It’s official, the CFL‘s 2016 regular season has come to an end. With the playoffs starting this week fans across the league are either full of hope, or hoping next year will yield better results for their team. With the postseason upon us, Last Word on Canadian Football brings you it’s final CFL Check-In for 2016. Four weeks ago we made our predictions for how the season would end up along with the biggest stories happening in the CFL. To find that article and our other Check-Ins from this year, check it out here. Now it’s time to look back on those predictions, and to make a couple more in the CFL Check-In: Week 20 Season Review.
CFL Check-In: Week 20 Season Review
What We Thought Would Happen (Week 16 Predictions)
Eskimos take the East…(Edmonton crosses over to the East Division)
Slam dunk for prediction number one, the Edmonton Eskimos will indeed crossover and take on the Hamilton Tiger-Cats this Saturday to try and make their way back to the Grey Cup. The Eskimos mid-season lull put them behind the pack in the West Division as they finished off with a 10-8 record. Despite only reaching fourth overall in the West Division, Edmonton is a team no one wants to play right now. With a near unstoppable passing attack and a defence that has suddenly gotten a lot more consistent, look for the Esks to make some noise in the postseason.
Unstoppable Stampeders… (Calgary would finish the season 16-1-1)
Can you really be mad at the Calgary Stampeders losing to the Montreal Alouettes in their last game of the season? Faced with the choice to go for CFL history or try and stay healthy for the playoffs head coach Dave Dickenson choose the latter. While some fans may be upset, taking the record for most wins in the regular season is a rather hollow achievement if the Stamps don’t win it all come the Grey Cup. There will be plenty of people who point to the nearly three-week bye that Calgary had to use as a reason to finish the season strong, and they have a point. Ultimately the Stamps didn’t finish 16-1-1, but no one will care if they go 2-0 in the playoffs.
Empty Den for the Lions…(B.C. would finish third in the West Division)
Congratulations are in order for the B.C. Lions. Right when it appeared that the team might be losing focus or starting to ease off the gas, the Lions ripped off three straight wins to clinch home-field advantage for the West Semi-Final. While two of those wins came against the faltering Saskatchewan Roughriders, Lions fans should be encouraged that star quarterback Jonathon Jennings looks nigh unstoppable (same for Emmanuel Arceneaux). The Lions now have to face a team against whom they have struggled, The Winnipeg Blue Bombers, and they can’t count on the Bombers imploding like the Riders did two weeks in a row. While we see the game going against the Lions, there is no doubt that the Lions have exceeded expectations with their 12-6 season.
Better Luck Next Year
Total Reboot in Toronto
Of all the teams that most needed a successful 2016 campaign, the Toronto Argonauts were far and away the most desperate. With the extensive re-branding to fill out their shared stadium and generate fan interest, the team felt it was primed for a playoff push. Yet instead of a postseason game or even a competitive season, the Argos managed to post the worst record in the CFL. The entire team now needs review from quarterback to return specialist and it’s likely that the current regime won’t be around to perform that duty. All that said, the Argos do have the comeback player of the year in Lirim Hajrullahu and a downright nasty pass-rusher in Shawn Lemon. That’s a start.
Heir to the Throne?
Is Vernon Adams Jr the answer at quarterback for the Montreal Alouettes? It’s too early to honestly answer that question, but the early returns are promising as the rookie finished the season 3-0 as a starter. With the enigmatic Rakeem Cato still waiting in the wings the Als have two promising options for 2017 which is more than several teams can claim. With general manager Jim Popp stepping away from the team and current head coach Jacques Chapdelaine bearing the “interim” tag, there is a good chance that a brand new front office and coaching staff will have the task of determining if either passer is up to the task of replacing Anthony Calvillo.
Bright Horizons in Saskatchewan
Not the finish Rider fans were looking for. After pulling out of their season long tailspin with a four-game winning streak, the Riders crumbled down the stretch. The good news is that Saskatchewan is in excellent shape heading into 2017. With a committed front office and coaching staff, a growing young core of players, and a brand new stadium the future is bright for the Green and White. The situation with starting quarterback Darian Durant muddles the picture a bit, but three disappointing seasons in a row have dulled the 2013 shine on the embattled passer.
Maybe it’s just wishful thinking after watching years of the Blue Bombers crushing their fans hearts again and again, but there is a feel of destiny to this year’s edition of the Bombers. Head coach Mike O’Shea and his staff turned around a lost season and clinched a playoff spot for the first time in four years. Thanks to free agency, the Bombers are also loaded with veteran players who have had success in the postseason, such as Andrew Harris, Weston Dressler, Justin Medlock and Keith Shologan. It’s hard to see anyone beating Calgary, but Winnipeg and their die hard fan-base could be going to the Western Final. After that who knows?
Tiger-Cats Can’t Claw Back
Aside from the Riders, who else has been as mashed by injuries as the Tiger-Cats? Andrew Fantuz, Luke Tasker, and Chad Owens have been lost to season-ending injuries while backup quarterback Jeremiah Masoli has seen far too much action in place of the frequently banged-up Zach Collaros. The Ticats should be given credit for accomplishing what they have given their challenges, but it’s hard to trust this team to put it all together. The Eastern Semi Final will see the Ticats try and stop Edmonton on offence while also keeping the Esks suddenly dangerous defensive line from crushing Collaros. It’s a feat that just won’t happen for Hamilton, the Tiger-Cats will lose to the Eskimos in the East Semi-Final.
Redblacks Bye Week
The Ottawa Redblacks don’t play this week, but every team gets their name called in the CFL Check-In. Despite the extra week of rest and preparation, Ottawa faces a tough challenge if our prediction for the Tiger-Cats comes to fruition. While the Redblacks did finish with the best record in the East, it’s hard to give them much credit for a season record of 8-8-1. The Redblacks get credit for having four 1,000-yard receivers for the second year in a row, but Ottawa is too inconsistent as a whole to give them the nod. In a year where the East Division was down-right awful it almost seems like justice to deny them a Grey Cup berth. Redblacks fall to the Eskimos in the East Final.
Have your own predictions for your favorite team over the next four weeks? Feel free to post them in the comments below!