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CFL post-season preview

By Sonny Sachdeva, November 13 2014 —

The CFL regular season is in the books and the playoffs are set to kick off this Sunday. Here are the Gauntlet’s predictions for how it will all shake out.

Eastern Conference

B.C. Lions (9–9) — No. 4

The Lions were dealt a serious blow this season when they lost starting quarterback, Travis Lulay, and lead runningback, Andrew Harris, to injuries. Kevin Glenn has filled in nicely for Lulay, finishing second in the league for passing yards and first among playoffs teams. However, the Lions still have serious holes in their offence. They boast the CFL’s best linebacker in Solomon Elimimian, who led the league in tackles — by a lot.

Montreal Alouettes (9–9) — No. 2

After starting the season 1–7, the Alouettes rattled off six consecutive wins to move into playoff contention, and they’re the team carrying the most momentum into the postseason. While their young quarterback, Jonathan Crompton, struggled statistically, the Alouettes still have an amazing receiver in Duron Carter, and one of the league’s best runningbacks in Brandon Whitaker. They’re certainly not the Alouettes we came to know under historic quarterback Anthony Calvillo, but they won’t be easy to run through either.

East semi-final prediction

The teams have met twice this season. Montreal won the first game while B.C. won the second. This one could go either way but Montreal is the hotter team. I see them taking out B.C. in the first round.

Western Conference

Saskatchewan Roughriders (10–8) — No. 3

Saskatchewan struggled after losing star quarterback Darian Durant early in the season, going 1–5 after his exit. The Riders still have a strong receiving core in Weston Dressler, Chris Getzlaf and Rob Bagg. Plus they have a reliable runningback in Anthony Allen, who performed well for the Riders after they lost former MVP runningback Kory Sheets to the NFL. Beastly defensive end John Chick, who led the league in sacks this season, could be another game changer for Saskatchewan. Key losses have made this team a shadow of its championship squad from 2013, but they still have enough pieces to put up a fight.

Edmonton Eskimos (12–6) — No. 2

The Eskimos are one of the league’s strongest teams coming into the playoffs. They’ve got plenty of weapons, including dangerous receiver Adarius Bowman — who led the league by a mile with an astounding 1,456 receiving yards — and runningback John White, who finished second in the league in rushing yards. Their elite defence boasts two of the league’s top players in linebacker Dexter McCoil and defensive end Odell Willis. Edmonton has been especially dominant in their own barn with a 7–2 record. The fact that their first-round matchup will be at Commonwealth Stadium will work to their advantage.

West semi-final prediction

In the final game before the postseason, Saskatchewan clawed out a 24–17 victory over Edmonton. Saskatchewan showed that they can win by committee rather than by big play from their stars. I see them doing just that to get by Edmonton once again.

Conference Champs

Hamilton Tiger-Cats (9–9) — No. 1 in the East

After an embarrassing loss at the hands of the Riders in last year’s Grey Cup, Hamilton redeemed themselves this season to finish atop the East. Since the opening of their brand new stadium, Tim Hortons Field, Hamilton has been undefeated at home, winning six straight games. However, they haven’t been as lucky on the road, where they’ve won only two out of nine games. The new digs have inspired this team, and it will be hard for anyone to stop them with their home advantage.

Calgary Stampeders (15–3) — No. 1 in the West

Calgary finished their season with the best record in the league, and only three losses. They were great on the road and at home, and the rest of the league simply had no answer for their unique brand of offensive attack. Young quarterback Bo-Levi Mitchell battled through injuries to finish with the highest QB rating among all starters at 98.3. His 22 passing touchdowns were good for second in the league. Besides their lethal air attack, Calgary’s roster houses the league’s most dominant runningback, Jon Cornish, who was the only runningback to break 1,000 rushing yards this season, despite only playing in nine games. Calgary’s defence has been equally dominant in 2014, as the Stamps are the only team to boast top-five players in tackles, interceptions and sacks. This balance will be the difference-maker when the finals roll around.

Grey Cup predictions

Montreal will use their momentum to roll through B.C. and Hamilton, earning a spot in the Grey Cup against Calgary, who seems unstoppable no matter who they come up against in the west finals. That being the case, Calgary looks poised to knock off a much weaker Montreal squad to take home their first Grey Cup since 2008.

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