October 10, 2023

Power Rankings: All roads (still) go through Toronto

Kevin Sousa/CFL.ca

TORONTO — The highly-anticipated meeting between the BC Lions and Winnipeg Blue Bombers lived up to and exceeded the hype in Week 18, with the Bombers settling in at the top of the heap in the West Division.

As sensational as that game was, the CFL’s Power Rankings still start with the team that’s atop the East Division.

The Toronto Argonauts have the East locked up, that’s not breaking news. Despite resting players in games that have no statistical impact on them, they continue to stack wins, for the most part.

Bomber fans may be unhappy that their team’s win over the Argos in Week 17, coupled with their dramatic win over the Lions this past week isn’t enough to push them to the top. The Argos rested Chad Kelly for that encounter in Winnipeg and still gave their Grey Cup 109 opponents a very good game. Other key pieces on each side of the ball have sat out in wins over Hamilton and Edmonton. We get into this below on the Argos, but they appear to not be losing a step through what stood to be a challenging pre-playoff period for them.

On the other end of the rankings, we see a Calgary Stampeders team that is in must-win mode. There is a possibility, with a Stamps-win-out scenario and a Roughriders-lose-out scenario, where the team that’s been ninth in these rankings the last three weeks could squeak into the playoffs.

Have a look at everything in between below.

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1. Toronto Argonauts (13-2)

Last week: 1
Last game: 35-12 win over Edmonton
Next game: Vs. Ottawa, Sat. Oct. 14

Worth noting: The Argos gave their fans and some distinguished alumni the kind of win that they’ve grown to expect this season, as the club celebrated its 150th anniversary in style while running away from the Elks and knocking them out of playoff contention. The games haven’t had statistical meaning for the Argos since they clinched the East a few weeks back, but the team appears to be staying sharp and not letting the potential malaise of their situation impact them. Wynton McManis has pick-sixes in back-to-back games now, as the Argos sit at a league-best 13-2.

2. Winnipeg Blue Bombers (12-4)

Last week: 2
Last game: 34-26 OT win over BC
Next game: Vs. Edmonton, Sat. Oct. 21

Worth noting: If there’s any talk of this not being the same dominant Blue Bombers team that we’ve seen over the past two seasons, we’ll remind you (again) that this team has flexed its championship-calibre mettle multiple times this year. Their comeback, OT win over the Lions was just the latest example of it. The win plops the Bombers back into the driver’s seat in the West Division, giving them a tremendous shot at hosting the Western Final and being just a win away from a return trip to the Grey Cup.

3. BC Lions (11-5)

Last week: 3
Last game: 34-26 OT loss to Winnipeg

Next game: At Hamilton, Fri. Oct. 13

Worth noting: The Lions will look at a 17-3 first half lead and a 23-16 fourth quarter lead that slipped away from them and may be haunted by the possibilities of Dominique Rhymes making his way to the end zone — or perhaps getting down to set up a field goal — in the final seconds of regulation. What they have, as they work their way through their final two games of the regular season, are some hard-learned lessons on what it takes to knock off a top-level team. The road to the 110th Grey Cup likely just got longer for the Lions, as they currently stare down the likelihood of hosting the Western Semi-Final on. Nov. 4 at BC Place.

4. Montreal Alouettes (9-7)

Last week: 4
Last game: 29-3 win over Ottawa

Next game: At Edmonton, Sat. Oct. 14

Worth noting: The Als wrapped up a home-and-home series with the REDBLACKS with another dominant performance that keeps them on pace to hold onto the second seed in the East. The Als’ defence was superb once again, with Shawn Lemon recording his 100th career sack and Reggie Stubblefield and Tyrice Beverette pairing up to get another defensive touchdown. Let’s throw some love to Cody Fajardo as well, who made 28-32 passes for 272 yards on holiday Monday in a game that the Als controlled from kickoff to the final whistle. This team could be lining up for a very significant game against the Ticats in Week 21, where the winner may walk away with homefield advantage in the Eastern Semi-Final.

5. Hamilton Tiger-Cats (8-8)

Last week: 6
Last game: 38-13 win over Saskatchewan

Next game: Vs. BC, Fri. Oct. 13

Worth noting: It’s been a journey for the Ticats this season, who have had Bo Levi Mitchell and backup Matthew Shiltz on the injured list for extended periods and leaned on rookie third-stringer Taylor Powell for an eight-week stretch. The Ticats have looked down and out at 0-3 and 3-6 in the standings this year, but never gave up. This past week against Saskatchewan, with Mitchell getting worked back into the lineup and Shiltz playing well, the Ticats picked up their fifth win in their last seven games. Sitting at 8-8, the team is at the .500 mark for the first time this season. Even if they do take their playoff act on the road in three weeks’ time, you know this club will be ready to fight to advance.

6. Edmonton Elks (4-12)

Last week: 5
Last game: 35-12 loss to Toronto

Next game: Vs. Montreal, Sat. Oct. 14 

Worth noting: The Elks’ mad scramble attempt for the playoffs fell short in Week 18, after the Argos zeroed in on Tre Ford and limited the Elks to 238 yards of net offence. That 0-9 start was indeed insurmountable, but Ford and the Elks have given some long-suffering fans a few things to be excited about. Ford had another how’d-he-get-out-of-that run that ended with a perfectly placed touchdown pass this past week, this time finding Gavin Cobb for the score. With games against Montreal and Winnipeg to close things out, the Elks may still be able to impact the playoff picture as disruptive outsiders.

7. Saskatchewan Roughriders (6-10)

Last week: 7
Last game: 38-13 loss to Hamilton 

Next game: At Calgary, Fri. Oct. 13

Worth noting: Riders’ head coach Craig Dickenson summed it up perfectly with some blunt post-game comments after his team’s latest loss. With so much to play for this past week: honouring the life of George Reed while members of the 2013 Grey Cup-winning squad were being celebrated and looking on, plus the on-field matters of putting a four-game losing streak to bed, the Riders fell woefully short of the goal. The Riders’ continued losses give life to the Calgary Stampeders — whom the Riders visit this week — and as Dickenson said in the post-game, even if they are to get into the post-season playing the way they are right now, would be a one-and-done team. Rediscovering their game against the Stamps this week feels like a must for this group.

8. Ottawa REDBLACKS (4-12)

Last week: 8
Last game: 29-3 loss to Montreal

Next game: At Toronto, Sat. Oct. 14

Worth noting: The REDBLACKS were up against the wall to make the playoffs and finally had the walls close in on them with Monday’s loss to the Alouettes. The REDBLACKS’ playoff absence extends to four seasons now, with their run to the Grey Cup game in 2018 marking their last post-season appearance. A pair of games against the Argos, with a Week 20 bye sandwiched in the middle, makes for a difficult ending to a trying season for head coach Bob Dyce’s club. We’ve seen more of Nick Arbuckle of late in the final stages of lopsided losses. Will that continue through these final two games?

9. Calgary Stampeders (4-11)

Last week: 9
Last game: 22-15 loss to Hamilton
Next game: Vs. Saskatchewan, Fri. Oct. 13 

Worth noting: It may have been a stressful weekend of watching football for the inactive Stamps, but they step back into competition this week knowing that the number of teams competing for that final remaining playoff spot in the West Division got smaller. Despite the Elks and REDBLACKS’ elimination from playoff contention, the Stamps face an uphill battle if they want to keep that 17-season playoff streak alive. They need to win out in their final three games, while they need the Riders’ slide to extend two more games. The two teams fittingly meet on Friday night at McMahon Stadium and it’s worth noting that despite their respective woes, they’ve provided two nail biter finishes (a three-point double OT Riders win in Week 3 and a two-point Stamps win in Week 6) in those meetings.

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