TORONTO — Week by week, game by game, we’re finally starting to get some clarity on what the playoff picture will look like.
Hamilton and Montreal clinched their respective playoff spots on Friday night, thanks to the Ticats’ win over the BC Lions. That one game had a ripple effect on the standings, locking up those two playoff spots, quelling any hopes of a West team crossing over and officially eliminating Edmonton from the playoffs.
Despite the loss, the Lions live on at 4-8 but they’re running out of rope in what’s become a very difficult season for them. This week’s game against the visiting Calgary Stampeders is a must-win for them and should they win, their Week 16 regular-season finale against Edmonton will be too, if they want to keep those slim playoff hopes alive.
While we know our playoff teams in the East, this week could go a long way to determining the pecking order of the postseason. Friday’s Argos-Ticats clash at BMO Field feels like a showdown for first place and should have all the intensity of a playoff game.
With the playoff picture almost in place, the panel of power rankings voters is mostly in wait-and-see mode, leaving no room for change in the overall standings. There were some arguments in favour of a Ticats team that many think could be coming into form at just the right time, but the majority voted to keep them where they are, waiting to see what shakes out on Friday night.
1. Winnipeg Blue Bombers
Last week: 1
It was perhaps a tighter game than Bombers fans may have predicted against the Alouettes on Saturday, but once we got to the fourth quarter, the team that we know took over. The Bombers’ fourth quarter defence this season has been other-worldly in its ability to shut down opponents. The question we asked last week may grow louder over the Bombers’ final two games: How much of the team’s top players will we see, with the West Final already secured and the games left in the regular-season having less importance each week? The decision to rest players may be the only thing that stops Winnipeg in the next two weeks.
2. Saskatchewan Roughriders
Last week: 2
Up against an Edmonton team that was without some of its key offensive weapons and that has seen its season slip away, Riders fans may have expected a blowout win on Friday night. We’d like to argue here that maybe those tight, grind-it-out wins — even the ones against non-playoff teams — might be more valuable for a group that’s still light on playoff experience. Should the Western Semi-Final come down to late-game execution, the Riders will at least have plenty of experience to draw on. That’s not a bad thing.
3. Toronto Argonauts
Last week: 3
Similar to the Riders, the Argos came through another game that was much closer than their fans would have liked. Where things get different for the East-leading Argos this week, though, is the quality of opponent they’ll face next. While Saskatchewan has a rematch with Edmonton, the Argos will get a Ticats team that’s going to throw everything they have at them to try to wrangle away the possibility of hosting the Eastern Final on Dec. 5. The team that doesn’t bring its best to BMO Field on Friday will have a lot to lose.
4. Calgary Stampeders
Last week: 4
The Stamps come out of their bye week holding on to the fourth spot in the rankings. While we don’t generally move a team up or down in their bye week, it does occasionally happen. We can say that it was close this week, given that the Ticats have the better record and that they topped the Stamps in their lone encounter this season. It’s wait-and-see mode this week, but things could get shaken up next week, depending on how the Stamps fare after their trip to BC.
5. Hamilton Tiger-Cats
Last week: 5
It was something that was argued heavily on TSN’s panel this weekend, particularly by a good friend of CFL.ca, Davis Sanchez: The Ticats might be the best team (without the best record) in the East Division. Speculation is fun and makes for good debate in the leadup to the game, but the Ticats have the chance to show who they are this week against the Argos. This should be a good test for a veteran team that has Grey Cup aspirations. If they can be the first team this season to go into BMO Field and hand the Argos a loss, they’re in control of the Division, the playoff conversation and will see their spot in the rankings jump up.
6. Montreal Alouettes
Last week: 6
Trevor Harris‘s first start as an Alouette didn’t go the way he wanted, with Adam Bighill snagging a third-down pass attempt for a game-sealing interception. While he’s faced his share of criticism or questions this season, the one thing to keep in mind with this game and the back end of that home-and-home series with Winnipeg is that Harris is far from the only QB that has been a victim of the Bombers’ defence. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of adjustments Khari Jones looks to make for the rematch this week in Montreal.
7. BC Lions
Last week: 7
Another week, another oh-so-close loss for the Lions. Despite their record, the Lions have a shot — and not as crazy a shot as you might think — of making the playoffs. It starts with getting the wins that have slipped through their fingers, or shanked off of their feet in the last few weeks. Needing Winnipeg to beat Calgary next week doesn’t seem that far-fetched, given the season the Bombers have had. The pressure’s on the Lions to respond, first with a win over Calgary this week and then against Edmonton in Week 16.
8. Edmonton Elks
Last week: 8
The Elks got almost everything they could have wanted from their game on Friday against the Riders, other than a win at home for their fans. Taylor Cornelius‘ fourth-quarter performance might have been the best he’s looked all season and some new faces — like Walter Fletcher and Danny Vandervoort — showed what they could do with some opportunity. They’ll look to build on the positives as they head into Regina this week.
9. Ottawa REDBLACKS
Last week: 9
Similar to the Elks, the REDBLACKS gave their fans things to cheer about on Saturday, while allowing their front office a chance to evaluate talent. There’s no question about the trio of players that were signed last week, in kicker Lewis Ward, punter Richie Leone and return specialist DeVonte Dedmon. When a returner breaks any kind of Gizmo Williams record, you know you’ve got a special one on your roster. The REDBLACKS come out of their bye to wrap up their season on the road in Montreal in Week 16.
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