October 12, 2011
CFL Blitz: Tight finish on tap
By IAN BUSBY, QMI Agency
CALGARY - With a month remaining, the CFL could be heading towards a historically tight finish.
Over the past few seasons, the West Division title has come down to the final weeks of the regular season. In the East Ö the Montreal Alouettes are usually home and cooled heading into late October.
Now both titles are up for grabs with no one holding a huge upperhand at this point. In the past 50 years, there hasnít been a season in which both divisions had just one win separating first from third.
It could happen this year.
After a weekend where five teams clinched playoff berths, the playoff matchups are still well in doubt, which is great for the CFL. Here are the stretch runs for the six contenders:
Montreal Alouettes (9-5)
Sked: Vs Ham, At Win, Vs Cal, At BC
Now that Anthony Calvillo has taken over the lead for passing yardage in all of pro football, the Als can focus on securing their fourth straight East Division title. The next two weeks are crucial.
If the Als lose to the Ticats and Bombers, they will drop the tiebreaker with both of those rivals. The most important one will be the meeting with Winnipeg, as both road teams have recorded wins already in their series.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers (9-5)
Sked: At Edm, Vs. Mtl, Vs. Tor, At Cal
If it comes down to the final week, the Bombers might be in trouble. They havenít won in Calgary since 2002, and the Stamps will be fighting for positioning as well.
Simply put, if the Bombers hope to get a first-round bye in the playoffs, which will be helpful to their beat-up quarterback Buck Pierce, they need to beat the Als next week. One win is all it takes to clinch at least second to host a playoff game.
Hamilton Tiger-Cats (7-7)
Sked: At Mtl, Vs BC, At Ssk, At Tor
The Ticats are holding out for a little help, but unless they beat the Alouettes this weekend, they can forget about hosting a playoff game. This is the most inconsistent team in the CFL, or at least the most unpredictable.
Just when it looks as if Kevin Glenn is getting hot, he comes out and goes ice cold. In the past three losses, Glenn has a passer rating 59.2, but in two wins over a five game span, he is throwing at an 107.2 efficiency.
The Ticats go as their starting pivot goes, so their fate is in Glennís hands. The Cats havenít clinched a playoff berth yet, but they just need one win or one Saskatchewan Roughriders loss to eliminate the possibility of a crossover.
B.C. Lions (8-6)
Sked: At Ssk, At Ham, Vs Edm, Vs Mtl
There is no hotter team in the CFL right now as the Lions have won seven straight. In the past, when the Lions have put together massive win streaks, they didnít have playoff success that same season.
In 2005, they started with an 11-game run, and in 2007 they won their final eight contests. At this point, the Lions hold the season series with both the Stampeders and Eskimos, so the division is theirs to lose. The Lions havenít hosted the West final since 2007 when they lost to the Roughriders.
Edmonton Eskimos (8-6)
Sked: Vs Win, At Tor, At BC, Vs Ssk
After a 5-0 start, the Eskimos have certainly stumbled through the tough part of the CFL season. Before beating the Roughriders Monday, the Eskimos had lost six of eight outings and dropped three straight at home.
Considering all they went through with injuries to key receivers such as Fred Stamps and Jason Barnes, the Eskimos hold the upperhand by taking the season series with the Stampeders. Like the Stamps, the Eskimos have a couple of theoretically easy outings remaining.
Calgary Stampeders (8-6)
Sked: At Tor, Vs Ssk, At Mtl, Vs Win
Losing three of their last four has put them in a tougher spot to host a playoff game. The Stamps donít lost the tiebreaker with the two teams they will race with down the stretch, plus they donít get the benefit of playing the Eskimos or Lions again.
That being said, they should be able to get everything straightened out playing non-contenders the next two weeks. One thing that is surprising is that quarterback Henry Burris hasnít thrown for more than 200 yards in the past four games.
Clearly the Stamps need to push the ball downfield through the air if they want to head into the playoffs on a roll.
On Twitter @ianbusby57