The 2017 season for the BC Lions was a shock to many CFL fans. Heading into the season, the Lions were projected by many to be the second-best team in the West and were probably considered the best candidate to dethrone the Calgary Stampeders and make the Grey Cup. This rhetoric completely fell apart at the seams when the season began where the Lions limped to the finish line with a 7-11 record.
So, that begs the question: can the BC Lions make the playoffs in 2018? More importantly, can they compete for a Grey Cup?
Which BC Lions team is this?
In 2016, the BC Lions were an electric, entertaining team to watch. More importantly, they were good. With a record of 12-6, they were the second-best team in the CFL but were eliminated by the Calgary Stampeders in the western final, the only team with a better regular season record.
In 2017, BC continued in this fashion… until week eight when everything completely fell apart for the Lions, ending the season with a record of 7-11 and only winning two of their games after week eight.
With an improved offensive line that features the return of Jovan Olafioye, a new offensive coordinator in Jarious Jackson, new pieces in the defense such as Odell Willis and a highly motivated offense quarterbacked by a Jonathon Jennings looking to prove everyone wrong, this team has gobs of potential.
Buono’s Last Year
If you’re a Lions fan, you’ve heard this before. Buono said he would step down from the head coaching job in 2011, the last time the Lions won the Grey Cup, but would remain the Lions’ General Manager.
After the 2011 season, Buono found a very capable replacement for himself on the sidelines in Mike Benevides. Benevides had two solid seasons with disappointing endings in 2012 (13-5, lost in West final) and 2013 (11-7, lost in West semi-final), and in 2014 had coached the Lions to a pedestrian 9-9 record (lost in East semi-final). Benevides was fired and replaced by Jeff Tedford, who performed worse than Benevides, coaching the team to a 7-11 record in his only season as head coach.
And that brings us here. Buono brings himself back as the head coach in 2016, has a good season, but then last season happened to leave everyone scratching their heads. This time, Buono’s departure is far more set in stone. The excellent hire of Ed Hervey as the new GM of the Lions solidifies Buono’s future exit. Buono will be particularly motivated to end his legendary career on a high note, and this should ignite a fire under the players.
The West Division
The West Division is absolutely stacked, to say the least. Coming into this season, the case could be made that all five teams in the west are very good teams. For the Lions to come out of this division and make the playoffs is going to be a very big challenge, and for them to do it, another team is going to have to get worse.
There wasn’t a clear candidate to get worse, until just recently. There are two top candidates to regress: number one is the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, and number two is the Calgary Stampeders. After the announcement that Bombers quarterback Matt Nichols is expected to miss 4-6 weeks of action following an injury in training camp, the Lions have been given an opportunity to gain early ground on the Bombers.
No bones about it, the Lions are going to need a team to regress if they’re to make the playoffs this season, but why the Bombers or the Stampeders? The case for the Bombers is pretty clear-cut, their starting quarterback is expected to miss a significant amount of time to start the season and they don’t really have a serviceable backup quarterback at the moment. This will likely turn out to be a massive issue for Winnipeg. However, it’s entirely possible that the quarterback the Bombers go with – likely former BC Lion Alex Ross – will surprise all and play at least well enough for the Bombers to maintain form until Nichols returns to the field.
As for the Stampeders, them being outright bad is an extreme long shot and almost certainly won’t happen. However, with the losses players like of Jerome Messam, Dan Federkeil, Joshua Bell and Roy Finch, the Stampeders seem to be set to regress a bit this season. But will they regress enough that a good Lions team can overtake them, not only in the standings but in the playoffs?
The Bottom Line
To definitively answer the question that was asked at the beginning: can the BC Lions make the playoffs in 2018? Yes.
Will the BC Lions make the playoffs in 2018? That really depends. The Lions will not make the playoffs unless another team in the West Division gets worse. The Riders probably won’t unless last season was a fluke, the Eskimos are solid and if the Stampeders get worse it might not be substantial enough for the Lions to sneak by. And that leaves the Blue Bombers.
If any team is going to regress substantially, it is going to be the Blue Bombers, which would not have been stated about a week ago. But with the injury to Matt Nichols, unless one of their backup quarterbacks exceeds all expectations, this is going to be a massive problem for the Bombers and may give the Lions their way into the playoffs.
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