THE narrowly defined path that could have seen the lowly 5-11 Winnipeg Blue Bombers still finish second in the East Division and host the East semifinal closed almost as quickly as it opened.
A last-play 34-32 loss by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats to the Calgary Stampeders Saturday night dropped Hamilton into a third-place tie with the Bombers at 5-11, but actually did Winnipeg's playoff hopes more harm than good.
Winnipeg's 44-32 win over the Toronto Argonauts Friday evening gave Winnipeg a chance to finish second overall, but it required Hamilton, Toronto and Winnipeg to all finish tied at 7-11 at the end of the regular season. If that happened, Winnipeg would have won the tiebreaker based on its overall record in games involving the three teams this season.
But with Hamilton's loss to Calgary, a three-way tie for second is impossible because the Bombers play in Hamilton next weekend, meaning one of those teams can now only finish, at best, 6-12.
While it is still possible that Winnipeg could catch second-place Toronto -- the 7-9 Argos would have to lose their last two, while Winnipeg would have to win their last two -- the Argos won the season series with Winnipeg and would be awarded second in that scenario.
But if the Bombers can win their last two games -- next weekend in Hamilton and then at home to Montreal -- and Edmonton (7-9) loses their last two games -- in Montreal and home to Calgary -- then the Bombers would finish third in the East, Edmonton would not crossover, and Winnipeg would play in Toronto against the Argos in the East semi-final.
-- Paul Wiecek