The West Division-leading Edmonton Eskimos (5-1) seek to get back to the win column with a game against the Montreal Alouettes (4-2) as they travel to Montreal for the game Thursday night. Edmonton will try to lick away the wounds caused by a 28-16 loss last week against the East-leading Winnipeg Blue Bombers, which also saw them lose their star wideout Fred Stamps to injury. Stamps had led the league in receiving yards with 619, including 5 touchdown receptions on 33 total catches.
Breaking up the potent tandem of QB Ricky Ray and Stamps could spell disaster for the Eskimos, as they head to face the Alouettes on the back of one of Ray’s worst performances in recent memory, as he threw for 3 picks on 17-28 passing for 226 yards. In opposition to Ray, Alouettes veteran QB Anthony Calvillo continues to chip away at CFL record books, becoming the all-time leader in pass completions (5,180) and touchdowns (398), with sights now set on the all-time mark for passing yards (needs 2,386 to pass Damon Allen’s total of 72,381). Calvillo leads the CFL in passing yards, completion percentage and touchdowns, and therefore will be the prime focus of containment for the top-ranked defense of Edmonton.
Though focus will be hedged on two of the CFL’s top passers in this game, the running game also looks to factor in more in this match-up as Montreal’s Brandon Whitaker leads the league with 493 rushing yards through 6 games, and comes off an impressive 19-carry, 150 yard effort last week in a 36-23 victory over the Toronto Argonauts. With Whitaker doing the brunt work, Dahrran Diedrick cleaned up on the TDs against Toronto, scoring 3 TDs on 5 carries, and this tandem will need to be equally productive against Edmonton to help the Als get pressure away from the passing attack.
On the flipside, Edmonton will have to lean more heavily on Jerome Messam at running back, who will have to show vast improvement over the recent efforts he’s made (never going over 54 yards rushing in the last 4 games). Without the threat of Stamps at receiver (who has been replaced by fill-in Jason Armstead), there’s a lot of load to shoulder for Messam in this game, and a lot of pressure coming at him without the down-field threat of Stamps to worry about.
Bodog Sportsbook puts the advantage in this game to Montreal, no doubt taking account that the Eskimos’ only loss of the year is on the road, they are missing their star wideout, and are coming to face a Montreal team with the top quarterback and running back in the CFL. Montreal is a 6 1/2 point favorite at Bodog, and a 54.5 point over/under at Sportsbook.com speaks to the offensive strength of Montreal at home as well.
We simply don’t see Edmonton recovering just yet from the loss of Fred Stamps, who looks to be out for 4-6 weeks, so we’ll count on Montreal covering the points spread at home. With a two-pronged attack featuring another strong performance by the veteran Anthony Calvillo, and a forceful effort by Brandon Whitaker on the ground, Edmonton falls by at least seven in Montreal this Thursday evening.