The moment we have all been waiting for: PLAYOFFS!!!!! The countdown is over, as this weekend marks the beginning of the postseason for the CFL. Nine teams in the league, six currently in the playoffs, and that number will continue to dwindle game-by-game until we get to the Grey Cup — on November 11 — to decide who the best of 2018 is.
But for now we have the Eastern and Western Semi-Final for the Sunday doubleheader on ESPNNEWS and ESPN2.
British Columbia Lions vs. Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Sunday (Nov. 11) 1 PM ET, ESPNNEWS
The playoffs kick off with this fierce rivalry. After BC came back to beat Hamilton in OT in Week 15, BC traveled to Hamilton the next week and got their doors blown off 40-10. The bad blood will seep into this week’s game as well.
One thing that has been a staple throughout the season with these two (more Hamilton than BC) is their defense. The Lions and Ticats both allow an average of 247 yards/game and rank 2nd and 3rd in the league. West Division and East Division All-Stars CB Anthony Orange and HB TJ Lee patrol the secondary in BC while CB Delvin Breaux and HB Cariel Brooks rule the skies in Hamilton. Delvin Breaux is one of the true lockdown corners in the CFL. No joke, Delvin Breaux has been Darelle Revis in Canada since he stepped into the league. Not to mention he was also pretty good in the NFL for the New Orleans Saints.
— KP (@KP_Show) August 30, 2016
BC has a slight advantage over Hamilton in one area of defense: sacks. BC made a brilliant mid-season trade for DE Shawn Lemon, as they pair him with Odell Willis to create one of the best pass rushing duos in the league. Both rushers have 11 sacks each with Lemon getting 10 of his in orange and black.
While Jeremiah Masoli will have to lean on some wiley vets in WRs Luke Tasker, Terrell Sinkfield, and Marquay McDaniel, BC will lean on their other mid-season acquisition in RB Tyrell Sutton. Sutton is averaging 5.3 yards/carry as a Lion, while RB Alex Green has 604 yards and 7 TDs in 8 games this season for Hamilton.
While the CFL is known for its dynamic air attack, look out for defense and ground-n-pound in the playoffs.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers vs. Saskatchewan Roughriders, Sunday, 4:30 PM ET, ESPN2
The last time we saw these two, Winnipeg shut out Saskatchewan 31-0 in Week 18 as Zach Collaros threw for 69 yards and 2 INTs and was replaced by Brandon Bridge in the 2nd half. The Bombers had their way with Saskatchewan that day, even though the Riders won the first two games of their season series.
The common denominator for these teams is that they get the ball on defense. The Riders and Bombers are both 10-0 when they win the TO battle. The Bombers lead the league with 151 points off of turnovers. And Zach Collaros has more INTs (13) than TDs (9) this season.
Where the Riders top the Bombers defense is in sacks. Riderville boasts the most feared pass rushing duo in the league with Charleston Hughes and Willie Jefferson III, who have combined for 25 sacks on they year. Having defensive mastermind Chris Jones at HC helps a lot with scheming this beautifully fast and strong defense, too.
Midway through the season, Bomber fans were booing Matt Nichols out of the stadium and calling for rookie Chris Streveler to take the reigns at QB. But as Eastern Washington HC Aaron Best told me, Matt Nichols is a gamer and he’s going to fight through anything. He has done that very well this season by leading the Bombers to the playoffs and throwing a 7:1 TD to INT ratio in the last five games. But he has not been successful vs. Saskatchewan this season, and he’s been 0-2 in the playoffs since he got to Winnipeg.
And they”ll be in Regina. This has the makings of a very cold, very unpredictable playoff game on Sunday evening in New Mosaic Stadium.
Enjoy the games folks! In case you haven’t heard, it’s playoff time!!!