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Expert Picks

WEEKLY PREDICTOR: WILL THE ESKS MAKE HISTORY?

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TORONTO — It’s the final round of playoffs this week, as four teams fight to make the trip to Toronto for the 104th Grey Cup Championship.

The Eskimos are travelling to Ottawa to take on the REDBLACKS for the Eastern Final in hopes of becoming the first crossover team in CFL history to make it to the Grey Cup. The Stampeders, meanwhile, will be hosting the BC Lions in the Western Final at McMahon Stadium.

This week, Nye looks at choosing who will move on to the final contest of the season in his Weekly Predictor.

CFL Playoff Pick ‘Em returns so make your picks for the Division Finals now. The grand prize for the winner? Season tickets to your favourite team!

Here’s Jamie Nye with his picks for the Division Finals:

EDMONTON @ OTTAWA

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Will John White run the Esks to a win over Ottawa to surge into the Grey Cup? (Johany Jutras/CFL.ca)

The Ottawa REDBLACKS enter the game as the slight underdogs, but that is because the early bets went to the Eskimos. The REDBLACKS are the team who can use the ‘they’re betting against us’ motivation if they wish.

Ottawa also knows they’ve defeated Edmonton both times this season in two exciting and tight games. Problem with that is the last time the two faced each other was August 6th in a 23-20 Ottawa win.

Since that game, Ottawa has a 4-7 record and cooled off after starting 4-2-1.

Edmonton meanwhile was the opposite, the August loss dropped them to 2-4 at the time. Since, the Eskimos have won nine of their last 13 games, including six of their last seven.

With Mike Reilly practicing on Wednesday, it has eased any nerves for Eskimos fans coming into this game. Yes, they have two top receivers but it was John White’s game on the ground in the Eastern Semi last week that was the most impressive aspect of that victory. Although, it shouldn’t have been a surprise the Eskimos had the number two run game in the league this season.

Ottawa has had to mix and match their running backs all season based on health but were still able be a well rounded offence. They were fourth in rushing and first in passing, with Henry Burris and Trevor Harris helping guide Ernest Jackson, Chris Williams, Greg Ellingson and Brad Sinopli to 1,000-yard seasons. With Williams out, Khalil Paden and some others stepped in and produced.

Overall you can’t differentiate between the offences.

So how about defensively? They have only two points difference through 18 games. Four yards per game difference when looking at their yards allowed. Even when it comes to discipline, the two teams both average 11 per game.

Flip a coin, maybe?

I’m going to pick the underdog in the East. Although, Ottawa has struggled at home they have been in every single game, except one. Plus, two long trips out East for Edmonton is an intangible that has to have some impact on a football team.

PICK: OTTAWA (10% CONFIDENCE)

BC @ CALGARY

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Can the Lions defence stop Bo Levi Mitchell and his offence? (CFL.ca)

What is better, rest or momentum?

We will find out how the impact will be for the Stampeders who have had two weeks off and three for some key players like quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell who sat out the final regular season game.

Outside of practice, Mitchell last threw a pass on October 21st. A month less a day from the November 20th kickoff for the Western Final.

The first quarter may tell the story of the game between the Lions and Stampeders. If the Stampeders come out showing they have the fresh legs, with speed and aggression, while showing no signs of rust, the Stampeders will ride their way to the Grey Cup.

If the Stampeders look a little rusty, trying to get back up to game speed, the Lions will have the opportunity to get out to a lead on a road game and have the Stampeders playing catch up the rest of the way, which could lead to some pressure the Stamps haven’t felt a lot of in the back half of the season having first wrapped up quite early.

Then you look at the numbers and I see a similar story to the Eastern Final. Two teams that are side by side in a lot of categories. Two of the top three offences, two of the top defences. The biggest difference is that the Stampeders defence has been able to turnover the ball. The Stamps were +19 in turnover ration, the BC Lions were -5.

The Lions need the same game plan as they had last week, play safe and let the playmakers like Chris Rainey, Bryan Burnham and Jonathon Jennings make those plays. With Emmanual Arceneaux questionable and even if he does play, banged up, it impacts the BC offence. The Stampeders are a much more healthy group.

So rest, or momentum?

I’m going to play the odds, that the best team all-season will be just that on Sunday.

PICK: CALGARY (50% CONFIDENCE)