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Thursday, October 18, 2018

CFL WEST PLAYOFF PICTURE OFFERS 64 PERMUTATIONS

TORONTO - Muddled doesn't begin to describe the CFL West Division's playoff picture.

According to the league, a potential of 64 different playoff permutations currently exist. All six remaining West Division regular-season contests have post-season implications with no less than 15 different potential orders of finish possible.

Amazingly, all five West Division teams could possibly host the conference semifinal Nov. 11. The second-place Saskatchewan Roughriders (10-6) can still finish first and have home-field advantage for the West final Nov. 18.

What's more, three or four teams could finish the regular season tied with 10-8 records. There are 10 permutations with potential for seven different three- or four-way ties.

The Calgary Stampeders (12-3) currently hold down first in the West Division, four points ahead of Saskatchewan with a game in hand. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers (9-7) are third, just ahead of the B.C. Lions (8-7) and Edmonton (8-8).

B.C. hosts Edmonton on Friday night having won five of its last six games but the Eskimos have captured the last four head-to-head meetings. On Saturday night, Saskatchewan visits Calgary having already beaten the Stampeders earlier this year.

But Edmonton coach Jason Maas isn't losing sleep at night poring over the different playoff scenarios.

"I really don't care whatsoever, I don't think our team cares whatsoever after this week,'' Maas told reporters in Edmonton. ``We're focused on B.C., we don't care what happens after that.

'We just want to focus on getting a win and there's no scenario that needs to play out more than one game this week and that's it.''

Presently, Calgary has clinched a home playoff game while Saskatchewan has earned a post-season berth. However, again according to the CFL, only four of the 64 possibilities (6.25 per cent) involve the Roughriders overtaking the Stampeders for first.

Calgary needs a tie or win over Saskatchewan to finish first in the West for a third straight year and fourth time in five seasons. And since the CFL went to an 18-game schedule in '86, no team that's posted a 12-3 mark has ever finished with a 12-6 record.

The worst mark a 12-3 team finished with was 13-5 (Edmonton in 2002, Montreal in 2002-03), hence the low odds for Saskatchewan overtaking Calgary for top spot. But that doesn't bother Riders head coach/GM Chris Jones.

"The facts are, I think, that if we win that game (and) they lose out we've still got a shot,'' Jones told reporters in Regina. "We can't worry about anything other than just going to play a solid, solid football team at their place.

"Again, we're not playing the Grey Cup game here so to get to where we're going we're going to have to win a game on the road against a very good opponent. That's something we're looking forward to.''

Saskatchewan would earn a home playoff game with a win over Calgary and B.C. loss or tie. The Lions would clinch a post-season berth by beating Edmonton.

"The only scenario that's important is winning, said Lions' head coach Wally Buono. "What it does is it helps you to achieve a goal but you still have remaining games.

"I think if you don't focus on what's right in front of you, if you don't focus on the next game you're going to miss the opportunity.''

The highest percentage permutation (15 of 64, 23 per cent) has Calgary finishing first ahead of Saskatchewan, Winnipeg, B.C. and Edmonton (the Eskimos thus missing the playoffs). The next two, each at 10-of-64 or 16 per cent, have Calgary and Saskatchewan finishing 1-2 with Winnipeg and Edmonton flip-flopping in third and fourth and B.C. taking fifth both times and out of the postseason.

A fourth scenario, (six out of 64, nine per cent) has the following order of finish: Calgary, Saskatchewan, B.C., Winnipeg and Edmonton.

The East Division picture is infinitely much clearer with the Ottawa Redblacks (8-7) and Hamilton Tiger-Cats (8-7) having both clinched home post-season games. The two teams will square off the next two weeks, starting Friday night at TD Place, with each having a shot at cementing top spot with a sweep.

Ottawa and Hamilton could still finish first with a split but the Redblacks would control their own destiny. They won the first meeting 21-15 in July and thus would clinch the season series with another, then be able to earn first with a regular season-ending home win over Toronto on Nov. 2.

Hamilton could still finish first with a split but would need help. Toronto would have to beat Ottawa, then the Ticats would have to dispatch Montreal on Nov. 3 to host the East final.

Four West Division teams will advance to the CFL postseason. For a record third straight season and 12th time overall, the fourth-place finisher will cross over into the East Division and become No. 3 playoff seed, visiting either Hamilton or Ottawa in the conference semifinal Nov. 11.

No West Division team has reached the Grey Cup as a crossover squad since the rule was adopted in 1996.

(Canadian Press)

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