Never has a crossover team made it to the Grey Cup through the East Division, but maybe this will be the year.
With the fourth-place Saskatchewan Roughriders (10-8) holding a better record than ALL the teams in the East, the most intriguing matchups for this year’s big game in Ottawa come with the Roughriders and their passionate fans involved.
Sorry Ottawa. As much as you would love to root on your hometown team in the Grey Cup, the Redblacks have the worst record of all the playoff teams. The fans might like it, but for us neutral observers who want great storylines and the best possible entertainment for the game, the Riders are the ones who win out as ‘East Division champs.’
Coming from a West Division based writer, here are the rankings of the possible Grey Cup matchups and what I would like to see most.
9. Toronto vs. Calgary
Last meeting: 2012, Argonauts won 35-22
It’s not normal for a battle of first-place teams to carry so little lustre. The Stamps have limped into the post-season and very little is exciting about the Argonauts overall. That being said, Ricky Ray being back in the big game against the next generation of ‘winning quarterback’ Bo Levi Mitchell does carry some interest. These two teams met for a dull Grey Cup a few years ago and it could be the same thing this time.
8. Toronto vs. Winnipeg
Last meeting: 1950, Argonauts won 13-0
Again, the Argos aren’t flashy or exciting, but at least the Blue Bombers play fire-brand football for the most part. If Matt Nichols is healthy enough to be himself, this could be one of those classic shootouts, but in terms of storylines leading into the game, this will be lacking much intrigue.
7. Ottawa vs. Winnipeg
Last meeting: 1941, Blue Bombers won 18-16
This would be a matchup of the shortest Grey Cup drought against the longest one. The fact the Bombers haven’t won a Grey Cup since 1990 is quite sad considering this is a eight- or nine-team league during that period. The Redblacks won one in their third year of existence so it’s taken some major stumbles for the Bombers not to put things together for at least one season. They would be heavily favoured in this one if Bombers QB Matt Nichols stays healthy.
6. Ottawa vs. Edmonton
Last meeting: 2015, Eskimos won 26-20
Not much stands out about the meeting two seasons ago other than the drama that happened after the game was finished. That’s when head coach Chris Jones left Edmonton for Saskatchewan and the Eskimos ‘stole’ Jason Maas from Ottawa to be their head coach. On the field, this feels like a mismatch as the Eskimos enter the playoffs as the hottest team in the league.
5. Ottawa vs. Calgary
Last meeting: 2016, Redblacks won 39-33 (OT)
Sure, last year’s game was special. A memorable game with all the intrigue you want from a championship. But the sizzle is gone as Henry Burris retired and the Redblacks changed plenty of personnel. The Stamps would like their revenge of course, and the two games they played at the start of the season were nice and close, but it feels like the Stamps would once again be heavy favourites.
4. Toronto vs. Edmonton
Last meeting: 1996, Argonauts won 43-37
It’s been so long now that it’s hard to picture Ricky Ray back in the green and gold, but he did get shipped out of Edmonton after putting together a Hall-of-Fame resume. Both teams have won Grey Cups in the past five years but it’s taken Marc Trestman to turn the Argos around after a dismal 2016. Ray and former teammate but now Eskimos head coach Jason Maas are good friends so this would be a good mind game when it gets down to game time.
3. Saskatchewan vs. Calgary
Last meeting: Never
The Saskatchewan Roughriders, East Division Champions has such a weird sound when you say it out loud the sheer novelty makes the possibility of them representing that division the top three matchups. The Stamps and Riders have a bitter rivalry that has gone a bit dormant the past few years with Saskatchewan struggles. They last met in the playoffs when the Riders knocked off the Stamps in the 2013 West final. Expect a war of words if this is to happen.
2. Saskatchewan vs. Winnipeg
Last meeting: 2007, Roughriders won 23-19
Banjo Bowl, Grey Cup style. When these two teams last met in the Grey Cup, they were representing the opposite divisions so this would be of course an odd one. Every time these teams meet it’s interesting, but that’s because they have the Labour Day rivalry and of course the rematch that is the Banjo Bowl. This would be fun to see even if we’ve had it a decade ago.
1. Saskatchewan vs. Edmonton
Last meeting: Never
Riderville vs the Spirit of Edmonton. This would be a matchup of the two biggest parties that are usually found at the Grey Cup Festival as these are arguably the two most passionate fanbases in the CFL. It feels like their collective heads would explode in this matchup, although these teams finished the regular season with a lacklustre meeting at Mosaic Stadium that sent the Roughriders through the East Division. Two western-based teams meeting in an eastern city is probably a nightmare for the CFL front office, but anything to do with the Roughriders usually creates a high level of interest. Add to that the fact Chris Jones ditched the Eskimos two years ago after winning the Grey Cup there and this one has the sizzle every championship game needs.
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