November 18, 2015 Game Notes: A look at the Division Finals Staff
With files from Steve Daniel, Head Statistician

TORONTO – We are one step closer to the Grey Cup presented by Shaw.

With the division semi-finals now in the books it’s time to see which teams will punch their tickets to the the Grey Cup game.

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats are getting it done with Jeremiah Masoli and a strong defence. Will it be enough to stop Henry Burris and the Ottawa REDBLACKS?

In the West, the Calgary Stampeders handled the BC Lions to earn themselves a date with the rival Edmonton Eskimos. Will the long layoff help or hurt the Eskmos?

Equipped with the most up-to-date storylines, stats, milestones and trends, enjoy this week’s Game Notes.

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Sunday, 1:00 pm ET: Hamilton at Ottawa – SOLD OUT
Sunday, 4:30 pm ET: Calgary at Edmonton

Hamilton vs. Ottawa

Home Advantage: This game will be the 87th playoff game for Ottawa clubs since the inception of the old predecessor IRFU in 1907 and the 49th ever played at home. Ottawa has a cumulative playoff record of 44-42 overall with a remarkable 34-14 record in home playoff games.

Close City Rivalry: Going back to 1908 and the first-ever post-season meeting between any club from Ottawa and Hamilton (Ottawa FC vs Tigers November 14, 1908), these two cities have met 31 times. Of those 31 games, Hamilton has won 16 and Ottawa 15. In the 17 games played at Ottawa, the Ottawa FC/Rough Riders have an 11-6 home record vs Hamilton since 1908.

Ottawa vs Hamilton – Finals meeting #12: Since 1950, the Tigers-Cats have met Ottawa in a Division Final in 11 different years. Of those 11 meetings, 9 were Best-of-2 Total Points series while the 1976 and 1981 Finals were single-games both played in Ottawa. Hamilton leads 7 wins to 4.

Last play FG to win: Medlock’s 47-yard FG on the last play was the 7th time that a walk-off (absolute last play) field goal has  ended a playoff game in league history back to 1936.

Hamilton – Playoff game #88: Since 1950 when the Tigers-Cats were formed this will be playoff game #88 for them including last week’s win over Toronto. They are now 42-44-1 all-time in the playoffs and 15-28-1 on the road.

First Time Since 1981: This game marks the first Finals appearance by an Ottawa team since the 1982 Eastern Conference Final matchup against Toronto. It is Ottawa’s first time as Finals host since the 1981 Final against Hamilton won by the host team 17-13 over the Ticats.

Last play win: Justin Medlock made a 47-yard FG on the last play to give Hamilton a 25-22 win. The last time any CFL playoff game was won the very final play was the O/T Hamilton 19-16 win over Montreal in 2013 East Semi-Final. That game was won a 2-yard run by Dan Lefevour.

Repeat of 1999 / 2007: The Tiger-Cats will be looking to repeat their 1999 pattern of success when they won the East Semi-Final at home, and then went on the road to win the East Division at Montreal and then the Grey Cup against Calgary. The most recent CFL team to take that route was Saskatchewan in 2007. The Riders won their Semi-Final at home over Calgary, traveled to BC and won the West before their win over Winnipeg in the 2007 Grey Cup.

William Powell: Started the final 4 games and had a major impact. Powell rushed for 392 yards on 66 carries (13 runs of 10+ yards) – #1 in the CFL over the final 4 weeks of the season (#2: Tyrell Sutton with 373). The REDBLACKS won all four games that he started and Powell added 12 catches for 102 yards in that span.

Ottawa 12 wins: The REDBLACKS broke the all-time Ottawa wins record with their 12-6 mark going one better than the 11-5 Rough Riders in 1978. They finished above .500 on the road (5-4) for the first time in 20 seasons (1983: 5-3 Rough Riders).

10+ wins over 2014: The REDBLACKS won 10 more games than last season – the second-highest year over year improvement in CFL history. That achievement was second only to the 1996 Argos club at +11.

Burris 233 GS vs Masoli 2 GS: The matchup at starting QB has Ottawa’s Henry Burris bring 233 total regular season & playoff starts (119-111-3) against Jeremiah Masoli’s two career starts, one last season at Calgary, and the other the playoff game last week versus Toronto.

QB Situations getting to the Grey Cup: Since 1960, no team has won the Grey Cup starting a QB that day who had had fewer than 5 regular season starts that season. The last team to WIN the Grey Cup with a QB who had only one regular season start that year was Winnipeg in 1959 with Ken Ploen. Ploen was primarily a DB that season as Jim Van Pelt finished #4 in the CFL with 2,706 passing yards and an 11-4 W-L record before being injured in the next-to-last game of the season. The last team to win a Grey Cup with a #3 QB was Winnipeg in 1988 (Sean Salisbury, 5 starts behind Roy Dewalt & Tom Muecke).

Hamilton defensive TDs: The 8 scores by the Hamilton defence is second-highest ever by the Ticats and two short of their club record of 10 in 1971.

Trying for 3 in a row: The last time that Hamilton won three consecutive East Division playoff titles was 1984 to 1986. They went on to the Grey Cup and won one of the three opportunities.

Hamilton recent on the road: The Ticats have lost their last two road games in Ottawa (44-28) and BC (40-13) so by a combined score of 84-41.

Hamilton QB sacks: In their 10 wins, Hamilton had 28 QB sacks; in their 8 defeats they recorded just 10 sacks.

4 wins a row: The REDBLACKS have now won 4 straight games – the last Ottawa team to win 4 games in a row before that was back in 1991 (Aug 8-29/91) after an 0-4 start to reach 4-4.

Ticat Turnover Ratio (+28 vs -13): Hamilton has a +28 Turnover Ratio in their 10 wins, and are -13 in their 7 losses in 2015. They have gone -5 over their last two games. 

Four at 1,000 yards: Ottawa had four receivers over 1,000 yards this season: Chris Williams (#3, 1,214), Greg Ellingson (#7, 1,061), Ernest Jackson (#9, 1,036) and Brad Sinopoli (#11, 1,035). Ellingson made 20 catches for 355 yards over the final 4 games to make into the 1000-yard group. Ottawa had NEVER before had even three 1,000-yard receivers in the same season.

Ottawa Offence: In their 12 wins, Ottawa averaged 433 yards of net offence; in their 6 losses they averaged over 140 less yards per game at 292 per game.

Calgary vs. Edmonton

Edmonton in the Finals: This week tied a league-record 41st time that the Eskimos will play for a Division title (Toronto also has 41 but of course over a much longer franchise history). This will be the Eskimos’ 30th trip in the “single-game” era (1973-2015) after going to 11 prior “Best of” series from 1950 to 1960.

Eight in a row: The Eskimos come into this playoff game riding an 8-game win streak. That is their longest season-ending win streaksince 1982.

First Time Since 1996: This meeting marks the first time since 1996 that Edmonton and Calgary will have met two years in a row for the Division playoff title. They met four years in a row from 1990 to 1993, and back-to-back in 1978-79. 

Calgary vs Edmonton in the Finals: Of Calgary’s 33 previous Division Final appearances, 11 have been against the Eskimos and they hold 6-5 edge including the 2014 championship game. This will be the 5th time that Calgary will travel to Edmonton for the West Final – they won in 2001 and 1991, and lost in 1979 and 1978 at Commonwealth Stadium. 

Since 2008: Under Coach John Hufnagel, the Stampeders have now reached the West Final in 7 out of his 8 seasons. In Canadian Football history only four coaches have ever gotten to 7 Finals in an 8-year span at any point in their career with a club.

Edmonton under Chris Jones: In two season, Coach Jones has guided the Eskimos from a 4-14 season in 2013 to 14 wins a host spot in the West Final. He has led them to a second straight Division Final for the first time since 2003.

CGY road finals success: The Stamps have won two of their last three trips to the West Final (2012-2014) and on the road have also been successful of late. They won away from home in 2012 at BC (34-29), lost at Saskatchewan in 2009 (17-27), but won on the road in 2001, 1999 and 1991. They have won 4 of their last 5 road Finals.

EDM TOP of 32:31: Edmonton has not had less than 29:31 of TOP in any of the last 14 games and has averaged 32:31 over that period. They have won the Time of Possession battle in each of their last 6 games.

Bo Levi Mitchell: This week marks just the third career playoff start for Mitchell however he is now 2-0 including last year’s Finals victory against Edmonton (14-of-22 for 336 yards, 4 TDs). He is one of only four Calgary QBs to throw 4 TDs in a single playoff game (Keith Spaith, Danny Barrett, Marcus Crandell & Mitchell). Mitchell has yet to throw a playoff interception in 15 attempts.

Mike Reilly Start #2: This week will be just Reilly’s second ever playoff start after last year’s Final game effort in Calgary. Between Mitchell and Reilly they have just 3 career playoff starts (3 more than last year though when they were both at start #1).

Mike Reilly 300+: Has now led the Eskimos to wins in 8 straight starts, something no Edmonton QB has done since Tracy Ham won 9 in a row across 1989-1990. Over the last 3 games of the regular season, Reilly produced THREE 300-yard games in a row with 7 TD passes, 1,017 yards and 27 completions for 2nd down conversions. He matched his career-best streak of 300-yard games.

4th Quarter Edmonton: The Eskimos have not been outscored in the 4th Quarter in their last 9 games (107-22 scoring edge) or in any of their 14 wins this year. In their 14 wins they are 145-28 (+117) in Q4 scoring, in their 4 losses they have been outscored 29-3. They had two games in 2105 where they outscored their opponent 21-0 in the final 15:00.

#1 vs #2 receiver: The West Final features the Top Two receivers in the CFL in Eric Rogers and Adarius Bowman. The last two times that a Division Final featured the #1 and #2 overall receivers was 2008 – BC vs Calgary (G.Simon and K.Rambo) and in 2002 – Winnipeg vs Edmonton (M.Stegall and T.Vaughn).

Edmonton turnovers: The Eskimos were sitting at -7 and ranked #8 in the CFL through their first games (29 turnovers made, 22 forced). Over their last 10 games (9-1 WL record), they forced 27 turnovers and made only 14 themselves for a +13 Ratio, the best in the CFL over that stretch.

First time ever:  This year’s contest marks the first-ever meeting of 14-4 teams in the CFL playoffs and ties the record for most combined wins (28) by division finalists. In 1995, the North Division final featured Calgary (15-3) against Edmonton (13-5) while the 1997 East final had Toronto (15-3) going up against Montreal (13-5).

Similar Foes: In addition to sporting matching 14-4 records, the Stamps and Eskimos matched up closely in many other categories during the regular season. Calgary outscored Edmonton by a slim 478-466 margin while the Eskimos had an even narrower advantage — 341-346 — in points allowed. Both teams were 8-1 at home, 6-3 on the road and 8-2 against West Division rivals.