggedy as a result of the 3 weeks but most of the rust will probably be gone by the beginning of the second quarter. It is probably worthwhile noting that Esks have only lost at home 1 time this season and that was with Reilly not in the line up.

Calgary Stampeders

With the Stamps, you have the defending Grey Cup champs and last week they looked like a John Hufnagel team that easily dispatched the BC Lions with barely a whimper. The lopsided victory however came at a price with two Offensive Lineman going down to injury and unlikely to be available for this Sunday's tilt. That is going to likely mean protection problems for Bo Levi Mitchell who isn't going to get away without being sacked in this game like he did his last. If the Esks bring pressure like I think they will, Mitchell is going to have to counter by moving the pocket around and getting rid of the ball quickly. He certainly has the receiving core to do it but one wonders how much he may be able to stretch the field if he rushed for time. However, Mitchell is good on his feet and his overall win loss record tell you that he is adaptable. His offensive coordinator knows a thing or two about how to adapt to changing circumstances. Dave Dickenson was one of the most cerebral players in the league and a very dangerous QB. Between him and Huff, there should be no shortage of offensive wrinkles to confuse the Esks. The status of Jon Cornish still seems unclear but Jerome Messam acquitted himself quite well in the semi-final and he will play a big role for the Esks this Sunday. He may be needed to remind the Esks of just how painful football can be. 3 weeks off can help you forget those things. As with last game, look for Mitchell to use all of his offensive weapons.

On Defense, the Stamps look to be without Charleston Hughes who is injured but they certainly didn't have any trouble with the Lions during the previous week. On defense the Stamps strength is in their secondary. With Bell, Smith and Wall, they have been very solid against the pass and and when you also anchor the D with LB Keon Raymond, you can't complain very much. For the Stamps to be successful, it will be necessary for the D to stifle the Esks receivers. If they play it right, they may be able to take advantage of the rust the Esks are invariably going to have as a result of their time off. It turned the tide for the Stamps against BC and if they can manage to do it again against the Esks, it will mute the boisterous home town fans which can only help the Stamps.

Prediction: Under other circumstances, this match could be considered too close to call. The Esks are more complete as a team right now but the Stamps have greater experience and probably better coaching. However, home field advantage, rest and injuries to the Stamps are going to tip the scales on this one. While I still expect it to be a close match, attrition will begin to win out as the day goes along.

Advantage: Eskimos