This year’s CFL tale of “how the West was won” reads more like “how the Stampeders slowly acquired the West Divison title through the shortcomings of others.”
After failing to clinch division supremacy on their own with a less-than-flattering 36-31 loss at the hands of the B.C. Lions Oct. 22, the Stamps watched as the rival Saskatchewan Roughriders failed to hold serve in Edmonton the next night, falling to the Eskimos 39-24.
The ’Riders loss hands the Stamps the divisional title — and more importantly a first-round bye in the playoffs as well as the pleasure of hosting the West Division final Nov. 21.
Realistically, Calgary should have locked up their post-season path weeks ago. Luckily, problems with inconsistency are league-wide epidemics this season.
The CFL is seemingly going through a period of extreme parity. No one team holds a major advantage heading into the post-season. Predicting weekly scorelines has been a total crapshoot.
The Stampeders’ 46-21 shellacking of the Montreal Alouettes Oct. 1 only to turn around and lose to them by a 46-19 margin 10 days later serves as a prime example of this.
More evidence lies in the team’s overall records.
At 11-5, the Stamps are tied atop the standings with two weeks remaining, meaning no team will finish with more than 13 wins. Exclude the lowly Winnipeg Blue Bombers, and the league’s other seven squads are all within five games of each other.
In the East, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats have shaken things up with 40-3 home-field hammering of the Als that leaves the teams separated by just two wins. The third-place Toronto Argonauts, who have played .500 ball both at home and on the road all season, could also pose problems.
Bear in mind, however, that Montreal is 7-1 at home and will host the East Division final.
The safe money is still on the defending Grey Cup champions making a return trip to the big game. Then again, no money is safe when you consider just how unpredictable this season has been.
Shifting focus to the West, the Stamps could potentially face any of their three divisional foes.
One thing’s clear — the Lions have their number. B.C. has upset the horsemen twice in a row at home and because of this still has a shot at outlasting Edmonton for the third and final playoff spot.
Speaking of the Eskimos, Calgary’s northern rivals would likely be a much easier foe, given that the Stamps have won all three meetings this season by considerable margins.
Having said that, the teams have not met since early September, when the Eskimos were battling through a rough slump. As well, if Edmonton did make the West final they would be playing for the right to host the Grey Cup game on home-turf.
Finally, there are the dreaded ’Riders. The Stamps have won both at home and on the road against Saskatchewan this season, but did drop a tight one at McMahon in mid-September. This is the match most have expected in the West, and there is little indication of which team would hold the edge.
Before any of these potential meetings occur, Calgary will close out the season by hosting Hamilton and venturing to Winnipeg. Both games are mere formalities at this point and the Stamps should use them as testing grounds to ensure they are battle-ready for whichever squad is put in their path.
At this point, the only certainty for the Stamps — and CFL teams across the nation for that matter — is uncertainty.
Jeremy Nolais is a Calgary-area sports columnist whose column appears in the Advocate every second Wednesday