As far as I’m concerned, this is Calgary’s year. The Stamps finished 15-3, tied for the second-best record in CFL history, and won most of their games with ease. Their offence scored more points than anybody else this season, while their defence gave up the second-fewest points in the league–just one touchdown more than Edmonton. And for what it’s worth, all three of their losses were to teams they couldn’t possibly face again before the Grey Cup Final…if B.C. or Montreal even makes it that far. Personally, I think the path through the West is pretty clear.
Out East, it’s a totally different story. All three playoff participants finished 9-9, including the crossover B.C. Lions, who have a much better chance of extending the home-team Grey Cup winning streak by qualifying through the Least Division. But I hafta give the edge to a different feline, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, who’ve secured homefield advantage for the Eastern Final. The Cats haven’t lost a game at home since Tim Hortons Field (belatedly) opened, and they earned their bye by beating Montreal quite convincingly at Timmies in Week 20. But as the CFL schedule shifts to Sundays, it’s time to cue up that Al Pacino speech from Any Given Sunday–the only part of that movie worth re-watching–especially if you’re an Esks, Riders, Als or Lions fan. With that said, here are my 2014 playoff predictions:
Semi-Final: Edmonton over Saskatchewan. With Darian Durant and Mike Reilly both dressed, but not expected to play, it’ll be another battle of the backups between these two teams. In Week 20, Kerry Joseph got the best of Matt Nichols, despite completing just five of his 16 passes. But that game was completely meaningless to Edmonton, and it was also in Saskatchewan. While I expect the Rider faithful to paint Commonwealth Stadium a lighter shade of green, a 5-for-16 effort from their starting pivot just ain’t gonna cut it this time. 27-14 Edmonton.
Final: Calgary over Edmonton. Chances are Mike Reilly will be back for this one, and the Esks are gonna need him. Edmonton went 0-3 against Calgary in the regular season, although two of those games were decided by no more than a touchdown. That being said, the lone contest in which the Stamps pulled away happened to be the only game of the trilogy played at McMahon, a little contest called the Labour Day Classic. The Calgary D held Edmonton to just three points in the second half of a 28-13 win–coincidentally, Matt Nichols also started that game at QB for the Esks. So maybe Mike Reilly makes it closer, but it still won’t be close enough. Calgary 34, Edmonton 28
Semi-Final: Montreal over B.C. The Lions are reeling heading into the playoffs, having been outscored 70-19 in a pair of season-ending losses. Granted, those games were against Edmonton and Calgary, but the Stamps had nothing to play for last week, and still beat ‘em by 17. On the other hand, Montreal had reeled off six straight wins before suffering a season-ending loss in Hamilton. And hey, gimme Jonathan “Future Hair Model” Crompton over Kevin Glenn any day! Als 40, Lions 19
Final: Hamilton over Montreal. The Week 20 matchup between these two teams wasn’t just a potential playoff preview, it was also a must-win for Hamilton. With the Least Division race coming down to the wire, the Cats woulda been eliminated if they’d lost–but a win by more than seven would give them homefield. Turns out, they won by an extra TD in a 29-15 statement game, scoring 15 points in the fourth quarter alone. And did I mention that they’ve never lost a game at Tim Hortons Field? 29-15 Hamilton (again!)
102ND GREY CUP
Not gonna lie, this would’ve been a much better storyline if Henry Burris still played for Hamilton. Then you’d have the longtime Stampeder–the last Stamps QB to win the Cup, in fact–in search of redemption, not only against his former team, but to make up for his shitterific performance in last year’s big game. Hell, I’d even bust out my old Burris jersey and duct-tape SEXTING HANK across the back. Cuz while Calgary’s the much better team, it’s actually Hamilton who’d be coming in as two-time defending division champs.
But hey, judging by the REDBLACKS!!!!! record this season, it’s safe to say the Ti-Cats would not be here today (or rather, two weeks from today) if they still had Sexting Hank behind centre. Though he didn’t exactly light up the league, Zach Collaros had a respectable season as a starting QB when healthy, completing 65.8 per cent of his passes with 15 TDs and nine interceptions. But with their RB-by-committee approach to the run game and a defence that only looks respectable against the Least Division, I don’t think Hamilton has enough weapons to get ‘r done.
These two teams played one of the ugliest games of the CFL season, waaaay back in Week Four, with the Stamps squeaking out a 10-7 win at home. But I’d argue that QB Bo Levi Mitchell, he who’s only lost, like, two games his whole career, was still finding his wings as a first-year starter in that game…as his non-descript 20-35, 201 yard passing effort would indicate. When these teams met again a month later, it was a totally different story, with Calgary winning 30-20 in front of a packed house of 6,500 at Hamilton’s Ron Joyce Field. Mitchell was much better in that one, completing 19-of-27 for 271, while Hamilton was held to single digits until late in the third quarter. So yes, the Cats have lost at home this year–their new stadium just wasn’t ready yet.
Of course, despite its much-closer proximity to Calgary, B.C. Place is technically considered a neutral site. You’d also hafta wonder how many Ti-Cat fans would take the trip after that absolute ass-whooping in Regina last year. As a Stamps fan, I was severely outnumbered at the last two Cups I attended (96 and 100), so I’d be looking forward to turn the tide in this one. As for the on-field action, well, I hate to break it to my fellow Eric Church fans, but this game oughtta be over by halftime. Hey, if I see you at the stadium wearing a Steeltown trucker hat, I just might put a drink in yer hand. Calgary 50, Hamilton 29