Stampeders, Lions kick off '22 CFL playoffs in West Division semifinal matchup

Home field wasn't an advantage this season when the B.C. Lions and Calgary Stampeders squared off.

In each of the three regular-season meetings, the road team emerged victorious as B.C. won the season series 2-1. In fact, the road team has won the last seven meetings between these two clubs.

The last time Calgary or B.C. beat the other at home was June 29, 2019, when the Stampeders won 36-32 at McMahon Stadium.

On Sunday, the Stampeders (12-6) visit the Lions (12-6) in the West Division semifinal. The winner will take on the defending Grey Cup-champion Winnipeg Blue Bombers (15-3) at IG Field in the conference final Nov. 13.

Also on Sunday, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (8-10) are in Montreal to meet the Alouettes (9-9) in the East Division semifinal. That victor will visit the Toronto Argonauts (11-7) in the division final Nov 13 at BMO Field.

B.C. captured the season series with Calgary by winning the first two meetings by a combined three points. The Lions outscored the Stampeders 20-7 in the fourth quarter of the opener, rallying for the 41-40 victory at McMahon Stadium on Aug. 13 as Victoria's Nathan Rourke finished 39-of-52 passing for 488 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions while also rushing for two TDs.

The on Sept. 17, James Butler's 18-yard TD run in overtime and Antonio Pipkin's two-point convert helped the Lions earn a 31-29 victory in Calgary. After B.C. scored, Jake Maier found Jalen Philpot on a four-yard touchdown pass, but Maier's two-point throw to Reggie Begelton was incomplete.

With Rourke sidelined (foot), Vernon Adams Jr. finished 25-of-32 passing for 294 yards for B.C. while Butler ran 13 times for 83 yards and two TDs. Maier completed 26-of-38 passes for 301 yards and three touchdowns for Calgary.

The two teams finished their season series the following week in Vancouver, with Calgary securing a 25-11 victory. The Stampeders rolled up 438 total offensive yards, which included 144 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.

This will mark the first playoff meeting between the two teams since 2015, when Calgary hosted B.C. in the West Division semifinal, winning 35-9. The Lions find themselves in the CFL post-season for the first time since 2018 and last hosted a semifinal contest in 2016.

The Lions, appear to be getting healthier. Rourke returned to start in last week's 24-9 loss to Winnipeg in the regular-season finale for both teams. Rourke finished seven-of-11 passing for 68 yards but, more importantly, took some shots in the contest and bounced back up each time.

The Lions' receiving corps -- which features three 1,000-yard performers in Dominique Rhymes, Keon Hatcher and Lucky Whitehead -- should be bolstered by wideout Bryan Burnham's return from a wrist injury. Burnham had 19 catches for 323 yards and a TD in three games versus Calgary this season.

The Stampeders counter with a CFL-best ground game (135.3 yards per game) that's anchored by league rushing leader Ka'Deem Carey (1,088 yards, 6.6-yard average, 10 TDs). Overall, Calgary is averaging a stellar 6.4 yards per attempt and should Carey need a breather, the rushing game certainly doesn't drop off any with Dedrick Mills (67 carries, 459 yards, 6.9-yard average) in the game.

What's more, Calgary allowed a CFL-low 17 sacks, 12 fewer than the second-place squad (Winnipeg).

B.C. counters with a defence that was ranked fourth against the run (94.1 yards per game) and tied for third yards per carry (5.1). Should Calgary be unable to establish its ground attack, it will face a Lions unit that was tied for first overall against the pass (253.6 yard per game) and second in fewest offensive points allowed (20.7 per game).

While Calgary's defence was ranked a solid second against the run (89.1 yards per game, it was seventh versus the pass (270.8 yards). But as a team the Stamps finished first in turnover ration (plus-21) and committed the second-fewest turnovers (25).

B.C. was a solid 6-3 at home this year while Calgary was 7-2 away from McMahon Stadium.

Pick: Calgary.


Hamilton Tiger-Cats versus Montreal Alouettes (Sunday afternoon)

At Montreal, Hamilton (8-10) has won four straight and five of its last six, the only blemish being a 23-16 loss to the Als. Quarterback Dane Evans will start but in July, former Al Matt Shiltz played a huge role in his squad's only head-to-head win of the series. The Ticats have been plagued by turnovers all season and are 2-7 on the road. The Alouettes will host their first home playoff game since '19 and receiver Eugene Lewis -- the East's outstanding player nominee -- has 22 catches for 305 yards and three TDs in three games versus the Steeltown crew.

Pick: Hamilton.


Last week: 3-1.

CP's overall regular-season record: 59-22

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 2, 2022.

Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press