Playoff Primer: Who's crossing over, and who's hosting the West semifinal?

Andrew Bucholtz
Playoff Primer: Who's crossing over, and who's hosting the West semifinal?

After the penultimate week of the CFL regular season, the playoff race has gone from multiple battles to just two. Hamilton's loss to Edmonton Friday and Ottawa's win over Winnipeg Saturday meant that the Redblacks clinched first in the East, while the B.C. Lions' victory against Saskatchewan Saturday gave them at least third in the West. The only remaining questions are if it will be the Blue Bombers or the Eskimos crossing over to face the Tiger-Cats in the East semifinal (which could boost their Grey Cup appearance chances by over 25 per cent), and if it will be the Lions or the Bombers hosting the West semifinal.

The first part of this puzzle will be answered Friday when Winnipeg heads to Ottawa. If the Bombers lose that game, the chances of them heading to the East are still in play. If they get a tie, the playoff picture is set: Edmonton is the crossover team, and B.C.'s hosting Winnipeg in that West semifinal. If the Bombers win, then the Eskimos are crossing over and the pressure is on the Lions.

If Winnipeg falls to Ottawa, then B.C.'s hosting the West semifinal, but the question is who they're hosting. The next part of the equation will come Saturday afternoon when Edmonton hosts Toronto. If the Eskimos win that game, then they finish third in the West and Winnipeg crosses over. If they lose or tie, then the Bombers are third in the West and Edmonton's heading East.

If the Bombers beat the Redblacks, then the Lions' game Saturday against the Roughriders becomes important. A win or a tie would let them host Winnipeg in that West semifinal. A loss would leave the two teams tied, though, and the Bombers win that tiebreaker based on their head-to-head record. It's worth noting that while they'd certainly want to host if given the chance, playing at home isn't necessarily great for them, though; Winnipeg's 4-5 at Investors Group Field on the year and 6-2 on the road.

This is an interesting setup for the CFL's final weekend, as only one or two of the four games will be meaningful, but there are different options for which ones will matter. Saturday's Montreal-Hamilton game has no relevance in the playoff picture, but it could be a useful tuneup for the Tiger-Cats and a way for the Alouettes to continue their positive recent momentum. Winnipeg-Ottawa will certainly be important, and its result will determine what other games matter. If it ends in a tie, the playoff picture's set and the other Saturday games don't matter. If the Bombers lose, Edmonton's game matters, and if they win, B.C.'s game matters. Thus, all eyes will be on Ottawa Friday night to see how the playoff standings shake out.