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Edmonton Eskimos drop to last in West Division standings with loss to Riders

The Edmonton Eskimos couldn't have picked a worse time to go into a slump.

The Edmonton Eskimos couldn't have picked a worse time to go into a slump.

Edmonton has lost three straight and six of its last eight, including a 19-12 defeat to the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Monday that dropped the Eskimos into last in the West Division standings.

With the win, Saskatchewan (10-5) clinched a playoff spot.

The Eskimos (7-8) are actually tied on points with fourth-place B.C. (7-7), two points behind third-place Winnipeg (8-7), but the Lions have a game in hand. Regardless, it's a monumental fall from grace for an Edmonton squad that not long ago was regarded as the CFL's second-best team behind the West Division-leading Calgary Stampeders (12-2).

In fact, one of Calgary's two losses this season was a wild 48-42 decision to Edmonton on Sept. 8. But the Eskimos are 0-3 since while the Stampeders have clinched a home playoff date.

On Aug. 8, the Eskimos beat Saskatchewan 26-19 at home for their third straight win to improve to 5-2 overall. But Edmonton is just 2-6 since then while the Riders are 6-2 to stand second in the West Division and in position to secure their first home playoff game since 2013.

Despite its losing streak, Edmonton remains very much in playoff contention. The Eskimos, Lions and Bombers are battling for two post-season berths as for the third straight year there will be a West Division crossover.

That means the fourth-place finisher in the West will assume the East Division's third playoff seed. But while Edmonton will finish its regular season facing Ottawa, B.C. and Winnipeg, the Eskimos will now need help to reach the CFL post-season.

Mike Reilly, last year's MVP, remains the CFL's passing leader with 4,605 yards. But he was intercepted three times Monday, including Willie Jefferson's game-winning 49-yard pick-six — Saskatchewan's seventh defensive TD this season — and has 17 on the season, the most of any league starter.

Reilly finished 13-of-27 passing for 222 yards and also had a team-high 57 yards rushing on eight carries. But he was sacked five times and faced constant pressure from Saskatchewan's defence.

During Edmonton's current losing streak, Reilly has been sacked 11 times. He's completed 57-of-99 passes for 662 yards with six interceptions and just one TD strike.

However Reilly nearly completed the miracle comeback Monday with a 71-yard Hail Mary completion to Bryant Mitchell with two seconds remaining. But Ed Gainey was able to make the game-saving tackle.


FIRST WIN: The Calgary Stampeders' 12-6 road win over the Montreal Alouettes on Monday was a first for quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell.

Mitchell improved to 6-2 lifetime against Montreal but earned his first-ever victory at Percival Molson Stadium. He's now 1-2 at the Alouettes' home venue.

Mitchell's record as a CFL starter is a stellar 68-12-2. He's 30-8-2 on the road and a sparkling 38-4-0 at McMahon Stadium.


PLAYOFF SCENARIOS: The Calgary Stampeders, Ottawa Redblacks and Hamilton Tiger-Cats have all clinched home playoff games.

Calgary cemented a home playoff game with its 12-6 road win over Montreal on Monday. The loss eliminated the Alouettes from post-season contention and guaranteed Hamilton a home playoff contest.

Ottawa was guaranteed a home playoff game Saturday when the B.C. Lions beat Toronto 26-23. That also eliminated the defending Grey Cup-champion Argos from post-season play.

The Toronto loss also guaranteed a West Division crossover team for a record third straight year.


QB CHANGE: The Toronto Argonauts are making another quarterback change.

Head coach Marc Trestman said Tuesday that James Franklin will start Friday night when Toronto (3-11) hosts the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (7-7).

Franklin was a bright spot in Toronto's loss to B.C., completing 9-of-14 passes for 103 yards and two TDs in the fourth quarter for the defending Grey Cup champions.

Starter McLeod Bethel-Thompson was 11-of-18 passing for 97 yards with a TD but also had four interceptions.

Toronto began the season with veteran Ricky Ray under centre but looked to Franklin after Ray suffered a neck injury in a 41-7 home loss to Calgary on June 23. However after Franklin went 1-3 as the starter, the Argos promoted Bethel-Thompson to the No. 1 job.

Bethel-Thompson went 2-6 over his eight starts.


CFL TRADE DEADLINE: The CFL's trade deadline is set for 3:59 p.m. ET on Wednesday.

Traditionally there's little movement at the deadline, partly because there's always numerous teams still in playoff contention. But with both Toronto and Montreal eliminated from post-season action, GMs Jim Popp and Kavis Reed could be fielding calls from interested parties.


PASSING LEADERS: Drew Brees surpassed Peyton Manning (71,940) as the NFL's all-time passing leader. Brees threw for 363 yards in leading the New Orleans Saints past the Washington Redskins 43-19 on Monday night, boosting his career total to 72,103 yards and counting.

That leaves Brees third on pro football's all-time career passing list behind former CFL players Damon Allen (72,381) and Anthony Calvillo (79,816). However, Brees sports a higher completion average (67.17) and has more TD passes (499) than Allen (56.45, 394) and Calvillo (62.44, 455).

Manning holds the pro football record for most career TD passes (539) but both Tom Brady (500) and Brees are still active.

Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press