- FREE AGENCY
If Calgary and Winnipeg’s matchup last week was an indication of the rest of the race for the West Division..
And thankfully there is more in a tight race as four teams fight for the three playoff spots and possibly a crossover.
(Note to the BC Lions: I know anything can happen. I remember 2011 well. But the Riders also started 1-7 that season and finished with three wins.)
We don’t need to look too far away either with Mark’s Labour Day Weekend being some big time games in the race.
In September, CFL fans are treated to back-to-back weeks of Saskatchewan vs. Winnipeg and Edmonton vs. Calgary.
Not only are these great weekends for the rivalries, they mean so much more this season.
It’s like the playoffs in September!
Let’s take a snapshot of the contenders and some key matchups to follow these Labour Day home-and-home sets.
At the top of the standings, the Bombers shook off back-to-back losses with a huge win over the Calgary Stampeders.
There is no lack of playmakers developing in Winnipeg to compliment Matt Nichols and that includes offence, defence and special teams.
The Bombers also have a lot to prove. The coaching staff, management system, and quarterback have all been in Winnipeg trying to find a way to the Grey Cup game and put the doubters to rest.
A 6-2 start to the season, and being one of the top picks to win it all, puts added expectation on top of the critics that have been built up over the last few seasons.
We’ll find out who is right.
Calgary are the perennial favourite. They’ve already weathered the storm of having lost plenty of free agents as well as surviving six weeks without quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell.
At 5-3, it feels like the best of the Stampeders may now be ahead. Mitchell will have to prove he has no ill effects from the pectoral injury but it looks like, almost unbelievably, the best has yet to come out of Calgary.
Saskatchewan is now riding the momentum of a new starting quarterback in Cody Fajardo. He has taken the CFL and province of Saskatchewan by storm.
Meanwhile, the defence of the Riders has quietly come through their first eight weeks of the season as one of the top defences in terms of yards given up per game.
They are still lacking on the turnover side of things but that has started to pick up over the last few weeks. Even touchdowns have from the defence picked up with their first two of the season last week.
While it’s nowhere near the way the Riders likely had their season mapped out to start things off, they are now among the contenders having won five of their last six games with Fajardo as the quarterback.
Finally, the Edmonton Eskimos got off to a hot start with Trevor Harris but the offence has stalled of late
The positive for the Eskimos is defensive coordinator Phillip Lolley has turned the Eskimos defence into one of the top in the league despite some more key losses this off-season.
But if the Eskimos start to get their offence moving again and the defence continues to play consistently they are right there with the rest of them as contenders for not only the West Division crown but a Grey Cup title.
After the upcoming key western battles to begin September, you’ll have to wait for the last five weeks of the season to see these meaningful head to head matchups again.
And thankfully there is game of week potential coming from the West in all five of those weeks.
In fact, it’ll be another head-to-head matchup between Winnipeg and Saskatchewan to kick off what should be an intense five-week finish to the playoffs.
In Week 18, Saskatchewan will be tested again when they visit the Calgary Stampeders.
The Stampeders have home field advantage in Week 19 when the Bombers visit McMahon Stadium.
In the final two weeks of the season, the Roughriders and Eskimos have a home-and-home set that is in fact the first time these teams face each other.
Calgary is in Winnipeg in Week 20 and who knows, maybe the BC Lions can play spoiler or cap off another amazing second half turnaround in the final game of the CFL when they host the Stampeders to finish off a Saturday triple header on November 2.
I can’t wait but I guess we’ll all have to.