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The Rouge: Is the crossover the easier path to the Grey Cup?

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Shane McNeil, TSN.ca
11/4/2012 11:48:44 AM
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The CFL playoff match-ups are set and for six teams the road to the 100th Grey Cup in Toronto has been laid out.

While the Calgary Stampeders are primed to host the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the West semifinal, the Edmonton Eskimos have the unenviable task of traveling across the country to face the Toronto Argonauts in the East.

But is the crossover playoff berth that unenviable of a situation?

The Eskimos find themselves in the seventh crossover playoff game since the end of the CFL's U.S. expansion experiment. Since 1997 West Division teams are 2-4 in the Eastern semifinal, but the West has taken the last two crossover semifinals in the East.

In 2008 the Esks walked into Winnipeg and won 29-21. The next year the Lions would head to Ivor Wynne and beat the Ticats in overtime. However, in both cases, the Western team would lose to the Alouettes in the Eastern Final.

In fact, since 1997 no Eastern team has won an East Division playoff game in Montreal or Toronto.

But what about this year?

Are the Eskimos in a better spot going through the East than they would have been if they'd stayed in the West?

The travel is obviously the foremost factor in any debate about the crossover.

A semifinal in Calgary followed by a potential match-up in B.C. would have taken way less energy out of the Eskimos than heading to Toronto and possibly Montreal (and possibly back again).

The same could have been said for the Riders, had they wound up the fourth-seed.

The natural rivalries also don't exist with the East, so getting fired up for a semifinal would be much easier for the Eskimos if they were facing a hated provincial rival than it might be for a trip to Toronto.

Of course, a match-up with the Argos does present Edmonton with another crack at Ricky Ray, but the environment inside the Rogers Centre won't be nearly as hostile as McMahon Stadium would have been, for better or for worse.

However, the Rogers Centre brings about one potential advantage to the crossover this year.

A berth in the East Playoffs this season guarantees finishing the season indoors.

Should the Eskimos beat the Argos, it would set up an Eastern Final against the Alouettes in the Big O and, should they prove successful, another trip to the Dome for the Grey Cup.

The team will have plenty of time to get comfortable indoors and won't suffer any rust from an extra week off.

Of course, the West Final will also be indoors at B.C. Place, but the crossover also presents the Eskimos with a more favourable match-up than they would have gotten in the West.

The Argos were a sub-.500 team at home this year en route to a 9-9 finish. The Als, meanwhile, finished the year with an 11-7 record, making them – on paper – a more favourable draw than either the Stamps (12-6) or the Lions (13-5) would have been going through the West, should the Eskimos prevail in Toronto.

So, what do you think?

The Rouge asks: Is the crossover the easier road to the Grey Cup this year, or will the extra travel put Edmonton at a disadvantage?

As always, it's Your! Call.

Sewell sacks Ray (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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