LIVESTREAM: CFL – Edmonton Eskimos @Ottawa REDBLACKS, Sept. 22, 4p (10p CET)

OTTAWA — The Edmonton Eskimos visit the nation’s capital for a date with the Ottawa REDBLACKS on Saturday afternoon in a battle of two squads with identical 7-5 records.

Edmonton is fresh off a bye week, with the lingering buzz of a 48-42 win over first-place Calgary in the team’s last last outing; Mike Reilly is once again in MOP form, while the Esks boast a deep receiver group that hasn’t missed a beat in the absence of Derel Walker.

Ottawa, meanwhile, put in a strong shift en route to a 30-25 win in Regina last week which turned heads around the league. The REDBLACKS have been plagued by inconsistency this season — specifically on the offensive side of the ball — but remain in the East Division’s driver’s seat entering the stretch run of the season.

It’s a new week and a new challenge for Jason Maas and his Esks coaching staff, who are well aware of the importance of the final stretch of the regular season.

“We know it’s gonna be a tight game, so we’ve been talking about (how) the next six games will decide the outcome of the year and we’ve got to be up for that challenge,” Maas told Esks.com. “We know how tough these six games will be. We put ourselves in this position, so we need to play well and capitalize on it. (The) focus is back pretty quickly.”

Receiver Duke Williams will dress for the Esks, having shaken off an injury he played through against Calgary two weeks ago.

“Just a little tweak, something I fought through,” explained the league’s leading receiver. “I had to come back and help our team get the W. It was bothering me at first, but with some rotation and movement it got better.

“The bye week, (I) got a lot of rest mentally and physically. It’s an important stretch for every team in the CFL, so we’re ready to get after it each and every day.”

Running back C.J. Gable will start for the Esks; the 30-year-old veteran is on pace to break his career high in rush yards, set last season when he ran for 833 yards split between Hamilton (nine games) and Edmonton (four games).

“I’m straight, I’m ready for this — been out two weeks now, it’s too long,” said Gable. “I’m ready to go…keeping myself healthy, (and) they’ve got a good program for us (here) rehabbing and staying healthy.”

The most notable roster note ahead of Saturday’s contest for the Esks is the presence of newly-acquired return man Martese Jackson on the depth chart. The 26 year-old out of Florida Atlantic was acquired from Toronto on Sept. 10 and brings an undeniable dynamism to the Esks’ return game.

Jackson ripped off three return touchdowns — two on punts, one on a missed field goal — last season with the Argos.

It’s amazing what a single victory can do for the morale around a football team.

This time last week, the REDBLACKS were 6-5; losers of back-to-back contests, they sat tied for first with Hamilton, which was given a 93 per cent chance of edging Ottawa come season’s end by the CFL Simulator.

But after a big-time performance on both sides of the football led to a key road win in hostile Regina, Rick Campbell’s team is once again alone atop the East Division and feeling good about itself.

“I think it’s about stringing some wins together, (and) rising your level of play when the playoffs get more and more near,” quarterback Trevor Harris told OttawaREDBLACKS.com. “We need to keep ascending, but it all starts with our mindset and preparation during the week.”

As for the prospect of going toe-to-toe with one of the CFL’s elite quarterbacks in Reilly, Harris is excited.

“Mike is one of those guys, he does things on film where I’m like ‘I probably can’t do that’ (with) his arm strength,” said Harris. “You watch Mike and Bo (Levi Mitchell), and even Matt Nichols and Zach (Collaros)…and you pick things up from them. If it fits your game, you add it to your game. You definitely do pick up things from other people.”

Campbell himself knows that, while the film is out on all nine of the league’s team at this late stage of the season, what you see on tape is not always what you get.

“We’ll have a game plan, they’ll have a game plan (and) as far as playbook and terminology, there’ll be a lot of similarities,” said Campbell. “But there’ll be wrinkles in terms of what they do and so will we. We’ll each have our own flavour as far as the game plan.”

It’s been Ottawa’s defence, under coordinator Noel Thorpe, which has been the story of the season: The REDBLACKS are allowing just 20.8 offensive points per-game, the second-lowest mark in the CFL behind DeVone Claybrooks’ Calgary unit.

“My whole emphasis (coming off injury) was to be a force, and I feel like my force, with that defence man, we just turn up,” said Ottawa defensive back Jonathan Rose, who hauled in two key interceptions in Regina last week. “They (Edmonton) lost one of their main receivers, so we’ll adjust to that. We’re not trying to complicate the system, we’re going to perform man-on-man and hopefully our defence will prevail.”

By The Numbers:

– Games of 300-plus pass yards for Ottawa’s Trevor Harris this season. The franchise record is 10, set byHenry Burris in 2015, and Harris is on pace to match or surpass that number.

– Wins for the Esks in 11 outings off a bye since 2011.

37 – Total touchdowns for Edmonton’s Mike Reilly this season (26 passing, 11 rushing); the CFL record is held by Doug Flutie, who had 56 (48/8) in 1994. Reilly is on pace for 55, which means we could be in for a record watch down the stretch.

97 – Kicking percentage for REDBLACKS rookie sensation Lewis Ward, who is now 33-for-34 on the season and has not missed a kick since Week 1.

This is just a doozy of a matchup.

Edmonton’s home playoff game, which seemed such a certainty during the first half of the season, is now under pressure thanks to the Saskatchewan Roughriders — currently tied with the Esks at 7-5.

Similarly, Ottawa has it all to play for the in the final six games of the season; the REDBLACKS are a single game up on Hamilton for first place in the East and — with Winnipeg and a return trip to Commonwealth on the schedule between now and their two-game series with Hamilton in Weeks 19 and 20 — every win matters.

The storylines are endless: Established star Mike Reilly against the aspiring star Trevor Harris, Ottawa running back William Powell chasing down Winnipeg’s Andrew Harris for the league rushing lead, Ottawa’s in-form defence vs. Reilly’s red-hot Edmonton offence, etc.

Buckle up, because this is going to be a fun one in the nation’s capital.

– With files from Esks.com/OttawaREDBLACKS.com

AFI, Yare Media and the CFL

American Football International is collaborating with Yare Media and the Canadian Football League to present 2018 CFL games live. This is more than a livestream. This is a stream of the top flight TSN network television broadcast.

LIVE STREAM PPV: CFL – Edmonton Eskimos @Ottawa REDBLACKS, Sept. 22, 4p (10p CET)

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