CFL parity has lead to great playoff race

You have to love an eight-team league that has three crucial games left on the last weekend of the season.

You have to love an eight-team league that has three crucial games left on the last weekend of the season.

That’s parity, baby. The CFL playoffs will not be decided until Sunday afternoon in Winnipeg when the Blue Bombers host the Tiger-Cats, but things get rolling tonight in Vancouver.

The Eskimos and Lions must win to stay in the game as a visitor to the playoffs. The loser will play in either Hamilton or Winnipeg next weekend . . . maybe. An all-expense paid trip to either city in November would have less appeal than Hawaii, except that it means your team is still alive in 2009 and that is why Edmonton and B.C. will duke it out for the privilege.

Edmonton quarterback and California native Ricky Ray has already expressed his love for warm indoor football fields in November. That should help his game tonight at B.C. Place. Ricky’s A-game will provide problems for the Lions if he has time to pass, but that is a problem against the league’s sack leaders.

The other issue for Edmonton is elusive B.C. quarterback Casey Printers and his ad-lib style under pressure. Printers has an uncanny ability to exploit pressure defenses, buy enough time to find open receivers and deliver an accurate pass to said receivers.

B.C. will destroy Edmonton in this one, unless crafty Leos coach Wally Buono decides to bring a Lion in sheep’s clothing to the eastern playoffs. Nah, too big of a risk, and Wally hates losing too much.

The other part of this equation is the Winnipeg-Hamilton game that will decide the eastern playoff dance partners. Winnipeg has the human roller-coaster at quarterback with Michael Bishop and that is a frightening prospect for the Bombers. Every now and then the guy looks like the real deal, but more often he looks like football is a brand new concept for him.

On the other hand, Hamilton quarterback Kevin Glenn has been a model of consistency for the ‘Cats. He was one of the first players that Bomber coach Mike Kelly introduced to the exit door in Winnipeg and I can’t help but believe that Glenn might want to return the favor for Bomber playoff hopes.

Throw in a murderer’s row front seven defense for the ‘Cats and I believe that Winnipeg will have a very long afternoon against Hamilton. Bishop under pressure is not an ideal recipe for success because this guy has never even seen that cookbook. Look for the Tiger-Cats to maul the Bombers on Sunday.

So it all boils down to an old-fashioned shootout in the Wild West for Saskatchewan and Calgary on Saturday afternoon. Let me end the suspense and pick Saskatchewan to win the last game of the regular season against the Stamps. The ’Riders are at home and they will play with an extra man on the field. The extra player is 30,000 very noisy ’Rider fans who have little love for Calgary quarterback Henry Burris.

This is a Hollywood script for the ’Riders and they are motivated and talented enough to give it a Hollywood ending — a first place finish for the first time since 1976.

Jim Sutherland is a local freelance writer whose CFL column appears on Tuesdays and Fridays. He can be reached at mystarcollectorcar.com

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