Triple threats

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 12:04 PM ET

1. QUARTERBACKS

This could be a huge game in Ricky Ray's term with the Eskimos.

A win with a strong performance and the criticism stops. But if Ray struggles and Jason Maas comes off the bench with significant time left in the second half, there is a full-blown QB issue in Edmonton.

With no TD passes in five games and two rough outings against Calgary, Ray is on a very short leash with the public.

He must have pinpoint accuracy today - something he didn't have last Sunday or in practice this week.

Henry Burris, on the other hand, is red hot for the Stamps, throwing six TDs in his last two games.

Ray has thrown six INTs in his last two contests against Calgary.

2. KICKERS

If Sean Fleming wasn't perfect against B.C. and Saskatchewan last month, the Eskimos would be riding a three-game losing streak instead of being 2-1.

On paper, Edmonton has the edge, as Fleming has loads of playoff experience. In fact, he won the 1996 Western final at McMahon with his fifth FG of the day.

"It was from 40 yards on the last play of the game," he remembered.

Sandro DeAngelis - his counterpart - has never played in a pro playoff game.

How will he handle the pressure?

The former Nebraska Cornhusker doesn't seem concerned.

"I played in front of 110,000 fans at Penn State," said DeAngelis, "and against Notre Dame on national TV when tickets were going for $2,000."

3. DEFENSIVE LINE

Led by Joe Montford, Edmonton's D-line has to contain Burris.

The Esks can't let him get outside the pocket to buy time to find an open receiver.

The second job is just as difficult: pressuring Burris in the pocket.

"Last game, Henry just got rid of the ball fast. They could have had no offensive line and he probably would have got the ball off," said Montford.

"We just got to be patient ... and when (the DBs) do give us time (with blanket coverage), we need to get (to Burris)."

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KEYS TO THE GAME

1. BREAKING LOOSE

The potential to explode on offence is there for Edmonton, but they need to solve the Stampeder defensive puzzle. If they don't, good luck to the Esks.

2. BOTTLE BURRIS

Edmonton must contain Burris to the pocket.

3. TURNOVERS

The Esks committed four turnovers last week. One bad turnover can kill either team.

4. DISCIPLINE

In a close game, one bad penalty can kill a team. With emotions riding high, this could be a worry for a playoff-inexperienced Calgary team.

5. MAINTAINING INTENSITY

Edmonton will start fired-up on both sides of the ball, but can't afford to fall flat in the second half like last week.

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ROSTER CHANGES

ESKIMOS

IN: DB Gerald Dixon, DT Randy Spencer

OUT: DT Cedric Scott, WR Rob LeBlanc

STAMPEDERS

IN: RB Tony Stallings

OUT: RB David Allen

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HURT PARADE

ESKIMOS

Davis Sanchez (groin), Rashad Jeanty (hamstring), Mike Bradley (knee)

STAMPEDERS

No injuries

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QUOTES

"Every year it comes down to these one-shot deals. Every year it is a desperate feeling and a desperate situation. "

- BRUCE BEATON

"Each day I came in and slapped them upside the head to wipe the smile off their face. "

- TOM HIGGINS, joking about how he keeps the Stampeder rookies focused

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HEAD-TO-HEAD: AVERAGES FROM THE LAST THREE GAMES

- TOTAL OFFENCE

All those yards, but Edmonton is averaging less than two offensive touchdowns a game against Calgary.

Edmonton: 352 yds

Calgary: 311 yds

- RETURN YARDS

Could be a great showdown between Esks' rookie standout Tony Tompkins and unheralded Terrence Wilkins.

Edmonton: 180 yds

Calgary: 184 yds

- TIME OF POSSESSION

With short passes and plenty of second downs for the Esks, this isn't a surprise.

Edmonton: 33:06

Calgary: 26:54

- TURNOVERS

Stamp QB Henry Burris hasn't thrown a pick in four straight games.

Edmonton: 3

Calgary: 2


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