TIGER-CATS (10-8) at ARGONAUTS (11-7)
Sunday, noon; TV: TSN
Hamilton line: Ticat head coach Kent Austin has done a masterful job of turning his team around this season and he's a brilliant tactician that will have his squad fired up and ready to go. Example: One of his speeches outlined the cash payout to the Grey Cup winners. Players get $3,400 for playing in the semifinal, $3,600 for playing in the final and $16,000 for winning the Grey Cup (runners-up earn $8,000). That's a lot of scratch for players in a league where the minimum salary is $45,000.
Toronto line: This is the first time these two Southern Ontario rivals have met in an East Final since 1986 and the Argos could be playing host to the Ticats with a lot of black-and-gold fans in the stands. That's of little consequence to Argo pivot Ricky Ray, whose numbers this season -- a 77.1 completion percentage and 21 TDs against just three picks -- are jaw-dropping. The scoreboard numbers figure to be changing often Sunday afternoon and so, ultimately, this could be decided by which defensive co-ordinator -- Toronto's Chris Jones and Orlondo Steinauer of the Ticats -- devises the better game plan.
Bottom line: The Argos are four-point favourites. Homefield is rarely an advantage in the cavernous Rogers Centre to Toronto, but Ray has been a lot steadier down the stretch than Hamilton's Henry Burris.
ROUGHRIDERS (11-7) at STAMPEDERS (14-4)
Sunday, 3:30 p.m.; TV: TSN
Saskatchewan line: Rider QB Darian Durant was brilliant last week (270 yards and two passing TDs, another 97 along the ground) in leading Saskatchewan past B.C. and moving them one step closer to a Grey Cup game in their own backyard. But every game seems to be a referendum on his ability to lead the Riders into the winner's circle. That doesn't change, given the stakes, but he does get receiver Chris Getzlaf back from injury and that's a huge bonus. The Riders will also hope to feed a healthy dose of Kory Sheets to the Stamps and the Saskatchewan tailback, who said earlier this year he was better than Jon Cornish of the Stamps, will be eager to back up his bold talk.
Calgary line: QB Kevin Glenn has proven he can lead a team to the Grey Cup, now he's trying to finish the deal and add the one thing missing from his resume: A championship. He was 10-3 as a starter for the pivot-rich Stamps and gets the nod again against the Riders over Bo Levi Mitchell and Drew Tate. But there will be one key Calgary-related subplot to monitor on Sunday. The Stamps are without two defensive tackles in Micah Johnson and Demonte Bolden -- both out with knee injuries -- and their replacements, a rotation featuring Etienne Legare, Freddie Bishop and Junior Turner, will need to be sturdy against a Rider side that relies heavily on Kory Sheets and QB Darian Durant's ability to extend drives with his legs (his 8.8-yards per rush average was the highest in the CFL).
Bottom line: Both teams like to pound the ball and the weather conditions -- a high of minus-9 -- likely means the ground games will be featured. Vegas has the Stamps as 4.5-point favourites. Sounds about right.
The Free Press has assembled a panel to offer their fearless predictions every week. Joining us 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: Toronto, Calgary
Lyons: Hamilton, Saskatchewan
Lawless: Toronto, Saskatchewan
Brown: Hamilton, Saskatchewan
Tait: Toronto, Calgary
Wiecek: Toronto, Calgary
Last week/overall: Tait 2-0/48-26; Lyons 2-0/47-27; Lawless 2-0/47-27; Brown 2-0/46-28; Wiecek 2-0/44-30; Irving 2-0/44-30.
-- compiled by Ed Tait