CFL Playoff Preview

The CFL had a very interesting season with the season going down to the last week of the season. The six teams that made the playoffs clinched weeks before but both conference titles were up for grabs until the end. When all was done the B.C. Lions and Winnipeg Blue Bombers took home the two titles and earned the first round byes. With this the Lions will have the chance to win the Grey Cup at home for the first time since Montreal won at Olympic Stadium in 1977. This year the Grey Cup will take place in Vancouver for the 15th time and for the 8th time at the newly renovated BC Place. Vancouver has hosted the second most Grey Cups in the CFL with 14 already. This will be a bit different as they will be playing in a newly renovated BC Place. After the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver the largest air supported stadium was closed and the roof was deflated. Then began the renovation where the BC Place got a brand new retractable roof and installed the second largest centre screen in North America, only behind the screen at Cowboys Stadium. This newly renovated stadium was the main reason for their successful bid to get the 99th Grey Cup this year. It will be the cap on 2 years of Vancouver Sports with the 2010 Winter Olympics in February, the Stanley Cup Finals in June, the inaugural season of the Vancouver Whitecaps MLS team, and now the Grey Cup. The Lions will look to finish these two years with a bang as they have gone 4-0 in the new stadium and will look to enter the history books. They will have plenty of challengers as there are a number of teams that could knock them off. As with all football playoffs anything can happen on the road to the Grey Cup with all six teams having an equal opportunity to beat any other team on any night.

 

Western Conference:

The Western Conference had one of the wildest seasons this year as every team, except one, was in line for the conference title. The former two-time Western Conference Champion Saskatchewan Roughriders had the worst season in many years as they only managed 5 wins and ended up in last place and out of the playoffs after back to back appearances in the Grey Cup. With the Riders out because of a bad season the Calgary Stampeders survived their less than stellar season to earn the last playoff spot. The Stampeders were in first place last year but could not get their offence going this year struggling through to their 11 win season. The Stamps offence looked great at points and terrible at others but some key changes near the end of the season helped them finish strong. Replacing Joffrey Reynolds with Jon Cornish pumped life into their running game while the benching of former MOP Henry Burris in exchange for the young Drew Tate. These two changes have completely changed the offence and helped the Stamps to a three game winning streak to end the year. The Stamps needed those three games as they were required to keep up with the Edmonton Eskimos and B.C. Lions. The Eskimos finished 2010 in last place but began the 2011 season in great form winning their first five games. Injuries then hurt them as they went on a three game losing streak into their bye week. The Eskies came back though as they rode potential Canadian player of the year Jerome Messam to enough wins to earn the 2nd place spot and host the semi-final in Edmonton. While Calgary and Edmonton will fight it out in the Semi Final the B.C. Lions will take a week and get ready to host the Western Finals. The Lions have been the hottest team in the CFL as they have won 11 of their last 13 games after starting the season 0-5. Behind a strong defence and the arm of potential MOP Travis Lulay the Lions have become the team to watch in the playoffs. The Lions are by far the favorites in the conference because of their strong play as of late and will be tough to beat at home where they will be for the entire playoffs including the Grey Cup if they make it.

 

Semi-Finals:

Calgary Stampeders 35 vs. 32 Edmonton Eskimos

– The Battle of Alberta reached the playoffs as the Stamps take on the Eskimos in the Semi-Finals with both teams being inconsistent down the stretch it seems like the Stamps have found their QB in Drew Tate who will help them edge out their provincial Rivals

 

West Finals:

BC Lions 33 vs. 29 Calgary Stampeders

– The BC Lions will take on the strong finishing Stampeders with Drew Tate and Jon Cornish but the Lions defence has been their strength in the last half of the season and will continue to role in BC Place into the Grey Cup

 

Eastern Conference:

The Eastern Conference was expecting a repeat of the usual as the Montreal Alouettes were poised to repeat as Eastern Conference Champions and even three-peat as Grey Cup Champions. Little did anyone know that the best team would not be from Quebec but instead from Manitoba. Meanwhile the Toronto Argonauts continued to struggle throughout the season as they finished with 5 wins and never found a good QB to lead them. Their rivals from down the QEW were not much better but earned the third sport in the Eastern Conference and a spot in the Semi-Finals. The Ti-Cats realistically only got into the playoffs because the Toronto Argonauts and Saskatchewan Roughriders were just that bad. They limped through the season getting in with a losing record going 8-10. With a two QB system the Ti-Cats hope that Kevin Glenn and Quinton Porter will guide them and disguise the somewhat porous defence. Their first matchup will be against an all too familiar foe in the Montreal Alouettes who have been a thorn in their side for years. The Als started out well and were constantly in the focus as defending champions and with the constant pursuit of the record books by Anthony Calvillo. After he earned his final passing record, Calvillo and the Als offence seemed to fall asleep as they could no longer get anything which forced their defence to step up. The Als are entering the playoffs after a three game losing streak that was capped by a 43-1 loss to the BC Lions. They will try to fix their issues before the semi-finals to travel to Winnipeg and face the Blue Bombers for the conference championship. Winnipeg surprised many people as they went from worst to first behind a great defence and the backing of Swaggerville. The Bombers are built on their defence who led the CFL in sacks with 49 team sacks all led by the mayor of Swaggerville Odell Willis. The bye week will only do well for the Bombers as they are currently without their starting QB and leader of the Bombers Buck Pierce who will heal up during the and hope to be back on the field. If Pierce cannot get back on the field the Bombers will be forced to go with Alex Brink who has done well in replacing Pierce but is not the leader they will need going into the playoffs. The favorites are easily the Bombers and it could turn out to be the best of a bad situation with almost every team in the East limping into the playoffs setting the stage for an upset at any point.

 

Semi-Finals:

Montreal Alouettes 27 vs. 21 Hamilton Tiger Cats

– Both teams have limped into the playoffs as the offences have struggled throughout the season and with both teams struggling the defences will shine and out of the two the Alouettes have the better defence and a veteran QB who has been here before

East Finals:

Winnipeg Blue Bombers 27 vs. 26 Montreal Alouettes

– A rematch of the season rivalry will see both teams play a tight game with two good defences and two QBs who can lead their team to the Grey Cup but with the Als struggling to produce the Bombers will continue their strong season

 

99th Grey Cup:

BC Lions 24 vs. 21 Winnipeg Blue Bombers

– The Two biggest surprises this year will meet in the playoffs thanks to some hot play in the last few weeks and with the two best defences matching up expect both offences to struggle but the Lions to take the small lead behind the foot of Paul McCallum

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