CFL·Analysis

CFL Power Rankings: West remains best entering post-season

With the playoffs on the horizon, Western teams appear to be in the best position for post-season success.

Ottawa, Hamilton are only teams representing East in upcoming playoffs

Teams in the West are in the best position to make a deep playoff run. (CBC Sports/Getty Images)

Malcolm Kelly breaks down the balance of power in the Canadian Football League as the regular season comes to a close:

1. Calgary Stampeders (unchanged)

Record: 15-2-1

Streak: Lost 1

Next: Host West final

Let's see ... first in offence ... first in defence ... easily the best team in the league ... What could possibly go wrong? While Calgary fans discuss the history of western winners who came out rusty after a long layoff before the division final, the rest of the loop is trying to work out how to beat these guys. That's for the future. For now, the White Stallions can enjoy one of the finest season by points, or percentage, in CFL history, and the chance to watch everyone else beat themselves up. Never underestimate the power of a key injury to an opponent playing while you aren't. 

2. B.C. Lions (unchanged)

Record: 12-6

Streak: Won 3

Next: West semifinal vs. Winnipeg

Wally Buono's goal in 2016 was simple – bring back the pride of performance lost in this franchise after a couple of disappointing seasons, including 7-11 a year ago. Done. The GM and legendary coach returned to the sidelines after four seasons away, anointed young QB Jonathon Jennings the starter over veteran Travis Lulay, and won a dozen times. Best was the way Buono pulled the boys together after back to back losses to Winnipeg to finish with three straight victories and a home game in the semifinal. Nothing spectacular stats wise this year, just impressive on the scoreboard. 

BC Lions clinch home field advantage with win over Riders

5 years ago
Duration 1:00
A 41-18 victory over the Saskatchewan Roughriders assured the Lions get to host next week’s West Division semi-final against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 1:00

3. Edmonton Eskimos (up from 4)

Record: 10-8

Streak: Won 2

Next: Crossover playoff at Hamilton

An underplayed story line outside of northern Alberta has been how well this club responded to winning the Grey Cup and then showing up to camp to meet a completely new coaching staff. A football historian might be able to fill us in, but I can't find when that's ever happened. Coach Jason Maas brought this team along slowly then went 5-1 down the stretch. No crossover team has ever made the Grey Cup final, this one has a chance. Only the Stampeders scored more points, though the defence ping-ponged between solid and shiver inducing week to week. 

Edmonton Eskimos demolish Toronto Argonauts

5 years ago
Duration 0:40
Second-string quarterback James Franklin threw for four first half touchdowns in 41-17 win 0:40

4. Winnipeg Blue Bombers (down from 3)

Record: 11-7

Streak: Won 1

Next: West semifinal at B.C.

As long as the Bombers are in the playoffs for the first time in five years, they might as well try to win it all. Having stated the obvious, any result in the coming weeks cannot take away from a marvelous effort well above what anybody honest could have expected. The West was a snot knockin', belt 'em in the mouth war in 2016, with three teams finishing at 5-5 head-to-head (Eskimos, Lions and Peg). Mike O'Shea's group had the best mark in the league (7-2) on the road – saying a lot about how they responded to challenges. Of course, someone might point out Big Blue was 4-5 at home. Strange. 

Blue Bombers beat Redblacks in Ottawa

5 years ago
Duration 1:08
Winnipeg wins 33-20, Ottawa becomes 1st team ever to win division with record below .500. 1:08

5. Ottawa Redblacks (unchanged)

Record: 8-9-1

Streak: Lost 1

Next: Host East final

One season after the East had put in a strong effort from top to bottom, the division champions finished under .500. Judging the RBs is tough because this is still just a third-year franchise. Was 2015's trip to the Cup final a happy accident, and thus 2016 should be seen as more in line for a club at this stage of development? Or do we take GM Marcel Desjardins at his word by treating his crew the same way as everyone else? Still for the former argument, we must say. Keep in mind, however, that if this club makes the Grey Cup game, it has the weapons to pull an upset. 

Ottawa Redblacks clinch first in East Division

5 years ago
Duration 0:41
Ottawa's 23-10 victory over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers gives them their second-straight East Division title 0:41

6. Montreal Alouettes (up from 7)

Record: 7-11

Streak: Won 3

Next: Training camp

GM Jim Popp's generational reign came to an end this week after 23 years (two in Baltimore, then the move to Montreal), four Grey Cups and 10 finals appearances. When Popp had a great QB (Tracy Ham with the Stallions and Als, Anthony Calvillo with the Larks to 2013) he won. When he didn't, he lost. What he leaves behind is next year's likely head coach in Jacques Chapdelaine, who did a marvelous interim job (4-2), an intriguing rookie QB in Vernon Adams Jr., a good defence and a pee-poor attack. Popp is owed a great debt by football fans in the city, but now a younger man with a new vision is needed. 

Montreal Alouettes end season on a high note with win over Hamilton Tiger-Cats

5 years ago
Duration 0:25
Vernon Adams Jr. threw for three touchdowns in the Alouettes' 32-25 win over the playoff bound Ticats 0:25

7. Hamilton Tiger-Cats (down from 6)

Record: 7-11

Streak: Lost 2

Next: Crossover playoff vs. Edmonton

More about this later in the week, but there's little that can be done when you spend most of the year plugging injury leaks, teaching defensive schemes to an endless line of new faces and trying to keep some cohesion. Giving up 502 points isn't like the Kitties, having allowed under 400 the last two years. Whatever happens in the playoffs, the coming 2017 season looks to be fine as one can't imagine this type of bad luck hitting them again. Coach/Uber boss Kent Austin signed to 2019, so he and his staff aren't going anywhere. Don't worry, this team will be competitive again. 

8. Saskatchewan Roughriders (unchanged)

Record: 5-13

Streak: Lost 3

Next: Training camp

Toronto may be the toughest market to succeed in, but this one is the hardest in which to be popular. GM/coach Chris Jones annoyed the Rider faithful by dumping a number of beloved veterans at the start of the season, now he has fans convinced he's going to dump QB Darian Durant. Jones is saying the right things, but some pundits suggest the boss is eyeing Edmonton backup James Franklin for a trade. With what? There's nothing left to deal. While fans settle into the new digs next year, they have to remember this – you may not like Jones, but he often has the last laugh, with four rings to prove it.

9. Toronto Argonauts (unchanged)

Record: 5-13

Streak: Lost 7

Next: Training camp

Here's the problem, straight out: The Argos were terrible this season at a time when the Blue Jays and Raptors are terrific, the Holy Leafs are young and exciting, and Toronto FC sponges up new fans every week. It's nice to say "Let's build slowly," but time is slipping away if you want to have any relevance. Questions include what happens to QB Ricky Ray (he's not retiring if anybody wants him), QB Drew Willy (is he that bad, or is a lack of receivers?), coach Scott Milanovich (a .500 record in five years), and GM Jim Barker (lots of young assistant GMs out there). This club needs to make a splash, now.

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