October 12, 2016 - 12:02 PM
It's Henry Burris's time with the Ottawa Redblacks — again.
The CFL's outstanding player last season will lead Ottawa into its crucial home-and-home series with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Friday night. The Redblacks will visit Tim Hortons Field before the two teams return to the Canadian capital next weekend.
Ottawa (6-7-1) leads the East Division standings by just one point over Hamilton (6-8-0) heading into the back-to-back games. The first-place finisher will secure home-field advantage for the East Division final Nov. 20.
The second-place finisher will have to play an extra playoff game, hosting the East semifinal Nov. 13.
For Ottawa and Hamilton to secure playoff berths, they must finish first or second in the East. That's because the fourth-place team in the West — currently Edmonton (8-7) — will likely accumulate more points than the Toronto Argonauts (5-10), who are third in the East.
In that scenario, the fourth-place team in the West would cross over and take the No. 3 playoff seed in the East.
Burris was effective coming off the bench in Ottawa's 32-30 overtime loss to the Saskatchewan Roughriders last weekend. He completed 9-of-16 passes for 138 yards and two TDs and also ran for a touchdown in rallying the Redblacks from a 15-point deficit in a wild fourth quarter.
Ottawa had the chance to secure the win in overtime but Chris Milo missed a 30-yard field goal, allowing Tyler Crapigna to connect from 39 yards out and secure Saskatchewan's third straight win.
Burris, 41, opened the season as Ottawa's starter but missed four games with a finger injury, resulting in Trevor Harris taking over the job. Burris returned under centre after Harris was injured in the Redblacks' 30-29 loss to Saskatchewan on July 22, only to be replaced by Harris once again.
But Burris won't have leading receiver Chris Williams (77 catches, 1,246 yards, 10 TDs), who suffered a season-ending knee injury against Saskatchewan. Still, the Redblacks' receiving corps still boasts Greg Ellingson (61 catches, 1,045 yards, four TDs), Earnest Jackson (67 catches, 918 yards, seven TDs) and Brad Sinopoli (76 catches, 865 yards, four TDs).
Hamilton is hurting also.
Starter Zach Collaros (concussion) won't play. He'll be replaced by Jeremiah Masoli, who guided Hamilton to last year's East Division final, which was won by Ottawa. Masoli has a solid 68.7 completion percentage but has almost as many TDs (nine) as interceptions (eight) this season.
Receiver Luke Tasker (76 catches, 852 yards, five TDs) is also out but Canadian Andy Fantuz (85 catches, 926 yards, five TDs) anchors the Ticats pass-catching corps.
Hamilton is 3-3 at home while Ottawa is 4-3 on the road.
Pick — Hamilton.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers versus B.C. Lions (Friday night)
Winnipeg (9-6) moved into a second-place tie in the West Division with B.C. (9-5) with last week's controversial 37-35 home win. The Lions appeared to recover a late Andrew Harris fumble but he was ruled down before the ball came loose. That allowed Weston Dressler to give up a safety with one second remaining and clinch the victory. Fortunately, both teams have secured playoff berths, now it's just a matter of seeing who finishes where. Here's giving the Lions the edge just from a redemption perspective.
Pick — B.C.
Saskatchewan Roughriders versus Toronto Argonauts (Saturday afternoon)
Saskatchewan (4-10) has won three straight but was eliminated from playoff contention last weekend. The Riders appeared to be comfortably ahead of Ottawa last week before Burris came in and worked his magic. Darian Durant threw for 328 yards and two TDs for Saskatchewan but Crapigna was solid, hitting on 6-of-7 field goals, his lone miss coming from 55 yards out. The Argos are 2-6 at BMO Field and have lost eight of their last nine overall.
Pick — Saskatchewan.
Montreal Alouettes versus Calgary Stampeders (Sunday night)
Calgary (13-1-1) clinched first in the West on Monday with a convincing 48-20 road win in Toronto. The Stampeders have won 12 straight and are riding a 14-game unbeaten streak. They're also 7-0 at McMahon Stadium this season. Dave Dickenson needs one more win to break the league record for most regular-season victories by a rookie head coach but faces the challenge of keeping the club's momentum going while giving players time off. Montreal (4-10) is coming off a 40-20 home loss to Edmonton.
Pick — Calgary.
Last week: 2-2
News from © The Canadian Press, 2016