October 23, 2023

Power Rankings: A late-season statement

Jimmy Jeong/CFL.ca

TORONTO — Week 20 was supposed to be a cut-and-dry affair.

At this point in the season, you can generally trust the notions that you’ve conceived over the past 19 weeks. And through the last month or so, it seemed that the Calgary Stampeders were on track to make some bad-news, season-ending history. The Stamps had slumped to a 4-10 record on Sept. 30 and it felt like their 17-season playoff streak had gone past the point of being in jeopardy.

Two games later, the outlook is a lot different for head coach Dave Dickenson’s team. The Stamps got a season-saving win over Saskatchewan in Week 19, then went into BC Place and thumped a Grey Cup contender in the BC Lions. The Riders’ Saturday loss to the Toronto Argonauts sealed the deal and turned what felt impossible in recent weeks into reality. The Stamps are back in the playoffs, once again.

Coming off of that convincing win over the Lions, the Stamps don’t look like a third-seed team that’s just happy to be in the playoffs, either. Winning at BC Place — where Jake Maier and the Stamps fell short in the Western Semi-Final a year ago — should serve as a tremendous confidence boost for a team that’s taken its lumps through this season.

The impact that might have on the Lions? We get into that below in our final edition of CFL.ca’s Power Rankings for the 2023 season.

» MMQB: The Stamps’ streak lives on
» Landry’s 5 takeaways from Week 20
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» Get your tickets for 2023 games now

1. Toronto Argonauts (15-2)

Last week: 1
Last game: 29-26 win over Saskatchewan
Next game: At Ottawa, Sat. Oct. 28

Worth noting: This is technically a meaningless game for the Argos and teams in their lofty position traditionally use this as a chance to give their star players a rest before the playoffs. But the Argos have a shot at history in Week 21. The CFL hasn’t seen a 16-win team since Edmonton did it in 1989. Will that matter to the Argos, who set a franchise record for wins on Saturday in their comeback over the Riders? If the last few weeks have shown with this club, it has enough depth to have a shot at winning every week.

2. Winnipeg Blue Bombers (13-4)

Last week: 2
Last game: 45-25 win over Edmonton
Next game: At Calgary, Fri. Oct. 27

Worth noting: Clinched West Division? Nothing to play for? Not in Bomberland, where a rested and hungry-looking Bombers team scored twice in 40 seconds to set the tone against the Elks on Saturday. It was a tremendous night for two local products, as Brady Oliveira and Nic Demski became the first pair of National teammates to go over the 1,000-yard rushing/receiving mark, respectively. Oh, and Oliveira is having the second-greatest season a National running back has ever had in this league, sitting at an eye-popping 1,498 yards through 17 games.

3. BC Lions (12-6)

Last week: 3
Last game: 41-16 loss to Calgary

Next game: Western Semi-Final vs. Calgary, Sat. Nov. 4

Worth noting: What a way to wrap up the regular season. The Lions looked disconnected in their undisciplined and uncharacteristic loss on Friday. The obvious challenge for them now is to put that loss behind them and to channel the type of play that’s made people so high on them this year. There will undoubtedly be a mental hurdle in that Western Semi-Final, lining up against the Stamps again on Nov. 4 at BC Place. Before Friday’s loss, the Lions had taken both of their previous meetings with the Stamps. This playoff matchup just got a lot more intriguing.

4. Montreal Alouettes (10-7)

Last week: 4
Last game: 35-21 win over Edmonton (Week 19)

Next game: Vs. Hamilton, Sat. Oct. 28

Worth noting: The Als and Ticats come out of their respective bye weeks and go into an interesting situation, facing their playoff opponent a week early in a game with no bearing on the standings. From the Alouettes side, will Cody Fajardo get a little extra rest, with backup Caleb Evans getting some extra work and a feel for the Ticat’s defence, just in case he’s needed in the Eastern Semi-Final a week later? Coaches on both sides of this week’s game will have to think about how much they want to show, or not show against their playoff opponent.

5. Hamilton Tiger-Cats (8-9)

Last week: 5
Last game: 33-30 loss to BC (Week 19)

Next game: At Montreal, Sat. Oct. 28

Worth noting: What can we expect from the Ticats this week? We think it’ll be more of them working Bo Levi Mitchell into action, while keeping Matthew Shiltz sharp against his former team as well. We’ve said it a few times here, but the Ticats’ path to these playoffs has been one full of injury-inducing potholes that this group has remarkably overcome. It wouldn’t be surprising to see a rest-heavy lineup from the Black and Gold this week.

6. Calgary Stampeders (6-11)

Last week: 7
Last game: 41-16 win over BC
Next game: Vs. Winnipeg, Fri. Oct. 27

Worth noting: It was four weeks ago that the Stamps hit bottom — in these parts, at least — and dropped to ninth in the Power Rankings. They spent three weeks there before salvaging their season with wins over Saskatchewan and then BC. After being haunted by costly turnovers in key moments this year, the Stamps have taken better care of the ball in recent weeks. Jake Maier has now gone three games without throwing an interception. They’ve come on (very) late, but this Stamps team is playoff-bound and finally has some momentum.

7. Edmonton Elks (4-14)

Last week: 6
Last game: 45-25 loss to Winnipeg

Next game: Season complete

Worth noting: The Elks end their season with some positives to take into 2024. They’ve got an exciting and dynamic quarterback in Tre Ford and as TSN’s Dustin Nielsen perfectly called it as Deontez Alexander brought his 98-yard punt return across the Winnipeg goal line, “for the first time in forever,” the Elks got a return touchdown in a game. Forever in this case spans from Aug. 28, 2015. The Elks’ playoff drought spills into its third season.

8. Ottawa REDBLACKS (4-13)

Last week: 8
Last game: 40-27 loss to Toronto (Week 19)

Next game: Vs. Toronto, Sat. Oct. 28

Worth noting: The REDBLACKS head into their final game of the 2023 campaign with a few boxes left to check off on their to-do list. They’re 0-9 against divisional opponents this year and the visiting (possibly resting?) Argos serve as their last shot at getting what’s proven to be an elusive win. The team is also 3-5 at TD Place this year and while they’ve given their fans some memorable moments this season (their OT win over Winnipeg in Week 6, in particular), they have a chance to send the fans into the winter on a positive note.

9. Saskatchewan Roughriders (6-12)

Last week: 9
Last game: 26-19 loss to Calgary 

Next game: Season complete

Worth noting: The storylines around this team are unflattering and familiar. A seven-game slide to close out the season for the second straight year we have a province full of disappointed fans that once again won’t see the Roughriders in the playoffs. There’s a what-if with this team around Trevor Harris and how things might have turned out had he not been injured back in July. Losing your quarterback doesn’t account for a league-worst 551 points allowed this season, though.

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