I love playoff football… even if my favourite team is so far removed from the playoffs that even if all of the remaining teams folded or were otherwise be unable to play this Sunday, they would still not enter in the playoff picture even as a replacement. But the division finals are a bittersweet occurrence. On the good side we get 2 hard fought games to determine who will freeze their ass off… err I mean play for the Grey Cup in Winnipeg. The downside is that there is sadly just 3 more CFL games until next year.
Let’s take a look at the match-ups.
East Division Final: Ti-Cats vs. RedBlacks (i.e. the battle of two teams whose names are derived from randomly combining two words into one thing).
Kent Austin will attempt to accomplish a pretty amazing feat on Sunday. He will try to lead his team to a third straight grey Cup appearance with a third different QB under centre. This will be his greatest challenge of the three… and that’s saying something given that one of them he had to accomplish with Henry Burris. If this were a battle of two healthy teams, the Ti-Cats would steamroll the RedBlacks (and I actually think Ottawa is a solid team). But the reality is injuries will play a major factor in this. Hamilton is missing their top 2 QBs, the top pass rusher in Norwood, Tasker and Lawrence are banged up but should play. By contrast Ottawa had largely avoided significant injuries (a leading reason they were the best team in the East). Ottawa’s defense allowed the least yards of any team, had the most sacks, tied with Hamilton for most INTs. They are a solid unit. Hamilton may have barely squeaked by the Argos but the Argo D is not very good. This will be a far bigger challenge.
As much as I make fun of Henry Burris (not only do I do it a lot, I enjoy it), he has been playing some of the best/most consistent football I have ever seen him play. Usually the pendulum swings often from Good Hank to Bad Hank (as Austin can attest to first hand) but this year has seen very little Bad Hank. That either means he is due for one of the most epically awesome choke jobs known to man or that he’s just on a roll that doesn’t show signs of slowing down. While I would really love the former, I think the latter is more likely. Hamilton’s defense and special teams are among the best but with a banged up defensive unit and a poor aerial attack I don’t think they will be able to carry the Ti-Cats to victory this team.
Game will probably be closer than some expect but in the end Ottawa by 10.
West Division Final: Stampeders vs. Eskimos (i.e. the battle of a province desperate for something to take their mind of the sad state of their hockey teams)
This is likely to be the marquee game of the weekend. Two best records in the league, two great defenses, two dynamic QBs, two teams that tend to get heated when they play. This one could easily go either way. I give Calgary the edge in the run game and a slight edge at QB. I give Edmonton a slight edge in not having every player resembling an O-lineman hurt. Beyond that these teams are pretty even. I believe the on-paper match-up goes to the Eskimos. Plus they won the season series. But in spite of the injuries I give Calgary the edge in terms of intangibles. The key will be the start. Edmonton hasn’t played in two weeks. That will either mean they will come out fresh and hot or slow and sluggish.
I would say Edmonton is a slight favourite (despite what the official odds tell you) but my gut says take Calgary in a very clos, hard fought game. Stamps by a Rene Paredes FG.