CALGARY -- The starting quarterback has changed.
The starting running back has changed.
Several starters on the defensive side of the ball have changed.
What hasn’t changed at McMahon Stadium are the expectations.
With just two outings left on a roller-coaster ride of a regular season, the Calgary Stampeders still have an opportunity — and a desire — to finish atop the standings in the CFL’s West Division.
Same goes for the Edmonton Eskimos (10-6) and the B.C. Lions (9-7), who each own the tiebreaker against the Stamps (9-7) and have an easier route to claim top spot.
But as John Hufnagel’s Stamps squad prepares for Sunday’s matinee against the two-time defending Grey Cup champion Alouettes in Montreal, they’re still in the mix to win the division.
“Obviously, we are going to pay attention to the other scores so we know what our chances are,” Hufnagel said. “To finish where we would like to finish, we need help.”
Quite a bit of help.
For starters, the Stamps need to add a couple of victories to their tally, starting with Sunday’s battle with the Alouettes (10-6) and concluding with the Nov. 5 regular-season finale against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (10-6) on Calgary’s home turf.
In addition to two wins, they need assistance. Some might even call it luck.
The Eskimos and the Lions are slated to meet this weekend at B.C. Place Stadium, although Saturday’s game could be shifted to Commonwealth Stadium if the staff at Vancouver’s refurbished dome take strike action.
If the Eskimos win, they’ll lock up first place in the West Division. If the Lions are victorious, the two teams are suddenly deadlocked atop the standings and the Stamps will have an opportunity to join them during Sunday’s date with the Alouettes.
If there’s a three-way tie heading into the final week of the season, the Stamps will need to beat the Bombers, plus root for the struggling Saskatchewan Roughriders to pull off an upset in Edmonton and for the Alouettes to steal two points from the Lions’ den in B.C.
If the Eskimos have already clinched top spot and the Stamps are successful in Montreal, a final-week win over the Blue Bombers will be good enough for second and the right to host the division semifinal against the Lions at McMahon Stadium.
If the Stamps are able to finish off with two more triumphs, the worst-case scenario is a Lions win over the Eskimos, followed by victories by both those two teams in the final week, which would leave the Red & White as the third-place finisher and road team for the entire playoff run.
The final two weeks should be a ton of fun for fans of three-down football, with a three-team pennant race in the West Division that could go right to the wire.
Don’t forget, the East Division title also remains up for grabs with two games to go — something we haven’t seen often in recent years.
Although claiming top spot is a longshot, the Stamps should benefit from testing their mettle in a couple of meaningful games, especially with Drew Tate still settling in as the starting quarterback.
If Tate can lead his team to wins over the Alouettes and the Blue Bombers, they’ll roll into the playoffs with all sorts of momentum, even if they’re still stuck as the third seed.
In the aftermath of Friday’s 25-13 victory over the Roughriders at McMahon Stadium, a reporter asked slotback Nik Lewis if it was a relief to earn two points after suffering back-to-back losses.
“It’s not a relief. It’s good to get it,” Lewis said. “But it’s not a relief. A relief would be winning against Montreal and then winning against Winnipeg. That’d be a relief.”
Getting some help would be a relief, too.