While the Cats still have an outside shot of finishing second, the fact of the matter is that Hamilton is battling the Eskimos for the final playoff spot in the East Division. That makes tonight's game in Edmonton perhaps the most meaningful of the season. A Tiger-Cat win would put them at 6-8 and the Eskimos at 5-9 with four games left to go. For the Eskimos to cross over into the East, they must have a better record than the Ti-Cats. An equal record, say both teams finish 8-10, means the Cats make the playoffs. That makes a win tonight all the more important because it would essentially give Hamilton a two-game advantage on the Eskimos.
To get the win, the Cats will have to play the same type of game they did when they last met the Eskimos. Hamilton won that contest 51-8 and did so with a smothering defense that didn't allow Edmonton's bread and butter, their running backs, to beat them. They forced Kerry Joseph, who this week was named Edmonton's starter for the rest of the season, to beat them and he couldn't. Do the same at Commonwealth and the Ti-Cats will come home victorious.
But winning in Edmonton has not been easy for the Ti-Cats. In their last 10 trips to the City of Champions, the Ti-Cats have won just once, a 20-18 squeaker in 2006. But the silver lining is that the Cats usually play well enough to win, but don't. Aside from last season's 28-10 beating, Edmonton's margin of victory has been two (2010), one (2009), five (2008) and two (2007) since Hamilton last won there. The ball bounces a different way and maybe those losses become wins.
Hamilton will also get a boost because Edmonton linebacker J.C. Sherritt will miss the game due to a knee injury. Sherritt is the front runner for defensive player of the year this season and his loss will be significant for the Eskimo defense.
The Ti-Cats can really put some distance between themselves and the Eskimos with a win tonight. Now they just have to go out and get the job done. We'll see if they can when the game gets underway at 9 p.m. on TSN.