'Tis the time to be stoked

ERIC FRANCIS, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:26 AM ET

A quick peak at the matchups for the final week of the regular-season schedule and it's evident CFL fans couldn't have asked for a better finish.

Fact is, neither could the Calgary Stampeders.

While three of the four games this weekend have significant ramifications on the playoff seeding, the Stampeders have been blessed to be in meaningful matchups for an entire month now.

And while some would've preferred the Stamps had sealed their division weeks earlier, the reality is having nothing to play for the final week or two (or month for the Montreal Alouettes) so often comes back to haunt teams.

The Stampeders' last three games have come against their division rivals, one of which they're guaranteed to face in the playoffs.

That bodes well for the defending champs, who won two of the three and tied the other in what was undoubtedly the CFL's game of the year.

There can be no bigger carrot for the Stamps to steal a win in Saskatchewan tomorrow, as it would mean the road to another Grey Cup starts and ends at McMahon Stadium, where the West final and championship game would be played.

The division-clinching win would also give the Stamps their third-straight victory and huge momentum heading into a game in which any possible opponent would enter as considerable underdogs.

Perhaps the most encouraging development for the Stamps, who won last year's title on the strength of six straight wins to end the year, is the way they've played the last three weeks.

In the 44-44 tie against the Saskatchewan Roughriders and the 28-26 win at B.C. Place last weekend, the Stamps pieced together impressive scoring drives to end both outings.

When they needed a last-second score to beat the Lions, Henry Burris directed his troops brilliantly to make sure they got it.

They managed to do it twice against the Riders in overtime when touchdowns were needed to salvage the point.

The Stamps know that with Burris steering a ship buoyed largely by the brilliant consistency of team MVP Joffrey Reynolds, they can count on their offence when the chips are down. There was no need for late heroics in the 30-7 win over the Edmonton Eskimos two weeks ago, as everything came together all night long.

And so, the stage is set for a dramatic finish that has Calgary's first-place showdown highlighting a weekend that has B.C. and Edmonton battling for third place tonight while the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers seal their fates Sunday.

"It is a tremendous way to end the regular season," said Stampeders head coach John Hufnagel of the matchups that should have all CFL fans and officials stoked. "It seems like we've been playing playoff football the last month."

And there's no better way to prepare for the most meaningful games than with, well, meaningful games.

"You want to be able to perform under the pressure of big games and we've had our fair share of them," said Hufnagel of his 10-6-1 squad.

"This past month our schedule has been full of big game situations and we've responded quite well so far."

As defending champions and hosts of the Grey Cup, expectations all season long in Calgary have revolved around returning to the big game.

And while tomorrow's game against the Roughriders will go a long way towards determining such a fate, the stars have certainly aligned brilliantly over the three weeks leading up to this.

ERIC.FRANCIS@SUNMEDIA.CA


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