The playoffs have officially arrived! With Edmonton, Toronto and Montreal now having wrapped up their seasons, we’re down to just six teams remaining in the hunt for the 106th Grey Cup. Ottawa and Calgary have wrapped up their respective divisions, leaving Winnipeg and Saskatchewan to duke it out in the West, while BC, as the crossover team, heads east to take on Hamilton for the right to face the REDBLACKS in the East Final. This is without question the best time of year for CFL football, and I’m extremely excited for the games remaining this year.
In league news this week:
- One season after winning the Grey Cup, the Toronto Argonauts fired head coach Marc Trestman. Despite having a long history with GM Jim Popp from their time together with the Montreal Alouettes, Trestman was let go after the team posted a league-worst 4-14 record. This isn’t entirely on him – he did have injuries to starting QB Ricky Ray and ILB Bear Woods to contend with – but it was still ultimately the expectation that Trestman would find a way to weather the storm, and hopefully develop his quarterbacks in James Franklin and McLeod Bethel-Thompson. He didn’t do that, and as a result, is out of a job once more. Hard to say where he’ll end up from here – there may be another OC job waiting for him, but it probably won’t be in the NFL either after a mediocre stint with the Ravens in 2015 and 2016.
- Despite suffering a neck injury in Week 2 against the Calgary Stampeders, 39-year-old Argos QB Ricky Ray, a future CFL Hall of Famer, still isn’t ruling out returning next season. Even with the nasty-looking injury that kept him sidelined for virtually all of the 2018 season, Ray, even at his advanced age, could potentially help a team, but with his injuries late in his career to shoulders and neck, could make teams wary if he does hit free agency in the wintertime.
- With Zach Collaros injured on a late hit by Lions DE Odell Willis back in Week 20, the Saskatchewan Roughriders signed QB Drew Tate as insurance for the playoffs. Tate spent 2017 with Ottawa as their backup quarterback, and previously spent 2009 through 2016 with the Calgary Stampeders. He had previously retired this season, but was coaxed out by the prospect of a playoff run. Collaros’ status right now is uncertain, and while it seems likely that Brandon Bridge will probably start if Collaros isn’t good to go, a veteran like Tate is probably a useful addition to Saskatchewan’s roster as they gear up for the playoffs.
- Montreal announced they plan to lower capacity at Molson Stadium and to reduce ticket prices for the 2019 season, lowering capacity from 23,430 to 20,025. The average ticket price is also dropping from $84 CAD to $75; the team also announced that 9,000 seats, or about 45% of the stadium’s capacity, will be sold for $59, in the hopes that attendance will be stabilized. With the sports market in Montreal dominated by the Canadiens, and with the Montreal Impact MLS team stealing some attendance away from the Alouettes in recent years, this was a necessary move for the team to make, particularly in light of the fact that they haven’t been competitive on the field in quite some time.
Onto the games!
WEEK 21 RECAPS
Toronto 9 vs. Ottawa 24: Despite resting virtually every single offensive starter, the REDBLACKS cruised to their 11th win of the season over the lowly Argonauts, who close out 2018 with the worst record in the CFL – a real reversal of fortunes after last year’s Grey Cup win. Backup QB Dominique Davis played the first half and looked fantastic for Ottawa, going 16-23 for 220 yards and a touchdown, including several long bombs to WR Dominique Rhymes. The Argos failed to score a touchdown in this one, keeping rookie kicker Drew Brown to just three field goals on the night. Lots of switching up of QBs as well; Davis and James Franklin played the first half, while Danny Collins and McLeod Bethel-Thompson played the second for each of their respective teams. With the victory, Ottawa has their best season since 2015, when they finished 12-6, and with the loss, Toronto fails to win a single game on the road this season – an auspicious stat to a very disappointing season indeed.
Also: REDBLACKS OL Jon Gott gave us the greatest TD celebration in the history of football. And to boot, the league didn’t punish him for it, although they did update their touchdown celebration policy to prevent it from happening again. Ah well. God bless this majestic bearded man.
Time for a cold one.
— Ottawa REDBLACKS-y (@REDBLACKS) November 3, 2018
Winnipeg 24 vs. Edmonton 33: Despite the Eskimos finishing on the outside of the playoff picture, Edmonton finished their season strong, with Winnipeg electing to rest most of their starters. Chris Streveler got the start at quarterback in lieu of Matt Nichols, and RB Andrew Harris played only three snaps – enough for him to secure his second consecutive CFL rushing title – giving way to backup Kienan LaFrance to handle most of the rushing duties. Edmonton, however, kept their starters in for the full game, and came away with a strong offensive performance. Mike Reilly closed out the game with 320 yards, a TD and a pick on 29-35 attempts, and CJ Gable became just the third running back this season to crack the 1000-yards rushing mark. Gable closed out 2018 on a high note, with 18 carries for 112 yards and two scores, taking it to the Winnipeg defence all game long. Despite playing with predominantly backups on offence, Winnipeg still pushed hard to tie the game late in the fourth quarter, but after going for it on third down, Streveler’s pass fell incomplete and Edmonton took over, eventually kicking a field goal that sealed the deal for the Eskimos.
Montreal 30 vs. Hamilton 28: With the Ti-Cats having already clinched a playoff berth, Jeremiah Masoli was benched for the regular season finale. Montreal, however, elected to play their full roster, and the QB carousel continued; Johnny Manziel looked strong in one quarter of play, throwing a deep touchdown to Eugene Lewis, while Antonio Pipkin also had an excellent game, throwing for over 200 yards and a TD while rushing for two others on the ground. Dane Evans got the start at quarterback for the Tabbies, and while he threw for over 300 yards and two TDs, he also turned the ball over twice, halting momentum and keeping Hamilton from overcoming the Alouettes late in the game. Even with getting the ball back with little time left on the clock, Lirim Hajrullahu unfortunately booted the potential game-winning kick wide left, sealing the loss and dropping Hamilton to 8-10 on the season. Montreal finishes on a high note, but a ton of questions remain about the roster for next season, particularly at quarterback once again.
Calgary 26 vs. BC 9: In Wally Buono’s final home game on the sidelines, the Stamps spoiled the party, thoroughly dominating the Lions on both sides of the ball. After a few sub-par performances, everyone stepped up, but notable was the efficiency of the Calgary offence, led by Bo Levi Mitchell, who went 20-32 for 278 yards and a TD in a very tidy effort. RB Don Jackson also had an excellent, rushing 11 times for 91 yards and a score. BC had a difficult outing, as Travis Lulay didn’t throw a touchdown, but did throw two interceptions in the first half before being benched for the second in favour of Jonathon Jennings, with the game basically out of hand. A bittersweet regular season finale for Coach Buono, yes, but the Lions have a playoff game to worry about now – that’s where their real priorities are lying right now.
BYE: Saskatchewan (12-6)
DIVISION SEMIFINAL PREVIEWS
EAST DIVISION SEMIFINAL
(Crossover) BC (9-9) vs. (2) Hamilton (8-10), Sunday, November 11th, 1:00 PM EST: A curious matchup indeed. Were this happening a month ago, I would’ve absolutely picked the Ti-Cats. But with injuries absolutely devastating their receiving corps this season – particularly to impact player Brandon Banks – the team hasn’t looked much like themselves as of late, and they’ve dropped three in a row. BC has a good run defence, but Hamilton doesn’t really run the ball all that much, going instead with a lot of read-option calls at the line due to Jeremiah Masoli’s ability to scramble. The Lions, meanwhile, also haven’t looked great the last couple weeks, despite being on a tear to insert themselves in the playoff picture over the back half of September and the first half of October. Neither of these teams is likely to make the Grey Cup – but one of them has to win. And for me, I’m feeling better about the one that has an overall healthier roster.
WEST DIVISION SEMIFINAL
(3) Winnipeg (10-8) vs. (2) Saskatchewan (12-6), Sunday, November 11th, 4:30 PM EST: Before the regular-season finale where they sat most of their starters, Winnipeg was the hottest team in the CFL, winning five straight games to put them over .500 and vault back into third place out of the West Division basement. They also smoked the Roughriders 31-0 a few weeks back – a thorough shaming both offensively and defensively. Saskatchewan, despite their record, still lacks the explosive offence that Winnipeg has, and with QB Zach Collaros’ status uncertain, that has a major impact on the attack. For a QB with a history of concussions, it’s hard to say whether or not he’ll be in right now, and relying on Brandon Bridge and/or Drew Tate/David Watford seems a tall order if you’re looking to trade punches with the Blue Bombers. I don’t expect another one-sided blowout again, but despite being the home team and higher seed, I really think Saskatchewan will struggle against Winnipeg once again.
BYE: (1) Ottawa (11-7), (1) Calgary (13-5)
REGULAR SEASON FINAL 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 – 5562
- Masoli, HAM – 5209
- Mitchell, CGY – 5124
- Mitchell, CGY – 35
- Reilly, EDM – 30
- Masoli, HAM – 28
- Harris, WPG – 1390
- Powell, OTT – 1362
- Gable, EDM – 1063
- Williams, EDM – 1579
- Banks, HAM – 1423
- Sinopoli, OTT – 1376
- Hughes, SSK – 15
- Johnson, CGY – 14
- Willis, BC – 11
- Orange, BC – 5
- Murray, OTT – 5
- Rose, OTT – 5
- Lauther, SSK – 54
- Ward, OTT – 51
- Hajrullahu, HAM – 46
PICK POOL FINAL STANDINGS
Congratulations to Beerguyrob, who pulled out the victory despite a furious push from some others in the end! Rob goes wire-to-wire as the pool leader this season – a very impressive showing indeed. Your reward is to watch the Lions lose once again in the playoffs. Congrats as well to SonOfSpam, our second-place winner, and Litre_cola and Game Time Decision, who tied for third. Great season, folks!
|Rank||Total Points||Weekly Score||Win Percentage|
|Game Time Decision||55||3-1||67.90%|
Enjoy the games, everyone.