Lions, Alouettes can cement first-place finishes with wins
TORONTO, ONTARIO — The CFL’s muddled playoff picture could clear up significantly this weekend.
The B.C. Lions and Montreal Alouettes can cement top spot in the West and East Divisions, respectively, with outright victories. That would give both teams opening playoff byes and the right to host their conference finals Nov. 18.
The conference champions will meet in the historic 100th Grey Cup on Nov. 25 at Rogers Centre in Toronto.
The Toronto Argonauts and Calgary Stampeders could also both nail down second spot in their respective divisions, with a little help.
That would essentially leave third in the East and West Division still up for grabs heading into the final two weeks of the 2012 campaign.
B.C. heads into its home game Friday against Edmonton with a CFL-best 11-4 record, and the defending Grey Cup champion can cement first in the West for the second straight year with a win over the Eskimos.
But the Eskimos (7-8) have plenty to play for.
They’re fourth in the tight West Division but just two points behind third-place Saskatchewan (8-7) and four points in back of second-place Calgary (9-6).
An Edmonton victory would also solidify its crossover bid. In the CFL, if the fourth-place team in one division has a better record than the third-place finisher in the other conference, the fourth-place squad crosses over and assumes the third playoff seed in the rival division.
Montreal (9-6) visits Saskatchewan on Saturday and would take first in the East Division with a victory.
The Alouettes lead second-place Toronto (7-9) by four points and have cemented the season series.
The Argos host Winnipeg on Friday night. A Blue Bombers’ victory would give Montreal top spot in the East for the fourth time in five seasons under head coach Marc Trestman and ninth time in 13 years overall.
Trestman has guided Montreal to three Grey Cup appearances, winning consecutive titles in 2009 and 2010.
A Toronto victory Saturday, combined with Calgary beating the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, would give the Argos second in the East and home-field advantage for the division semifinal Nov. 11.
Calgary would need to beat Hamilton and have Montreal down Saskatchewan to secure second in the West Division.
Hamilton is currently third in the East Division but only sports a 5-10 record and trails the Eskimos by four points, with both teams having three-regular season games remaining.
The combination of a Hamilton win over Calgary and Montreal victory win over Saskatchewan would give B.C. first in the West even if it lost to Edmonton.
That scenario would also keep the Ticats’ precarious playoff hopes alive heading into their final two regular-season games against Winnipeg and arch-rival Toronto.
So while the Stampeders need help to overtake B.C. for first in the West, they’re in much better control of their own destiny in the battle for second. Calgary owns the tie-breaker against both Edmonton (3-0 head to head) and Saskatchewan (2-1).
Saskatchewan certainly can’t afford to finish tied with either Calgary or Edmonton, having lost the season series with both squads.
However, should the Riders end up tied for first with B.C. and Calgary they’d get top spot in the West based on having the better winning percentage in games between the three clubs.
In a three-way tie, the Riders would have a 3-1 head-to-head record against B.C. but just 1-2 against Calgary, leaving them 4-3 overall.
B.C., with a 2-1 record against Calgary, would finish 3-4 while the Stampeders would end up 3-3 (2-1 versus Saskatchewan but 1-2 versus the Lions).
The three-way tie-breaker, though, would only be used to determine first place. Second would go to B.C. because of a superior head-to-head record against Calgary.