It's the CFL's Mild West

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:43 AM ET

Grab onto the edges of your seats, sports fans, and get ready for the most thrilling race in sports -- the crawl for a playoff spot in the CFL West.

It's the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Calgary Stampeders and Saskatchewan Roughriders, neck on neck to the finish line, if they can find it.

There's no need to bring a stopwatch for this one. A calendar would be more appropriate.

Because with three victories apiece since June, the Bombers and 'Riders win, on average, one game per month. So while it seems they win once every blue moon, it's actually once every full moon.

Leading the putrid pack, at a pace even a snail would find laggard, are the win-one, lose-one Stampeders, with a gaudy four victories in nine tries.

You've heard of photo finishes? By the time November rolls around, you'll need your super wide-angle lens to find these three in the same picture as the front-runners in the division.

While B.C. and Edmonton race to the wire for first place, our also-rans stumble through the regular-season like drunks through traffic. Securing that last playoff spot will require only a modest accomplishment: remaining upright.

Lose five straight games, the way Saskatchewan has? Never mind, you're just two points out of third place.

Fitting, then, that the Bombers kept pace this past weekend by losing to 0-8 Hamilton.

Actually, Winnipeg gained some ground with the loss, because the Roughies lost a divisional game (to the Lions), and a team's division record is one of the elements used to break ties in the standings.

As head coach Jim Daley explained to his American rookies the other day, this idea of being in the playoff hunt with a 3-7 record might be a little foreign, but that's life in the Mild West. The Bombers were just as alive at 3-7 last season, going into the Labour Day game in Regina.

If you're considering the drive down the Trans-Canada next weekend, do so at your own risk. There's no telling what you might get.

Nealon Greene, the 'Riders quarterback, doesn't have a single touchdown pass in his last four starts. Fat, bald guys with B.O. make more successful passes than that.

If the 'Riders don't make the playoffs, they can always open a bake shop, that's how many turnovers they produce. Their recent pace: nearly half a dozen per game. Mmm, mmm bad.

But not even the hard-luck Regina faithful could have been prepared for what happened Saturday, when a rookie quarterback named Buck Pierce stuck a needle into their hearts by leading B.C. to a pair of late touchdowns.

NOT SUPPOSED TO HAPPEN

"Geez, that's not supposed to happen," lineman Scott Schultz told reporters after the game. "Some third-string guy isn't supposed to come in here and put up points and get us."

Linebacker Reggie Hunt was equally perplexed, after a game the 'Riders had in the bag when B.C. lost starting quarterback Casey Printers.

"It's the story of our life, right here," Hunt said. "It's stupid redundant."

Then what term would you use to describe what the Bombers did Friday against Hamilton, a team that hadn't won a game in 299 days?

The Ticats, averaging 280 yards offence per game, had that much by early in the second quarter against a Winnipeg defence that couldn't stop a sink.

The Bomber game plan was to jump on the despondent Ticats early -- so they give up a 72-yard touchdown on the first play of the game.

It defies logic, and so does the idea of any of these teams making the playoffs.

"There's three teams in a dogfight for that playoff spot," Daley was saying the other day.

A dogfight?

More like three basset-hounds on sleeping pills.


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