Only two of this week's games matter in terms of playoff positioning, and each only matters for one of the teams involved. The meaningful games start Saturday afternoon in Hamilton (2 p.m. Eastern, TSN) when the B.C. Lions take on the Tiger-Cats, with a playoff berth potentially on the line. To make the playoffs, B.C. needs to win and they need Edmonton to lose Saturday night in Regina (7 p.m. Eastern, TSN).
That doesn't mean everyone other than the Lions and Eskimos is just going to roll over this week, though, as just about every team and player can find some form of motivation. We get a clear example of this in Hamilton, where this week's episode of Secondhand Eight starts.
Hamilton: Tiger-Cats offensive lineman Jason Jimenez (pictured at right hosting the 2006 Grey Cup with B.C.), he of the dubious cut-blocks, unapologetic statements, complaints about his former organization and significant fines, was back in the news this week. The Vancouver Sunapparently decided to publish an e-mail Jimenez sent Sun sportswriter Mike Beamish after Beamish's piece on Jimenez's cut-block; I say apparently because I wasn't able to find it on their site, but The Hamilton Spectator's Drew Edwards reprinted it over on his blog. Here's the concluding paragraph, which is one of the more bizarre things I've read in some time:
Now that I am no longer apart of the left coast spin apparatus, I have no compunction in pulling your most-favored-journalist status in much the same way that the US should've pulled MFN status against the Chinese in 1989. I have instructed the Ticats public relations department that you will no longer have access to interview me. Future dealings with me will result in you having to use second hand sources. The cost of your treachery and duplicity is my silence, but I will welcome with open arms a lawsuit against you should you so choose to continue to mis-characterize me again in the future.
Yes, Jimenez is making Tiananmen Square analogies, which seem a little odd here. This is a pretty bizarre rant in general, though, and it (particularly when combined with Jimenez's other vehement proclamations against B.C., Wally Buono and a variety of others) seems to suggest he's seeing enemies around every corner. You can tell that he'll definitely be motivated to face his old team Saturday, however, and so will other ex-Lions like Otis Floyd and Markeith Knowlton. As Dave Naylor wrote today, Hamilton's done an excellent job of moulding players other teams didn't want into a solid core that might be ready to make some noise in the playoffs. Tomorrow's game won't affect their place in the standings, but a strong performance could prepare them for the next week's playoff clash, and knocking out their old team would be sweet for the likes of Jimenez and Floyd.
Montreal: Last week, the Alouettes and Argos gave us one of the CFL's most spectacular conclusions. It doesn't seem too likely that we'll get a repeat this week, though, as this game (Sunday, 4 p.m. Eastern, TSN) means nothing for either side other than as a playoff tuneup. There are still some interesting elements to it, though, and one of the storylines to watch is the inclusion of Dahrran Diedrick as the Alouettes' starting tailback. Herb Zurkowsky has a nice feature on him in The Gazette. Diedrick's a Canadian who played at Nebraska and has been in the CFL for six years, but has mostly served on special teams. He recorded his CFL first touchdown on that crazy final play last week, and now he'll get a chance to carry the ball with Avon Cobourne out. It will be interesting to see how he does.
Toronto: On the Argonauts' side, Mark Masters has a solid piece in The National Post on how the team went from leading the league in penalties last season to being the least-penalized team this year. That discipline, instilled by head coach Jim Barker, has been a key part of their success, and perhaps no one emphasizes that more than offensive lineman Rob Murphy, who Terry Koshan profiled this week in The Toronto Sun. During their time in B.C., Murphy and Jimenez were consistently playing well but also committing plenty of penalties; unlike his former Lions' teammate, Murphy appears to have found a way to keep the edge (he was still cited as the league's nastiest player this year by his peers) without the penalties (he hasn't taken a single 15-yarder this year). Other Toronto storylines include a severe neck injury to Willie Middlebrooks that might end his career, and how many players they're expecting to rest this week. That could include star running back Cory Boyd, and that might cost him a rushing title (as well as perhaps some votes for Most Outstanding Player).
Winnipeg: There's more going on in Manitoba than just the stadium issues, as the Bombers will end their season tonight (8 p.m. Eastern, TSN/NFLN) against the Calgary Stampeders. On the gridiron, a trio of Bombers are in contention for various statistical titles, and Markus Howell is preparing to play his final game in gold and blue. Off the field, Kirk Penton writes about the team's recent move to lock up two young and talented players, and Ed Tait explores the perception that the Bombers are cheap. On the stadium front, Randy Turner writes that the team might have to look at moving on with someone other than Asper.
Saskatchewan: There hasn't been a lot of joy in Riderville lately, and Rob Vanstone writes that the negativity has been over the top. The Riders are focusing on trying to get past that, though, and they're eager to turn in a good showing Saturday against Edmonton (7 p.m. Eastern, TSN) to build momentum heading into the postseason. Roderique Wright will get a rare start at defensive tackle, and Barrin Simpson's motivational speeches might be just the motivation the Riders need.
Edmonton: If B.C.'s able to win in Hamilton, the Eskimos will need a victory in Regina Saturday night (7 p.m. Eastern, TSN) to make the playoffs. They're likely to be without running back Arkee Whitlock, though, but thanks to salary-cap considerations rather than injury. On the injury front, the Eskimos are awfully thin on the offensive line thanks to a couple of injuries, and they may be without receiver Kelly Campbell as well thanks to a practice mishap. If he's out, Edmonton's most outstanding player nominee Fred Stamps will have to carry even more of the receiving load. They will likely have Ricky Ray back under centre, though, and that should help.
Calgary: There's more going on in Calgary than just Henry Burris' Eastern media-bashing and Dwight Anderson's selection as the league's top trash-talker, but not a lot more. Allen Cameron explores the debate around how much playing time the Stampeders should give their starters tonight against Winnipeg (8 p.m. Eastern, TSN/NFLN), and Ian Busby looks at how Burris and Calgary's offensive line are preparing for the Bomber pass rush. Ryan Thelwell will also be looking to build on his solid outing last week, his first strong performance in a while.
B.C.: While Jimenez may be eyeing Saturday's game (2 p.m. Eastern, TSN) as revenge against his old team, the Lions are more concerned about trying to make the playoffs. Even if they don't crack the post-season, though, this season wasn't entirely a failure for them; they have a lot of young talent rounding into form, and they've gone 7-3 in their last 10 games. That might be enough to motivate Brent Johnson to return for another year, and if he plays the way he did this year, he'll certainly help. It's the young players that are the real future of this team. If they play their cards right in Hamilton and get some help from the Riders, the Lions could make some noise this postseason still; if not, their future still doesn't seem all that gloomy.