Painting playoff picture

IAN BUSBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:45 AM ET

Even with three weeks remaining in the regular season, technically every CFL team still has a shot at the Grey Cup.

And heading into Week 17, everyone but the Montreal Alouettes has something on the line.

Hardly anything can match the excitement of this past weekend, where three of the four games were head-to-head battles for playoff positioning.

In every CFL city, there are different storylines to break down. Going from worst to first, here are the way things shake down for the home stretch of the season:

Blue Bombers (4-11)

Remaining games: vs. Tor, @ Edm, vs. Cal.

The Bombers remain in the hunt for a crossover playoff berth but need help. The good news is they only have one road game left, and they are 0-8 away from Canad Inns Stadium.

This team is a memorable one, historically. Theyve scored more points than theyve allowed but have lost eight games by less than a touchdown. The Bombers have also tied the league record for most losses (seven) by under four points.

Projected finish: Out of playoffs.

Lions (5-10)

Remaining games: at Cal, @ Ssk, at Ham

The Lions are the only team in five years to allow two 100-yard rushers in the same game, thanks to QB Ricky Ray and running back Daniel Porter both hitting that mark for the Eskimos.

It was a comedy of errors for the Lions Saturday night vs. the Esks, as kicker Paul McCallum wasnt eligible to play due to a clerical error. The news got worse after defensive backs J.R. LaRose (broken leg) and Davis Sanchez (dislocated elbow) were lost for the season, joining running back Jamall Lee. Thats three Canadians gone in a week.

The schedule isnt in their favour either, as the Lions are the only team to face three winning squads to close out the season.

Projected finish: Miss the playoffs.

Eskimos (5-10)

Remaining games: vs. Ssk, vs. Win, @ Ssk

Winners of three of four outings, the Eskimos are suddenly a balanced offence again for the first time since running back Arkee Whitlock went out with a season-ending injury. With Porter (171) and Ray (135) running wild, the Eskimos had their first 300-yard rushing game since Sept. 17, 1999.

There is good news and bad with their receiving corps Jason Barnes was released from a Hamilton hospital after suffering a ruptured spleen a week ago, but Kamau Peterson suffered a season-ending Achilles rupture and Kelly Campbell has a concussion from a massive hit by Lions defensive back David Hyland.

Projected finish: On the road for West semifinal.

Argonauts (7-8)

Remaining games: @ Win, @ Mtl, vs. Mtl

Head coach Jim Barker is standing behind Cleo Lemon at quarterback, but what other choice does the head coach have at this point? With running back Cory Boyd (ankle) slowed by injury, the Argos will do just enough to make the post-season, seeing as they only need one win or one Eskimos or Lions loss to qualify.

When they do get to the post-season, they face a harsh reality. The Argos were swept this season by the Ticats for the first time since 2001, and thats who they would face.

Projected finish: On the road for East semifinal.

Tiger-Cats (8-7)

Remaining games: vs. Mtl, @ Cal, vs. B.C.

The pickup of Stevie Baggs looks like a good one, as the veteran defensive end has the same fire and intensity he brought to the Riders last season. Hes playoff tested and should balance out an offence that is capable of putting up big points.

A home date will be secured if they win one more and the Argos lose once. With no chance of getting into first place, the Ticats have three outings to fine-tune.

Projected finish: At home for East semifinal.

Roughriders (9-6)

Remaining games: @ Edm, @ B.C., vs. Edm

They need to fix their run defence, shore up their special teams and deal with two major Canadians going down receiver Rob Bagg and kicker Luca Congi have knee injuries. But other than that, its all good in Riderville.

The loss to the Stamps means they have conceded first place, which doesnt make the Riders panic.

We play really well there, Riders coach Ken Miller said of playing in Calgary. Somehow, we cant do things the easy way. We have to take the hard road. We cant wait for some point in the future for the magic to start. We have to start creating that magic now.

Projected finish: At home for West semifinal.

Stampeders (11-4)

Remaining games: vs. B.C., vs. Ham, @ Win

Nik Lewis has his seventh straight 1,000-yard receiving season, and look out for Joffrey Reynolds in the rushing race. With 124 yards against the Riders, Reynolds is back in the mix for the title after four lacklustre outings.

The Stamps need one win to clinch first place in the West, and they will be out for blood against the Lions, who surprised them at home last month.

Projected finish: At home for West final.

Alouettes (11-4)

Remaining games: @ Ham, @ Tor, vs. Tor

Ben Cahoon finally hauled in his first TD this season and is the all-time leader among non-import receivers. Good thing those storylines are out of the way.

Now the Als have four weeks to prepare for the East final, which they host for the ninth time in 12 years.

Projected finish: At home for East final.

ian.busby@sunmedia.ca


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