British Columbia Lions #13 (QB) Mike Reilly tries to throw a pass during the 3rd quarter of CFL game action between the Edmonton Eskimo's and the British Columbia Lions at the Brick Field located at Commonwealth stadium in Edmonton Friday, June 21, 2019. Eskimos won the game 39- 23. (CFL PHOTO - Walter Tychnowicz)
The Matchup: Regular Season Game 16
BC Lions (5-10-0) at Edmonton Eskimos ( 7-8-0)
Saturday, October 12th
Lions last result: a 55-8 home win over Toronto on Saturday, October 5th.
Eskimos last result: a 42-12 road loss to Hamilton on Friday, October 4th.
Playoff Picture: the Lions must win in order to stay alive in the race for a crossover berth. A loss or tie would mean the Eskimos clinch a playoff spot and eliminate the Lions from contention. Edmonton has already clinched the season series with victories over BC on June 21st and July 11th, meaning the Lions need to finish ahead of them in points in order to make the playoffs.
Vegas odds: The Lions are favoured by 2.5 points with the over/under set at 45.5 points.
From 1-10 to playoff football In October…
Who would have thunk it after the highly-scrutinized start to a season that had such grand expectations? Yet, here we are. A four-game winning streak for DeVone Claybrooks’ squad combined with the Eskimos’ struggles has given the Lions some new life and plenty to play for with three games left in the regular season. The schedule makers likely had playoff implications in mind when they slotted this third meeting between the two teams into Thanksgiving weekend. Now there is the chance to really put the heat on Edmonton who following this one will have a bye before closing things out with a home and home against Saskatchewan. At the very least, Claybrooks can look at his team and say they simply haven’t packed it in.
“They’re battle-tested,” said the head coach of his group.
“We’ve been through some things, in all my years of playing pro ball and being around this game that hadn’t happened in this season and they happened to us like ‘bang bang bang.’ So the guys are very resilient to put the distractions aside and not listen to the naysayers and only focus on the people in this building and what we believe in. ”
This matchup is the epitome of how you can’t jump to conclusions about anything in this league. As the Lions were still trying to find their way before Labour Day, Edmonton had the look of a Grey Cup contender by playing balanced football. A few key injuries- quarterback Trevor Harris chief among them- have flipped the script in a big way. Yet Claybrooks still expects them to come out hungry.
“They started out hot and fizzled; you want to go into the last third of the season on a roll and they’re trying to get their things together. They lost a quarterback but like they say, when you’ve got a dog in a corner, it’ll snap to get out and we understand that, “said Claybrooks of the Eskimos.
We’ve Seen The ‘Backup’ Movie Before
Here we go again. Full marks for members of the Lions defence for vowing to prepare the same way for Kilgore as they would for Harris. As recently as two weeks ago, we saw Matt Shiltz execute the Alouettes offence with relative comfort in a narrow 25-23 Lions win that kept these playoff hopes alive. Although Kilgore hasn’t quite lit it up since taking over behind center- the product of Middle Tennessee State has failed to reach the 300-yard passing mark in each of his four appearances while throwing a total of seven interceptions- the defensive veterans know he is capable of breaking out at any time.
“He just hasn’t gotten a grasp of the offence yet but he’s still a good quarterback,” said defensive back Garry Peters.
“He makes good throws, tries to get the ball out quick (and) he’s not Trevor Harris by no means but he’s still a good quarterback so we respect him going into the game. We obviously want to get pressure on him and try to make him miss his reads and stuff but as far as us, we’re not thinking about who is at quarterback we just want to play our game.”
Claybrooks wasn’t shy to remind folks before Montreal that his squad hadn’t exactly fared well against unfamiliar QB foes this season- Hamilton’s Dane Evans and Calgary’s Nick Arbuckle the prime examples- so you know that message from the coaching staff will be consistent all week.
And as Peters eluded to, this defence just needs to keep executing the way it has for the last four-plus weeks. Doing that won’t make anybody question the quality of quarterbacks they have beaten.
The Eskimo injury bug doesn’t stop there for this tilt. Running back CJ Gable along with receivers Greg Ellingson and Tevaun Smith will also miss this one. Shaq Cooper will carry the backfield load and has proven to be a force when called upon, rushing for over 100 yards in both of his starts this season.
Edmonton will still bring a lot of pressure on defence, meaning the line of scrimmage will be extra important for an improved Lions offensive line.
Orange Is The Colour…
And not green and gold for Peters and a host of other former Eskimos who will try and throw a wrench into their old squad’s playoff hopes. For us observers, it presents the perfect storyline. For quarterback Mike Reilly, the most significant former Eskie of them all, the second return to Edmonton this season is about one thing: staying alive in the playoff race.
“Not at all,” began Reilly when asked if his old team makes it more special.
“I had six great years in Edmonton and I loved my time there but I’ve totally closed the chapter on that book and they’re the same as any other team in our league: they’re a Western opponent and the next team on our schedule. That’s how we approach it. If you need anything other than that to get you excited about this game than you’re probably in the wrong line of work.”
Losing the way they did in those first two meetings is all the motivation they need.
“Every single person, to a man, I don’t think played very good football the first two times that we played them. Thankfully we get another crack at it and hopefully, we can make the most of it,” added Reilly.
And in truth, they are a vastly different team in a few areas since July. The offensive line has been re-jigged, they have a pair of new additions on the defensive line in Shawn Lemon and David Menard, while all three facets are playing with plenty more confidence.
2019 W/L record: 5-10-0. Statistics: 321/460 for 3,891 yards, 20 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.
- Now the CFL’s leading passer, Reilly makes his second return to Edmonton feeling a little more good about himself and the team’s overall outlook since an unpleasant trip to the Alberta capital back in week two. He has said all of the right things about facing his old friends but you know he’d love nothing more than to spoil their playoff fortunes in the final few weeks. His five touchdown passes against the Argonauts were a career-best.
2019 W/L record: 1-2-0. Statistics: 85/124 for 921 yards, 4 touchdowns and 7 interceptions.
- Kilgore’s lone victory since Harris went down came in Ottawa two weeks back and its no secret the offence hasn’t performed the way it did with Harris under centre but they are still counting on him to help the Eskimos drag themselves across the playoff finish line. This will be his first career start against the Lions.
Roster notes: with the run game giving the offence a decided edge recently, the Lions will elect to dress both of their featured tailbacks as Brandon Rutley comes onto the roster behind John White. Rutley takes the roster spot of linebacker Maleki Harris who injured his foot last week. Jevon Cottoy comes back onto the roster in place of Lemar Durant (foot). Shaq Johnson will move inside to Durant’s slotback position with Rashaun Simonise lining up at wideout. First-year Lion Kevin Haynes has the task of starting for Harris at middle linebacker.
The last Lions victory at Commonwealth Stadium? You need to go back to July 13th, 2013 when Travis Lulay and company prevailed 17-3 on an uncharacteristically wet and windy summer night. It was Reilly’s first season and third start with the Eskimos. Since then, the Lions have dropped seven straight regular-season visits to Edmonton. You get the sense that’s due to change.
The evolution of Duron Carter: in his first 14 games, the charismatic receiver had just six receptions. He has fourteen catches in his last two outings.
Shades of 2011? The Lions will aim to win five in a row for the first time since that magical turnaround season that led to a Grey Cup championship.
TSN 1040 has you covered, beginning with the pre-game show at 2:00 PM PT. Bob Marjanovich and Giulio Caravatta have the call at 4:00 PM. Viewers can watch on TSN 1 while fans south of the border can stream the action on ESPN+. The game will also be available in Mexico on MVS as well as the UK and Ireland on BT Sport.