Just a few weeks ago, fans of West Division CFL teams were drawing up their roadmap to the Grey Cup, with some of them thinking that perhaps finishing fourth and crossing over into the East Division could be the easiest way to Regina on November 20th. Just days later, however, it no longer seems like a crossover is guaranteed to happen.
The first two games of week 10 featured massive upset wins, first with the Montreal Alouettes over the previously undefeated Winnipeg Blue Bombers, and then the Hamilton Tiger-Cats responding with a massive win with their backup quarterback Matthew Shiltz over their provincial rival, the Toronto Argonauts. The wins bring Montreal and Hamilton to identical 3-6 records, putting the Tabbies into second place by virtue of tie-breaker, and the Als into third.
The battle for a playoff spot in the East Division nearly at the halfway point of the season comes down to the entire East Division (if only mathematically for the Redblacks), as well as the Saskatchewan Roughriders and the Edmonton Elks out West. Even last week, it was nearly a foregone conclusion that one of Edmonton or Saskatchewan would earn the crossover, but now, that doesn’t seem soo clear.
Between the Roughriders and the Elks, Edmonton has a far easier schedule, but the difference could be in the two remaining meetings between the two teams. Outside of their remaining games against one another, the Roughriders will play the BC Lions twice, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers three times, the Calgary Stampeders twice, and the Tiger-Cats once at Tim Horton’s Field. The Elks, on the other hand, have the Ottawa Redblacks twice, the Stampeders once, the Lions once, the Alouettes once, and the Argonauts once. It will not be easy for either team, but this battle is closer than some are giving it credit, especially if the Elks can get a win in the season series with Saskatchewan.
While those two teams bicker about who has the better shade of green, the teams in the East Division are settling in to mainly play amongst themselves for the final nine or 10 games of the season. The win totals are going to climb, and it’s very possible that things start to change in terms of who is seeded where.
The West Division team is always disadvantaged when it comes to earning the crossover. If the teams are tied on points, the East team gets the playoff spot, meaning the would-be crossover team must have a better record than the East side. If we conservatively say the third-place East team finishes with six wins, the Roughriders would need to find three more wins. If, however, the third-place team works their way to seven, all of a sudden, they would have to beat the Elks twice, the Tiger-Cats once, and then they would have to win one of their games against the big three.
There truly are thousands of different scenarios, but it would be pointless to run through all of them. No matter who takes home the third East Division playoff spot, it is going to come down to one thing; who is playing the best football down the stretch? Even though the Riders have the lead in the standings with a game in hand, they have done themselves few favours based on their soft schedule to start the season. The deck has been thoroughly shuffled to start week 10, and it looks like it’s going to be a long, drawn-out fight.
Recently, we have seen an upward trend from the Tiger-Cats and the Alouettes, while the Roughriders and Elks have played better ball in the past. No one has been overly impressive, but there’s going to come a time where someone (or multiple someones) figures things out, and strings together some wins.
We don’t know who that team is going to be, but we do know one winner already; the fans who are about to watch an enthralling playoff race where every week has the power to swing things in the standings!
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