Be afraid, be very afraid

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:05 AM ET

As a rule of thumb, if it isn't good for the Edmonton Eskimos then it's great for the league. And, boy, is this great for the league.

The Eskimos, facing the very real possibility of missing the playoffs for the first time in 33 years, three weeks after they played a game for first place, has to have commissioner Tom Wright grinning when he isn't giggling.

What a fantastic finish for the CFL down the stretch this season! Consider the possibilities!

Saskatchewan, by scoring 34 straight points to register a shocking 35-19 win over the now 12-2 Montreal Alouettes, has moved into a position where they could end up playing their first home playoff game since 1988.

With the Eskimos drawing the bye week at the end of the schedule, you could have Khari Jones and the Calgary Stampeders needing to beat Joe Fleming and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers to get Edmonton into the playoffs for the 33rd consecutive season. Who would Calgary cheer for?

The Eskimos suddenly have their second straight three-game losing streak of the season, meet the guaranteed-to-be-snarly Alouettes in their next one, and suddenly you have to wonder if they'll win another game this season.

It's conceivable that Hamilton or Winnipeg (but not both because they play each other Friday) could lose all their remaining games. But how likely? Hamilton has two against Ottawa and Winnipeg, that last one in Calgary.

A GAME IN HAND

You know Edmonton and Saskatchewan have 14 points, Hamilton 13 and Winnipeg 12 with the Tiger-Cats having a game in hand on the Western teams as they attempt to prevent all three from making the playoffs and one playing in the East semi-final on the crossover rule.

The short form of the rest of the schedule:

Edmonton - home to Montreal; at Saskatchewan; home to Winnipeg; bye. Saskatchewan - at Ottawa; home to Edmonton;, bye; at B.C. Hamilton - at Winnipeg; home to Ottawa; at Toronto; at Ottawa. Winnipeg - home to Hamilton; bye; at Edmonton; home to Calgary.

There are dozens of scenarios in there somewhere. But you have to figure the Esks are going to have to beat somebody, maybe two somebodies to make this happen. How are they going to put these Humpty Dumpties back together again?

While this is completely ignoring the shambles that Rick Campbell's special teams have become yet again, and the incredible inconsistencies on Greg Marshall's defence, the first item to fix is the offence.

You look at the offensive line without centre Tim Prinsen and you figure they have to do something. Make a trade? Replace one of the injured receivers or one of the guys with hands which have turned to stone with a Canadian and bring in an import centre to finish the season?

You'd say bring back Bruce Beaton or Leo Groenewegen from retirement, but they've both lost so much weight they don't look like offensive linemen anymore.

ALL OVER THE LOT

Kevin Lefsrud was snapping balls all over the lot in Hamilton, old Chris Morris was looking his age, and young Joe McGrath was looking his age.

So what do you do? Nothing, says offensive line coach Bill Macdermott.

"I don't think there is anybody we need to bring in. I graded the film and we finished stronger than we started that game - and that's a very good sign. I'll take Lefsrud on any offensive line I coach. Of course, we miss Prinsen. But Glen Carson went to right guard and played the best game he's played as an Edmonton Eskimo. I think these guys are going to get it done."

Offensive co-ordinator Danny Maciocia said he knows Lefsrud can get the job done because Lefsrud did it for him when he was offensive co-ordinator in Montreal.

"That had more to do with inactivity than anything. It's not the first time he's done it. He'll get better at it. He got better at it during the game."

You could ask why Maciocia kept the offence in the shotgun formation when QB Jason Maas didn't know where the snap was going to go.

"Jason spent more time under centre than he did the whole year, but I wasn't ready to give up on the shotgun because I've seen Lefsrud do it. And he was doing it well late in the game.

"That touchdown pass to Jason Tucker to tie the game at the end was out of the shotgun. Maas wanted to stay in the shotgun because he believed it was getting better. If you can't believe in your soldiers, who can you believe in?

"The dropped balls ... that's a concern. We've got to get out of that funk. From an offence point of view, I don't care if you coach here or play here. You have to look in the mirror."

Maciocia says the good thing, especially with Saskatchewan and Winnipeg on their schedule, is that the Esks still control their own destiny.

"As far as I'm concerned, this is more than salvageable."

Salvageable. There's a word about an Eskimo season you don't hear too often.


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