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Inside the CFL: Power Rankings

By Ted Michaels, CFL Columnist

Hamilton, ON (SportsNetwork.com) - So, after a long CFL season, the playoffs are here.

What are the story lines and will there be any upsets?

Glad you asked. Here are the power rankings entering the second season:

1. Calgary Stampeders (14-4)

It's a question that can end a season: Does a team play its starters in a meaningless game or does it rest them?

Last Friday night, the Stampeders went to BC and lost 26-7. And they played their starters.

It's bad enough for head coach John Hufnagel that he heads into the bye week with a loss, but in the game, three starters were injured and won't play in the Western Final: receiver Marquay McDaniel and defensive tackles Demonte Bolden and Micah Johnson.

The good news, if there is any in all this, is that the Stamps don't play until they host the West Final on Nov. 17. From the Stamps' standpoint, that gives them extra time to get rested and get the replacements ready.

2. Saskatchewan Roughriders (11-7)

Riders fans shouldn't be too concerned with the 30-26 loss at home to the Edmonton Eskimos. Again, in a game that meant nothing, quarterback Darian Durant and running back Kory Sheets sat out.

What the fans should be concerned with is the Western semifinal at Mosaic Stadium on Sunday. The Riders will host the BC Lions that day, and while the Riders were 6-3 at home, BC tends to play very well in Saskatchewan. And we all know where the Grey Cup is being played this year.

Extra pressure on the Riders? Yep. And, if the players say they're not feeling the pressure, don't believe them.

3. BC Lions (11-7)

The biggest question for the Lions heading into the game against the Riders is who starts at quarterback? Travis Lulay or Buck Pierce? My money is on Lulay, who was 3-for-4 for 54 yards in the game against Calgary.

Lulay injured his shoulder back on Sept. 15 and while Pierce showed he can move the team, Lulay gives them the best chance to win. And something tells me the game on Sunday won't be the only game the Lions play in Regina in November.

4. Toronto Argonauts (11-7)

The Argos, on the other hand, played just seven starters in their final game of the regular season, a 23-20 loss to Montreal. Quarterback Ricky Ray was among those relegated to the sideline. While the Argos struggled a bit down the stretch, including two losses to Hamilton, the extra week off will help as they prepare for their next game, the Eastern Final on Nov. 17.

However, they better hope for a big crowd because they had only a 4-5 record at home, which is terrible for a first-place team. Mind you, some would say their home field - the Rogers Center - is a reason why the Scullers struggle at home.

Toronto better hope for a crowd in excess of 30,000 or the home field advantage will be diminished.

5. Hamilton Tiger-Cats (10-8)

The Tiger-Cats ended the second half of the season with a 6-3 record after going 4-5 in the first half. For the first time since 2001, they finished a regular season over the .500 mark, and are ready to host Montreal in the East semifinal.

While quarterback Henry Burris has had an outstanding year, he hasn't played well against Montreal, completing just 42-of-73 passes, no touchdowns and three interceptions.

Hamilton fans better hope that "Good Hank" can show up in this one because if "Bad Hank" makes an appearance, it could mean an early exit to the playoffs.

6. Montreal Alouettes (8-10)

The Alouettes certainly aren't lacking confidence as they head in the game against Hamilton. In an interview with the Montreal Gazette after a 27-24 loss to Hamilton on Oct. 26, linebacker Kyries Hebert said, "We can play with them and beat the hell out of them. I'm not lacking any confidence whatsoever when it comes to playing Hamilton."

He may have a point. The Tiger-Cats' offensive line gave up 65 sacks this season, the most in the CFL. The Als had the second-most sacks this year with 59. Those numbers alone should make Hamilton fans a little nervous.

7. Edmonton Eskimos (4-14)

No surprise here. general manager Ed Hervey fired head coach Kavis Reed on Monday. What Eskimo fans should be wary of is a statement by Hervey at the news conference.

Hervey hinted he might look stateside for the next head coach, possibly hiring one with little or no CFL experience. Hervey should remember this: For every successful U.S. coach who came to the CFL (Marc Trestman), there's more who didn't succeed (Dan Hawkins and Bart Andrus to name a couple).

Hervey also said nothing could have saved Reed's job, adding, "I'm going to get someone who is a little bit more like myself, a little more detailed and structured and not really looking to spend a lot of time with you guys (media) but more time developing the football team."

In other words, Hervey wants a yes man. Which begs the question: Why would anyone say yes to taking this job?

8. Winnipeg Blue Bombers (3-15)

The Bombers' awful season is mercifully over. Until it's determined if acting CEO Wade Miller gets the official role, then a GM is hired, and then the future of head coach Tim Burke and the rest of the coaching staff is dealt with, the Blue Bombers faithful will have to take comfort in knowing that things can't possibly get worse.

Can they?

Ted Michaels is the host of the Fifth Quarter on AM900 CHML.

Comments? Criticism? Applause?

11/06 06:16:50 ET

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