Which team shows up?

CON GRIWKOWSKY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:36 AM ET

There's some pretty long odds facing the Edmonton Eskimos as they head into the last two weeks of the CFL's regular schedule.

First off, Regina has been less than a hospitable host to the Eskimos, who have dropped eight of their last nine starts in Pile O' Bones.

Their last win was a 30-26 squeaker way back on Sept. 30, 2006.

Then, they host a Montreal team that completely dominated them earlier this season.

Even though the Esks cannot finish worse than 9-9 this season, a loss in Regina would pretty much assure a trip to Winnipeg for the crossover game.

For a team that had a combined 12-23-1 record in missing the playoffs two straight seasons after their 2005 Grey Cup win, a .500 record in a rebuilding year can be looked at in different ways.

"I think this football team has started to learn how to win with the changes we made in the off-season," said head coach Danny Maciocia. "What we need to do now is take the next step and win those games that are quite important, that can move us up in the standings.

"There is a progression here and I'm hoping they start realizing the games coming up in the next little while are quite important. We need to take that next step now."

Maciocia knows there's still a bit of a maturing process to go through in a highly competitive situation.

"For the most part, a lot of these guys are new to one another coming out of training camp," said Maciocia. "With the exception of Montreal, we've beaten everyone. Some of the better teams even twice ... B.C. and Calgary.

"We just have to find a way to take the next step. There's still some work to be done and hopefully we can do that soon."

From the fans' perspective, the inconsistency of the team has been a source of frustration.

Last time out against Saskatchewan, the Eskimos racked up 225 yards on the ground. Last week against B.C., AJ Harris managed nine yards on five carries.

Which team will show up this week is anybody's guess.

"When you're one-dimensional, it makes things tough," said quarterback Ricky Ray. "We ran the ball well for the most part all year long but, yeah, in some of our losses, we haven't run it well. I don't know if that's due to when you get behind, you get away from it a bit.

"We've got to be balanced and do all things well. Sometimes, we have to be able to run the ball more effectively."

The revolving door in the backfield hasn't helped.

Canadian sophomore Calvin McCarty has answered the bell every time he's been called on, but was sitting on the bench against B.C. after being a factor the week before.

"The opportunity in front of us is to try and get whatever spot we can get," said Ray. "We want to finish the season strong. We did run the ball effectively (in B.C.). This year, we've been able to get a lot of rushing touchdowns. Maybe we're a little inconsistent with it. Some games are good, some not so good. We've just got to be a bit more balanced."

When the weather starts turning ugly, establishing a running game may be the key to whether the Esks will play more than three games down the stretch.

"We have a running game, but sometimes we feel our passing game is working better and we just stick with that," said Harris. "I don't need 20 carries. I've only had that once this year. I'll take whatever they give me with a smile and see what I can do with it."

This young team has been pretty competitive in the tough CFL West all year.

Are they ready for a championship run?

Without re-establishing their running game and figuring out a way to stop the turnover bleeding, it'll be a tough road.


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