With at least one home playoff game secured, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats have their sights set on a first-round bye in the final four weeks of the season.
The Ticats play the first-place Ottawa Redblacks, the team they’re chasing and trail by 2 points, twice before the end of the regular season. Ottawa holds the tie-breaker with a 1-0 head-to-head record with the Tiger-Cats.
First things first, though.
If Hamilton wants to control its own destiny, they’ll have to take care of business Friday night at BMO Field against the Toronto Argonauts (7:30 p.m.).
The Argos have lost six games in a row. They’ve been eliminated from the post-season after a three-year run and their 2017 Grey Cup victory. Toronto is one of nine previous Grey Cup winners since 1958 to not make the playoffs in the next season. With a 3-12 record and 0.250 winning percentage, the Argos have the worst post-Grey Cup record of any team in CFL history.
Toronto will go with James Franklin at quarterback this week after the former Missouri Tiger spelled McLeod Bethel-Thompson in the Argos Week 17 loss to the BC Lions.
Hamilton defensive tackle Ted Laurent says Franklin poses different challenges than Bethel-Thompson.
“We know that Franklin is more of a scrambler and he can get outside of the pocket,” Laurent said. “We definitely have a different game plan for him.”
Franklin hasn’t started since Week 7 for the Argonauts.
The Tiger-Cats, meanwhile, are coming off their final regular season bye week. Their last game was a dominant 40-10 win over the B.C. Lions at Tim Hortons Field. More impressive is that Hamilton was able to run up the score without two of their top receivers: Jalen Saunders (done for the year with a torn ACL) and Terrence Toliver (added to the six-game injured list this week).
The Hamilton Tiger-Cats added some familiar hands to bolster the receiving corps, re-signing Terrell Sinkfield. He played in 34 games over three CFL seasons, registering 102 catches for 1,537 yards and 10 touchdowns. Sinkfield’s best season came in 2015 with Hamilton when he played in 15 games and made 69 catches for 1,030 yards and six touchdowns.
Tiger-Cats heads coach June Jones says Sinkfield is a great fit for his offence.
“I watched him on film and he can play,” said Jones. “He fits into what we do.”
“ talked very highly of . Plus Speedy (Brandon Banks) knows him and likes him. Speedy thinks he’s a good fit, too.”
Sinkfield was released by the NFL’s Oakland Raiders on Sept. 11 after converting to a defensive back. He also spent time with the Minnesota Vikings and the New York Jets.
The six-foot-one, 195-pound Sinkfield gives Jeremiah Masoli another reliable target. The Tiger-Cats quarterback leads the CFL with 10 games of 300-plus yards and holds the league’s second-best QB rating of 81.8. Masoli trails only Calgary’s Bo Levi Mitchell (83.4).
While we don’t know what the exact CFL playoff matchups will be in four weeks, we can be certain that for the third year in a row the 2nd-place team in the East Division will play a West opponent in a cross-over. Saskatchewan (10-5), Winnipeg (8-7), BC (8-7), and Edmonton could all finish anywhere from 2nd-place to 5th-place in the West Division.
3 things to watch:
1) Road cooking: Tiger-Cats quarterback Jeremiah Masoli has been much better on the road. He’s 11-7 away from Hamilton and 6-9 at Tim Hortons Field. Masoli is undefeated in two career starts in Toronto and his four wins against the Argos are the most against any CFL team.
2) Quick draw: Hamilton is a league-best plus-81 in the first quarter, outscoring opponents 133-52. They’ve trailed after the opening quarter just three times in 14 games in 2018. However, the Ticats have lost three times this season after holding double-digit leads. They’re 7-3 while leading by 10 or more points.
3) Up to the task: Hamilton receiver Luke Tasker needs 84 yards to reach 1,000 for the third time in the last four seasons. He surpassed 400 career catches last week and has 402 receptions for 5,140 yards in 76 games. Of his 402 receptions, 152 have converted on second down.
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