Hey there, time traveller! This article was published 12/11/2010 (3997 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
It was just under a year ago — 349 days, to be exact — that the CFL season concluded with one of the most bizarre, most memorable and most infamous finishes in the long and glorious history of the Grey Cup.
In a matter of moments on a chilly day in Calgary the Saskatchewan Roughriders celebrated, then had their hearts ripped from their chests. And the Montreal Alouettes -- clearly the best squad in the land during the regular season -- were suddenly champions, courtesy a 13th-man penalty to the Riders.
It's impossible to imagine any finale providing as compelling a climax as those final few minutes, but we can guaran-dang-tee the lead-up to the Grey Cup championship in 15 days will be as dramatic as ever.
To help get you there, we present our annual Five-Minute Guide to the CFL playoffs. Here we handicap the six teams that begin the chase for the Grey Cup Sunday afternoon with the East and West semifinals.
And, please remember: no wagering.
CALGARY STAMPEDERS (13-5)
THEY can pound it out along the ground with Joffrey Reynolds and Jon Cornish and go over the top with Nik Lewis, Romby Bryant and Ken-Yon Rambo catching passes from Henry Burris. Their defence is better than most might think, too. Our bet to be slurping bubbly from the Cup in Edmonton in just over two weeks.
FREE PRESS GREY CUP ODDS: 2 to 1
MONTREAL ALOUETTES (12-6)
NOT impressed with how they finished the season -- rested people in a loss to Toronto; barely beat the Argos the week previous and were hammered by Hamilton 40-3 on Oct. 22 -- but, as is often the case, they've had the East locked up for so long the urge to take their foot off the gas is understandable. But they can be vulnerable defensively and gave up the second-most passing yards in the land.
FREE PRESS GREY CUP ODDS: 5 to 1
HAMILTON TIGER-CATS (9-9)
LOVE how the front seven gets after people and they can throw out a solid array of offensive weapons. But they don't run the ball particularly well and will still need to win twice -- including in Montreal in the East Final -- just to get to the championship game.
FREE PRESS GREY CUP ODDS: 10 to 1
SASKATCHEWAN ROUGHRIDERS (10-8)
IT was long-time Philadelphia Phillies manager Danny Ozark who once uttered this truism: You can't play any pro sport with a tight, ummm, bum. And the Riders -- with everyone in Saskatchewan still cursing the finish to last year's Grey Cup -- have been under enormous pressure to right that wrong for over a year. The pieces are all here, no question, but expectations can be an enormous burden.
FREE PRESS GREY CUP ODDS: 20 to 1
B.C. LIONS (8-10)
WALLY Buono's crew enters the tournament as the CFL's hottest squad. They've got some warts, but also have enough offensive weapons to win a track meet and they waltz into Regina this weekend with zero pressure. There's also some history to consider, too: the 2000 Lions were the first 8-10 team to win a Grey Cup, followed by the Stampeders a year later.
FREE PRESS GREY CUP ODDS: 50 to 1
TORONTO ARGONAUTS (9-9)
JUST hard to figure a team with such mediocre quarterbacking could be holding aloft the Grey Cup in a couple of weeks. They have two-thirds of a football team and a powerful ground game, but the formula for stopping the Boatmen appears to be simple: take away Cory Boyd and force the Argos to win with Cleo Lemon and a sub-par receiving corps.
FREE PRESS GREY CUP ODDS: 100 to 1
TORONTO ARGONAUTS (9-9) at HAMILTON TIGER-CATS (9-9)
WHEN: Sunday, Noon
TV: TSN/RDS. RADIO: CJOB
STREAKS: Toronto 1W; Hamilton 2L
VEGAS LINE: The Tiger-Cats are favoured by 7 points.
HEAD-TO-HEAD: The Ticats won all three games against the Argos this year -- 16-12 on Aug. 20, 28-13 on Sept. 6 and 30-3 on Oct. 15
HOME/ROAD RECORDS: Ticats were 5-4 at home; Argos were 4-5 on the road.
THE STORYLINE: This is the first playoff meeting between these two storied rivals since the 2004 East Semifinal -- a game the Argos won before capturing the Grey Cup. Toronto will attempt to pound RB Cory Boyd at the Ticat defence and hope for some special-teams magic from Chad Owens and the rest of Mike O'Shea's bunch. Hamilton counters with a potent passing attack led by Kevin Glenn, but were dead last this season in rushing the ball (95.3 yards per game).
FYI: Ticats get Arland Bruce III back from a hamstring injury. He has eight touchdowns in 12 career playoff games, including two Grey Cups... Owens had 16 kick returns of 30 or more yards this season... Interesting stat: both Darian Durant and Henry Burris threw more interceptions this year -- 22 and 20, respectively -- than the 19 tossed by Argo QB Cleo Lemon.
BOB IRVING: Hamilton: Kevin Glenn gives the Ticats a solid and consistent quarterback. And Cleo Lemon is just too iffy for the Argos.
ADAM WAZNY: Hamilton: Ultimately, it comes down to Kevin Glenn vs. Cleo Lemon, and the gap between those two in terms of play and CFL experience is huge.
ED TAIT: Hamilton: Ticats are a complete team; the Argos will need superhuman efforts from their defence and special teams to keep this dream alive because their offence stinks.
RANDY TURNER: Hamilton: A pick 'em, with the tiebreaker to home team.
MITCH ZALNASKY: Hamilton: The Ticats have more offensive weapons and Kevin Glenn is having a great year; Toronto is too one-dimensional and Hamilton will shut down the special teams.
B.C. LIONS (8-10) at SASKATCHEWAN ROUGHRIDERS (10-8)
WHEN: Sunday, 3:30 p.m.
TV: TSN/RDS. RADIO: CJOB
STREAKS: B.C. 3W; Saskatchewan 1W
VEGAS LINE: The Roughriders are favoured by 5 1/2 points.
HEAD-TO-HEAD: The Riders won two of three meetings against B.C. this season, winning 37-18 on July 10 and 37-13 on Aug. 12. The Lions won the last meeting, 23-17 on Oct. 31.
HOME/ROAD RECORDS: Roughriders were 7-2 at home; Lions were 5-4 on the road.
THE STORYLINE: Two of the CFL's young and rising QB stars meet here with B.C.'s Travis Lulay facing Darian Durant of the Riders. Both teams will attempt to establish the run -- just as all playoff-bound teams insist -- but the key will be which team can defend the pass better. The Riders have won two of their last three home playoff games and are 13-5 in Regina over the last two regular seasons.
FYI: B.C. can trot out placekicker Paul McCallum -- the club's Most Outstanding Player -- who hit on 45 of 51 field goals this year. The Riders, meanwhile, desperately miss their hoofer Luca Congi (knee) and may use a combination of Eddie Johnson and/or Warren Kean... Great stat from Lowell Ullrich of The Province in Vancouver: in three meetings against the Riders the Lions advanced the ball offensively to the 20-yard line just six times, once on pass interference.
BOB IRVING: Saskatchewan: The Riders have their flaws, but Wes Cates, Darian Durant and their outstanding receiving corps will be hard to stop.
ADAM WAZNY: B.C.: Zero pressure on Lulay & Co. so look for the Lions to play it loose and take a few chances on special teams.
ED TAIT: Saskatchewan: Homefield can mean everything in the playoffs and there is no tougher place November than Taylor Field.
RANDY TURNER: B.C.: There has to be one upset, so let's take the hottest team in the CFL.
MITCH ZALNASKY: BC: Darian Durant is struggling heading into the playoffs and Travis Lulay is finding his stride. B.C. has one head coach on the sidelines and the Riders seem to have too many.
LAST WEEK/OVERALL: Bob Irving: 2-2/42-30; Adam Wazny: 2-2/42-30; Randy Turner: 2-2/41-31; Ed Tait: 2-2/41-31; Mitch Zalnasky: 1-3/39-33.
HERE'S how Las Vegas oddsmakers view the race for the 2010 Grey Cup:
TEAM / OPENING LINE / CURRENT
Montreal 7-4 19-10
Saskatchewan 10-3 13-2
Calgary 5-1 13-10
Hamilton 10-1 13-2
B.C. 6-1 22-1
Toronto 25-1 25-1
A GREY CUP PICK REVISITED
WHAT we said at the start of the season when the curtain lifted: Montreal edges Saskatchewan in another dandy -- minus the 13th-man debacle -- at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton.
WHAT we're saying now with the Grey Cup tournament about to open: Calgary over Montreal. They've been the two best teams for a reason.
ON A ROLL?
FOR what it's worth, here's a look at each team's season, broken into chunks. Worth noting: last year the Als won eight of their last nine en route to the title; this year the hottest team entering the playoffs is the Lions -- they've won three straight and are 7-3 since opening the season 1-7.
TEAM / FIRST HALF / SECOND HALF
A Western Hockey League newsletter by Mike Sawatzky of the Winnipeg Free Press and Perry Bergson of the Brandon Sun. Dubble Trouble arrives in your inbox every other Tuesday.
THREE CFLERS WITH THE MOST TO GAIN IN THE PLAYOFFS:
1. ALOUETTE HEAD COACH MARC TRESTMAN: These are credentials that get you noticed down south -- a 38-16 won-lost mark; three consecutive first-place finishes; two consecutive appearances in the Grey Cup with one championship. His name has come up at the University of Minnesota and he was already a respected co-ordinator in the NFL.
2. B.C. QB TRAVIS LULAY: Little doubt now who the Lions' QB of the future is. Still learning, still making mistakes but so much fun to watch. And he's made fewer than 10 career starts.
3. ARGONAUT HEAD COACH JIM BARKER: He's already locked up the coach-of-the-year award, but if Barker could coax a squad that was a laughing stock in '09 into the East final -- and a one-game shot at a Grey Cup -- it will be akin to turning water into wine.
THREE CFLERS WITH THE MOST TO LOSE IN THE PLAYOFFS:
1. RIDER HEAD COACH KEN MILLER: Great human being adored by his troops. But folks in Saskatchewan will be living with the 13th-man debacle from last year for generations and it's been Grey Cup or bust all year in Riderland.
2. STAMPEDER QB HENRY BURRIS: He doesn't think he'll win the CFL Most Outstanding Player award because "the eastern media, they think a football is a round puck." No, he won't win because he threw 20 interceptions. In any case, the whining takes the shine off what is a hall-of-fame resumé. Winning helps polish it up a bit.
3. TICAT QB KEVIN GLENN: Consider this: Glenn is 14th on the CFL's career passing yardage list and only one of the 13 men ahead of him on that chart -- former Bomber Dieter Brock -- doesn't own a Grey Cup ring. He's 31 now and needs a championship to cement a place among the legends.