September 25, 2023

Power Rankings: A heavyweight tilt is upon us

Chris Tanouye/

TORONTO — We’re just four days out from what could be the most anticipated game on this year’s regular season schedule. The 10-4 West-leading Winnipeg Blue Bombers host the 12-1 East and CFL-leading Toronto Argonauts on Friday night, marking the first time these teams have met since the Argos claimed the 109th Grey Cup more than 10 months earlier.

It will also be their only regular season encounter this year, which serves as a nice spicy dollop of a rivalry game in the schedule.

Of course, just how spicy this game gets is somewhat on the shoulders of the defending Grey Cup champs. The Argos clinched the East Division in Week 15. They could continue to rest players — running back AJ Ouellette and offensive tackle Isiah Cage sat out of last week’s win over the Tiger-Cats — and keep their focus to the East Final on Nov. 11. The Bombers, meanwhile, are still battling the BC Lions for the top spot in the West Division. That means that we should see a fully stocked Bombers’ lineup on Friday, as head coach Mike O’Shea’s team chases its third consecutive West Division crown.

If the Argos want to match that energy and see how their players stack up against an all-out Bombers team to get some intel on a possible Grey Cup opponent, this could still be a very interesting game. While it’s not on either team’s radar, the outcome of this one could impact the top-two spots in next week’s Power Rankings.

Let’s take a look at how the rest of this week’s rankings shake out.

» MMQB: Pleasant surprises at the three-quarter mark
» Landry’s 5 takeaways from Week 16
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» Get your tickets for 2023 games now

1. Toronto Argonauts (12-1)

Last week: 1
Last game: 29-14 win over Hamilton
Next game: At Winnipeg, Fri. Sept. 29

Worth noting: The image of Jason The Argonaut riding what appeared to be an inflatable tiger around the confines of BMO Field on Saturday night is an appropriate image for how this season series went for the top-ranked team in the league. The Argos swept the four-game series against their rivals to the south by an average of 15.5 points. That fourth win came with running backs AJ Ouellette (healthy scratch) and Andrew Harris (knee) shelved — Harris is on the six-game injured list — and with offensive tackle Isiah Cage getting the night off. Might Friday be the last time we see the full attack of the Argos in the regular season?

2. Winnipeg Blue Bombers (10-4)

Last week: 2
Last game: 29-23 loss to Hamilton (Week 15)
Next game: Vs. Toronto, Fri. Sept. 29

Worth noting: The Bombers come out of their bye week to get what will probably be their most emotionally testing game of the season, with the Grey Cup champion Argos coming to town. Things like emotional tests, or games on big stages don’t seem to resonate with the Bombers, externally at least. What does come into play in the next-game-up mantra, though, is that the top spot in the West Division is at stake. A win this week would inch them closer to their third consecutive first place finish.

3. BC Lions (10-4)

Last week: 3
Last game: 37-29 win over Edmonton

Next game: Vs. Saskatchewan, Fri. Sept. 29

Worth noting: The Lions held Tre Ford to a season-low 43 rushing yards in their win over the Elks, keeping the league’s top escape artist under wraps better than any of his other opponents have in his seven games. While the Lions will feel great about that coming away from Commonwealth, their other big win was that they’ve punched their playoff ticket and with four games left to play, stand on even ground with the Blue Bombers in the race to a first-place finish in the West.

4. Montreal Alouettes (7-7)

Last week: 5
Last game: 28-11 loss to Calgary

Next game: At Ottawa, Sat. Sept. 30

Worth noting: After a brutal four-game run — all losses — against the Lions, Bombers and a pair of games against the Argos, the Als finally started to look like themselves again in an impressive win over the Stampeders. The Als shook off the cross-country travel and the fact that the Stamps were coming off of a bye week to ride a four-turnover performance from the defence to their seventh win of the year and back to the .500 mark. William Stanback‘s combined 99 yards of productivity on Saturday (81 rushing, 19 receiving yards) was a welcome contribution.

5. Edmonton Elks (4-11)

Last week: 4
Last game: 37-29 loss to BC

Next game: At Toronto, Fri. Oct. 6 

Worth noting: After being shut out in their previous two meetings against the Lions, the Elks at least gave the guys in orange a game this time. Surrendering seven sacks doesn’t often go hand-in-hand with winning football and the Elks will have to offer Tre Ford better protection as they continue to fight to make some kind of post-season noise. The Elks’ measuring stick tour goes East after their bye week and they’ll head to BMO Field next Friday, where the league-leading Argos are a perfect 8-0.

6. Hamilton Tiger-Cats (6-8)

Last week: 7
Last game: 29-14 loss to Toronto

Next game: Vs. Calgary, Sat. Sept. 30

Worth noting: Despite the Argos handling them for the fourth time this season, the Ticats move up as a result of the play of the teams below them (some good, some bad) in these rankings. As for those Argos, sometimes some teams just have your number. With the Argos off the schedule, we feel the Ticats will lick their wounds and get back to work for the arrival of the Stamps, as these two meet at Tim Hortons Field to close out Week 17.

7. Ottawa REDBLACKS (4-10)

Last week: 9
Last game: 36-28 win over Saskatchewan

Next game: Vs. Montreal, Sat. Sept. 30

Worth noting: The REDBLACKS’ slide ends at seven games, as Dustin Crum and a lively REDBLACKS defence gave their fans something to cheer about on Friday night. If the REDBLACKS are going to make a late-season push at a playoff spot, they’ll have to deal with one other streak that’s worked against them this year: they’re winless against the East Division. They get a chance to rectify that on Saturday, when they host the Als.

8. Saskatchewan Roughriders (6-8)

Last week: 6
Last game: 36-28 loss to Ottawa 

Next game: At BC, Fri. Sept. 29

Worth noting: The Riders’ three-game slide makes their OK Tire Labour Day Weekend triumph over the Bombers feel like it happened much further back than its Sept. 3 date. The number five will haunt the Riders this week. They had five turnovers and gave up five sacks in Ottawa. Despite that, they narrowed the gap in the fourth quarter with some special teams heroics (shout out to Mario Alford and his 107-yard return TD and the Riders’ onside kick recovery), but ran out of comeback magic. With the Stamps and the Elks losing in Week 16 as well, the Riders are fortunate to keep their two-game lead on them for the third spot in the West Division.

9. Calgary Stampeders (4-10)

Last week: 8
Last game: 28-11 loss to Montreal
Next game: At Hamilton, Sat. Sept. 30 

Worth noting: The Stamps are in unchartered territory, sitting at just four wins and bound to finish under .500 for the first time since 2007. Four turnovers, including two in the end zone and four sacks allowed didn’t help the Stamps’ cause on Saturday. The Stamps will become temporary Lions fans Friday, as they will need help from their West Division rivals as they fight for that third and final West playoff spot with the Roughriders.

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