In 2016 the Edmonton Eskimos were 5-4 going into the Labour Day game before getting beat-up twice 45-24 and 34-28 to go 5to a 5-6 record. The Esks lost again the week after the Labour Day home and home to the Riders 26-23 in OT to slide to 5-7. The Esks then went 5-1 down the stretch to finish 10-8 and cross-over and winning the Eastern-Semi Final 24-21. Many Esks fans were impressed with the turn around after the Esks were raided by Chris Jones departure.
In 2016, Mike Reilly to Adarius Bowman and the emergence of Derel Walker and Brandon Zylstra was the big offensive story and on an offensive first team it was everything. In 2017 the Esks continued to build with Zylstra as a starter the Esks went 7-2 before Labour Day. Duke Williams emerged, and Walker returned to get the Esks to 12-6 after another beat down by the Stamps 39-18 and then 25-22. The Esks quickly sank to 8-5 before going on a 4-1 run including a victory over the Stamps late in the season 29-20 led by Zylstra and Walker before winning the Western Semi-Final over Winnipeg. Many Esks fans were impressed with the progress even if the Eskies were not in the Grey Cup.
As 2018 started Esks fans had big expectations for the team. Maybe a 13 or 14-win season and challenge the Stamps for the top spot in the West. Then it happened the Offense choked. First against the Argos in week 4 where they only scored 17 points and only 1 TD. Then it happened again versus Toronto, but the Esks ended up winning. In week 9 the offense once again failed, this time in the second half of the B.C. game where they only scored 3 points all half. Finally, the Hamilton game in week 11 where the offense put up ZERO points in the second half to limp into Labour Day with a 6-4 record. Will the Esks drop two against the Stamps come Labour Day 2018? Most likely putting them at 6-6 going into the stretch drive.
The bigger question is can the Eskies overcome adversity like they did in 2016 and 2017 to revive their season and make the playoffs?
After Labour Day the Esks have Winnipeg twice more, Ottawa twice, Riders once and B.C. Lions once. It is conceivable that the Esks offense chokes twice down the stretch and then split the other four for a 2-4 record in the last 6. Maybe they get it together like in seasons past to go 4-2 or 5-1, but only if Zylstra returns to give the Esks a spark which is unlikely to happen. The Esks have to look within and make hard choices on offense or the Esks are sunk. To go 2-6 from here on in would put the Esks 8-10 maybe even 9-9 if they can steal one. The problem is they will need at least 10-8 to make the playoffs and that might not be possible.
It’s gut check time and this version of the Eskies either finds a way to win now or it all gets blown up with the departure of Maas and the three to five-year rebuilding of the Esks can start.