2021 CFL Power Rankings Revisited

This past Canadian Football League season, you saw 13th Man Sports put out weekly power rankings for the first time. Those rankings were among the most popular things on the website and brought heaps of conversation about who was too high or perhaps too low. As you can see in the graph below, it was a wild start to the season that ended with a little bit more stability as the weeks went on.

2021 CFL power rankings

With everything done, we are going to go back and go through each team by their average rating and have a few words about their season. This isn’t going to shape us as to how these teams would be ranked today, but rather the average ranking of all their totals combined divided by 17.

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9. Ottawa Redblacks

Final Record: 3-11

Average Ranking: 8.294

Highest Ranking: 6th – Week 2

Lowest Ranking: 9th – Many Weeks

The Redblacks haven’t done themselves any favours over the past couple of years and it is certainly hurting them on the football field. This season was made of failures, especially on the offence. Matt Nichols wasn’t able to do much of anything and was benched for Dominique Davis, both of whom got hurt in one game. That let Caleb Evans show what he could do. In a sense, the Redblacks may have been somewhat lucky to be forced to play Evans. It may have forced them to find their future star quarterback.

Related: Ottawa Redblacks Free Agency 2022

For that to happen, however, they will need to make some serious improvements this offseason. The offensive line was simply not up to snuff. Yes, injuries did force them to play a different starting unit nearly every game, but outside of Mark Korte, no one really seemed to do too much of anything. They also need to find some receivers who can get open on a consistent basis and a running game to go along with it. There’s so much work to be done for this team, but they have a solid foundation with a good defence and one of the best special teams units in the league.

8. Edmonton Elks

Final Record: 3-11

Average Ranking: 7.941

Highest Ranking: 3rd – Offseason

Lowest Ranking: 9th – Many Weeks

If not for our offseason edition of the power rankings, the Elks would be tied with the Redblacks for ninth right down to the final decimal place. That’s how close these two teams were, but thanks to our (perhaps blind) optimism, the Elks get to sit in eighth. That shouldn’t underscore the Elks’ struggles this season, however. Nothing seemed to work. They came into the season with what everyone thought would be an elite offence that featured Trevor Harris, Greg Ellingson, Derel Walker, and James Wilder Jr., but they did not live up to that hype.

Related: Edmonton Elks Free Agency 2022

What exactly went wrong for the Elks will likely never be known. Who should take the brunt of the blame? Was it Trevor Harris’ fault? No, far from it. Was it Jaime Elizondo and Brock Sunderland? There’s probably a lot of blame there, but the prices were there. Something went colossally wrong behind the scenes, and no, it wasn’t the name change. After hiring Chris Jones, the Elks will be hoping he continues to bring that tradition of winning with him and actually decides to stick out a full contract this time.

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7. BC Lions

Final Record: 5-9

Average Ranking: 5.412

Highest Ranking: 2nd – Week 6 & 7

Lowest Ranking: 8th – Week 1

Flash all the way back to week seven of the season, the BC Lions have just won four consecutive games and are sitting with a 4-2 record. In that week, we ranked them second in our power rankings for back-to-back weeks and they looked like they were reaching their potential. The rest of the season was a disaster, to say the least. They would only win one more game, and it came against the Elks in week 16. A roster with so many talented players was once again falling flat on its face.

Related: BC Lions Free Agency 2022

They were never bad enough to fall into last place on our rankings, but they were capable of doing so much more. Since signing Michael Reilly (even somewhat beforehand), the Lions haven’t done much of anything. There were times where the Lions were being talked about as dark horse candidates in the West this season, but they fell apart

6. Calgary Stampeders

Final Record: 8-6

Average Ranking: 5.235

Highest Ranking: 2nd – Week 10 & 11

Lowest Ranking: 8th – Week 5, 7, & 8

It was a season that started with a little bit of panic for the once-dominant Calgary Stampeders. Starting the season 0-2 was a bit of a wake-up call for the Stampeders who were forced to start Jake Maier in the third game of the season with Bo Levi Mitchell missing some time. Maier came in and beat the Alouettes in his first start, nearly beat the Blue Bombers in his second game, but would lose to the Elks in his third start before Mitchell returned into the fold in Calgary’s sixth game. This is when things started to turn around, but sitting at 1-4 through their first five games, they left themselves a bit hole to dig out of.

Related: Calgary Stampeders Free Agency 2022

They would lose only two regular-season games the rest of the way, one to the Tiger-Cats and one to the Roughriders. At times, they were easily the second-best team in the league in the second half, but they couldn’t put it together come playoff time. They will need more from Mitchell next season, but with Maier being a free agent, they might not have the backup to rely on if he goes elsewhere. There could be a big move to be made yet for them, but they are not the same Stampeders that they have been in the past.

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5. Hamilton Tiger-Cats

Final Record: 8-6

Average Ranking: 5.059

Highest Ranking: 1st – Offseason

Lowest Ranking: 9th – Week 3

By the way they played at the end of the season, you would never think the Hamilton Tiger-Cats would come in this low. The issue was the start of their season. While the Stampeders struggles, the Tiger-Cats were bad. Jeremiah Masoli couldn’t get things done, and just when the change was made to Dane Evans and things started to look a little better, he got hurt. David Watford started a couple of games for the Cats this season too, and while he got the job done, it wasn’t pretty.

Related: Hamilton Tiger-Cats Free Agency 2022

Like the Stampeders, as we got to the end of the season, they started to find their stride. Playoff success went the way of the Tiger-Cats, beating the Alouettes and the Argonauts before losing their home Grey Cup to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. It was much close to the Ti-Cats everyone expected, but going into the offseason, the team has the potential to look plenty different.

4. Montreal Alouettes

Final Record: 7-7

Average Ranking: 4.941

Highest Ranking: 2nd – Week 14

Lowest Ranking: 7th – Week 4

Looking at this ranking, it’s easy to be disappointed with how things went for the Montreal Alouettes. They had designs of a deep playoff run and if not for a late-season injury to Vernon Adams Jr., they may have been able to do just that. There were times this season where the Alouettes looked like the team to beat this season, but a reliance on the deep ball and big plays hurt them at times. When those big plays worked, they were one of the most potent offences in the league, but when they were taken away, they seemed to refuse to make adjustments and just tried to make it work anyway.

Related: Montreal Alouettes Free Agency 2022

This was a good football team this season. When healthy, they could go toe-to-toe with any offence in the league, their defence could make key stops, and their special teams were decent enough to not cost them games. Some would argue that you should be able to get things done with Trevor Harris, but he doesn’t have some of the things that make Adams Jr. perfect for Montreal. The mobility isn’t nearly the same, the arm isn’t the same, and the leadership isn’t the same. This team is close, but they will need some luck.

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3. Toronto Argonauts

Final Record: 9-5

Average Ranking: 4.118

Highest Ranking: 2nd – Week 1

Lowest Ranking: 6th – Many Weeks

The Toronto Argonauts were a curious case this season. On one hand, they won a lot of games, but on the other hand, they really didn’t look very good doing it. In sports, it just matters how many times you win. No one really asks how. Many times, it seemed like their opposition make critical mistakes and hurt their chances to win, but to their credit, the Argos took advantage of that all season long.

Related: Toronto Argonauts Free Agency 2022

They hosted the East Final in front of 21,492 (yes, Ti-Cats fans, you guys helped this number) but this time, the opposition didn’t make those critical mistakes the Argos had been feeding off of all season long. This was a team with Grey Cup aspirations, and to be fair to them, they were very close to getting to the big game. They spent the big dollars in the 2020 and 2021 offseasons, and if they can keep this core of players around while adding some more depth, they should be good again in 2022.

2. Saskatchewan Roughriders

Final Record: 9-5

Average Ranking: 2.824

Highest Ranking: 1st – Week 3 & 4

Lowest Ranking: 8th – Offseason

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They may come in second on these rankings, but things weren’t always great for the Saskatchewan Roughriders. They started the season with a 3-0 record after beating the Lions, Tiger-Cats and Redblacks, but that streak would end with back-to-back losses against their bitter rivals, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. After their 3-0 start, the Riders ended the season with a 6-5 streak, hardly terrible, but a far cry from where they expected to be.

Related: Saskatchewan Roughriders Free Agency 2022

In the same way that the Toronto Argonauts were pests this season, the Roughriders were much the same. They hung around in games and gave themselves a chance to win, something they took advantage of more often than not this season. They nearly beat the Blue Bombers in the West Final to make it to the Grey Cup but came up just short. All in all, it was a good season for the Roughriders even if they couldn’t trump the giant.

1. Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Final Record: 11-3

Average Ranking: 1.176

Highest Ranking: 1st – Many Weeks

Lowest Ranking: 2nd – Offseason, Week 3 & 4

There’s not much that can be said about this Bombers team that hasn’t already been said. Simply, they were next-level elite and no one could touch them. Zach Collaros was the best quarterback in the league all season long, the offensive line was unmatched all season, the receivers were good, the running game was solid, and the defence did everything they needed to do and then some.

Related: Winnipeg Blue Bombers Free Agency 2022

They faced some adversity in the playoffs, but it all culminated in their second consecutive Grey Cup. It now seems like forever ago that they had the longest active Grey Cup drought in the league. With their list of free agents looking pretty retainable, they should be capable of being back in this spot next season, although fans around the CFL are hoping that other teams can get a little closer to this level when the ball is kicked off in 2022.

3 thoughts on “2021 CFL Power Rankings Revisited

    1. That is correct. You will notice, however, that I mentioned that these rankings do not reflect how we would have ranked these teams at the end of the season. This is done by the average ranking. You will also notice fairly early in our section about the Elks that if the offseason rankings had not been included, the Redblacks and Elks would be tied for 8th right down to the final decimal place. Thanks to those rankings, the Elks peaked at 3 and the Redblacks had 9th place in that same ranking. That right there was the difference, and it’s why there is a gap between them rather than a tie.

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