October 17, 2022

Steinberg’s MMQB: Must-win season

The Canadian Press

The final two weeks of the season are upon us!

With Week 19 wrapped up, multiple teams enter the penultimate weekend of the regular season needing wins…with varying degrees of urgency. Calgary and Montreal have clinched playoff spots and are attempting to chase down higher spots in the standings. On the other hand, the stakes are significantly more dire for Saskatchewan and Hamilton.

Thanks to Friday’s incredible last-minute win over the Stampeders, the Ticats have moved into the driver’s seat in the race for third in the East Division. But that doesn’t mean they’re in the clear when it comes to locking up a fourth consecutive post-season berth. While Hamilton’s Week 20 game against Ottawa isn’t technically “must win,” the implications from the result remain massive.

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However, depending on what the Tiger-Cats do Friday night, the Riders could very well be out of runway one night later at home to Calgary. Because they’ve won three of their last four, Hamilton fully controls their own destiny entering Week 20. Simply put: a Ticats win means Saskatchewan truly will be in must-win territory to keep their playoff hopes alive.

Here’s where things get interesting. Because the Roughriders close out the week, they’ll either be playing a Stampeders team with lots on the line or absolutely nothing…at least when it comes to the standings. That situation is rather simple, too. If the Lions wins their Friday game over Edmonton, they’ll lock up second in the West and finalize Calgary in third. A BC loss, on the other hand, will keep the Stamps in the mix the following day.

With the way things have gone recently, I can understand why many believe the race for the final spot is already decided. Hamilton is playing their best football of the season and displayed remarkable resilience in their last two wins, punctuated by Tim White’s game-winning touchdown on Friday. Saskatchewan, on the other hand, is in the midst of a five-game skid and hasn’t won a game since August.

But far crazier things have happened, which is why both teams have to be approaching Week 20 with must-win mentalities. A Tiger-Cats victory ensures they’ll remain in control entering the final week of the season. A Riders win at worst gives them a chance to being playing a meaningful game to close out their year. Let’s see how both teams respond.

Finally, the Alouettes still very much control their own fate in the race for top spot in the East Division. Yes, Montreal is two games back of the first place Argonauts with two games remaining, which means their margin of error is zero. However, those teams just happen to play one another in the final two weeks of the season. If the Als wins both games, they’ll clinch top spot and a bye into the Eastern Final, which adds one more high stakes showdown to the Week 20 slate.

Flying under the radar

Don’t forget, the CFL All-Star Fan Vote continues all month long! In fact, voting closes on October 31st, which is exactly two weeks from this publish date. Not only do you get to join coaches and media in selecting the year-end All-Star teams, each of your three possible ballots could win you $5,000 cash.

With that in mind, here are a trio of less obvious names who deserve some All-Star consideration.

Tim White – Receiver, Hamilton Tiger-Cats

Tim White has hauled in 1,152 yards to go along with eight touchdowns so far this season (Kevin Sousa/CFL.ca)

Perhaps this name is a little more obvious after catching Hamilton’s most important pass of the season Friday night. However, despite sitting top five in both receiving yards and touchdowns, White doesn’t seem to get mentioned in the same conversations as some of the other big names at his position. At least not yet.

After opening eyes as a rookie in 2021, White has truly arrived this season. In the process, he’s been huge in allowing the Tiger-Cats to make up for the departures of Jaelon Acklin (Ottawa) and Brandon Banks (Toronto) along with a Bralon Addison injury sustained in Week 9.

Avery Williams – Linebacker, Ottawa REDBLACKS

Thanks largely to Ottawa’s struggles the last three seasons, the consistency shown by Williams hasn’t fully received the attention it deserves. The truth is, though, Williams has been outstanding for the REDBLACKS and has been the heartbeat of their defence dating back to 2019. After finishing third overall with 89 defensive tackles last season, Williams has racked up 79 more this year to go along with two sacks, two forced fumbles, and an interception.

Mike Rose – Defensive line, Calgary Stampeders

Rose began entrenching himself as the league’s most disruptive interior lineman during the 2021 season. He’s taken it to the next level this year and has cemented that title. While stats never tell the whole story at Rose’s position, his are impressive: seven sacks, an interception, and a forced fumble. Calgary’s number one strength is their defensive line right now, and it starts in the middle with Rose.

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