Right at home on road

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:22 AM ET

The hype heading into the Calgary Stampeders' clash with the Edmonton Eskimos Sunday (3 p.m., McMahon Stadium) surrounds the precious commodity known as home-field advantage.

Earn it and you've got a leg up in the CFL playoffs, or so the theory goes.

Should the Stamps win, they'll rest comfortably in their own beds next week, fattening up on home-cooked grub, before hosting the West semifinal rematch the following Sunday.

The Esks win and they're guaranteed a home game in either the semi or possibly even a bye into the final Nov. 20.

But does playing at home provide much of an edge for the 10-7 Stamps, on the verge of their first post-season berth since 2001?

Henry Burris and Co. are a tepid 4-4 at McMahon Stadium this season, hardly numbers that strike fear into the hearts of visitors. In fact, only one CFL squad -- the lowly Winnipeg Blue Bombers -- posted more miserable numbers at home in 2005.

Working out of a suitcase, the Stamps have enjoyed a 6-3 record.

Adding to the oddity is the fact the home team this season lost Alberta's Labour Day Classic in Calgary and the rematch at the Igloo four nights later, an anomaly according to Esks boss Danny Maciocia.

"I don't think you can just look at those two contests," Maciocia said.

"I'm sure they felt they could have won the first and we still feel we could have won the second had we made a few better decisions along the way. Ultimately, when you play in the playoffs, you want to play at home.

"If you take a look at Calgary's record they've won six games on the road so they're telling you they can definitely play on the road, compete and win.

"I'm a firm believer and I've been preaching this here the last four weeks that regardless of where we finish, I'm more concerned with how we finish.

"We're at .500 -- 4-4 on the road -- we've won our share on the road but you want to make sure that when come into that second season, you're playing your best football."

His counterpart, Stamps head coach Tom Higgins, recognizes his team's failure to capitalize on home-field advantage this season. Despite that, he's also aware of the Eskimos' dominance at Commonwealth, something he'd dearly love to avoid in the West semifinal.

"The one thing that's different about it is that we haven't been dominant at home whereas the Edmonton Eskimos are," Higgins said. "That's a tough place to play. It just seems that every place you go is tough because there is a home-field advantage (in most CFL cities)."

Sunday's guests, meanwhile, enjoy a 7-2 edge at Commonwealth Stadium this season (albeit one loss came at the hands of the Stamps) suggesting the outcome means more to the visitors from the north.

Adding to the mystery Sunday is the changing complexion of both teams. Each insists it has improved since the teams last met eight weeks ago.

The Esks have since traded for former Hamilton running back Troy Davis, a 1,600-yard man last season, adding a jolt to their ground game. They've also added veteran o-lineman Dan Comiskey, further solidifying the run.

"We are just a little more balanced," said Esks QB Ricky Ray, who has watched Davis rush for an average of 92 yards in his first three games in green and gold.

"We're not as much a pass-oriented team. Now we have a definite threat to run the ball and we have been successful running it."


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