The 2018 Canadian Football League regular season comes to a close this weekend, which is a bummer because that means I’ll soon be seeing less CFL games.
On the plus side, the stage for the playoffs is mostly set, with only one bit of unfinished business remaining.
And thanks to scheduling, the Saskatchewan Roughriders can win the West by sitting at home Saturday and watching the other games on TV.
Going into Week 21, we already know the Ottawa Redblacks (10-7) are champions of the East.
They went 3-for-3 against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (8-9) – their only close competition in the division – so they’ll host the East title game.
Hamilton got a semifinal home game as a consolation prize for finishing as runners-up in the division, and will meet British Columbia (9-8) on Nov. 11 for the right to play Ottawa.
What, you say? BC in an East playoff?
Article XII 12.01 of the CFL constitution mandates that if the fourth place team in one division has more points than the third place team in the other, it gets the crossover playoff spot in the opposite division.
This has happened multiple times, so it’s not some sort of rarity.
And considering Montreal and defending Grey Cup champion Toronto go into this weekend with 4-13 worksheets, the club from Vancouver earned the right to break in line.
As for the West, red-hot Winnipeg (10-7), winners of five in a row, will travel to either Saskatchewan (12-6) or Calgary (12-5) on Nov. 11 in a left-side semifinal.
Right now the Stampeders hold a half-game lead entering the BC showdown set for late Saturday night.
If Calgary wins or ties, the division crown is theirs, and they get to rest while the Riders play the Blue Bombers.
Should the Lions pull off the upset, though, Saskatchewan will win the division thanks to going 2-1 against Calgary during the regular season.
Thus, the only game that impacts the playoffs this weekend is that Western clash.
Toronto vs. Ottawa (tonight), Winnipeg vs. Edmonton (Saturday afternoon) and Montreal vs. Hamilton (Saturday night) will see non-playoff teams attempt to finish up on a winning note, while clubs bound for the postseason try to stay healthy.
So who’s the favorite to win it all?
That’s one of the beauties of the CFL. This league had parity before parity was cool, and it can be wildly unpredictable.
In 2016, Ottawa won the East with an 8-9-1 record and was expected (by me, anyway) to go quietly in the playoffs.
But that record was good enough to win the East, and the Redblacks defeated Edmonton, 35-23, to advance to the Grey Cup, and then stunned Calgary, 39-33, in overtime to claim the CFL championship.
Although I’m a Hamilton fan, that was one of my favorite Grey Cups of all-time. The Stampeders came into the game 16-2-1, and I thought they’d have the game put away by halftime.
Instead, it was a wild one from start to finish, even though the Redblacks never trailed.
And while that contest is two years removed from this season, it still gives me hope that perhaps the Ti-Cats can display some “playoff peak” and make a run.
Hamilton split with BC during the regular season, including a 40-10 victory in their last meeting on September 29. If June Jones’ charges survive the rubber game, they’ll get to find out if the fourth time’s the charm against the Redblacks.
It’s sad to see the season near its end, even though I’m excited about the playoffs.
Thanks to ESPN +, I’ve watched more CFL games in 2018 than I ever have before, and it solidified my fandom.
Three quarterbacks have passed for more than 5,000 yards –Edmonton’s Mike Reilly (5,242), Hamilton’s Jeremiah Masoli (5,209) and Ottawa’s Trevor Harris (5,116).
Calgary QB Bo Levi Mitchell has set the pace in TD passes with 34.
Seven players have hauled in more than 1,000 yards worth of receptions, led by Edmonton’s D’haquille Williams. He shows the way with 1,534 yards on 85 catches.
And even though this is a passing league, two players have rushed for more than 1,000 yards – Ottawa’s William Powell with 1,362, and Winnipeg’s Andrew Harris with 1,355.
Johnny Manziel might’ve drawn a few more U.S. eyes to the league in 2018, but perhaps those who tuned in because of him will consider sticking around after he’s gone.
If you’re not watching the Canadian game, you’re missing out on some really exciting football.