The best part of Week 18 in the CFL season was how it set up the final four games of the regular season next weekend
Watching the 2012 Canadian Football League season without a horse in the race has been about as entertaining as it gets. The penultimate week of the season saw the results play out in the exact fashion they needed to, in order to allow the maximum amount of possibilities to still exist come Week 19.
|Week 18 Rewind|
» Video: Toronto at Saskatchewan Recap
» Argos down Riders, clinch playoff spot
» Video: Edmonton at Montreal Recap
» Als hold off late surge to beat Esks
» Video: Winnipeg at Hamilton Recap
» Ticats send off Ivor Wynne with a W
» Video: BC at Calgary Recap
» Big first half enough to will Stamps to win
Quite honestly, that’s what made Week 18 awesome.
I thought before we get into the meat of what we saw in Week 18, it would be pertinent to break down all the permutations of what could happen in the final week of the season. We’ll start with the certainties and get those out of the way.
The BC Lions and Montreal Alouettes will host the Western and Eastern Finals, respectively, on November 18th. Thanks to their 31-26 win over the Roughriders, Toronto has clinched second in the East Division and will host the Eastern Semi-Final game on November 11th.
That’s the same day the Calgary Stampeders will host the Western Semi-Final at McMahon Stadium, a date that was secured last week.
The other certainty is that Winnipeg will be on the outside looking in, one year after they represented the East in the 99th Grey Cup. Their 28-18 loss to Hamilton on Saturday officially eliminated them from playoff contention a whole lot later than most would have thought earlier in the season. We’ll touch more on them later.
Even though the Argos won on Saturday afternoon, the Tiger-Cats stayed managed to stay alive thanks to two different results. First, their home win over Winnipeg in the final game at Ivor Wynne Stadium allowed them to fight another day and hope for some help on Sunday afternoon.
That hope was well placed, because the second result that kept them alive was a 27-25 Eskimos loss in Montreal to conclude the week. Now, with just one week to go, the Ticats and Esks have no idea if they’ll be playing beyond next weekend, while the Riders have no idea where they’re going to be playing.
Let’s break it down for Hamilton first. They start Week 19 on Thursday and must beat Toronto on the road to keep their chances alive, as a loss will eliminate them.
If the Tiger-Cats are victorious, they’ll be tuning in keenly to Saturday night’s game in Edmonton between the Eskimos and the Stampeders. If Edmonton wins, they will guarantee themselves a better record than Hamilton and secure a crossover playoff spot, at the very least.
The next important clarification addresses how the West Division could shake down depending on certain results. Let’s say Edmonton clinches their playoff spot, either by a Hamilton loss or their own win over Calgary.
The question then becomes: who do the Eskimos play on November 11th? That answer depends on the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
An Eskimos win on Saturday would see them finish with an 8-10 record, and would see them tuning into the final game of the regular season the next afternoon in BC. A Riders win over the Lions would clinch them third in the West Division and send them to Calgary for the Western Semi-Final. A loss, however, would put us back into tiebreak mode.
Because Edmonton took two of the three regular season meetings against Saskatchewan, we’d only have to look at priority two of the tiebreaking system. An Eskimos win and a Riders loss would see Edmonton finish third in the West Division and relegate Saskatchewan to fourth, seeing them crossover to play Toronto in the Eastern Semi-Final.
While that list of what could happen this coming weekend may have made your head spin a tad, I can say with 100 per cent certainty how awesome it was to write. The fact that three of the four games to finish the season could be huge in determining final playoff seeding speaks to just how awesome 2012 has been.
I can say with certainty that I can’t remember a single transaction in recent memory that has made as much of an impact on one team as one we saw this past off-season.
When Edmonton decided to trade Ricky Ray to Toronto in the early winter of 2011, we knew the Argos were going to get an offensive shot in the arm. To see just how big an impact Ray has had this season certainly caught me off guard, but it reminded me why he’s been an elite quarterback for so long.
Ray has been the most accurate regular quarterback this season, and his 305-yard, four-touchdown performance against Saskatchewan on Saturday showed us why.
Ray threw just six incomplete passes at Mosaic Stadium and did what he does best: make the weapons around him better. He doesn’t have the raw arm strength of Anthony Calvillo or Henry Burris, nor does he have the elusiveness of Travis Lulay.
What Ray does have, however, is a football IQ that is at least on par with every other pivot in this league.
Pat Steinberg is the co-host of the drive home program on Sportsnet Radio FAN 960 in Calgary. He also reports on the CFL and the Stampeders and hosts pre and post-game programs for the team. He looks forward to traveling to the Grey Cup every year. Follow Pat on Twitter @Fan960Steinberg.