OTTAWA REDBLACKS (1-7) at MONTREAL ALOUETTES (1-7)
Friday, 6:30 p.m. TV: TSN
Redblacks line: Ottawa went all in on Weston Dressler over the last few days before he opted to return to Saskatchewan, a move that just about summed up the Redblacks' week after they lost QB Thomas DeMarco for the season in a 32-7 loss to Calgary, their fifth straight defeat. The defence has been decent, but their offensive woes are appalling -- one offensive TD in four games -- prompting The Ottawa Sun to point out the NASL's Fury, the local soccer team, has more goals (2) at home than Henry Burris & Co. Ouch.
Alouettes line: Get this: As inept as the Redblacks' offence has been, the Alouettes have scored one less point through eight games this year. They'll welcome another new face to the huddle this week as Jonathon Crompton steps behind centre as the starting QB. Montreal is in the midst of a six-game losing streak, tying the longest bad run since the franchise returned in 1996. Lost in the revolving door at the QB position has been the solid work being served up by their talented defence.
Bottom line: This game, for as awful as it looks on paper, will push the winner into second place in the CFL's woeful East Division. For real.
WINNIPEG BLUE BOMBERS (6-3) at SASKATCHEWAN ROUGHRIDERS (6-2)
Sunday, 3 p.m. TV: TSN
Bombers line: The Bombers shook off an awful start against the Als to pick up a critical win last week, a result that stopped a two-game losing streak. Now we begin to find out what this team is all about, what with seven of their final nine games against the West Division and two of their next three on the road. More changes to the offensive line, with Jarvis Jones apparently going to start at guard in place of the injured Pat Neufeld. That will mean Winnipeg has three imports up front; Jones, Glenn January and Cordaro Howard.
Roughriders line: Expect both Darian Durant and Weston Dressler in the lineup against the Bombers; Durant having fought off a hand injury, Dressler fresh from a stint with the Kansas City Chiefs. The Riders have won nine straight Labour Day Classics dating back to 2004 and have reeled off five straight wins after a 1-2 start. Dressler will give a passing attack that has been sputtering another weapon and makes the Grey-Cup champs that much more dangerous down the stretch.
Bottom line: Should be a dandy matchup, for a change.
TORONTO ARGONAUTS (3-6) at HAMILTON TIGER-CATS (1-6)
Monday, noon. TV: TSN
Argonauts line: The Boatmen quietly made some changes this week, including dropping veteran corner Dwight Anderson. They will also be without sparkplug Chad Owens (knee) again for their annual Labour Day matchup with Hamilton. Ricky Ray continues to lead the CFL in passing, even with his receiving corps forever banged up, but the the Argos have lost two straight since catching the Bombers on a short week.
Ticats line: Two big issues in Hamilton this week: 1. Will Tim Hortons Field be ready for Monday's Labour Day tilt? And 2: Will QB Zach Collaros, who has been out with a concussion, be good to go against their southern Ontario rivals. The answers? Yes. And yes. The Ticats will be without running back C.J. Gable in their attempt to stop a three-game losing streak. Four of their losses have been by a TD or less.
Bottom line: The christening of the revamped home of the Ticats will be a compelling storyline, but a Ticat win also makes the race for first in the East -- race might not be the right word -- that much tighter.
EDMONTON ESKIMOS (7-1) at CALGARY STAMPEDERS (7-1)
Monday, 3:30 p.m. TV: TSN
Eskimos line: Mike Reilly didn't finish last week's win over Toronto, but is expected back for the Esks, whose only loss this season came against the Stamps. Former Manitoba Bison Eddie Steele has been dominant along the Esk D-line -- he was named the CFL's top Canadian last week -- and the Edmonton defence has been THE force in the league through the first half of the season.
Stampeders line: How about these numbers? The Stamps are 16-5 versus Edmonton since 2008 and have won the last nine in the Battle of Alberta. Calgary, which welcomed back Jon Cornish a week ago, now gets deadly receiver Mo Price back into their lineup for the Classic. He'll give more oomph to an offence which is already leading the league by scoring just under 28 points per game.
Bottom line: With both the Esks and Stamps at 7-1, this is the best combined winning percentage (.875) of the two teams in the 49 years of the Alberta version of the Labour Day Classic.
The Free Press has assembled a panel to offer their predictions every week in 2014. Joining us once again this year are CJOB's Bob Irving, and from the Free Press, sports editor Steve Lyons, columnists Gary Lawless and Doug Brown and football writers Paul Wiecek and Ed Tait:
Irving: Montreal, Saskatchewan, Hamilton, Calgary
Lyons: Montreal, Saskatchewan, Toronto, Calgary
Lawless: Ottawa, Saskatchewan, Hamilton, Calgary
Brown: Ottawa, Saskatchewan, Hamilton, Edmonton
Tait: Montreal, Saskatchewan, Toronto, Calgary
Wiecek: Montreal, Saskatchewan, Hamilton, Calgary