MAC'S MAIN MAN
Week 16 was oh so sweet for the Edmonton Eskimos as they not only extended their winning streak to two, but also have back-to-back players named as "Mac's Main Man."
Fred Stamps passed the torch to teammate Hugh Charles, who straight up dominated in the Eskimos' 37-20 thumping of Saskatchewan. The Roughriders were in a pretty cozy spot coming into this matchup, nestled away quietly in the middle of the CFL West Division and needing a minor miracle to occur not to advance to the post-season. Edmonton, on the other hand, had extra coal in the fire as it continued to try to edge out the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Hamilton Tiger-Cats for that final playoff spot.
Let's get back to the man of the hour, Hugh Charles. The five-year veteran running back (and former Rider) has had to deal with a couple of major gut checks in 2012. Additional backs in Cory Boyd, who was unceremoniously released by the Toronto Argonauts, and Jerome Messam, who returned after being released by the Miami Dolphins, were both brought in during the season to compete for playing time. All the while, Charles remained the good soldier who never complained and kept plugging away. That diligent work paid off as Boyd was recently released and Messam has not come close to his incredible 2011 numbers, meaning Charles is the go-to-guy once again.
That proved especially true Saturday evening. To say his performance was impressive would be like saying that pumpkin pie is an okay Thanksgiving Day dessert. The man played possessed. On only 17 carries, Charles charged for 152 rushing yards and scored a touchdown. In addition to a nine-yard reception, Charles also showed the Eskimos quarterbacks how to get it done. On a pitchout from starting pivot Kerry Joseph, he hurled a 14-yard completion back to Joseph and showcased some razzle dazzle from head coach Kavis Reed's playbook. Simply put, absolutely no one this weekend was more dominant or had a greater impact on their team's winning than Hugh Charles.
At the beginning of the month, the Eskimos were teetering on the brink of not making the playoffs. However, with crucial victories over Hamilton and now Saskatchewan, they have given themselves a two-game cushion. Despite average talent at quarterback, Charles' ability to lure in opposition's secondary with his breakout run threat certainly makes Edmonton an intriguing darkhorse group to keep an eye on.
-- Andy McNamara
It's hard to believe that before the Montreal Alouettes' Week 16 date with the Toronto Argonauts, Jamel Richardson had yet to record a 100-yard receiving game this season. Richardson, who has been slowed down by injuries is on pace to have his worst season for the bleu, blanc et rouge.
However, in the biggest game of the year, the Alouettes were able to see Optimus Prime maximize like only he can. Anthony Calvillo's favorite target enjoyed a three-catch, 109-yard and one-touchdown day. No. 18's day was highlighted by a 75-yard TD catch that put the Als up for good and also gave Richardson his first 100-yard game this season -- a feat he had accomplished a league-record 12 times last year. Toronto had taken the early lead in the season series between the East Division rivals, stealing a 23-20 victory on the road in Montreal. But since that loss in Week 5, the Als have taken the last two in convincing fashion, winning the season series 2-1.
Montreal's 24-12 triumph in also ensured a home playoff game and gave the Als complete control of their destiny; a bye week, which would do their bodies good; and an extra week to prepare for a playoff opponent that very well could come from the West in a crossover -- something that could mean more than it did in years past.
The Als have definitely lost a step. They aren't as young as they once were and have had a lot of key pieces miss games due to injuries. The East Division looked very much up for grabs at the beginning of the season. But here we are with the playoffs in sight and nothing has changed. The Als are still the class of the East. And if Richardson can continue to give them what he gave them in Week 16, he won't just be celebrating a Carlan Darling award, he'll be hoisting a Grey Cup.
-- Carlan Gay
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