Four teams will take to the field this Sunday in two CFL division semifinal matchups, but only two will continue on their quest to hoist the gridiron's Holy Grail.
Andy McNamara and Carlan Gay of the 3rd and Long take a look at 10 key stats that will go a long way in crowning a winner and loser this weekend.
It is time for Team 3-R-D's OVER/UNDER:
Hamilton at Montreal
1. Anthony Cavillo
Football's all-time passing leader looked abysmal in the 43-1 dismantling of his Alouettes by the B.C. Lions in the last week's regular-season finale, throwing for an embarrassing 63 yards. On top of that Montreal is on a three-game losing streak heading into this Sunday's tilt against Hamilton.
That being said, "to be the man you have to beat the man," and no one in the CFL today has had more success in high pressure situations. Calvillo and the Als are built for the playoffs, which means he will flick the switch and toss for at least 350 yards. Assuming he can survive the Ticats' dangerous pass rush, of course.
Key Stat: 333.25 passing yards
2. Avon Cobourne
In four games against his former team, Cobourne has looked both dominate and non-existent. It's not a coincidence that when Cobourne has run the ball effectively the Ticats have beaten Montreal. It also comes as no surprise that when he's been shut down by the Als' defence, the Ticats' offence struggled. Plain and simple: Cobourne has to rush for more than 52 yards this weekend for the Ticats to punch their ticket to Winnipeg.
If the Ticats game plan like they should, calling a ball-control type offence, then Cobourne will have every opportunity to do so and eliminate his former team.
Key Stat: 51.75 running yards
3. Jamel Richardson
The man known as Optimus Prime has been turning defences inside and out all season. Montreal's last win of this season came versus Hamilton thanks in large part to Richardson's nine receptions. Richardson has averaged just over 8 a game in the Alouettes' four head-to-head matches, making him an obvious early target for Calvillo.
Despite all his athletic ability, Hamilton's speedy secondary will hunker down to focus on Richardson and force Calvillo to look elsewhere for big plays.
Key Stat: 8.25 receptions
4. Hamilton Defence
Looking at the last two games of the season, the Tabbies's defence has looked awful. They've played the CFL's worst two teams in Toronto and Saskatchewan, and allowed them to score a combined 52 points. Of course, the hardcore Ticat fan will quickly argue that Hamilton had nothing to play for.
The Ticats' defence allowed 478 points - 255 of them have come when they were the road team. In the two road games in Montreal they've allowed 70 points. The defence must slow down this Montreal Alouettes offence if it wants to have a chance. Running the ball consistently on offence should make life for the Ticats' defence a lot easier. Let's hope the coaching staff in Hamilton is on the same page.
Key Stat: 29.25 points allowed
5. Hamilton Defence
Montreal had the most passing attempts in the league this season with 697, allowing only 34 sacks. Of course, with a passing-focused team, the quarterback is in the pocket longer, giving the Ticats more chances to bust through and knock around Calvillo.
The man to watch for Hamilton is Justin Hickman, who was tied for most sacks in the CFL with 13 - four came versus Montreal and Calvillo. The burly 6'2, 265-pound defensive end will be the key for Steel Town's D-Line to provide pressure early and often.
Key Stat: 2.5 sacks
Calgary at Edmonton
1. Ricky Ray
Ray was horrendous during the 2010 campaign. Ray threw more interceptions last year than touchdowns, and his team just missed the playoffs. Fast forward to the 2011 season and Ray has his team hosting a home playoff game, and has thrown 24 touchdowns.
In three games against Calgary, Ray has looked great. One stat however stuck out in the wins, and that same stat was absent in the loss. Ray threw for two touchdowns in both Edmonton victories over the Stampeders this season, and in the one loss he was shut out.
Edmonton needs to put up points this weekend and put pressure on Stampeders QB Drew Tate, who's starting his first playoff game. If Ricky Ray can get the ball into the end zone on more than two occasions it will be a very good sign for the Eskimos.
Key Stat: 1.33 TD passes
2. Jon Cornish
The running game will decide this battle of two Canadian backs who have been rolling the last half of this season. Jerome Messam for Edmonton, and Calgary's Jon Cornish, who stepped up to earn more per game carries than teammate Joffrey Reynolds.
With Tate getting his first playoff start for the Stampeders he will be relying heavily on Cornish to ease his pressure and keep Edmonton's defence guessing. Not only does Cornish race past the 41.6 yards rushing mark this Sunday, but he also gallops over his Canuck counterpart Messam in overall run production.
Key Stat: 41.6 running yards
3. Adarius Bowman
Adarius Bowman finally seemed to live up to the potential that everyone knew he had. A breakout year for Bowman saw him post up career numbers (62 catches, 1,153 yards and 4 touchdowns). The 6'3, 225-pound slot back is quickly becoming a priority on the opposing team's defensive game plan.
If Edmonton is able to find way to get the ball in Bowman's hands, he will make life very difficult for the Stampeders' secondary.
Key Stat: 3.6 receptions
4. Edmonton Defence
Winning the Battle of Alberta season series limiting the Stampeders under 20 points per game seemed like an impossibility a year ago as Calgary had the hottest offence in the CFL. Fast forward to 2011 with Calgary's offensive arsenal being largely inconsistent and having a young quarterback in Drew Tate on the road in a hostile enemy territory for his first playoff start, and it appears that Edmonton's defence has a delicious recipe for shutting down its foes.
Expect a big day from linebacker TJ Hill, who has had success against Calgary this year, and let's not forget that the Eskimos allowed the second fewest points overall in the regular season.
Key Stat: 18.6 points allowed
5. Calgary Defence
The Stampeders' defence recorded 27 sacks. In games against the Eskimos they've averaged 1.3 a game.
In the 30-20 win in Week 11, Calgary recorded three sacks. In the two previous games, both losses, Calgary only got to Edmonton quarterback Ricky Ray once. If the Stamps plan on continuing their season they must get Ray on the turf.
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