Naylor: Ticats receive cap relief from moving Gable
The Hamilton Tiger-Cats will have to do something no other East Division team has this season to keep their slim playoff hopes alive.
Hamilton (3-10) visits Winnipeg (10-3) on Friday night still with an outside chance at catching the Ottawa Redblacks (5-9-1) for second in the East Division. But not only have the Bombers won three straight overall and their last five home games, they're 6-0 this season versus Eastern clubs.
Hamilton is just 1-7 against West Division competition. The Ticats lost a glorious opportunity to climb back into the Eastern playoff race Saturday by relinquishing a 14-point second-half lead en route to a 43-35 overtime loss to the Toronto Argonauts.
Hamilton still has two games in hand on Ottawa and visits TD Place Oct. 27. But instead of being three points behind the defending Grey Cup champions, the Ticats remain five back and needing help to make the playoffs.
The Bombers won the previous meeting 39-12 at Tim Hortons Field on Aug. 12. Quarterback Matt Nichols was 25-of-35 passing for 267 yards and two TDs while Justin Medlock booted six field goals and Canadian Andrew Harris ran for 104 yards on 14 carries while adding two catches for 21 yards.
Winnipeg's defence sacked former Ticats starter Zach Collaros five times and forced three turnovers (two fumbles, interception) while holding Hamilton to just 188 net offensive yards.
Winnipeg has won its last three meetings with Hamilton and outscored the Ticats 104-47. The Bombers also have a stellar plus-12 turnover ratio in those games.
Nichols has the CFL's highest quarterback rating (90.2) and efficiency rating (105.1) and has thrown a league-best 26 TD strikes. He's not been intercepted in 107 straight pass attempts.
Harris, a Winnipeg native, is second overall in rushing (793 yards) with six touchdowns and also has 84 catches for 718 yards and one touchdown. He's on pace for 1,098 yards rushing and 994 yards receiving, which would make him only the second player in CFL history to surpass 800 yards rushing and receiving in the same season.
Robert Drummond first accomplished the feat in '97 with Toronto. No CFL player has ever cracked the 1,000-yard plateau in rushing and receiving in the same season.
Quarterback Jeremiah Masoli has led Hamilton to a 3-2 record since being named the starter when June Jones was hired as interim head coach. Alex Green returns to the backfield after veteran C.J. Gable was dealt to Edmonton on Monday.
Green ran for 140 yards in Hamilton's 24-23 road win over B.C. on Sept. 22. Gable rushed for 157 yards and two TDs against Toronto.
If Green can crack the 100-yard mark against Winnipeg, it would be the first time since 2010 that Hamilton went three straight games with a 100-yard runner. The Ticats are averaging 143 yards rushing over their last four games but a loss to Winnipeg would eliminate them from playoff contention while clinching a home post-season date for Toronto.
Winnipeg would need a win and loss by Saskatchewan and Edmonton to clinch a playoff berth. The Bombers would secure a home post-season date with a victory and losses by the Riders, Eskimos and B.C.
Saskatchewan Roughriders versus Toronto Argonauts (Saturday afternoon)
Running back Trent Richardson makes his CFL debut for Saskatchewan (7-6), which ranks last in rushing. The Riders rallied to beat Ottawa 18-17 last weekend. Their defence stands second overall in fewest TDs allowed (32) and third in interceptions (14). The Argos (7-7) are 1-5 versus West Division teams but a 34-26 decision over Edmonton started their current three-game win streak. Toronto is also 5-2 at BMO Field and DeVier Posey gives Argos solid 1-2 receiving punch with veteran S.J. Green.
Ottawa Redblacks versus B.C. Lions (Saturday night)
Trevor Harris is expected back under centre for Ottawa after missing nearly a month with a shoulder injury. The Redblacks have dropped two straight and three of their last four but running back William Powell has three consecutive 100-yard rushing efforts (438 yards combined, 6.7-yard average). Quarterback Jonathon Jennings has twice as many interceptions (12) as touchdowns (six) for B.C. (6-7), which has lost six-of-eight games. If the Lions feel they're a playoff team, this is one contest they must win.
Edmonton Eskimos versus Montreal Alouettes (Monday afternoon)
Something has to give as Edmonton (7-6) has lost six straight and Montreal (3-11) is on a seven-game losing streak. The Eskimos are 5-1 against East teams whereas the Alouettes are 2-6 facing West squads. The Esks hope Gable can provide balance to an offence anchored by CFL passing leader Mike Reilly. Drew Willy could make second straight start for the Als with Darian Durant (hamstring) still ailing.
Last week: 4-0.