The 2023 post-season field is almost set. But there’s still one more thing to be decided.
All three teams in the East Division are set after Week 18 action. Toronto, fresh off a dominant 35-12 win at home to Edmonton, has been clinched as the No. 1 seed for weeks and with Montreal’s 29-3 victory over Ottawa to wrap up Thanksgiving Weekend presented by Purolator, the REDBLACKS have been officially eliminated from playoff contention.
As such, we’ll see the Alouettes and Tiger-Cats meet in the East Division Semi-Final for the right to play the Argos the following week.
And, as Winnipeg and BC continue their fight for the West’s top seed (more on that later), we know both of those teams are playoff bound. What we don’t know is the third playoff team in the division, but the picture could look a whole lot clearer after this weekend.
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The race is down to Saskatchewan and Calgary. Funny enough, those two teams face one another on Friday night in their final head-to-head matchup of the season. The implications of that game are significant.
The situation is clear for the Roughriders. If they win, they’ll be headed back to the playoffs after a short one-year absence, eliminating an arch-rival in the process. A win would also snap Sask’s difficult recent slide at five games; they haven’t won since their 32-30 overtime thriller vs. Winnipeg on OK Tire Labour Day Weekend.
It’s been a weird stretch for the Riders. We’ve seen them put up decent offensive totals during this skid, at times led by quarterback Jake Dolegala or other times by tailback Jamal Morrow. But in all five losses, Saskatchewan has allowed 30 points or more. That’s been a problem for a good chunk of this season as the Riders have allowed an average of 31.0 points per game, the highest total in the league.
Perhaps one of their top rivals is exactly what Saskatchewan needs to snap this frustrating recent run. But you can bet the Stampeders will be playing desperate football with their season on the line. And, despite having lost three straight and six of seven, Calgary still has everything to play for.
A win over the Riders gives the Stamps a real shot in the arm for their playoff hopes, because a win gives Calgary the tiebreaker and they’d only need to make up one more game on the Riders in the final two weeks of the season. It’s still not the most likely outcome, but the door opens in a big way with the right result Friday night.
W\ith the seasons we’re seeing from the likes of Micah Awe, Reggie Begelton and Cameron Judge, a Stampeders’ win isn’t out of the question. In fact, the two prior showdowns between these two rivals were decided by a combined five points. The Riders took the first meeting 29-26 in double overtime back in Week 3 before Calgary responded with a 33-31 win of their own in Week 6.
If you’re looking for your Week 19 marquee matchup, look no further than the Stamps and Riders at McMahon.
Still up for grabs
Boy did Friday’s game between BC and Winnipeg live up to the hype…and then some. The West Division’s two best teams went toe-to-toe all night and eventually led to Winnipeg coming back to take a 34-26 overtime win in the rubber match of this three-game regular season series. It sure would be great to see a round four in the Western Final.
But even with Friday’s thrilling win, the Bombers still haven’t locked up top seed and thus a bye into that Western Final. They’re in the driver’s seat, however. Winnipeg’s magic number to clinch the No. 1 seed is down to one, which means one more win or any loss for the Lions will get the job done.
With the Blue Bombers on a bye in Week 19, BC has a chance to extend the conversation this Friday with a road win in Hamilton.
The Tiger-Cats will have something to play for, too. Thanks to their 38-13 road win over the Riders on Saturday, Hamilton will still be in the hunt for a home playoff date in Week 19, and they’ll be doing so with a healthy quarterback room for the first time in a long time.
After Matthew Shiltz returned a couple weeks ago, the Ticats got Bo Levi Mitchell back under centre for the win in Saskatchewan. Mitchell threw for 129 yards and a touchdown in his first game since late July. And, in relief after Mitchell was pulled for planned load management, Shiltz threw for 271 yards and two more touchdowns. It must have been nice for fans in Hamilton to see their top two quarterback options in action on the same night.
Even with wins in four of their last five, the Tiger-Cats don’t control their own destiny. That’s because the Alouettes, with three straight wins themselves, are driving the bus for second place in the East. Like Winnipeg, Montreal’s magic number is one, which means they can guarantee hosting the Eastern Semi-Final with a Week 19 win in Edmonton.
However, if the Als aren’t victorious in Saturday’s game against the Elks and if Hamilton wins its game, then the battle will come right down to the wire. Both teams are on a bye in Week 20, which sets up a head-to-head showdown in the final week of the season. That win would decide second in the East and home field when the two teams meet again a week later in the playoffs.
I’m not sure if things will get that far, but if they do, you can bet Tim Hortons Field will be rocking for Week 21.