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CFL Preview - Hamilton (10-8) at Toronto (11-7)



From The Sports Network

By Gregg Xenakes, CFL Editor

DATE & TIME: Sunday, November 17, 1 p.m. (et).

GAME NOTES: The Toronto Argonauts take the field at Rogers Centre this weekend in an effort to get back to the Grey Cup Championship, as they clash with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the East Division Final.

Last season, Toronto was lucky to be in a position to just make the playoffs, but the Argos are a perfect example of what can happen once the new season begins, as they went from defeating Edmonton in the semi-finals (42-26), to taking down Montreal in the division finals (27-20) in order to earn a berth in the 100th Grey Cup. From there Toronto rolled over Calgary in a 35-22 final in order to earn its 16th crown.

This time around the Argonauts made it a little easier on themselves by winning the division title and earning a bye into this round of the playoffs. Although, it should be noted that the division wasn't all that great in 2013, as Winnipeg posted a mere three victories in 18 chances and Montreal had difficulty keeping the same quarterback under center.

Speaking of the Alouettes, they were the ones who took on Hamilton in the division semi-final last weekend at Alumni Stadium in Guelph under less than perfect weather conditions. The Als led at halftime by a score of just 2-0, leaving plenty of opportunity for the 'Cats to come out on top.

Hamilton produced just 291 yards of offense in the meeting, but somehow that was enough to get the group to overtime where Dan LeFevour scored on a two- yard TD run to give the visitors the 19-16 win. LeFevour, who stepped in for Henry Burris during the most crucial part of the game, ended up being the leading rusher for Hamilton with 61 yards on 18 carries. LeFevour also converted three of his six pass attempts for 36 yards.

Meanwhile, Burris was rather ordinary in extraordinary conditions as he connected on 23-of-36 passes for 204 yards and a score, as well as one interception. The scoring strike went to C.J. Gable who caught four passes for 38 yards, while becoming less of a factor in the running game with only two carries for minus-six yards.

Gable turned out to be the best option in the running game this season, despite his lackluster performance last weekend, as he produced 782 yards and scored seven times on 130 carries. The fourth-best ball-carrier in the regular season, Gable was just as valuable if not more so as a receiver as he caught another 55 balls for 600 yards and two TDs as well.

Even with his struggles in the first playoff game of the season, Burris was still the most productive passer in the league in terms of yards (4,927) during the regular season, and while his 65.8 percent accuracy ranked among the best, his 19 interceptions was more than anyone else. Then again, could you blame Burris for the latter after letting fly a CFL-high 568 pass attempts?

While Hamilton is coming off a rigorous and challenging playoff bout with the Alouettes, Toronto has had the luxury of sitting back and watching the action while awaiting its next opponent. However, with that said, not all is perfect in Argo country right now.

Toronto was dealt a huge blow earlier this week when it was announced that running back Chad Kackert underwent surgery to repair a broken ankle and is now done for the year. Kackert, the 2012 Grey Cup MVP, suffered the injury in practice last week, just another hit during an injury-filled campaign that saw the running back miss game time due to a knee injury, shoulder problems and a concussion.

With Kackert out of the mix, the Argos will turn to Jerious Norwood and Curtis Steele to pick up the slack.

But no matter who is filling the void, the main man on the field will still be Ricky Ray who himself missed considerable time this season with an injury. Despite the time off the field, when he was in the huddle and in the pocket there was no one who had as much control as Ray as he completed a staggering 77.2 percent of his passes and tossed a mere two interceptions on 303 attempts.

As an offense, Toronto ranked third in the league this season in scoring with 28.2 ppg, tallying a league-best 36 touchdowns, but the unit will also need the defense to stand up and perform just as it has all season long in permitting just 25.4 ppg.

These two teams should be familiar with each other after playing a total of three times during the regular season, with the Tiger-Cats winning the last two of those encounters. Hamilton bowed in the first clash in Week 1 by a score of 39-34 in late June, but then bounced back with a 33-19 victory the first week of October, followed 10 days later by a 24-18 triumph.

In the most recent battle, Hamilton controlled the clock for more than 37 minutes as Burris threw for 350 yards and three touchdowns and Gable carried the ball 17 times for a game-high 118 yards and a major. Over on the other side, Ray was back in the saddle for the Argos by then and connected on 26- of-34 passes for 303 yards and two scores, but while Toronto was generating a mere 349 yards of total offense, Hamilton was coming up with a whopping 545 yards on 21 more snaps.

The winner of this meeting will be back in action next weekend with the opportunity to take home the 101st Grey Cup, matching up with the survivor of the Saskatchewan/Calgary bout at Mosaic Stadium.

Hamilton's recent history in the Grey Cup Playoffs hasn't been all that great. In fact, the team has not been to the title tilt since 1999 when it defeated Calgary (32-21) for its eighth championship, and given that Toronto knows the road quite well and earned some much-needed time off, expect to see the Argos moving on to defend their title from last season.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Toronto 28, Hamilton 24

11/13 11:22:07 ET

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