Worst Weekend Possible
The Edmonton Eskimos faced the perfect storm this weekend. Their loss to the Redblacks combined with the Blue Bombers, Roughriders, and Lions winning has thrown the Western Division standings into chaos. What initially throughout the summer months seemed like a two-horse race between Edmonton and Calgary for 1stplace in the division has devolved into a dogfight for making the playoffs at all. Let’s take a look at the current standings:
It’s looking pretty grim for the Eskimos. Any team could stake a viable claim to 2ndand 3rd in the division in the coming weeks. Additionally, with only 12 games played the BC Lions find themselves in an excellent position to either make the Western Divisional playoffs or crossover into the East.
Schedule Could Create Problems
The way the CFL schedule is built could create further problems for the Eskimos. Over the next two weeks, western teams only play each other in 2 out of 8 games. And guess what, they both involve the Eskimos. Here is the Week 16 schedule:
The Eskimos can take solace that their western opponents, minus Calgary who is fairly secure in 1st, have to travel for their games. However, the Saskatchewan Roughriders get an easy matchup against an Alouettes team that is still struggling to gel. The Lions have the tougher test in Hamilton but have shown themselves to be more than capable of matching pace with the Tiger-Cats. Week 17 is not any nicer for the Eskimos chances:
Calgary gets the easy matchup against Montreal. However, BC will be at home to a Toronto team that may have fallen out of significant playoff contention by that time. Ottawa and Winnipeg will be a coin flip game but it’s unlikely that the Bombers have forgotten the 44-21 shellacking at the hands of the Redblacks back on August 17th.
Worst Case Scenario for Eskimos
If the worst case scenario happens, the Eskimos may be hard pressed to make the playoffs in the West. Wins by all western teams and two Eskimo losses would result in the following standings:
It would not be impossible to get back into contention. The Eskimos face Winnipeg and BC one more time after Week 17. This could allow them to control their own destiny, but its nowhere near where the team should be performing.
Time to find out what the team is made of
It’s been lying below the surface all year in Edmonton. The same question keeps coming up on the after-game shows, and the twitter feeds: Is this Eskimos team fragile? It seems that throughout the year, whenever the Eskimos get a lead, they are always within a hair’s breadth of folding and losing the game. Discipline has been a problem too. Head Coach Jason Mass addressed the issue earlier in the season, however, his intense personality continues to rub off on his charges.
Play to their potential
It’s time for the Edmonton Eskimos to play to their potential. While their offence is good, it has yet to play an entire 60 minutes at a high level. If the Edmonton Eskimos are going to have any hope of making the playoffs and going on a run they will need an offence that is picking up first downs and remains a threat throughout the game.
The defence remains a work in progress. Kwaku Boateng is turning into an excellent pass rusher and Almondo Sewell continues to be a reliable run stopper and general gap filler. However, the secondary and linebacking corps has yet to gel. Some of the blame could be placed on the coaching staff as Defensive Coordinator Mike Benevides’ linebackers sometimes struggle to play zone coverage. But the fact of the matter is that the Eskimos defence is a young group who are still learning to play together.
The Last Word
This is a critical weekend for the Edmonton Eskimos. If they don’t rise to the challenge that Winnipeg presents they could find themselves slipping down the Western Division standings. For a city that expects yearly excellence from its football team and a fan base that is eagerly anticipating a chance for a home Grey Cup, to slide any further would be unacceptable.
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