Heading into the final weeks of the CFL regular season, it is almost clear who the teams making the playoffs will be. In the East Division, the Ottawa Redblacks and Hamilton Tiger-Cats have earned their spot. The Toronto Argonauts and Montreal Alouettes are out meaning one of the West Division teams will be crossing over.
Who will have that honor remains to be seen heading into Week 20.
The Calgary Stampeders and Saskatchewan Roughriders are still battling it out for the top spot in the division. But Calgary can lock it down this week with a win over Winnipeg. It’s the other three spots where there is some uncertainty.
A four-game winning streak has put the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the driver’s seat for the only unclaimed spot. With a win or a tie, they claim the final spot and eliminate the Edmonton Eskimos. Should they win and the BC Lions lose, the lock up the No. 3 spot in the Division making the Lions the crossover team.
That’s the playoff picture in a nut shell. But thanks to how the games have played out in recent weeks, the bigger question is who is going to win it all.
According to Betway, Calgary is the clear favorite at +137 followed by Saskatchewan at +400, Hamilton at +500, and Ottawa at +650.
Calgary’s odds are not surprising when you consider how well they have played over the course of the season. Pivot Bo Levi Mitchell leads the CFL with 33 touchdowns heading into Week 20, rank second in points scored per game (29.7), and the team seldom gives up a sack (first in the league with 25).
On the defensive end, they lead the league in fewest yards allowed (first against the run; second against the pass). They have also held opponents to just 20.3 points a game.
So, they move the ball well and don’t let anyone else move the ball much. They sound like a shoo-in to make the Grey Cup. But as sports fans everywhere know, it doesn’t always matter much how well you played throughout the regular season. It matters most how well you play when the regular season is winding down.
Calgary has not played well in weeks.
They will take a two-game losing streak into their Week 20 game against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, a team riding a four-game winning streak. While they did beat the Alouettes back in Week 17, the score was just 12-6 against one of the worst teams in the league.
With how Winnipeg is playing right now, it wouldn’t be shocking if the losing streak grows. So, what’s the problem?
The once-tough defense allowed a mediocre pivot, Saskatchewan’s Zach Collaros, to throw for 352 yards last week. Bo Levi Mitchell hasn’t played well the last three weeks. he has barely thrown for 200 yards a game the last three weeks and has only four touchdowns to five interceptions.
Of course, the problem could just be complacency. After dominating like they have for much of the season, they’ve grown lax in recent weeks since they were not feeling the urgency to win like the rest of the league. If that is the case, the coaching staff will need to figure out how to break them out of that funk if they don’t want to make an early exit.
But should they get upset early, which of the remaining teams is playing like a potential champion?
The Roughriders looked good in their Week 19 win over Calgary (29-24). But they were shutout in Week 18 by Winnipeg. Can their offense be trusted to perform?
Hamilton is led by one of the most productive pivots in the league, Jeremiah Masoli (second in passing yards (4966 yards); third in passing touchdowns (28)). Statistically, they have one of he better defenses in the league. But their record heading into Week 20 is just 8-8.
Why does a team with such a good pivot and defense have a .500 record?
Ottawa has one of the better pivots in the league as well in Trevor Harris. But their defense is a middle of the road kind of unit and their offense is inconsistent.
Of the playoff bound teams, the one going in the hottest is the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. A little more than a month ago they were on a four-game losing streak. But they are taking a four-game winning streak into Week 20.
However, they haven’t just been winning. They have scored at least 30 points in each game and have held opponents to 14, 3, 32, and 0 points. If they can remain that hot and offense and defense for the next two weeks, they will be the team no one wants to play when the playoffs start.