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article imageWeek 18 Review of the Canadian Football League

By Andrew Reeves     Oct 30, 2011 in Sports
Toronto - With only one week left in the 2011 regular season, no team has yet clinched a division title. All will be decided in the final week for those teams still fighting for a first week bye.
It will be a long week for the Montreal Allouettes and the Edmonton Eskimos. With opportunities to lock up division titles with victories in week 18, neither team could come up big when it mattered most. And this week proved that with five of the top six teams sitting with 10-7 records, victories in the final week of the CFL season, and the playoffs to follow are truly up for grabs.
In just his second professional CFL start, Calgary QB Drew Tate led his Calgary Stampeders into Montreal to put themselves into a three-way tie for first place in the West. And in the process, they could do the Winnipeg Blue Bombers a huge favour. As Winnipeg was unable to come back against a Toronto Argonauts team playing the best football of the season with nothing on the line, Winnipeg needed Montreal to lose in order to have a shot at winning a first week playoff bye.
Playing like a seasoned veteran, Tate threw 333 yards and a pair of touchdowns in leading the Stamps to a 32-27 victory over the Allouettes. Canadian RB John Cornish added a pair of touchdowns as the Stamps took advantage of touchdowns in their first two possessions of the game, and never looked back.
"It was a huge win because we're still in the chase,'' Tate told "You play five months and it all comes down to this one last game, but this is the position we want to be in.
"We're in a one-week season now. We're focused on who we have to play now.''
Calgary will head home to take on the Blue Bombers in week 19 action: if either team has any shot at finishing first in their respective divisions they need a final week win. Winnipeg can still take first in the East if they lose provided that Montreal also loses (because they hold the season series against the Als), but for Calgary to earn a first week bye they must down the Bombers at McMahon Stadium...and hope Edmonton and BC lose.
The biggest game of the week was between the powerhouses of the West, as Edmonton rolled into BC coming off an impressive offensive game against the Argonauts the previous week. BC, however, was licking its wounds after a 42-10 shellacking against Hamilton in week 17 that ended their impressive 8-game winning streak.
Both Edmonton QB Ricky Ray and BC QB Travis Lulay had impressive games, made all the more special as Ray went over 40,000 passing yards in his career. Ray, a shoe-in for the CFL Hall of Fame when he retires, must feel some excitement in watching Travis Lulay, one of the league's brightest up-and-coming young QB's, fine-tune their common craft. Although the sting of losing 29-20 may have taken some of the shine off.
Lulay went 21 for 31 on the day for 322 yards and three touchdowns.
An Edmonton win would have secured them first place in the West Division, and an automatic bye in week one of the playoffs. With the loss, and with BC and Calgary wins, the log-jam at 10-7 at the top of the West continues, and will have to be settled in week 19.
The other games in the league this week were notable only for how unusual they were. Toronto continued to prove they feel most comfortable playing football when they know there are no consequences: since officially being eliminated from the playoffs, Toronto has gone 2-1 with both of these victories demonstrating offense their dwindling fan-base has been clamouring for all season. But in garbage time, it matters not.
24 unanswered points in the second quarter was enough to keep the disorganized and lacklustre Blue Bombers at bay, and despite a third-quarter Winnipeg surge, the game fell part from an officiating standpoint late in the fourth quarter, and helped Toronto hold on. Continued confusion of plays being whistled in by the officials had commentators (normally loathe to insult officiating) noting that the referees had to get the game under control.
And fast. Hell broke lose after a violent and unnecessary helmet-to-helmet hit between Bomber DB Johnny Sears and Argo QB Stephen Jyles, which led to two player ejections. It was downhill from there. In a game that could have secured home field advantage in the playoffs, Winnipeg forgot to show up and played disjointed and sloppy football on a night that was intended to celebrate the final regular season game ever to be played in Canad Inns Stadium. The team will play in a new facility in the 2012 season.
And the Saskatchewan Roughriders, also looking to improve on their 4-12 record in garbage time, proved that the 2011 Hamilton Tiger-Cats are a mirage. While they can look like a oasis in the desert, often as not they are merely playing tricks on you. After convincingly beating the hottest team in the league 42-10 the week before, the Hamilton offense under their two-QB system could muster only 3 points in the game. Total. In 60 minutes of football.
There is now no wondering as to how Hamilton has managed to be a perennial .500 team this season. And based on their see-saw approach to winning in 2011, they will likely look to take their frustrations out on the Toronto Argonauts when the two teams meet in the final game of the season in Toronto this Thursday.
Week 19 Preview:
Hamilton Tiger-Cats at Toronto Argonauts: a nothing game for both teams, although when these historic rivals meet, sparks tend to fly. Which is good because points rarely do.
Saskatchewan Roughriders at Edmonton Eskimos: Saskatchewan has nothing to prove, but Edmonton needs a win to help clinch the division title. It all depends which Rider team shows up in Edmonton.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers at Calgary Stampeders: Winnipeg can lock up first place in the East with a win in Calgary, although a resurgent Stampeder team under an energetic new QB will be looking to take first place in the West.
Montreal Allouettes at BC Lions: the race to the top has not been a cakewalk for either of these teams in 2011, although this could easily be a preview of the 2011 Grey Cup if both teams play to their maximum potential. Montreal needs a win and a Winnipeg loss to win the East, and BC needs a big game (and big games from Winnipeg and Saskatchewan) if they hope to host the West final.
More about canadian football league, montreal allouettes, Toronto argonauts, Hamilton tiger cats, winnipeg blue bombers
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