Saturday, November 5, 2011

How the Esks Will Win it All

For the first time since 2004, the Edmonton Eskimos will feature in some CFL playoff action at Commonwealth Stadium in the coming weeks.

As I write this, we don’t know if it will be the West division semi-final next Sunday, or the West final the following weekend (or both), but what we do know is that they’ve got a chance to go the distance and bring home some hardware.

The Eskimos rounded out the regular season with a 23-20 win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Friday night, but the score doesn’t really tell the full story. They built up a solid 10-point lead, squandered it in the fourth quarter and managed a last-minute field goal for the win.

The Esks have looked good, they’ve looked unbeatable, they’ve looked bad and they’ve looked terrible at different points this season, sometimes all in one game, but at this point it all just comes down to wins and losses. One school of thought would have fans worried heading into the playoffs, because the team should have put the game away when they had the chance. The other is smiling and enjoying the fact that they were able to make some plays and get the win, which is all that really matters.

So, can the Edmonton Eskimos be the team that lifts the Grey Cup on November 27th?

On offence, the Eskimos have all the tools they need – Adarius Bowman racked up 226 yards receiving on Friday night to join Fred Stamps in the 1,000 yard club and they’ve got the best Canadian running back in the game right now in Jerome Messam (who can also make catches and move the chains that way). If Ricky Ray is able to keep a solid mix of passing plays and running plays, and his offensive line gives him time to execute, they could really do some damage.

On the defensive side, as long as they’re not on the field constantly, the Esks are just as good as anyone else out there at shutting down the opposition.

The one glaring weakness that I can see in Edmonton’s game is when it comes to kicking field goals – Damon Duval missed eleven times this season for a FG percentage of 67.6 (though Derek Schiavone was 16-of-19).

Vague as it may sound, that’s all there is to it. We’re not talking about another 18 games – we’re talking about eight, maybe 12 more quarters of football.

If the Eskimos are going to go all the way, they’re going to need Bowman and Stamps to be major threats out there on the field as they have been in some of Edmonton’s finer moments this season. If Bowman plays like he did on Friday – making huge catches and making guys miss every time he got his mitts on the ball – it’s going to be a fun couple of weeks in the city. By that same token, the Esks need Messam to be at his best as well. When he’s running the ball well, it’s rare that the club doesn’t come out on top, and that’s a stat that is hard to ignore.

The Edmonton Eskimos have already gone from worst to first – can they be the best? What do you think?