Horsepower vs. greypower

IAN BUSBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:46 AM ET

Two-thirds of the season is complete, and the playoff races are wide open, but the battle for most outstanding player is basically down to two.

Barring injury, the division nominees will be Montreal Alouettes quarterback Anthony Calvillo and his counterpart with the Calgary Stampeders, Henry Burris.

The two pivots have their teams in first place with 8-4 records, and they are the only ones with passer ratings above the 100-mark.

After missing the final part of 2007 because of his wife's illness, Calvillo is having a career resurgence at age 36. He leads the CFL with 3,971 passing yards and 28 touchdowns while throwing only eight interceptions. He solidified his standing Sunday after whipping Ricky Ray's Edmonton Eskimos to raise his passer rating to 106.7.

In Burris' second year under offensive co-ordinator George Cortez, the 33-year-old is enjoying his most consistent CFL season. The Stamps have won four of their past five games, with the only defeat being the Labour Day game in which Burris left in the second quarter with a toe injury. He is on pace for career highs in yardage and touchdowns and is completing 65% of his passes. He has never topped 61% for a full season before.

The Alouettes are a win or two away from clinching first place in the East, and no one else in the division is even close to Calvillo in terms of consistency or performance.

The West is much trickier to predict. The Stamps and the Saskatchewan Roughriders are in first place, but one loss could drop them both back to fourth if the other two clubs win this week.

Ray, Roughriders running back Wes Cates and B.C. Lions receiver Geroy Simon would be the other contenders for Most Outstanding Player in the West.

There is a case to be made for Lions defensive end Cam Wake, but this award is typically for the top offensive player. So that's an argument for another day.

If you are confused as to why the Hamilton Tiger-Cats signed Kenton Keith, you aren't the only one. The Ticats are still the top rushing team in the CFL with 7.1 yards per carry. Keith, the former Riders tailback, is an upgrade on Terry Caulley but not enough of one to be the top-paid backs in the league. This move likely signals the end of Jesse Lumsden in Hamilton, as the Canadian is a free agent at the end of this season. He will likely be in Edmonton next year ... Cates hit the 1,000-yard mark last week but then was injured against the Lions. The Riders haven't had a CFL leading rusher since Robert Mimbs in 1996, and Cates will be in tough if he misses more than two weeks with his leg injury ... The last time the Stamps held a team to four points was 2001, a Grey Cup year. Although they beat the Toronto Argonauts 34-4 Saturday, they will be motivated for the rematch at Rogers Centre because they haven't won there since 2000.

ENDZONE TOSS

That QB Buck Pierce is one tough customer. The Lions pivot took a major wallop from Riders LB Maurice Lloyd and still managed to walk off the field. Pierce has averaged 326 passing yards in the past four starts and would be among league elite if he could stay healthy ... Kudos to TSN for making sure TSN2 was available to most cable subscribers for Sunday's Esks-Alouettes outing. But Esks fans had to sit through a 40-4 pounding ... For the second straight week, a young Canadian emerged as a star for the Riders. First, it was WR Adam Nicholson, and then local product Stu Foord blasted through a hole for an 18-yard TD against the Lions. Foord would later score on a 55-yard catch in one of best breakout performances that franchise has ever seen.

EXTRA POINTS

In the category of defence winning championships, the Esks are 5-0 when holding teams to less than 30 points ... The league's former top turnover team (+11), the Riders, went -6 vs. the Lions to drop to third in that key category ... The Riders haven't been swept in back-to-back meetings since 2004 before losing two to the Lions ... The tight West Division race could come down to math. The Riders lost the season series with the Lions, the Stamps hold the tie-breaker against B.C. and the Esks hold the edge over the Stamps.


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