Stamps too good too soon?

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:09 AM ET

Calgary Stampeders fans peeking at the CFL standings might be worried their football heroes are peaking a little too early.

Winners of six of their last seven games, the Stamps have clinched a playoff spot but don't kick off the post-season for at least another six weeks.

Excellent play the last two months and dominant performances in wins over Winnipeg and Toronto the last two weeks makes them the hottest team in Canada.

Trouble is, that leaves lots of time for cooling off, a popular theory in some corners but one that's being shot down in the Stamps locker-room.

"We've got a goal to win the Grey Cup and we have to keep that focus all the time," warned offensive lineman Jay McNeil, a 13-year vet who owns two championship rings. "If we keep working towards that, there's no reason why we can't keep on getting better week after week.

"We're nowhere near our perfect game yet, right? We're winning but not playing perfect games. We can get better every week, so if we keep the Grey Cup in our sights, it's all we need to think about.

"We've got the right attitude in here where we have lost a few by coming out flat or started believing the hype. We can't buy into that because if we don't play our best, we can get beat."

Just as they did in the Labour Day rematch in Edmonton.

Just when most CFL observers thought the Stamps looked unbeatable, the team trotted out its worst effort of the season against the sputtering Eskimos.

Fuelling the theory about peaking prior to playoff time is the recent demise of two clubs, this season and last, that played their best football before the first frost.

In 2005, the B.C. Lions won their first 11 games, clinched top spot in the West and home field advantage, then lost the division final.

This season the Montreal Alouettes were the CFL's best team the first two months, at least according to their record, yet have now dropped six in a row.

"You can't peak too early, although you can get away with some victories early in the season when you're not playing well," suggested Stamps receiver Jeremaine Copeland, a former Alouette. "You could put Montreal in that category, to win seven games then end up on a major losing streak.

"But, early on, they got away with some wins that they could have easily lost.

"I don't think we've peaked too early but you really have to be playing your best football coming into these last few games. We're still on the way to our best game, starting to rise up to the top to be the most feared team in the league at the end of the season."

The Stamps of the 1990s became notorious for blasting out of the gate to clinch first place before faltering in the playoffs.

Even last season, the Stampeders won seven of their last eight games, catapulting the former sad-sack squad into Grey Cup contender status, yet still faltered in the West semifinal.

While top spot in the West is still very possible for the 9-5 Stamps, who are tied for first with B.C., quarterback Henry Burris argues the team needs to focus on its own play and not necessarily results.

"We go out to play our best every week, every game," said Burris, who piloted the Stamps to a 39-18 win over Toronto last week.

"We had some games early on this year where we didn't do that well, even though we're trying to win every game.

"We feel we've played some good games but we still feel that each and every week we can get better."


Videos

Photos