October 16, 2023

Power Rankings: Reality checks on deck?

Jason Halstead/CFL.ca

TORONTO — Week 19 has come and gone and spawned some (very) late-season playoff hope for one team and left some possibilities open for another.

Despite sitting at just five wins, the Calgary Stampeders have a glimmer of hope at keeping their 17-season playoff streak alive, thanks to their 26-19 win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders. The Stamps have won the season series against the Riders and while they’re a game behind them in the standings, the Riders and their now six-game slide are convincing people that Calgary can overtake them through the final two weeks of the regular season and squeak into that third seed in the West Division.

About that West Division: The BC Lions’ narrow win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Friday keeps their faint hopes of wining the West alive.

We generally don’t like to rip the silver linings off of clouds here. We don’t speak in certainties and know that this is a league where anything within the realm of possibility is just that and can happen.

We’ll just say this: The Winnipeg Blue Bombers are coming out of a bye week, need wins and have two games left to lock up the West Division. The Bombers host the Edmonton Elks this week and travel to McMahon Stadium in Week 21 to face the Stamps. We’ll also add here that there may be no team in the CFL better than delivering a reality check than the Blue Bombers.

Sure, the three-time defending West Division champs have shown some vulnerabilities this season, dropping more regular season games this year than they have in each of the prior two years. Take a look at some of the Bombers wins this year, though. They avenged a Week 3 loss to the Lions with a 50-14 Week 9 win over them. In Week 12 at IG Field, the Bombers overcame a three-interception first half from Zach Collaros that featured a pair of pick sixes and rallied for a 47-17 win over Montreal. Their OK Tire Labour Day Weekend loss to the Saskatchewan Roughriders was met with a Labour Day rematch 51-6 annihilation of the Riders, who haven’t won a game since (we can’t give Winnipeg credit for that though).

The Stamps just might sneak into the playoffs and while it’s less possible that the Lions will overtake the Bombers for first place, there’s a chance that it could happen. The Bombers seem to enjoy being the ones that provide that harsh dose of reality to teams around the league, though. If anyone will be overtaken at the Bombers’ expense, we know that it won’t come easily.

Let’s get into this week’s rankings.

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1. Toronto Argonauts (14-2)

Last week: 1
Last game: 40-27 win over Ottawa
Next game: At Saskatchewan, Sat. Oct. 21

Worth noting: There are two sides to this coin, but let’s have fun with it from this side first: NINE SACKS! The Argos suffocated Dustin Crum on Saturday, flexing their defensive line depth (shoutout to Jarred Brinkman, who picked up his first two sacks of the season playing in his fifth game of the season) and racing to their 14th win while going a perfect 9-0 at BMO Field on the year. Ryan Dinwiddie’s team continues to look sharp while waiting for the Eastern Final to finally arrive.


2. Winnipeg Blue Bombers (12-4)

Last week: 2
Last game: 34-26 OT win over BC (Week 18)
Next game: Vs. Edmonton, Sat. Oct. 21

Worth noting: Fresh off of a bye week and an important win over the Lions the week prior, the Bombers will look to put some more space between them and the Lions in the standings. The Bombers limited Tre Ford to 189 yards on 12-16 passing with a touchdown and an interception when they saw him last in Week 10. Ford also had 50 yards of rushing and scored a TD on the ground. The Bombers’ defence will look to force turnovers — something that crippled the Elks in losses to Montreal this past week and to the Argos the week prior — as they try to cement their spot atop the West.


3. BC Lions (12-5)

Last week: 3
Last game: 33-30 win over Hamilton

Next game: Vs. Calgary, Fri. Oct. 20

Worth noting: Vernon Adams Jr. appeared to be OK after his scary looking knee issue late in Friday’s game against the Tiger-Cats and the Lions got to experience the high that comes from a tight game, a week after feeling the low in their loss to the Bombers. Congrats to Matthieu Betts, who has tied the single-season record for sacks by a National player this past week against the Tiger-Cats. In a year where the Lions have capitalized on so many opportunities, we were somewhat surprised that Betts didn’t give one of his prolonged, blank stares into the TSN camera from the sideline. Maybe he’s saving it for if he sets the record.


4. Montreal Alouettes (10-7)

Last week: 4
Last game: 35-21 win over Edmonton

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

Worth noting: The latest Alouettes defensive player to find the end zone? Defensive lineman Mustafa Johnson recovered Tre Ford‘s fumble and trucked it home for the major, sparking the Als’ 23-point explosion over the final four minutes of the first half that erased the Elks’ 18-point lead. Down early in a game with no bearing on the Als’ playoff positioning, Jason Maas’ team could have packed it in when things didn’t go its way. Instead, the Als rattled of 32 unanswered points to pick up their 10th win of the season. They have a chance for their first 11-win campaign since 2012 in their regular season finale against the Ticats in Week 21.


5. Hamilton Tiger-Cats (8-9)

Last week: 5
Last game: 33-30 loss to BC

Next game: At Montreal, Sat. Oct. 28

Worth noting: The Ticats’ hopes for hosting the Eastern Semi-Final were dashed on Friday, but this continues to look like a team that’s going to be dangerous in November. An interesting side thought on the Ticats, as they continue to wade Bo Levi Mitchell further out into the water each week: this is a battle-tested quarterback room. We may see a full on shift to Mitchell for the Eastern Semi-Final, but we’ve seen all three of this team’s quarterbacks step in and show they’re capable of winning games for them this year. That’s a great weapon to have as the playoffs inch closer.


6. Edmonton Elks (4-13)

Last week: 6
Last game: 35-21 loss to Montreal

Next game: At Winnipeg, Sat. Oct. 21 

Worth noting: Things were looking so promising for the Elks, who had built up a 21-3 second-quarter lead over the Alouettes. In a span of four minutes it all slipped away with all three phases complicit in the foundation coming out from under them. The Elks are now 4-4 in their last eight; that’s an obvious improvement from their 0-9 start, but it’s clear this team has a ways to go to become competitive on a week-to-week basis. Chris Jones’ crew heads to Winnipeg on Saturday to wrap up its season and the Bombers won’t be welcoming hosts, needing a win to keep the Lions behind them in the race to finish first in the West Division.


7. Calgary Stampeders (5-11)

Last week: 9
Last game: 26-19 win over Saskatchewan
Next game: At BC, Fri. Oct. 20

Worth noting: The Stamps are alive but may have to successfully run a gauntlet of BC and Winnipeg to make the playoffs. If you were looking at the schedule over the last few weeks anticipating this team’s tight window, you might have hoped that by Weeks 20 and 21 that the Lions and Bombers would have their respective playoff spots sorted out and would be in preservation mode. That is not the case heading into Week 20, as both teams are fighting to finalize the top seed in the West Division. If the Stamps can run this gauntlet to get into the post-season they’ll be truly worthy of their playoff spot.


8. Ottawa REDBLACKS (4-13)

Last week: 8
Last game: 40-27 loss to Toronto

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

Worth noting: And now the other, less fun side of that coin: NINE SACKS. The REDBLACKS saw a good first half effort go for naught as they dropped their 13th game of the season. Tobias Harris got the REDBLACKS a moment in the sun on Saturday with his 93-yard kick return touchdown, showing head coach Bob Dyce that he can offer another option in the return game. It gets no easier for the REDBLACKS when they return from their bye for Week 21. They close out their 2023 campaign at home against the refuse-to-cruise Argos.


9. Saskatchewan Roughriders (6-11)

Last week: 7
Last game: 26-19 loss to Calgary 

Next game: Vs. Toronto, Sat. Oct. 21

Worth noting: Three crucial mistakes — Mario Alford‘s fumble, a turnover on downs and Cameron Judge‘s pick six — sealed the Riders fate on Friday night, undoing what had been a promising first-half showing that had held the Stamps to just five points. As a testament to the struggles of the Alberta teams this season, the odds are still in the Riders’ favour for a playoff appearance. They have a tough opponent this week in the semi-resting Argos, but can take some solace in looking at the Stamps’ schedule over the final two weeks. A win would help the Riders in more than one way, but creating some good energy around this club if it is playoff bound is a must.


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