No time to get 'rattled' for Esks

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:48 PM ET

The Wild West just got wilder than a bag of ... rattlesnakes?

"This race reminds me of the annual rattlesnake roundup they have down in Opp, Ala.," said Edmonton Eskimos general manager Eric Tillman when he turned off the TV set Sunday afternoon.

"Most of us have several big ones in our bag, but at the same time, we're surrounded by rattlesnakes everywhere.

"One or two missteps by any of us and it might be time to start singing Nearer My God To Thee."

One of the craziest seasons in all of CFL history just got more insane.

Look at the standings!

In the East only four points separate first and third. That almost never happens to the division which hosts crossover games every second season.

And in the West, where it's expected to be wild, the top two teams, the Edmonton Eskimos and Calgary Stampeders are 7-5 and coughing and sputtering while the B.C. Lions are going home to open an improved $563-million BC Place after eviscerating Saskatchewan 42-5 in Regina to extend their winning streak to five in a row and six of their last seven.

Going into the final six games of the season, this is what you want as a fan, until you're actually on this Mindbender of a ride and find yourself feeling a little ill.

Other than B.C. Lions fans, who were feeling rotten as the Lions looked at the start of the season in a Grey Cup hosting year, the fans of the Stampeders, Eskimos, Roughriders, Blue Bombers, Tiger-Cats and Alouettes have been taking turns looking a little peaked lately.

But rejoice! Instead of feeling terrible about your team, out of sorts about the way they're playing, queasy, woozy, run-down, under the weather or sick as a prairie dog, celebrate. It doesn't get any better/worse than this.

It's been just a wonderfully stupid season. Calgary can't win at home but were 5-0 on the road until they went all the way to Moncton and lost 55-36 to Hamilton, a team which had lost their previous two games 43-13 and 38-23. Gotta love those scores.

Saskatchewan fires the coach, brings the old one back, wins three in a row and then loses 42-5 at home?

And then there's Edmonton, 5-0 out of the gate while B.C. was going 0-5, heading to play before 55,000 in the new BC Place having won two of their last seven.

This is a team which has lost their last three games at home before the three largest crowds of the season in the CFL so far, 35,216, 45,672 and 40,274.

If you told Edmonton fans with all the changes made at the start of the season that they'd be 7-5 going into the final third, they'd say 'Where do we sign up for that?'

So try it from Tillman's perspective holding his bag of rattlesnakes.

He's trying to repeat the feat of taking over in Saskatchewan and winning the Grey Cup in his first full season as GM and has the one team which looks like it could win the Grey Cup one week and miss the playoffs the next. Indeed, only the Eskimos could finish anywhere from first to fourth.

"Hamilton's win over Calgary means that, fortunately, we still control our own destiny," he said.

"That said, B.C. has been playing excellent football and, unless we beat them Friday night, this race is going to turn even more upside down. For example, a combination of B.C. and Calgary wins this weekend would put us in third place. So, controlling our own destiny is a nice way of saying we better travel to Vancouver with a sense of urgency. There is no way to overstate the importance of this game.

"They're the hottest team in our league right now. They have a strong veteran nucleus and they're so physical on defence."

And Wally Buono has a new rattlesnake in his bag.

"Travis Lulay has really developed into a terrific young quarterback who can beat you with his arm and his legs."

Calgary, because of losing the season series to Edmonton, doesn't have control of their destiny. But despite being two points back of both Alberta clubs, the Lions do.

"Four of the Lions last six games are in the West Division, and since they play us twice and Calgary once, they're in the same position we are," said Tillman.

"The last Sunday of the season they play host to Montreal. Wouldn't it be ironic if the 72nd game of the regular season determines first place in both divisions?"

Twitter.com/sunterryjones


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