Wednesday, October 31, 2018
THE POINT AFTER: STAMPEDERS FACING MUST-WIN FOR FIRST PLACE
What seemed a mere formality months ago will come down to the final week of the CFL regular season to decide.
The Calgary Stampeders head into their regular-season finale against the B.C. Lions on Saturday night needing a victory or tie to cement top spot in the West Division. But that's been the case the last three weeks and each time the club has been unable to seal the deal.
Winnipeg (10-7) clinched third in the West with a 29-21 home win over Calgary (12-5) on Friday night. The Blue Bombers are the CFL's hottest team, having won five straight as Matt Nichols had a season-high 358 yards passing with two TDs while Darvin Adams registered five catches for 126 yards and a touchdown.
With that victory, the Bombers eliminated Edmonton (8-9) - who was on a bye week - from playoff contention for the first time since 2013. The Eskimos, at one time, had the CFL's second-best record but enter their regular-season finale against Winnipeg having lost six of their last eight contests.
The Saskatchewan Roughriders (12-6) did their part by downing the B.C. Lions 35-16 on Saturday night. The Riders clinched a home playoff game - their first since 2013 - with the win but would finish first in the West if Calgary loses its final game of the year.
In that scenario, Calgary would host Winnipeg in the conference semifinal Nov. 11 with the winner facing Saskatchewan in the West final at Mosaic Stadium on Nov. 18.
Should Calgary prevail in Vancouver, Saskatchewan would host Winnipeg in the West semifinal and the winner would travel to McMahon Stadium on Nov. 18.
The loss to Saskatchewan relegated B.C. to fourth in the West Division, but the Lions are still playoff bound as a crossover squad.
The East Division is set after Ottawa (10-7) clinched first with a 30-13 road win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (8-9) on Saturday night. The Redblacks swept the season series 3-0 and will host the conference final for the third time in four years.
Hamilton will finish second and host B.C. in the East Division semifinal Nov. 11. The Ticats have asked their fans to wear all black attire to that game and will provide 24,000 black rally towels and cloaks to those entering Tim Hortons Field.
The East semifinal winner will visit Ottawa on Nov. 18. The Grey Cup game will be held Nov. 25 at Edmonton's Commonwealth Stadium.
OFFICIATING QUESTIONS: There were two glaring incidents involving on-field officiating this weekend.
The first came Friday night during Winnipeg's 29-21 win over Calgary. With three minutes remaining, receiver Eric Rogers appeared to catch Bo Levi Mitchell's five-yard TD pass on third down to pull the Stampeders to within 29-24.
Rogers was just inside the goal-line when he got the ball and appeared to have control of it as he fell to the turf. While Rogers was prone, the ball came out after a Winnipeg defender came overtop the Calgary receiver.
The on-field call was an incomplete pass but because it was a potential scoring play there was an automatic review. Despite the replay showing the ball at Rogers' chest while he was down and moments before he was contacted, the CFL command centre ruled there wasn't enough evidence to overrule the original call. The play stood and Calgary turned the ball over trailing 29-18.
The call was a big one, especially considering Calgary did get a late field goal to make it an eight-point game. Had the TD counted and the Stampeders registered the two-point convert, the contest could've then gone to overtime to be decided.
Instead, Calgary now faces yet another must-win scenario to clinch first in the West. But the Stampeders' loss also eliminated Edmonton from playoff contention.
The second incident involved a non-call in Saskatchewan's 35-16 home win over B.C.
Late in the first, Saskatchewan quarterback Zach Collaros took a nasty helmet-to-helmet hit from B.C. defensive lineman Odell Willis that wasn't flagged. Only after the Riders challenged the play was an unnecessary roughness penalty called.
Collaros, who has a history of concussions, was allowed to remain in the game despite twice having to squat down to compose himself. He left later for precautionary reasons and didn't return.
The CFL said in a statement it completed a review of Willis's hit and determined it should've been flagged and that Willis faces possible discipline. As for Collaros, the league added its injury spotter should've noticed the Riders' quarterback ``appeared to be under some distress,'' stopped the game and removed Collaros before the challenge was initiated.
ROAD WOES: Life on the road this season hasn't been good for the Toronto Argonauts.
Toronto (4-13) has long been eliminated from playoff contention, ensuring it won't have the chance to defend last year's Grey Cup title. But the Argos do have at least one reason to finish their disappointing 2018 campaign on a winning note.
The Argos are in Ottawa on Friday night to face the Redblacks (10-7). who've clinched top spot in the division. But Toronto is a dismal 0-7 on the road after dropping a lopsided 40-10 decision in Montreal on Sunday and remains the only CFL team not to have won away from home this season.
This also marks the first time in head coach Marc Trestman's CFL tenure that he's not taking a team into the post-season. Trestman went to the playoffs all five years he coached the Montreal Alouettes (2008-12) as well as last year, his first with Toronto.
BROTHERLY LOVE: DeAndre Jordan of the Dallas Mavericks created quite a stir Friday night when he arrived prior to his club's road game with the Toronto Raptors sporting a Hamilton Tiger-Cats jersey.
Jordan wore a black-and-gold Hamilton uniform sporting No. 58. That's the number for his younger brother, Avery, an offensive lineman on the Ticats' practice roster.
(Canadian Press/Dan Ralph)