2016 CFL Preview: Early Playoff Outlook

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It is clear that the CFL is slightly one-sided in the last three years with the west taking the last three Grey Cups.

There has been another pattern during that time though and that is the fact that the CFL has gone to the west for the Grey Cup in three straight years.

The last time the Grey Cup was in the east was the 100th Grey Cup in Toronto when the Toronto Argonauts took home the championship.

The CFL then went to Regina before going to Vancouver and Winnipeg in the last tow years.

It has been an interesting few yers and one that is not necessarily the most common in professional sports.

The CFL, like other leagues, tries to bring the Grey Cup to different parts of the country and highlight the game.

It wasn’t always like that though as Toronto hosted almost every second year with the league travelling to Hamilton and Vancouver in between.

That time included a period where the Grey Cup was in Toronto for twelve of thirteen years.

Then the city was left off of the list for a long time after ticket issues hurt the reputation of the city and the league went about showcasing the biggest game to other CFL cities.

Since that time the CFL has generally gone back and forth between the west and the east to showcase the biggest game.

Then came the 99th Grey Cup when a new stadium in Winnipeg was set to host, Winnipeg was then a part of the east division.

The stadium was behind schedule though and the CFL had to do some quick thinking to move the game to Vancouver.

The next year the CFL went to Toronto for the historic 100th Grey Cup and the idea at the time was that the west would then get two games after two eastern teams hosted in back to back years.

The 101st was set to be in Vancouver and the 102nd in Regina while Winnipeg was still meant to get a game when the stadium was finished.

Vancouver hosted their scheduled Grey Cup, making it two in three years, while Winnipeg moved to the west when Ottawa joined the league.football-sidebar

The reorganisation has led to three straight years of western teams hosting the Grey Cup and in those three years, three western teams have taken the win.

Now the Grey Cup returns to the east as Toronto will host another Grey Cup this time outdoors at the renovated BMO Field.

With the Grey Cup moving back east there is some thought that the western teams might not have the same advantages and may very well take their first loss in three years.

Of course, there are five teams in the west that are thinking otherwise as they hope to go to Toronto and continue their winning streak in the big game.

The eastern teams will try to end it all as they have closed the gap between the two divisions and could finally take home a Grey Cup.

The only question will be who can do it as both divisions will put forth a great team to challenge for the big prize.

Could it be the defending champions in Edmonton or their provincial rivals in Calgary? Or possibly a surprise from BC, Saskatchewan, or Winnipeg?

The Toronto Argonauts will look to take another home Grey Cup while both of their provincial rivals try to make sure that it won’t happen that way.

The Montreal Alouettes look to surprise some from the east and make their own run into Ontario to take home the title.

The quest for the Grey Cup begins as every team looks to get a good start to a new year.

CFL East

The east is a bit of a mystery this year but only for the fact that the east has been ravaged by injuries in the past few years. Over the last three years the Hamilton Tiger-Cats have been to two Grey Cups and in the last two years, they simply looked unstoppable. That was unstoppable until Zach Collaros went down with injury and halted their great runs. Last year his knee injury late in the year hurt their chances of making it three straight Grey Cups. This year he will start the season on the sidelines and that has brought a lot of concern over the start of their season. For that reason, the Ti-Cats might end up fighting for a playoff spot as there is really no replacement that can do what Collaros can do. Without that linchpin and a thinner defensive group the Ti-Cats could sink to the bottom only to fight back into the playoffs when Collaros returns. If that does work out The Battle of Ontario will determine the division champion as Ottawa and Toronto look like the best teams right now. The Argos are a rebuilt teams in the biggest areas of need as they pursue a chance to win another Grey Cup at home. With Ricky Ray back and healthy, at least to start the season, the Argos are expecting big things from a young receiving corps and a rebuilt defence with Rich Stubler in charge might be the difference. The REDBLACKS looked great last year but a big part of that was the fact that many of their players played far above what was expected. That likely won’t happen again but it won’t mean that they can’t make a run. They will fight off the Ti-Cats for second place but won’t be able to get first. The Montreal Alouettes could be in the fight but they will need to figure out a plan at quarterback. It seems like the eastern ticket to the Grey Cup will come down to the team that can stay healthy at the right time. This year that could just be the Ti-Cats as Collaros will likely return in time for a playoff race. If he can return and can get back into the groove of playing he might be the difference for them to find their way to the Grey Cup. The Ti-Cats will make that run with Collaros and will take on the Argonauts in what should be a great eastern final. Hamilton will come out on top though as Collaros can make that difference and will bring them back to the Grey Cup for the second time in three years.

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East Division Champion:
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CFL West

Change is the name of the game in the west as there are some big differences for every team this year. There are new head coaches for three of the four teams in the west while the Winnipeg Blue Bombers will welcome in a new coach to their staff. Meanwhile, there will be some new faces in new places that could make a massive difference in the division. It also makes the division that much tougher to figure out as there are so many unknowns. It could very well come down to the level of change for each team and just how much they have to adjust. For Calgary and BC the adjustment might not be that big as they will both see familiar faces on the sideline. The Stampeders will only see their offensive coordinator step in and be a mentee of the former head coach things might not change that much. In BC Wally Buono returns to the sideline and being a veteran coach and being a part of the Lions since he left the sideline there won’t be a lot to change for them. In Edmonton, the loss of a Grey Cup winning coach and replacing him with an offensive coach could shake things up a little more than other teams. Jason Maas now needs to take the winning culture formed a year ago and keep it going while trying to put his own stamp on the team. The Saskatchewan Roughriders might have the toughest change as Chris Jones has a lot of work to change the culture of a struggling team. It will be the difference for so many of the teams as they have to figure things out and that could provide an opening for the Blue Bombers. With only big additions and no massive culture change, they could get out to a quick start and make things tougher for other teams. The only issue is that the talent level on all of the other teams is far more balanced and deep making any of the adjustments slightly shorter than most. For that reason, the Stampeders will get ahead early and never look back while Edmonton sits right behind them. The Lions will fight the Bombers for the playoff spot with Buono leading BC to the playoffs again. Saskatchewan just needs too much change to be effective right now but they are headed in the right way. By the time the playoffs hit the teams should be adjusted and it will just be about their skill level. For another year, the Battle of Alberta determines the champion and the Eskimos have plenty of talent to frustrate and get by the Stampeders for another trip to the Grey Cup.

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West Division Champion:
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104th Grey Cup
Two teams familiar with the Grey Cup return with the Eskimos looking to win back to back titles and truly begin taking that City of Champions title back. The Hamilton Tiger-Cats are looking to finally finish things off after two trips that resulted in no titles. There is plenty of motivation for both teams but the Ti-Cats could be on a hot streak heading into the playoffs. With Zach Collaros likely returning near the end of the year he could be a boost to the offence that looks great with him leading the way. A fresh Collaros will help the Ti-Cats to the Grey Cup and will take the Grey Cup back to Hamilton for the first time since 1999.

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