West Final prediction: Lions too hot for Eskimos | Football | CBC Sports

CFLWest Final prediction: Lions too hot for Eskimos

Posted: Thursday, November 17, 2011 | 09:34 PM

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B.C. quarterback Travis Lulay may not be the equal of Edmonton counterpart Ricky Ray, but Lulay has plenty of talented weapons at his disposal. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press) B.C. quarterback Travis Lulay may not be the equal of Edmonton counterpart Ricky Ray, but Lulay has plenty of talented weapons at his disposal. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

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This was going to be so much more fun to work out before the news came that running back Jerome Messam will not be available for the rest of the season.

Rats. No revenge motive. No "Bet you're sorry you got rid of me now."

So...

The host B.C. Lions (11-7) will defeat the Edmonton Eskimos (11-7, 1-0 in playoffs) in the West Division final on Sunday afternoon at B.C. Place.
This was going to be so much more fun to work out before the news came that running back Jerome Messam will not be available for the rest of the season.

Rats. No revenge motive. No "Bet you're sorry you got rid of me now."

So...

The host B.C. Lions (11-7) will defeat the Edmonton Eskimos (11-7, 1-0 in playoffs) in the West Division final on Sunday afternoon at B.C. Place.

Any team with Ricky Ray as its quarterback has a chance to win, especially given the veteran pivot's post-season record of 8-3. Ray was third in yards passing for 2011, throwing at 65.2 per cent with a 99.3 pass efficiency rating. (Wonder if anyone will remember I don't believe in efficiency rating?)

There are certainly receivers around to toss at, led by Adarius Bowman and Fred Stamps, who tied with 1,153 yards, and yes, that's a bit weird. Bowman got his total in 20 fewer catches, however, so he's the deeper threat.

An above-average passing attack doesn't mean anything if you can't run the ball to set up play action and keep the defence from dropping back into coverage too soon. We keep saying this, it's still true. Without Messam (1,057 yards rushing, 1,305 from scrimmage), the Eskimos can't run. And the stats say if they can't run, they can't win.

B.C. went 3-1 in the four regular-season games against Edmonton, and the one loss came early when the green and white piled up 142 yards along the ground in a 33-17 Week 3 contest. Yes, we know, the Lions were lousy in the early going (1-6).

In Week 8, when the Eskimos ran for just 39 yards, they were pounded 36-1. In Week 18, it was 62 yards in a 29-20 loss.

OK, before you all write in about the Week 14 B.C. victory that saw Edmonton get 134 yards rushing, we said they can't win without moving the ball by land, not that they wouldn't lose if they did it well. So there.

Defensively, B.C. gave up the fewest passing touchdowns this year, the second fewest rushing TDs, the fewest points and had the second most quarterback sacks. That sounds promising.

Lulay and company

The Lions can't run against other teams but can, for some reason, against the Eskimos, going over 100 yards twice, both victories.

Travis Lulay is not Ricky Ray, may never be, and that matters not if he can coax his offence down the field using the fine receivers Geroy Simon, Arland Bruce and Shawn Gore. When he does have to hand the ball off, there's Andrew Harris, who was strong in the late season, playing around injuries.

The Lions scored 511 points to Edmonton's 427 over the regular schedule and while you can argue all you want about the importance of field position and yardage, there's nothing more vital than what you put up on the board.

Here are a few deal closers:

1. The Wisdom of Solomon

Alright, that was weak, but the Lions' young linebacking star Solomon Elimimian had 98 tackles in 2011 (second overall), plus four sacks, two interceptions and three times scaring the daylights out of an opponent simply by staring at them. He inspires that defence, and they are ferocious in attack. Keron Williams had 11 sacks, Aaron Hunt had seven, Khalif Mitchell and Brent Johnson six each. There are so many good, now healthy defensive linemen that a couple won't get to dress.

2. Geroy Simon

The old fella (36) is looking ahead to a career in coaching (he's been working with youth football in the Vancouver area lately), but before checking out seems determined to leave a lasting impression. This year, Simon caught 84 balls (his most since 2006) and piled up 1,346 yards, while bouncing around like a 30 year old. When Lulay needs a first down or wants to stretch the field, there's No. 81.

3. Big Mo lives on the Left Coast

Don't know why Wally Buono's Lions tend to play so much better at the end of the season than the beginning. Don't think the coach knows either, or he'd fix it. But they do. And here they are, riding a 10-1 streak into the cozy confines of the newly refurbished B.C. Place, where those laid-back fans have been whooping it up as of late.

Can Edmonton find a way? Absolutely.

Late season acquisition Hugh Charles could suddenly become Brandon Whitaker overnight and roll up 150 yards on the ground. The Eskimos could stop taking so many stupid penalties (46 roughing, 57 procedure, 175 overall, and that was 50 more than the Lions). That pass defence might stop giving up major scores through the air (worst in the league). The Injury Fairy could come down and touch Mr. Messam on the knee.

Hey, this has been a great run for the green and gold, and congratulations to them, but it's time to look towards next year.

We're going with B.C.

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