|Calgary Stampeders quarterback Henry Burris, right, tosses the ball to running back Jon Cornish while playing against the Saskatchewan Roughriders during the second half of their CFL football game in Regina, Saskatchewan August 12, 2011. (REUTERS/David Stobbe)
CALGARY - It's theirs for the taking.
Their closest rivals will enjoy a bye this week but as the Calgary Stampeders return to work after their mid-season vacation, they're undoubtedly in the driver's seat in the CFL's West Division.
Heading into Saturday's matinee against the Montreal Alouettes at McMahon Stadium, the Stamps have won three in a row, remain undefeated on the road and sit atop the division standings with a 5-2 record.
It's too soon to start printing playoff tickets, but with 11 dates remaining on their regular-season slate, the Stamps are in prime position to take top spot and the first-round bye that comes with it.
The rest of the contenders aren't exactly on a roll right row.
After starting the season with five straight victories, the Edmonton Eskimos (5-3) have been ransacked by injuries and lost three in a row before their bye week.
The B.C. Lions (2-6) steamrolled over the Eskimos this week, but they certainly haven't lived up their pre-season expectations. Their second win of the season might have silenced some of the questions about Wally Buono's job security, but they're far from favourites to advance to a Grey Cup game that's been contested in their refurbished stadium in late November.
And the Saskatchewan Roughriders (1-7) finally made some changes after Thursday's loss to the Toronto Argonauts. Head coach Greg Marshall and offensive co-ordinator Doug Berry paid the price for a disastrous start, both losing their jobs after suffering a fourth consecutive defeat, a skid that also included a couple of setbacks against the Stamps.
The Eskimos, Lions and Roughriders are all on a bye this week, giving John Hufnagel's squad a golden opportunity to pad their lead atop the division after their week off.
That starts with Saturday's marquee matchup against Anthony Calvillo and the Alouettes, a game that's being billed as a possible Grey Cup preview.
Then it's the Labour Day Classic and Labour Day Replay against the Eskimos, a team that simply hasn't looked the same since receiver Fred Stamps was sidelined by emergency abdominal surgery.
For the rest of the West Division, the scary part is that the Stampeders still haven't played their finest football.
Quarterback Henry Burris and the rest of the offence clicked in the first half of a convincing triumph over the Riders a week-and-a-half ago, scoring five times on six possessions and racking up 31 points before the break. If that chemistry carries over, they'll be the CFL's most dangerous unit.
The defence surrendered five touchdowns on their latest trip to Saskatchewan but should be bolstered by the return of all-star middle linebacker Juwan Simpson, who has been sidelined with a sore knee. Their second-half shutout of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats showed how stingy they can be.
And special-teams struggles -- specifically, three missed field goals -- cost the Stamps a victory in their season-opener against the Argos, but injury replacement Rene Parades has been reliable in his half-dozen outings with the Red & White.
The Stamps will return to the turf at McMahon Stadium on Monday morning as the top team in the West Division.
The key now is staying there.