The Toronto Argonauts have won the East and Calgary has won the West. Congratulations to those two organizations. Montreal will play Hamilton in the East semifinal and BC will play Saskatchewan in the west semifinal.
But what do you do about this week - Week 19?
Well, as much as CFL football fans may not want to hear it, the goal is to stay healthy. I seriously doubt that you will see many of the "stars" of the league this week but that does not mean we will not see good games. Football is the type of sport that when you let your guard down you pay a price, and sometimes the price is severe. Players know that and will respond.
It was pretty amazing what Ricky Ray did on Thursday night; throwing for over 500 yards and 21 straight completions at one point in the game. It will be difficult to stop Toronto from representing the East as going into the final they will be prepared - or maybe over prepared - for that game. No doubt that whether it is Montreal or Hamilton, they can win come the East Final, but it will take a perfect game to upset a quarterback who is about as close to perfect as you can get.
With Winnipeg, there's one more game to go with Hamilton coming to Investors Group Field and that is it - season over. Will the players be watching the clock? Of course! Playing football without a playoff goal is just like working and not getting paid. It is just not the same. Having said that; the Bomber players are getting paid and if they watch the clock too much, all will notice.
With Hamilton, I have two thoughts. Brandon Banks may turn out to be the best late season pick up of any team as this year of football concludes. He may be only 5'7 and 153lbs but he is a well-educated return specialist and I would not be surprised if he was a big part of the offense next year. The second thought is quarterback for the Ticats. Over the course of the game, Henry Burris ran 31 plays, 163 passing yards and 23 rushing yards. Dan Lefevour ran only four plays, no passing yards and only nine yards running. And then Jeremiah Masoli also has his opportunity to play and actually does very well with 18 plays, only 12 passing yards but 61 rushing yards.
Now I have seen three quarterbacks play in one game but the issue was injury not ability. Not sure how this is going to be handled in the future but it is one of the more interesting conversations going into the playoff: who plays and how much?
On the other side, Troy Smith looked good at times but regressed in the fourth quarter. The Brandon Banks touchdown return with 4:43 and Montreal up 23-20 was why Hamilton won, but also a regression from Smith in the fourth quarter. First third quarters he was 17-of-25, 68 per cent, 294 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. In the fourth quarter he was 6-of-14, 43 per cent and 46 yards, no touchdowns, one interception with his last five passes being incomplete. Having made that reality point, I do think Smith is the present and future.
In BC, I would not be surprised if Buck Pierce finished the season, as Travis Lulay may not be ready or they are waiting for the playoffs. Of all the teams, I think BC has the toughest road to conquer to make it to the Grey Cup.
In Saskatchewan, they have the talent, they have the team but do they have self-control? It seems in the second half of the season, someone is always mad at something said or done. Sheets vs Cornish is getting old as Cornish won, but the unsportsmanlike penalties are a problem. Maybe get it out of your system against Edmonton because if it transfers to round one of the playoffs, the Riders will be one and done and on their way to the offseason.
Week 19 of CFL football will be kind of unusual; play to win but play to stay healthy. It's kind of impossible to do as one is aggressive in nature - win - and one is passive in nature - stay healthy. Either way, those who handle it best will gain a playoff edge.