WINNIPEG BLUE BOMBERS (5-2) at TORONTO ARGONAUTS (2-4)
Tonight, 6:30 p.m. TV: TSN
Bombers line: Short week for the Bombers, who enter the game -- the first in Toronto for former Argo/new Bomber head coach Mike O'Shea -- after just one full day of practice. Drew Willy will need to be sharper after a four-turnover outing against Saskatchewan (three picks, one fumble), two of which were returned for TDs. But they need to be much better at the line of scrimmage, both offensively and defensively.
Argonauts line: The Argos have been prepping for this one for over 10 days, having enjoyed the bye last week. They are desperately missing Chad Owens as an offensive and special teams catalyst, are without Andre Durie, John Chiles and Jason Barnes and announced Monday former U of M Bison Anthony Coombs (shoulder) is likely done for the season. Even with all those receivers in sick bay, Ricky Ray is dangerous and RB Steve Slaton is emerging as a bona fide threat.
Bottom line: Important bounce-back game for the Bombers. Their woes at the line of scrimmage could be an issue again.
EDMONTON ESKIMOS (5-1) at OTTAWA REDBlACKS (1-5)
Friday, 6:30 p.m. TV: TSN
Eskimos line: The Esks rolled over Montreal last week and barely needed to get out of second gear to do so. Edmonton stayed East after the win and look to head home on the weekend after a 2-0 trek, even without the services of SB Fred Stamps and LB J.C. Sherritt, both injured. QB Mike Reilly has been solid this season, but the key to the Esk turnaround has been the work of new head coach Chris Jones and his influence on the defence: they are surrendering less than 200 yards passing and 18 points per game.
Redblacks line: Remember back in the winter when it was suggested the Redblacks would be better than the Bombers and would look nothing like an expansion team? Yeah, well, about that... Ottawa looks every bit the new kids on the block. They are second last in points for; last in points against and making the kind of mistakes -- dropped passes, blown coverages -- that are reminiscent of the preseason. The home crowd should make this interesting, but unless this bunch can move the ball offensively -- they've had a shocking amount of pass drops -- they will continue to struggle.
Bottom line: Ottawa is 1-1 at home, 0-4 on the road. Soon to be 1-2 at home.
CALGARY STAMPEDERS (5-1) at HAMILTON TIGER-CATS (1-5)
Saturday, 2 p.m. TV: TSN
Stampeders line: Calgary beat up on the Redblacks at home last week and are watching QB Bo Levi Mitchell (103 QB rating, tops in the CFL), grow into a star. Martell Mallett temporarily re-energized the rushing game in the absence of Jon Cornish but, he, too, is now nicked and will be replaced by Hugh Charles. But it's Rich Stubler's defence which has been this team's backbone -- they rank first in stopping the run and first in fewest points against.
Ticats line: Hamilton is close, having lost four of their five games by a combined total of 15 points. But the frustration is boiling over -- here's Ticat defender Marc Beswick after his team was flagged 15 times for 130 yards in a loss in Vancouver last week: "That game was not refereed fairly and I don't care if they fine me. I care about the game being fair," Beswick told The Hamilton Spectator "If you don't believe me, watch the film. "You can put that in there, I don't give a (expletive)." It doesn't get any easier with the Stamps rolling into town.
Bottom line: Don't let the records fool you, this might just be the game of the week.
MONTREAL ALOUETTES (1-5) at SASKATCHEWAN ROUGHRIDERS (4-2)
Saturday, 8 p.m. TV: TSN
Alouettes line: Another week, another change or two to the Montreal coaching staff. The club fired receivers coach Erik Campbell on Monday and replaced him with Turk Schonert; officially made Jeff Garcia the QB coach and promoted Ryan Dinwiddie -- who replaced Rick Worman, canned during camp -- to offensive co-ordinator. Meanwhile, the losing continues for an Als side that has lost four straight by a combined score of 139-66. Who's next on the firing line?
Roughriders line: The hottest team in the CFL after cranking out three straight wins, including last week's slugfest in Winnipeg. Darian Durant threw for only 115 yards against the Bombers -- he desperately misses Weston Dressler -- but the ground game carried this crew to victory. With Will Ford and Jerome Messam, the Riders have an intriguing mix of speed and size working behind arguably the best O-line in the land.
Bottom line: Als reeling? Riders at home? This one has blowout written all over it.
B.C. LIONS (4-3) at TORONTO ARGONAUTS (2-4)
Sunday, 6:30 p.m. TV: TSN
Lions line: He was iffy to start his days as a Lion, but QB Kevin Glenn has been very solid in the last two games, throwing for 407 yards and rushing for a TD last week against Hamilton and leading a comeback in Calgary the week before that. The Lions will likely be without Winnipegger Andrew Harris (ankle) against the Argos and may turn to Tim Brown to replace him in the backfield.
Argonauts line: Goofy few days for the Argos -- they come off the bye week to face the Bombers and then line up again five days later. It will be about survival, in some respects, as Toronto is already banged up heading into the Winnipeg game to open the week. If the Argos even split this week -- or go 2-0 -- they really set themselves up well in what has been a pathetic start to the season for teams in the East Division.
Bottom line: Glenn has kept the seat warm for QB Travis Lulay while he recovers. And when Lulay returns, the Lions could be scary good.
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:
This week (5 games):
Irving: Winnipeg, Edmonton, Hamilton, Saskatchewan, B.C.
Lyons: Toronto, Edmonton, Calgary, Saskatchewan, Toronto
Lawless: Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary, Saskatchewan, B.C.
Brown: Toronto, Edmonton, Calgary, Saskatchewan, B.C.
Tait: Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary, Saskatchewan, B.C.
Wiecek: Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary, Saskatchewan, B.C.