Mike Reilly and the Edmonton Eskimos can give themselves a little breathing room this weekend. The Eskimos (12-4) visit the Roughriders (2-13) on Saturday night tied with Calgary (12-4) atop the West Division.
But the Stampeders have a bye week so Edmonton can move two points ahead of its provincial rival with a victory.
And that would be big considering Edmonton has clinched the season series with Calgary and would finish ahead in the event of a tie.
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It’s the first contest for Saskatchewan since dispatching quarterback Kevin Glenn and running back Jerome Messam at the CFL’s Oct. 14 trade deadline. The Riders sent Glenn to Montreal and Messam to Calgary, respectively.
READ MORE: Riders send Jerome Messam to the Stamps
That means rookie Brett Smith will start for Saskatchewan, which lost 30-5 to Edmonton on July 31.
Edmonton comes in as the CFL’s hottest team having won six straight and a solid 7-2 within the West Division. Saskatchewan has dropped two consecutive games and is just 1-7 within the conference and 2-6 at Mosaic Stadium.
The Riders have also been eliminated from playoff contention.
Edmonton’s win streak coincides with Reilly’s return as the starter after suffering a knee injury in the season-opening loss to Toronto. The veteran quarterback has completed 135-of-215 passes (62.8 per cent) for 1,508 yards but has more interceptions (nine) than TDs (eight).
READ MORE: Blue Jays fans show team spirit in Saskatoon
However, Reilly brings another element to Edmonton’s offence, having rushed for 216 yards on 43 carries (5.02-yard average) with a TD.
Another huge factor has been an Edmonton defence that’s tops in the CFL in fewest points allowed (16.1 per game), yards (290.9), rushing yards (65.3), passing yards (243.9) and passing TDs (17). And in last weekend’s 26-23 overtime win over B.C., kicker Sean Whyte had six field goals, including the one that forced overtime as well as the winner the second extra session.
Also, Adarius Bowman had 11 catches for 198 yards and a TD versus B.C.
Pick — Edmonton.