Top dog status for Esks?

The Eskimos are favoured to beat the Argos by nine points, the first time they've been favoured by...

The Eskimos are favoured to beat the Argos by nine points, the first time they've been favoured by more than a touchdown in a long time. Their giveaway-takeaway numbers are one factor contributing to their success. (QMI Agency file photo)

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:24 AM ET

EDMONTON - When was the last time the Edmonton Eskimos were favoured on the Las Vegas betting lines to win by nine points?

It’s one thing to do what the Eskimos have done this season as underdogs, but that gig is obviously up now with Vegas making that the line going into Friday’s game against the Toronto Argos.

All of a sudden they’re overdogs.

Favourites to win a game by more than a touchdown for the first time in a long time?

“I didn’t know that and I’m pretty sure our guys don’t know that,” said Kavis Reed, the head coach who needs two more wins to tie Ken Miller for the second most consecutive wins to begin a CFL head-coaching career, with six.

Every day the Eskimos find out stuff they didn’t know.

The Eskimos know that the last time they were 4-0 to start a season was 1986 and the last time they were 5-0 was 1980. But now the CFL stats guys are making them aware that leading the league in both rushing and passing has only been accomplished twice in the last 30 years, and the time before that was Edmonton in 1981. And not only that but the last time the Eskimos led the league in rushing was in 1999.

At what point are these guys going to need larger football helmets?

“Expectations come when good things happen. Regardless of your record, it’s always a challenge for a team to keep focus,” said Reed.

There are so many statistics, but the one which has to have something to do with being a nine-point favourite in this one has to be what’s going on with the giveaway-takeaway turnover statistics with these two teams.

Turnovers have been an essential key to the Eskimos start. They lead the league with a plus 10. After four games last year, when the Eskimos were 0-4, their turnover ratio was sitting at minus nine. That’s a 19-turnover turnaround.

“It begins with these guys playing fast,” said Reed.

“Playing fast is giving them opportunities to make plays. We’re playing fast and with a purpose. That stat goes with wins and losses. When you’re not turned the ball over, you’re going to win football games.”

Argos head coach Jim Barker says turnovers have a whole lot to do with why Edmonton is 4-0 and Toronto 1-3 going into this game.

“Last year there were only nine games in the CFL in which a team managed to win despite committing more turnovers.”

Since 2008 the Argos are 16-6 when committing even or fewer giveaways than their opponents, and 1-35 when turning the ball over more often.

So far this year Toronto has the worst giveaway-takeaway number, at -10.

That’s minus-10 versus plus-10 Friday night. Maybe the line should be 10.

The other reason the Eskimos are favoured by more than a touchdown is Ricky Ray and his 119.7 QB efficiency rating, versus Dalton Bell (49.8) starting ahead of Cleo Lemon (80.7) who has a chipped tooth.

And if you ask Barker if the Eskimos are for real, he says “Hell yes,” for reasons wrapped up there somewhere.

“Ricky Ray has his confidence and accuracy back where it was. And I credit Marcus Crandell for giving Ricky an offence he can work with here.

“Not downgrading what Eric Tillman has done, but the one thing which was here was an experienced quarterback. The changes you make … well, you can do a lot of things if you have the No. 1 guy. Three or four years ago, Ricky Ray was the top quarterback in the league and he’s back being that Ricky Ray again.

“I give Marcus Crandell a lot of credit. I didn’t know if he was ready for this job. He’s given him the offence which has the magic for him, a system in which he can enjoy success.”

Follow me on Twitter.com/sunterryjones

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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