Andy McNamara and Carlan Gay of 3rd and Long
have tallied up the most important stats for this weekend's CFL East and West Finals. We've averaged out key statistical categories of the head-to-head battles during the regular season between Hamilton vs. Winnipeg
and Edmonton vs. BC
in order to breakdown Sunday's playoff games. Hamilton Tiger-Cats @ Winnipeg Blue Bombers
Avon Cobourne - Hamilton Ticats
59.3 Avon Cobourne
put the trash talk aside and just played football last week in an all too sweet 97-yard, one TD performance against his former Montreal club. Now it's all about heading to the Grey Cup and Cobourne knows all too well how to get there and perform in big game situations.
No. 22 of the black and gold was inconsistent most of this season, and certainly didn't overwhelm against the famed 'Swaggerville' defence of Winnipeg, rushing for an average of only 59.3 yards in head-to-head matchups. However, in a cold Canad Inns Stadium with nasty swirling winds, the game will be decided via the run and forced turnovers. This means Cobourne will get a lot more touches and it would be shocking if he did not break the 100-yard plateau. Whether he says it or not, believe 100 per cent that Cobourne wants to get back to the championship just as much to rub it in the face of the Alouettes as he does for his Ticats teammates. The man will be lights out - go with the 'Over.' Carlan:
Over Chris Garrett - Winnipeg Blue Bombers
In two of the three prior matchups between the Blue Bombers and Ticats, Fred Reid was the feature back in the Winnipeg offence. In the final game these two played during regular season, Garrett tore the Hamilton defence apart; gashing them for 131 yards on 18 carries.
Since Reid went down with a season-ending injury, Garrett has stepped up
and as the man who will take the bulk of the carries in Swaggerville. In the closest game of the Winnipeg season-series sweep over Hamilton, they did not get good production on the ground from their running backs. Hamilton proved last week that given the opportunity, they can put up points in a hurry.
Winnipeg needs to control to clock with the ground and try and neutralize the Ticats pass rush by keeping them off balance with unpredictable play calling. Carlan:
Over Marcus Thigpen - Hamilton Ticats
All purpose yards:
Much like his teammate, Avon Cobourne, Thigpen
has been inconsistent all year. After talking up a storm about his greatness this pre-season, Marcus has underwhelmed ... until when it counted
. He certainly walked the walk in the East semis, turning into a wrecking ball with 171 yards on kick returns, a rushing touchdown, and made key receptions. Thigpen could be the wildcard Hamilton needs to keep the stingy Blue Bombers defence off balance.
This Ticats club needs Thigpen to strike early whether it is on special teams or elsewhere, and he will do just that on Sunday. Carlan:
Over Winnipeg Defence
The stingy Winnipeg Blue Bomber defence
will be ready to go on Sunday afternoon. They'll be coming off a much needed bye, they will have the support of a jam packed Canad Inns Stadium and they will have the added motivation of pundits saying that the BC Lions own the best defence in the CFL.
In the three previous games against the Hamilton Ticats, the blue and gold have made their offence look pedestrian. Quarterback Kevin Glenn has had some of his worst performances against Swaggerville, including an ugly three interception outing.
If Winnipeg can continue to get pressure on Glenn, and put him in second and long situations they will have more than enough opportunities to get their paws on the pigskin. Carlan:
Over Hamilton Defence
Welcome back Jamall Johnson
! The linebacker owned arguably the best quarterback in CFL history, Anthony Calvillo, last week with a sack, a forced and recovered fumble, as well as an interception. 10 points were converted by Hamilton on his turnovers alone and that is where the East Final will be won or lost.
Winnipeg's Buck Pierce
is no Calvillo, and despite having a nice comeback season he did lead the league in interceptions. Throw in the Ticats sack leader in Justin Hickman who loves to gobble up injury prone QBs like Pierce, and it could be a long afternoon for whoever gets the nod as the snap caller.
That being said, the weather conditions most likely won't be passing friendly, meaning the ball will be handed off a lot more, which further means that Pierce or Brink will not be holding onto the pigskin. The Ticats 'D' will be up in the grill of Blue Bombers' Chris Garrett, before they get a chance to reach the quarterback. Carlan:
Under Edmonton Eskimos @ BC Lions
Fred Stamps - Edmonton Eskimos
4 Fred Stamps
is one of the most electrifying players in the CFL. Stamps and Adarius Bowman
are the best one-two combo at receiver in the league. When Stamps has been healthy, he's made life extra easy for starting quarterback Ricky Ray and given defences and opposing coaching staff fits with his ability to seemingly take over the game.
With Jerome Messam now out for the season
, the pressure will be on the Edmonton offence and coaching staff to replace the production that Messam would have provided in this West Division Final. Stamps can be the man to step up. In the first meeting between these two teams, and the only Eskimo victory, Stamps recorded seven catches, 104 yards and a touchdown. If the Eskimos can find ways to give Stamps the ball in space, they will be faced with more second and short situations, which will be much more manageable against a tough BC Lion defence. Carlan:
Over Arland Bruce III - BC Lions
In a perfect example of how a change of scenery can change a player's performance, Arland Bruce has shone as a Lions receiver since being dealt from Hamilton this season.
You know Travis Lulay
is going to be jacked at home on Sunday and will be looking for some deep connects early and often. The five-reception average that Bruce has had against Edmonton in 2011 could easily be surpassed, but will it? This is more of a compliment to Lulay and his ability to spread the ball to so many different weapons (i.e. Geroy Simon), than Bruce's ability to come up with multiple receptions. A focus is definitely on him, but as we've seen all year, if an opponent targets one BC wideout, two step up and burn those defenders just as easily. Carlan:
Over Edmonton Running Backs
The loss of 1,000-yard rusher Jerome Messam will be the major storyline surrounding the Edmonton Eskimos offence. Messam had carried the load for the green and gold, and was a major reason they saw any type of success offensively.
Heading into Sunday's final, the Eskies will be forced to call upon two running backs that have the experience and ability to give them more than adequate production on the ground. Hugh Charles
and Calvin McCarty
don't have to take over the game. They just have to help control it. If they can effectively run the rock and keep the BC Lions defence guessing, then the Eskimos will be in prime position to steal one and extend their stay an extra week in British Columbia. Carlan:
Over Edmonton defence
We know the Eskimos secondary is dangerous. Rookie head coach, Kavis Reed
, is a former defensive back and prides himself on interceptions and breaking up big plays. Lions quarterback Travis Lulay will be tossing plenty to his plethora of receiving weapons, which means that Edmonton will certainly have their chance for picks. Linebacker T.J. Hill is a shark around the middle and will be waiting for a juicy chuck to swallow up.
This is Lulay's first playoff game as a favourite and plenty of pressure is on him to make the home team victorious and host the Grey Cup in BC. If the Eskimos defensive backfield can force an early turnover and get in the young Lulay's head, they could very well pass the 1.25 interceptions averaged per game versus BC in the 2011 campaign. Carlan:
Under Paul McCallum - BC Lions
1.5 Paul McCallum
is working on a terrific career as a kicker in the Canadian Football League. McCallum connected on 94.3 per cent of his field goals this season, setting a new CFL record. He has also never missed an extra point in his 19 seasons putting toe to pigskin in the league.
McCallum will definitely be called upon again this Sunday to make an impact on the game. His punts must pin the Eskimos deep, to keep the field position tilted in the Lions' favour. He must continue to be accurate on extra points, but more importantly when it is time he must put three points up on the board.
McCallum averaged less than two field goals a game in his four prior meetings with Edmonton this season, which for the Lions should be considered a good thing as they were able to finish drives. However if it's a close game, which most are expecting, McCallum will be a big factor in a potential BC Lions victory. Carlan:
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