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By Ted Michaels, CFL Editor - Archive - Email
Into the homestretch
Hamilton, ON (Sports Network) - The game time temperature was 45 degrees, the north winds were gusting at 30 mph and the wind-chill overnight was 28 degrees.


The weather conditions in Winnipeg last Friday night, as fall was ushered in, means the playoffs are just around the corner. And for CFL fans, it is the best time of the year.

Six weeks to go in the regular season, which means every game from now on takes on a playoff atmosphere.

Here's one man's opinions of the powerful... and the powerless:

BC Lions (9-3)

It wasn't a pretty win, but a win nevertheless.

Good teams win ugly games, and we saw that Saturday night, when the Lions beat Edmonton, 19-18, fighting back from a 15-3 deficit.

Three of their remaining six games at are BC Place, where the Lions are 5-1. No worries here. For the rest of the teams in the Western Division, the road to the 100th Grey Cup, will go through, and end, in Vancouver.

No doubt, the Leos are the class of the league.

Montreal Alouettes (8-4)

Equally impressive is the Alouettes' record at home.

They are 6-1 at McGill Stadium after their easy, 31-10 dismantling of the Toronto Argonauts on Sunday.

Anthony Calvillo was his usual stellar self, throwing for 315 yards and two touchdowns.

And this season's big question mark was erased. The Als hadn't scored a special teams touchdown all season. That is, until Trent Guy took a wide field goal and ran it back for a team-record 129-yard touchdown.

Four points up with six games left. Tickets for the Eastern Final at Olympic Stadium go on sale soon.

Calgary Stampeders (7-5)

Bad enough the Stampeders lost 30-25 in Saskatchewan, but they could be in big trouble at the quarterback spot.

Kevin Glenn had to be helped off the field late in the game and was suffering from what head coach John Hufnagel said was a headache.

With a game Friday night against their arch-rivals, the Edmonton Eskimos, the Stampeders faithful should be very nervous if rookie Bo Levi Mitchell, the Eastern Washington product, gets the start.

And a little disgusted, too. Monday, the CFL fined Calgary running back Jon Cornish an undisclosed amount for mooning the crowd behind the Stampeders' bench on the east side of Mosaic Stadium.

Cornish apologized via Twitter soon afterward, but his reputation took a hit. Will that act affect any possible nomination as the Stampeders' Canadian player of the year?

Saskatchewan Roughriders (6-6)

Speaking of nervous, I'm sure some of the Riders' defensive players were a little skittish heading into the game against the Stampeders.

Early in the week, head coach Corey Chamblin guaranteed that if Jon Cornish rushed for more than 100 yards, then someone on the Riders defense would lose their job.

Cornish carried 12 times for 67 yards.

After the game, Chamblin told the media, "I was ready to follow through on it. That's something that I don't want to follow through on, but I'm a man of my word. The guys know who I am and how I deal with things. For the most part, that's something that you never want to do. The guys showed up and did their jobs."

And by doing their job, the Riders have vaulted themselves into the thick of the battle for a playoff spot, in the Western Division, or, possibly, as a cross-over team in the East.

Toronto Argonauts (6-6)

The Argos blew a chance to move into a first-place tie with the Alouettes, but came up flat in the 31-10 loss in Montreal.

More importantly, starting quarterback Ricky Ray left the game in the first quarter, suffering a knee injury.

General Manager Jim Barker told the Argos' flagship radio station Monday night that Ray may be gone 1-2 weeks, as opposed to 5-6. For the Argos' sake, let's hope so.

If they have any designs of getting to the 100th Grey Cup in Toronto, they need Ray as their starter. Backup Jarious Jackson won't get them there. Simple as that.

Edmonton Eskimos (5-7)

It's gone from bad to worse for the Eskimos.

When the season started, their strength was the defensive line. That's not the case now.

During the Eskimos' 19-18 loss to the BC Lions, defensive lineman Marcus Howard suffered a hamstring injury.

Howard, who was the Eskimos' leading sack master last year, nose tackle Ted Laurent, defensive end Julius Williams, tackle Etiene Legare, Lee Robinson and Justin Capicciotti are all suffering from various ailments.

Head coach Kavis Reed said "It's one of those years where we're trying to get healthy on the defensive line, and what was the strength of our football team is really turned into musical chairs. We're going to try to make certain that we stop the leaks in the dam as soon as possible."

If they don't, not only will they not make the playoffs in the West, in the ultimate insult, they may not be the crossover team in the East.

Hamilton Tiger-Cats (4-8)

While we're talking bad news, what about the toothless Tabbies?

A chance to get closer to the upper echelon in the East, and they blow it again by losing 34-12 in Winnipeg.

The Tiger-Cats lost in Winnipeg in August, in a game marked by fumbles, something they vowed to fix.

They did, sort of.

Hamilton only fumbled twice, but managed only 213 yards in total offence. Its defense had its usual sieve-like performance, allowing 18 points in the final quarter. And, to top it off, the Tiger-Cats were flagged 17 times for 135 yards.

Hamilton fans are livid, and rightfully so. But, in an odd twist, the Tiger- Cats still have a shot at a playoff berth.

Not that they deserve it.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers (3-9)

Interim head coach Tim Burke got his first win Friday night over the Tiger- Cats. The return of Buck Pierce was the shot in the arm the Blue Bombers needed.

Pierce, who missed eight games with a foot injury, completed 21-of-31 passes for 288 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. Chad Simpson tore through the Tiger-Cats' run defense (which isn't really saying much), getting 134 yards on 19 carries.

With the Argos' quarterback situation a little iffy, and the Tiger-Cats playing poorly, the Blue Bombers aren't out of the running yet.

The Argos visit Winnipeg Saturday night. A Winnipeg win, coupled with a Hamilton loss the previous night to Montreal, and, voila, we have a tie for third place.

And, remember, Winnipeg holds the tie-breaker with Hamilton. So a team that has a brutal GM, made a coaching change halfway through the year, and has played lousy football, all of a sudden will be in the playoffs?


But it makes a great story, doesn't it?

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

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