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Playoff football is here at last! Thanks to the final games of the regular season, we now know that Toronto has clinched the East Division, while Saskatchewan will travel to face the REDBLACKS in the playoffs as the crossover team this season. Just a reminder: due to the CFL playoff format, if the fourth-place team in one division has a better record than the third-place team in the other division, they will cross over and bump that team out of the last playoff spot. Last year, Edmonton was the crossover team, moving to the East Division playoffs, where they beat Hamilton before losing to Ottawa in the East Final. What’s curious about this year (as well as last, for that matter) is that not only does Saskatchewan have a better record than third-place Hamilton (finishing at 10-8 compared to the Ti-Cats’ 6-12 mark), but they’re also superior to 8-9-1 Ottawa and 9-9 Toronto. The lack of parity between divisions in recent seasons has led to some fans arguing for a change to the playoff format once again; they believe that the divisional format should be done away with entirely, and the top six teams should qualify and face each other in the playoffs, regardless of geography. This is indeed an intriguing concept, especially in such a small league that is so dependent on geographical rivalries to support itself – the notion of a Hamilton vs. Toronto or Edmonton vs. Calgary Grey Cup game could end up being very neat indeed. However, I still don’t expect we’ll see much movement on this idea anytime soon – I think the divisional imbalance will eventually correct itself once again.
Onto the games!
WEEK 20 RECAPS
Montreal 0 vs. Hamilton 33: The 2017 season has wrapped up for everyone, but no teams are probably more relieved for the year to be done than the Als and Ti-Cats. At least Hamilton has some bright spots moving ahead after a horrendous start to the season – under new head coach June Jones, the team went 6-4 after Labour Day and re-discovered the offensive flair that was missing under the last days of Kent Austin’s tenure at the controls. In this contest, WR Brandon Banks went over 1000 yards receiving on the year, joining teammates Luke Tasker and Jalen Saunders in achieving the milestone. The Als’ rookie quarterback Matt Shiltz got his first-ever CFL start, and, unfortunately, it’ll be a game he’ll want to forget for sure – he threw three picks on just 16 pass attempts, including two to rookie Hamilton DB Richie Leonard, and only made 7 completions in the whole game – racking up just 96 pass yards in all. Jeremiah Masoli had another strong game for Hamilton, throwing for 318 yards and a touchdown while rushing for 88 and a major on the ground as well. Expect both Masoli and June Jones to be back in the Hammer next year as the Tiger-Cats hope to rebound from a sub-par 2017.
Winnipeg 23 vs. Calgary 5: It’s official – Winnipeg has clinched 2nd place in the West and will host their first playoff game in Manitoba since 2011. And in a battle of backup quarterbacks, Dan LeFevour ended up besting Andrew Buckley, as the Stampeders rested Bo Levi Mitchell for their game in two weeks’ time; Winnipeg waits for Matt Nichols to recover as well. Winnipeg also had an excellent defensive effort that was the real difference-maker in this one; while the offence racked up three field goals, the D had two touchdowns in the first half – the first one on a Brandon Alexander interception of Buckley, his first-ever CFL score – and the second on a Tristan Okpalaugo fumble recovery caused by a Buckley sack from Ian Wild. Both teams also had their top running backs go over 1000 yards rushing on the season – Jerome Messam and Andrew Harris both cracked the mark, while Harris also set a new CFL record for running backs by recording his 103rd reception of the season. Harris finishes the 2017 with 1892 total yards from scrimmage – 1035 rush yards on 189 carries, plus 857 receiving yards on 105 receptions, plus six rushing touchdowns and one receiving touchdown. An extremely, extremely impressive year from the Winnipeg-born Blue Bomber!
Edmonton 28 vs. Saskatchewan 13: The stakes were high for this game; winner gets to stay in the West for the playoffs, while the loser takes the crossover spot and heads East. And for the Eskimos, it was a well-earned victory; Mike Reilly set a new franchise record for passing yards this season, surpassing marks previously set by Warren Moon and Ricky Ray. Edmonton had an early lead, but Saskatchewan managed to battle back in the second half, courtesy of two touchdowns from Marcus Thigpen that cut the lead to 14-13 Edmonton, but the Eskimos managed to pull away in the fourth quarter; the Riders’ final drive of the game saw them turn over the ball on downs thanks to a strong defensive stand. With the victory, Edmonton seals third place in the West and will head to Winnipeg to do battle with the Blue Bombers, while the Roughriders clinch fourth place and the crossover playoff spot, and will head East to face second-place Ottawa at TD Place.
Toronto 40 vs. BC 13: The Lions got absolutely dominated in this one; down 10 points just 10 minutes in, BC never looked remotely threatening to beat the Argos in this one. The lone bright spot was that LB Solomon Elimimian broke his own single-season record for solo tackles, setting a new Lions franchise record with 144 tackles in 18 games played. Toronto enters the playoffs securing a division title, a first-round bye, and a well-oiled offence; the Argonauts surprised so many people this season, myself included, and this first season under Marc Trestman’s leadership has absolutely been an overachievement. Ricky Ray had another stellar game in this one, going 26-34 for 341 yards and 3 touchdowns, while James Wilder Jr. had 227 all-purpose yards and a rushing major. As good as the Argos were, the Lions were equally ass; Jonathon Jennings threw for just 145 yards, and had three picks on the night, ending his season with 19 interceptions a career high, to just 16 touchdowns, a career low when adjusted for games played. BC has a ton of questions moving forward as Wally Buono’s contract expires and interest continues to wane in a mediocre team in Vancouver; as well, what will become of the QB situation?
BYE: Ottawa (8-9-1)
DIVISION SEMIFINAL PREVIEWS
East Division Semifinal
(Crossover) Saskatchewan vs. (2) Ottawa, Sunday, November 12th, 1:00 PM EST: I’m both excited and nervous for these teams to meet in the playoffs, because both of the games they played this year were ridiculous. Ottawa blew a 17-point fourth-quarter lead at home back in Week 15, while Saskatchewan gave up the victory on the final play of the game in a 33-32 Ottawa road win back in Week 17. What I’m curious about right now is seeing what the Roughriders’ quarterback situation will look like; Chris Jones has been running a two-QB system for a while right now, with both Kevin Glenn and Brandon Bridge taking snaps in each game over the last few weeks. I don’t know if this is necessarily a good thing to do in a playoff situation; and, if this is the case, who’s the guy you go to? The veteran with plenty of experience, including in the pressure cooker of the playoffs, or the young up-and-comer with lots of promise who’s been a big part of the Roughriders’ resurgence this season? Meanwhile, Ottawa’s lost a key piece of their offence with Brad Sinopoli being ruled out for the season with a shoulder injury a couple weeks back; with Greg Ellingson and Diontae Spencer continuing to have such a strong year, it’s up to other players such as Juron Criner and Dominique Rhymes to step up; the REDBLACKS are also hoping to have the offensive line healthy in time for this week – the addition of SirVincent Rogers and Jon Gott back into the lineup would be a huge, huge plus for Ottawa. Still, with the way both matchups have gone so far this season, I expect another extremely close and highly entertaining game for this one.
West Division Semifinal
(3) Edmonton vs. (2) Winnipeg, Sunday, November 12th, 4:30 PM EST: The Blue Bombers have two victories over the Eskimos so far this season; a 33-26 win at home back in Week 9, and a 28-19 road win in Week 15. In both of these, the Bombers’ offence was on full display, particularly in their home game, which was a back-and-forth quarterback battle. I think the biggest question everyone has, going into this one, is about Matt Nichols; he missed last week’s game against Calgary after getting hit hard back in Week 19 facing the Lions, and left early on in that matchup. The injury in question was to his left leg, and mobility could end up being a big issue for him; he’s believed to also be dealing with some linger issues with his right throwing hand, which he injured early in October after jamming it against a defender’s helmet. If Nichols is healthy, the Bombers should be ready to go; otherwise, it’s going to be tough go for them. Winnipeg was fortune to get a strong defensive effort to help them thoroughly dominate Calgary last week, but that was also against a number of non-starters; that kind of play has been the exception rather than the norm this year, as the Blue Bombers continue to give up a lot of yardage, especially through the air. Against a top offence with tons of weapons, not to mention arguably the league’s best passer in Mike Reilly, this is going to be a difficult test.
STANDINGS AND STATS
East Division Standings
|Team||Games||Wins||Losses||Ties||Points For||Points Against|
West Division Standings
|Team||Games||Wins||Losses||Ties||Points For||Points Against|
x- clinched playoff berth
y- clinched division
c- clinched crossover playoff berth
e- eliminated from playoff contention
- Reilly, EDM – 5830
- Ray, TOR – 5546
- Mitchell, CGY – 4700
- Reilly, EDM – 30
- Harris, OTT – 30
- Ray, TOR – 28
- Harris, WPG – 1035
- Powell, OTT – 1026
- Messam, CGY – 1016
- Zylstra, EDM – 1687
- Green, TOR – 1462
- Ellingson, OTT – 1459
- Hughes, CGY – 11
- Butler, TOR – 10
- Bowman, MTL – 9
- Gainey, SSK – 10
- Leonard, HAM – 7
- Heath, WPG – 5
- Medlock, WPG – 56
- Paredes, CGY – 53
- Hajrullahu, TOR – 47
Congratulations to Spanky Datass, the winner of the 2017 CFL Pick Pool! After leading almost wire-to-wire throughout this year, he managed to hold off a late charge from Litre_Cola, who managed to rocket up the standings over the stretch drive of the year. It’s been a pleasure playing with you this season – looking forward to next year already!
|Rank||Total Points||Weekly Score||Win Percentage|
|Game Time Decision||51||1-3||62.96%|
|Joliet Jake Delhomme||28||0-4||34.57%|