Opportunity knocking

ROB LONGLEY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 3:29 PM ET

EDMONTON -- The way the Argos see it, their quest for a Grey Cup begins to get serious this afternoon.

And what better place for it than the self-proclaimed City of Champions where the defending champion Edmonton Eskimos (5-10) are fighting for their playoff lives.

With a win at Commonwealth Stadium, the 9-6 Argos can all but clinch a home playoff game as they continue their battle with Montreal for first in the CFL East.

And a victory against a desperate opponent will affirm the belief that the team is rounding into the form it showed two years ago on its successful Grey Cup run.

"We think that last year we short-circuited a little bit," Argos coach Michael (Pinball) Clemons said, referring to the 33-17 home loss to the Alouettes in the East final.

"We felt we had a legitimate chance to go back-to-back a year ago and we came up short. Now we have a chance this week to guarantee ourselves an opportunity to vie for home-field advantage against Montreal in our own home park on the last game of the season."

First things first, though.

The Argos will have to find a way to slow down Eskimos running back Troy Davis, who chewed through them for 189 yards in a losing cause on Thanksgiving Day.

Clemons also believes that the advantage at Commonwealth -- the only natural grass stadium in the league -- is one of the toughest to overcome. Add to that a dash of desperation and the assignment gets more difficult.

"We expect a team that will come to Commonwealth Stadium knowing the history, knowing what it means," Clemons said. "There is a certain mystique here."

Knowing and doing have been two different things for the struggling Eskimos, however. The storied CFL franchise is in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time in 35 seasons.

The Argos, meanwhile, believe their 7-1 run in their past eight games suggests they will be a force come playoff time.

"I think we are actually ahead of where we were two years ago," Argos linebacker Michael Fletcher said. "We won that year and we've got that experience so that means a lot.

Their home win against the Eskimos on Monday clinched a fifth consecutive playoff berth -- the longest streak for the team since a six-year run between 1986-91.

Next up on the order of business is to seal a home playoff date and then the division title, which would come with a bye to the East final.

"I think we're real close at this point," said receiver Arland Bruce, who has scored eight touchdowns in his past seven games.

"We understand that we've clinched a playoff spot and now we just need to sharpen things up."


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