Friday night’s season-finale with the Calgary Stampeders was supposed to be an elimination game for the Edmonton Eskimos.
Last night, the Toronto Argonauts played host to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, and with Ricky Ray on the sidelines, managed to pull out a win thanks to a last-second 51-yard field goal by Swayze Waters.
As a result of the loss, the Tiger-Cats were officially eliminated from playoff contention, while the Eskimos saw a little ‘X’ appear next to their name in the standings.
All week long the Esks were expecting tonight’s game to be a “win and you’re in” scenario.
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Thanks to his last-second, 51-yard field goal against the Tiger-Cats on Friday night, Swayze Waters lifted the Edmonton Eskimos into the post-season. But where will they play?
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So now what?
Well let’s start with the fact the Eskimos have lost two straight games. Getting that winning feeling back in the locker room is a very important thing for this football team.
The offence needs to find a way to move the football and reach the endzone.
In their last two games, QB Kerry Joseph hasn’t had the time to create anything on the offensive side of the ball, which has made him more of an erratic quarterback.
Tonight would also be a good night to clean up the mental and fundamental issues.
There have been too many offsides and procedure calls, as well as too many dropped balls by receivers. Tonight, the Eskimos can work on playing a cleaner brand of football.
Collecting their first win against the provincial rival Calgary Stampeders could be another boost to the Eskimos confidence.
The team lost by a combined three points in the Labour Day series and was beaten soundly in Calgary in late September.
There’s no way the Eskimos want to get swept by the Stampeders.
To avoid that reality, the Eskimos defence will need to stop one man tonight, running back Jon Cornish, the CFL’s leading rusher.
He’s lit up the Eskimos to the tune of 436 yards on the ground and is 50 yards away from surpassing Normie Kwong’s record of most rushing yards by a Canadian running back.
It’s a great oppoutunity for the Eskimos defence to give Cornish a rough ride on his way to that record.
The Eskimos are in a very interesting situation tonight. They don’t need to win however, they would like to win.
It also gives Head Coach Kavis Reed the luxury of managing the minutes for some of his key personnel. After the Eskimos clinched a playoff spot, a relieved Reed told the Edmonton Journal’s Chris O’Leary that backup QB Matt Nichols will see plenty of playing time. Kerry Joseph is expected to start, he needs quality reps also.
Linebackers J.C. Sherritt and T.J. Hill have been operating with their fair share of bumps and bruises lately. They may find some time to rest on the bench.
With a win tonight, combined with a Roughriders loss tomorrow, the Esks will finish third in the West Division.
Cue the debate.
Are the Esks better off playing in the West? Or are they better suited to cross over into the East?
Dave Campbell has been on the Eskimos beat since 2004. He’s entering his seventh season as the Eskimo colour analyst for 630 CHED broadcasts. He also hosts The Points After Show, an openline post-game show. Follow Dave on Twitter @Dave_CHED.