Edmonton Eskimos Trek To Calgary As Underdogs

By: Michael Robinson | Thursday, July 21, 2011

The CFL’s Edmonton Eskimos hope to continue their surprising strong start when they visit the Calgary Stampeders on Saturday night. This is a Western Division matchup and a battle of Alberta.

The Don Best odds screen has Edmonton as 3 ½-point road underdogs with a total of 55 points.

TSN in Canada will have the kickoff from McMahon Stadium beginning at 4:00 p.m. (PT). Weather is expected to be clear and around 60 degrees.

The Eskimos have been proving their critics wrong all year at 3-0 straight up and against the spread. They finished out of the playoffs last year at 7-11 SU (7-11 ATS) and were thought to be heading backwards under first-year coach Kavis Reed.

Reed and his team’s latest win was 33-17 at home over British Columbia last Saturday. Quarterback Ricky Ray threw for 320 yards and he’s second in the league in passing yards (1,002) behind famed Montreal signal caller Anthony Calvillo (1,038).

The 31-year-old veteran Ray is in his ninth season with Edmonton, but coming off a 2010 season with just 3,565 passing yards, 11 TDs and 16 interceptions. He’s gotten more help from the o-line this year and has been much more careful with the ball (six TDS, no picks).

Fred Stamps leads the CFL in receiving yards (316), with help from Adarius Bowman (226) and Jason Barnes (216). The offense is scoring 34.4 PPG, which has taken pressure off a rebuilding defense, a league-worst in points (30.3 PPG) and yards (388.2 YPG) last season.

The defense has thrived so far, tied for the second-fewest points allowed (18.3 PPG). That’s helped the ‘under’ go 2-1 with every total in the 50s. However, the one ‘over’ was the only road game, a 42-28 opening week win at Saskatchewan.

The Eskimos have been criticized for their easy schedule as Saskatchewan, Hamilton and British Columbia are a combined 1-8. They need to prove they can beat a good team on the road and that’s why they’re the underdog.

The Stampeders won the Grey Cup in 2008, but were beaten by Saskatchewan in the Division Finals the last two years. They were upset last season (20-16) as 7 ½-point home favorites.

Calgary (2-1 SU, 1-2 ATS) was also shocked in its season opener against Toronto, 23-21 as 8-point home favorites. It has since rebounded with road wins at British Columbia (34-32) and Winnipeg (21-20), failing to ‘cover’ the latter as 3 ½-point chalk.

Quarterback Henry Burris is a 36-year-old who has averaged 4,956 yards passing the last three years. He’s at 258 YPG this year, which translates to 4,644 yards over 18 regular season games. His four passing TDs versus four picks are also below his standards.

Calgary’s defense was expected to have some early problems due to player turnover. It’s allowing a mediocre 25 PPG and the ‘under’ is 2-1 with the offense at 25.3 PPG. The ‘over’ ended last season at 11-2.

Cornerback is a big issue after losing both Brandon Browner and Dwight Anderson. The team did allow 279 passing yards to British Columbia’s Travis Lulay, but hasn’t been bad overall. Slowing down will be a big challenge.

Calgary went 3-0 SU and ATS against Edmonton last year with gigantic home wins of 56-15 and 52-5. The ‘over’ went 3-0.

The Eskimos are 1-4 ATS overall in their last five visits to Calgary. This would be a great time to prove they’re for real after such embarrassing performances last year.

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