Eski­mos are set to host streak­ing Ot­tawa Redblacks

Cape Breton Post - - CLASSIFIEDS/SPORTS -

It’s the start of a long, long stretch for Matt Ni­chols and the Ed­mon­ton Eski­mos.

Ni­chols will make his first start of the sea­son Thurs­day night when the Eski­mos host the Ot­tawa Redblacks. With in­cum­bent Mike Reilly (knee) out 10-to-12 weeks, Ni­chols has the op­por­tu­nity to be the Eski­mos’ starter for a while. And af­ter be­ing off last week, the Eski­mos (0-1) will play the next 17 straight weeks be­fore earn­ing a bye the fi­nal week of the reg­u­lar sea­son.

For­tu­nately for Ed­mon­ton, Ni­chols isn’t a typ­i­cal backup. The 28-year-old is in his sixth sea­son with the CFL club and has seen spot duty as a starter.

Reilly was in­jured in Ed­mon­ton’s 26-11 sea­son-open­ing loss to the Toronto Arg­onauts af­ter sus­tain­ing a low hit from de­fen­sive line­man Cleyon Laing. The Eski­mos didn’t help them­selves in that con­test, com­mit­ting six turnovers — in­clud­ing three fum­bles.

Ot­tawa (2-0) has al­ready matched last year’s win to­tal and looked good de­fen­sively do­ing so, al­low­ing just 245.5 yards and 16 points per game. Op­pos­ing quar­ter­backs are com­plet­ing just 46.7 per cent of their passes also.

GM Mar­cel Des­jardins spent much of his off-sea­son shoring up an of­fence that was the CFL’s worst last year, bol­ster­ing a re­ceiv­ing corps with new­com­ers Brad Si­nop­oli, Mau­rice Price, Greg Elling­son, Ernest Jack­son and Chris Wil­liams. Ot­tawa leads the league in ball pos­ses­sion (al­most 36 min­utes per game) but stands fifth in scor­ing (23.5 points).

Henry Bur­ris, 40, in his 16th CFL sea­son, has com­pleted over 70 per cent of his passes and stands fourth among league quar­ter­backs with 569 pass­ing yards. His four TD strikes are sec­ond only to Toronto’s Trevor Harris (seven) but has also thrown four in­ter­cep­tions, the most among starters.

Harris was very pro­fi­cient against Ed­mon­ton’s de­fence, com­plet­ing 24-of-27 passes for 347 yards and three TDs. The Ar­gos also ran for 137 yards.

Ed­mon­ton coach Chris Jones has a well-earned rep­u­ta­tion as a de­fen­sive guru and he’s had two weeks to for­mu­late a game­plan for Ot­tawa. The same would ap­ply for the Eski­mos as a whole get­ting over the loss of their of­fen­sive leader and ac­cept­ing Ni­chols as their new starter.

Pick — Ed­mon­ton Mon­treal Alou­ettes ver­sus Win­nipeg Blue Bombers Drew Willy starts for Win­nipeg (1-1) af­ter be­ing knocked from last week­end’s 52-26 loss to Hamil­ton, the re­sult of a hel­met-to-hel­met hit. The Bombers strug­gled with­out Willy as backup Brian Brohm had two picks re­turned for TDs. Rookie Ra­keem Cato was im­pres­sive in his CFL de­but, com­plet­ing 20-of-25 passes for 241 yards and three TDs in Mon­treal’s 29-11 win over the Grey Cup-cham­pion Cal­gary Stam­ped­ers. Win­nipeg does have re­cent game­film on Cato and should be ea­ger to atone for its last game.

Pick — Win­nipeg Saskatchewan Roughrid­ers ver­sus B.C. Lions, It’s been a tough start for the Riders (0-2), who’ve lost starter Dar­ian Du­rant (Achilles) for the sea­son and their first two games by just six points. Kevin Glenn threw for 477 yards and two TDs in last week­end’s 42-40 overtime loss to Toronto while Ryan Smith had eight catches for 174 yards and a TD. Jerome Mes­sam ran for 84 yards and caught six passes for 72 yards. B.C’s Travis Lu­lay threw for 254 yards and a TD in last week­end’s 27-16 loss to Ot­tawa but the Lions’ de­fence al­lowed over 400 yards.

Pick – Saskatchewan. Toronto Arg­onauts ver­sus Cal­gary Stam­ped­ers Quar­ter­back Trevor Harris has been sen­sa­tional for Toronto (20) with an 83.1 per cent com­ple­tion av­er­age and league-high seven TD passes, three com­ing in the Ar­gos’ 26-11 sea­sonopen­ing home win over Ed­mon­ton in Fort McMur­ray, Alta. But vet­eran slot­back An­dre Durie (knee) is likely done for the sea­son. Bo Levi Mitchell, last year’s Grey Cup MVP, has just one touch­down toss with three in­ter­cep­tions for Cal­gary (1-1), which has eight turnovers and a mi­nus-7 give­away/take­away, both league-worst fig­ures.

Pick — Toronto

CP PHOTO

Ed­mon­ton Eski­mos quar­ter­back Matt Ni­chols (16) dur­ing sec­ond half CFL football ac­tion against the Toronto Arg­onauts in Fort McMur­ray, Alta., on Satur­day, June 27.

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