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CFL Preview - Toronto (3-5) at Edmonton (6-1)



From The Sports Network

By Gregg Xenakes, CFL Editor

DATE & TIME: Saturday, August 23, 4 p.m. (ET).

GAME NOTES: Despite being two games under .500, the Toronto Argonauts still find themselves all alone in first place in the East Division standings as they prepare to meet the Edmonton Eskimos on Saturday afternoon at Commonwealth Stadium.

Toronto won just once through the first five games of the 2014 campaign, surprising Saskatchewan in a 48-15 decision at home in Week 2, but has benefited from being in a very weak division that has three teams all tied for second place with records of 1-6.

Last week, the Argos were put to the test by playing two games in a span of five days, a wrinkle in the schedule brought on by the addition of the Ottawa RedBlacks this season. The team came out on top against Winnipeg on August 12 by a score of 38-21, but then bowed to British Columbia a few days later, 33-17.

During the meeting with the Blue Bombers, Toronto was able to get beyond a disturbing 17 penalties, amounting to 122 lost yards, as quarterback Ricky Ray threw for 297 yards and four touchdowns. Ray, who was sacked only once, tossed one of those majors to Curtis Steele, the running back who also stepped up to provide 92 yards and a score on 10 rushing attempts.

Getting the message that their mistakes were becoming too much of an obstacle, the Argos were charged with only three penalties for 23 yards versus the Lions, yet still the hosts suffered the 16-point loss.

Ray ended up 23-of-39 for 181 yards and a score, but was sacked twice and tossed a couple of interceptions, one of which was returned 31 yards for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter by Ronnie Yell.

As for Edmonton, the former home of Ray, it is tied with Calgary for first place in the West Division, but unlike Toronto, the Eskimos have an impressive 6-1 record, a perfect 4-0 on the road.

However, as impressive as the Esks have been in the early going, they looked to be out of sync during Week 8 action at Ottawa where they barely pulled out a 10-8 victory over the league's newest member. Edmonton kicker Grant Shaw was responsible for all of the points on the board, his 27-yard field goal in the final minute of regulation putting his team over the top.

Shaw, who is now tied for the league lead in kicking points with Paul McCallum of BC with 79, converted 3-of-4 field goals and added a single in the second frame of the meeting.

Edmonton quarterback Mike Reilly managed to convert 26-of-35 passes for 271 yards, but was picked off once and sacked three times. He also ran for a game- high 78 yards on eight carries, but he and the rest of the Esks were still held back by 14 penalties amounting to a loss of 133 yards.

Reilly is currently listed seventh on the CFL's rushing list with 320 yards, which might not be the best thing for the Eskimos given how valuable he is as the team's passer. He has completed close to 66 percent of his pass attempts for 1,619 yards and 11 touchdowns, but due to six interceptions Reilly has an efficiency rating of 91.6 at the moment.

Further up the list is Ray with his 96.5 efficiency rating stemming from a league-best 2,165 yards and 13 majors through the air. After last week's action, Ray now has six interceptions as he continues to operate without Chad Owens and Andre Durie, both of whom have been on the six-game injured list.

Now in his 12th CFL campaign, Ray is closing in on joining an elite group that has thrown for at least 50,000 yards. Ray now needs just 369 yards to reach the plateau and join the likes of Anthony Calvillo (79,816 yards), Damon Allen (72,371), Danny McManus (53,255), Henry Burris (53,160) and Ron Lancaster (50,353) in the exclusive club.

In terms of an all-time series between these two clubs, one that takes into account only regular-season battles dating back to 1961, Edmonton still clings to a 45-40-1 edge over the Argos. However, Toronto won the latest matchup last September by a score of 34-22 in Edmonton. Still, the Esks have taken five of the last seven meetings and eight of the last 12 overall.

The teams are set to play each other once more during the regular season during Week 15.

Toronto is showing signs of life in an otherwise dead division, but after playing two games last week the team has to be tired and that leaves Edmonton the perfect opportunity to pounce.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Edmonton 28, Toronto 19

08/20 11:05:35 ET

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