VANCOUVER -- It's only Week 8 of a gruelling CFL season that lasts until the snow flies in November, but the Eskimos believe they are stuck in a must-win situation tonight against the B.C. Lions.
In the West basement with a 2-4 record, the Green and Gold feel they can't lose their third straight.
"I hate to say it, but I am not going to lie - it is (a must win)," said receiver Trevor Gaylor, who draws back into the lineup tonight for the first time since being benched after the regular-season opener.
"This isn't an average program here.
"This is the cream of the crop and to go 2-5 - I wouldn't say it would be over, but we would definitely have our backs against the wall."
Offensive guard Joe McGrath not only feels this is a game the Esks have to win, he also believes this could be the one game that the team looks back on at the end of the year.
SEASON'S TURNING POINT?
"This could be the turning point in our season right here," said McGrath. "(If we) drop to 2-5, we are three games out (of first place) and three games under .500. Even though it is a close race (in the West) ... we can't really afford to lose to any Western (Division) opponents. We have to keep ahead of them in all the head-to-head matchups."
One of the Esks two victories this season came against the Leos, meaning a win tonight would guarantee a win in the season series. But a loss puts them six points behind the first-place Leos.
"We need to get a win and we need to get one this week," said Ed Hervey. "We need to position ourselves to get back into contention and with our next five opponents being Western opponents (B.C. twice, Saskatchewan once and Calgary twice) I think this stretch for us is very important, though we have to take them one game at a time."
And the Lions might be one of the best teams for the Esks to face right now. Although the Leos have won two straight with a budding running back star in Joe Smith to take the West Division lead at 4-3, Edmonton has won its last four games against the B.C. crew dating back to last year, including the Western final at B.C. Place in November.
PLENTY OF MOTIVATION
However, that Eskimo hot streak isn't lost on the Lions. In fact, it is motivation.
"Edmonton has been kicking our butts lately, so we have a lot to prove," said B.C. middle linebacker Javier Glatt.
Indeed, when the Lions walked off the field at B.C. Place yesterday after their final practice of the week, they seemed very focused.
"It is huge (this game)," said centre Angus Reid. "In terms of proving to ourselves we can beat Edmonton and in terms of distancing ourselves and taking control of the West."
The battle lines have been drawn.
"It is a must win for them," continued Reid.
"It should make for a nice war (tonight)."