It's often said that there are five crucial plays during the course of a football game that will determine the outcome. Make the play and you will win. Miss and you will lose. Pretty simple.
This week, both Winnipeg and Edmonton had opportunities to secure first place and the first-week bye in the playoffs. Championship teams are those that understand what is at stake and seize the opportunity. Both teams failed to take advantage of the opportunity and so we are left waiting to see which team will finally step up to the plate and stake its claim to be champions.
Heading into the final week of the regular season, there are still five teams that are fighting to claim first place in their respective division. Staking claim to first place is a huge advantage that all five teams desperately want, which will be more than enough motivation to create some playoff-intensity games one week prior to the playoffs beginning.
Getting the bye week not only allows your beaten-up body to get the needed time to heal. You also get to watch your next opponent get its body broken up as it battles through the semifinal playoff game.
First place puts your team in the best possible position to realize your dream of being a Grey Cup champion.
Those that suggest that it's good for a team to not finish first are simply making excuses for not capitalizing on the opportunities that have been presented to them.
Bombers, Esks fall flat
With a victory over the struggling 4-12 Argonauts, the Bombers had the opportunity to capture first in the East at home in their last regular-season game ever at Canad Inns Stadium. The stage was set to solidify themselves as the team to beat in the East, but they came up short
Edmonton had the opportunity to grab first place in the West with a victory over a beaten-down Lions team. The stage was set to send a message to B.C. and Calgary that the Eskimos are for real and that the road to the Grey Cup goes through Commonwealth Stadium.
In the words of Ricky Ray, "We did not get it done
." No kidding.
Both Winnipeg and Edmonton missed amazing opportunities to enhance their probability of having success this year. Winning this week would have given each of them three weeks of rest and preparation in order to be ready to make their final push to get to the Grey Cup.
But instead of seizing the opportunity, both teams fell flat and lost.
In front of their home crowd, Winnipeg's special teams units gave up huge field position to Toronto and their offence settled for field goals, which was not enough to make up for the 24 points conceded in the first half to the Argos.
Ray consistently missed a wide-open Fred Stamps against the Lions in Vancouver this week, Stamps consistently missed the football, and running back Jerome Messam missed the opportunity to make a significant impact in a crucial game.
What an appropriate way to head into the last week of the regular season. We now have five teams sitting with 10-7 records and all of them have a chance to finish first in their conference.Down to the wire
Often, the last week of the regular season
can be filled with "meaningless" games. Not this year!
Of all the 10-7 teams, Edmonton should have the best shot at capturing first place, as they play the 5-12 Saskatchewan Roughriders, who are out of the playoffs and already looking towards next season. On paper, this should be the easiest game of the week, but this is precisely what the Bombers were thinking heading into their matchup against the Argos.
The Bombers will travel to Calgary, led by backup quarterback Alex Brink as Buck Pierce has been listed as day-to-day due to a knee injury he suffered early in the second quarter against the Argos. Winnipeg has not won in McMahon Stadium since October 2002.
The Bombers will be in tough to beat a rejuvenated Stampeders team lead by Iowa product Drew Tate. Tate is now 2-0 as a starter for the Stamps after John Hufnagel decided to sit 2010 MOP Henry Burris.
Tate had another impressive outing
against Montreal, completing 70 per cent of his passes and throwing for 333 yards, however he will need to bring his "A" game if he is going to have success against the Bombers secondary, which has given up the fewest yards passing and has the most interceptions in the CFL this year. Buckle up, because this is going to be a dog fight!
Montreal travels three time zones west to Vancouver. Traveling west is really tough on the body. For the Montreal players, kickoff will feel like it's at 10 p.m., which makes it difficult for your body to feel energized.
The Lions were really lucky to beat the Eskimos this week as their secondary had several assignment breakdowns that Edmonton was simply unable to capitalize on. Unlike Ricky Ray, Anthony Calvillo will not miss receivers. With B.C. rush end Keron Williams still on the limp, it will be tough for B.C. to get pressure on Calvillo. If Calvillo has time... well I don't need to say any more.
Enjoy the ride. CFL fans. as this regular season is coming down to the wire.
My predictions for playoff seedings:East
3. Hamilton West
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