It’s playoff time! Twenty weeks of regular season games (and am I the only one who thinks the season flew by?) means there are only five games left in the 2016 CFL season.
But those are five really important games: the post-season games!
Let’s begin with the final power rankings and then the playoff predictions.
- Calgary (15-2-1): The Stamps lost their first and last games of the season, and they didn’t lose one in between. Everything points to this team winning the Western Division Final and getting to the Grey Cup. Bo Levi Mitchell is a lock as MOP.
- BC Lions (12-6): What a season for the Lions, who won five more games than in 2015. If Jonathan Jennings makes the smart plays in the post-season and the league’s best running game keeps on rolling, BC will be a factor in deciding the west champion.
- Edmonton (10-8): The Esks hit their stride down the stretch, winning five of their final six games; and they enter the playoffs with a manageable path to the Grey Cup. The two Edmonton and Hamilton games were close, so any talk of a blowout needs to be tempered.
- Winnipeg (11-7): From 1-4 and heading nowhere to 11-7 and a playoff team. Matt Nichols turned the Blue Bombers season around when he was named starting quarterback. A tenacious defense and an automatic kicker gives Winnipeg the potential to be dangerous in the playoffs.
- Ottawa (8-9-1): The REDBLACKS repeated as division champions despite a dreadful 8-9-1 record. Posting a 2-6-1 record at home gives Ottawa little optimism when it hosts the Eastern Division Final, and that means coach Rick Campbell needs a trick or two up his sleeve in order to return to the Grey Cup.
- Montreal (7-11): The Als won four of their six games under interim coach Jacques Chapdelaine, and he should quickly be named the team’s permanent coach. With Vernon Adams the starting quarterback and with a strong defense, Montreal could be a tough team in 2017.
- Hamilton (7-11): Injuries played havoc with the TiCats season, but this team appears to have taken a significant step back. Hamilton lost five of its last six games, including four at home. A fifth straight loss at home seems certain in the east semifinal.
- Saskatchewan (5-13): Does another unsettled off-season await? The Roughriders won four of their final seven games, but the revolving door spun rapidly; almost 100 players were on the roster at any one time in 2016. Will Darian Durant be back?
- Toronto (5-13): The collapse is over; now the assessment begins. The Argos lost 10 of their last 11 games, including their final seven games in which the defeat was by double digits. Many changes are expected, but will one of them be Ricky Ray off the roster?
WEST SEMIFINAL: BC Lions 27, Winnipeg 18. The Lions find ways to finish drives with touchdowns, while the Blue Bombers settle for a couple field goals. Jonathan Jennings avoids any playoff jitters and the Lions rushing game picks up close to 120 yards.
EAST SEMIFINAL: Edmonton 27, Hamilton 21. Can Edmonton win three games in Ontario on consecutive weekends to repeat as Grey Cup champions? The Esks’ first step is a success, as they take advantage of a stumbling TiCats team and make it to the Eastern Division Final.
WEST FINAL: Calgary 31, BC Lions 24. The Stamps will be rusty, so the Lions best chance is to get a lead early and turn it over to their defense and running game. They won’t, and that allows Bo Levi Mitchell to rally his team; and with the weapons at his disposal, who knows who might make the decisive play.
EAST FINAL: Ottawa 23, Edmonton 20. Call this a logic-defying pick. The REDBLACKS use a week off and some home cooking to grab a spot in the Grey Cup. Trevor Harris comes off the bench to rally Ottawa to the fourth-quarter win, dooming any chance of an all-Alberta Grey Cup match up.
GREY CUP: Calgary 38, Ottawa 18. The red and black beat the red and black, and the REDBLACKS are denied the Grey Cup in consecutive seasons. Calgary has too much talent and too much depth for Ottawa, which turns its attention to winning it all on its home field in 2017.