Grey Matters

IAN BUSBY, CALGARY SUN

, Last Updated: 7:54 AM ET

Winning the Grey Cup is a war of attrition, but it's also one of momentum.

Following a gruelling 18-game regular-season schedule, it takes another two or three games of courage and grit backed by confidence to complete the journey.

And if momentum is worth anything, expect the two divisional final hosts to cruise through and meet in Montreal.

Get set for a Montreal Alouettes and Calgary Stampeders showdown.

Maybe.

The problem for the hosts is each opponent in the finals will have won a playoff game already.

Last year, the B.C. Lions and Toronto Argonauts were scorching hot heading into the playoffs, having each won eight straight.

This season, the Stamps and Lions were the CFL's hottest teams in the final six weeks with 5-1 records, but the road to the Grey Cup goes through McMahon Stadium. The Lions must beat the defending champion Saskatchewan Roughriders in the West semifinal.

On the other side of the ledger, the Montreal Alouettes and Winnipeg Blue Bombers both went 4-2 in the final six outings leading into the final week of action.

Once again, the Als hold the home-field advantage, while the Bombers must get through the Edmonton Eskimos in the East semifinal first.

Heading into the final week of the 2008 regular-season, both the Lions and Stamps had won seven of their past eight games and were firing on all cylinders.

Both teams were averaging about 35 points per game, however, the Stamps were stronger on defence, allowing just 95 points in six outings, including a stretch of 10 quarters at home where they didn't allow a touchdown.

And the Stamps took first place by virtue of two wins over the Lions this season.

Of course, the Lions need to get through the Roughriders first, and that was something they couldn't do a year ago, as Gang Green steamrolled through them to their first title since 1989.

The Riders may have inconsistency at quarterback -- projected starter Michael Bishop has a playoff-bound-worst 81.9 passer rating down the stretch -- but they get it done with a tenacious defence and special teams.

Saskatchewan does boast the second-hottest receiver down the stretch in rookie-of-the-year candidate Weston Dressler.

In his final six games before this week started, Dressler has 576 yards on 29 receptions.

The only receiver better over the final portion of the season is former Riders slotback Jamel Richardson, who is now the leading target for the Alouettes.

Richardson took over the league touchdown lead by scoring 10 receiving majors and 608 yards on 50 receptions in six starts down the stretch.

Even with the bye week from finishing first, the Alouettes have chosen to rest six starters in the final week.

With nothing to really play for in the final stretch, the Als still went 4-2, but they did lose to the Bombers 24-23 in Montreal Oct. 26. That gave the Bombers some life, as they lost two previous games to the division winners by a combined score of 77-35.

The East semifinal is a misnomer, with two prairie teams, Winnipeg and Edmonton, going head to head. The Eskimos were the coldest team down the stretch, going 2-4 and taking a 55-9 butt-whupping in Regina Oct. 25.

The Bombers have a one-two punch at running back with Joe Smith and Fred Reid, who averaged 6.2 and 6.4-yards per carry in the drive to the playoffs.

Thunder and Lightning will face the worst rush defence among the six playoff teams.

Down the stretch, star Eskimos quarterback Ricky Ray was still putting up numbers with a 105.1 passer rating despite fumbling seven times in six games.

The two-time Grey Cup winner is still capable of getting hot and carrying his team to a title, even if that means going on the road three straight weeks, which the Eskimos did in 2005 en route to a Grey Cup victory.

That year, the Eskimos were struggling under Ray until the playoffs when the momentum swung into their favour thanks to backup QB Jason Maas.


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