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CFL Preview - Saskatchewan (6-1) at Edmonton (1-6)

From The Sports Network

By Gregg Xenakes, CFL Editor

DATE & TIME: Saturday, August 24, 4:00 p.m. (et).

GAME NOTES: Two teams at opposite ends of the West Division standings get together in Edmonton on Saturday afternoon, as the disappointing Eskimos play host to the Saskatchewan Roughriders at Commonwealth Stadium.

Saskatchewan opened up the 2013 season with a five-game win streak, finally bowing to Calgary on the road on Aug. 9 by a score of 42-27. The team was able to get right back into the win column in Week 8 action though, slipping by a woeful Montreal club at home in a 24-21 final. Considering how poorly the Alouettes have performed this year, it was rather surprising to see Saskatchewan have trouble in that meeting, particularly at home.

Darian Durant converted 18-of-32 passes for 250 yards and two touchdowns in the meeting, surviving a couple sacks in order to keep hope alive. Kicker Chris Milo ended up playing the hero for the Riders as he booted a 36-yard field goal as time expired to bring home the win.

The Saskatchewan defense managed to knock quarterback Anthony Calvillo out of the game, which should have made beating the Als all the more easier, but the Roughriders lost possession of four fumbles and also hurt themselves with 13 penalties for 135 yards.

Still, as shaky as the Riders may have been over the weekend, the bottom line is that they still came away with their sixth win in seven games and remain two points ahead of both British Columbia and Calgary in the division standings.

Nowhere near capable of challenging the more successful clubs in the division, Edmonton squandered a huge outing by starting quarterback Mike Reilly as it fell to Toronto on the road over the weekend, 36-33. Reilly converted 35-of-46 passes for a whopping 511 yards and three touchdowns, all without tossing a single interception and being sacked just two times. Reilly, who threw for just 682 yards all of last season with British Columbia, had five receivers catch at least five balls, with Cary Koch grabbing seven passes for 68 yards and a score.

Fred Stamps was one of three to catch six balls, and he was the game's overall leader with 172 yards through the air. With the monster effort, Stamps has now taken over the league lead in terms of receiving yards with 573 on 28 catches, one more yard than Toronto's Chad Owens who has 52 receptions through seven games.

Even though Reilly and Stamps picked up the pace last week, the fact still remains that Edmonton is one of the lowest-scoring teams in the league right now, producing just 23.0 ppg which is third-lowest in the CFL.

Reilly has moved into third place on the league list with 1,728 passing yards this season, resulting in nine TDs through the air, but one has to keep in mind that a huge chunk of both of those stats came in a loss in Week 8 play, so stats are not always a true indicator of how well a player or team might be performing.

Making Edmonton's job a bit tougher this week is the fact that linebacker J.C. Sherritt, the reigning CFL Most Outstanding Defensive Player, who set a league record with 130 tackles in 2012, will be watching the festivities from the sidelines after being placed on the injured list. Sherritt, who is sixth in the league and second on his own team in tackles thus far with 37, is out with a broken thumb. Taking his spot will be former University of Georgia star Rennie Curran who will be making his debut.

With Sherritt out of action for the immediate future, the job of fellow linebacker Damaso Munoz (45 tackles) just became that much harder.

While the Esks lose one of their top defensive performers, Saskatchewan is celebrating one of theirs as safety Tyron Brackenridge was named the CFL Defensive Player of the Week after forcing two fumbles and making an interception in the close call versus Montreal. Because of that sort of effort, the Roughriders are currently second in the league in turnover margin with a plus-11, although the majority of the credit should really go to the Saskatchewan offense which has lost possession only seven times, all on fumbles.

Durant has completed a modest 65.5 percent of his passes this season, but more importantly, has yet to throw a single interception in 171 attempts, all while posting a league-best 17 aerial TDs.

One of the oldest relationships in the CFL, in terms of the all-time series between the squads, taking into consideration only regular-season matchups dating back to 1938, the Eskimos are ahead by a count of 113-83-2. However, it was Saskatchewan which won the most recent battle to kick off the 2013 campaign with a 39-18 decision in this same building.

The Roughriders are due to host Edmonton twice this season, with dates set aside for Oct. 12 and Nov. 2, the latter being the season finale.

Even though stranger things have happened in the CFL, to expect the Eskimos to somehow rise up and take down a top-notch club like Saskatchewan, all without someone line Sherritt, is asking too much.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Saskatchewan 28, Edmonton 23

08/21 10:49:36 ET

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