CFL West Playoff Picture: As Expected
Unlike the playoff projections in the east, the western CFL playoff picture doesn’t have a lot of surprises. While there’s a battle developing for second and third spot, and a good chance of a crossover for the bottom-dweller, the current standings reflect about what you’d expect from the west: BC on top, Calgary struggling to keep second place out of Saskatchewan’s hands, and Edmonton on the outside looking in.
BC has been a model of consistency this year, something that can’t be said for any other team. A couple of stumbles early on in the schedule, and a close loss to a rapidly improving Alouettes later on in the season, are countered by excellent passing from Travis Lulay, a mountain of all-purpose yards from Andrew Harris, and reliable targets in Geroy Simon, Arland Bruce, and Shawn Gore.
Their record reflects their play, and unless there’s a dramatic injury to one of these key players, BC has all but booked the top spot in the west and, very probably, a trip to Toronto in late November.
There’s less to choose from in Calgary and Saskatchewan. Their records reflect some solid personnel, but some inconsistency at the pivot position as well. By all logic, Calgary shouldn’t be in second place at this point, after Drew Tate was knocked out and Kevin Glenn took the starting spot.
Did the Stamps get lucky, or did Glenn get good? He’s stepped up in dramatic fashion, putting up a high passing percentage and even a few rushing yards. Nik Lewis is also having a good season, leading the league in receptions and fourth in receiving yards. No one’s laying short odds for them winning the western final, but they’re doing far better than expected since their 2-3 start.
Saskatchewan has also benefited from consistent, if not consistently stellar, all-round play. Durant is solid but not exceptional; Dressler and Getzlaf are stalwarts in the air game; Kory Sheets remains strong on the ground. They aren’t ripping up the league, offensively or defensively, but they’re about as good as their 6-6 record says they are
But they remain only a game behind Calgary for second spot, and a stumble or two by the Stampeders or a strong playoff run by the Riders could push them ahead. Calgary has the edge in the season series between the two, which is a big edge to hold with only a third of the season left, so it’s likely that Saskatchewan will stay where they are.
Finally, Edmonton. Not bad for a team at the bottom, but they’ll need some good fortune to make it across the country for the third-place spot in the east, and that’s Edmonton’s easy route to the playoffs. Choosing a quarterback would be a good start for Edmonton; neither Kerry Joseph nor Steven Jyles has earned a permanent starting spot, which is fine because they’re both down with injuries, and third-stringer Matt Nichols looks likely to play this week.
Aside from the QB, Edmonton’s receiving has been underwhelming and their rushing anemic. They aren’t a lock to win the season series with either Hamilton or Saskatchewan, and finishing with a better record than either of those teams looks like a stretch now. Even if you ignore their recent humiliation at the hands of the Ticats, signs are pointing to a shakeup at the coaching level on the off-season, and playing for pride at best in the last couple of games in the season.
So there might yet be a little churn in the standings in the west, but it’s unlikely now that we’ll see anyone but BC in the big game in Toronto. That said, I’m looking forward to being proven wrong, something that this league has been rather good at doing for anyone stupid enough to make predictions like I do.