The Calgary Stampeders and Hamilton Tiger-Cats will have to become road warriors to reach the Grey Cup.
Calgary (6-11) and Hamilton (8-9) enter the final week of the CFL’s regular season firmly entrenched in third in the West and East Divisions, respectively. That means each will have to win two playoff games on the road to punch their tickets to the Grey Cup game Nov. 19 at Tim Hortons Field.
And that road begins Nov. 4, when Calgary visits the B.C. Lions (12-6) in the West Division semifinal while Hamilton heads to Montreal to face the Alouettes (10-7) in the East.
Calgary has struggled on the road this year with a 3-6 record. The Stampeders also enter their regular-season finale in Winnipeg on Friday night just 4-6 within the West Division.
But Winnipeg proved in 2019 it’s possible for a third-place West Division club to go all the way, doing so in 2019.
Hamilton and Montreal will provide a potential playoff preview when they meet Saturday at Molson Stadium. The Ticats are a solid 5-3 on the road but just 3-6 within the East Division while the Alouettes are 4-4 at home but 6-3 versus conference rivals.
Only once has a third-place team in the East Division gone on to win the Grey Cup. That was 1970, when Montreal defeated Calgary 23-10 after posting a 7-6-1 regular-season record. Both teams were third in their respective divisions, as Calgary recorded a 9-7-0 mark.
B.C. won the season series 2-1 but Calgary earned a decisive 41-16 road win Friday night. That victory, coupled with Toronto’s 29-26 decision over Saskatchewan on Saturday, earned the Stampeders a CFL playoff berth for an 18th straight year.
B.C. quarterback Vernon Adams Jr., the CFL’s passing leader with 4,769 yards, has thrown for 300-or-more yards twice this season against Calgary. Receiver Keon Hatcher had nine catches for 170 yards and a touchdown in the Lions’ 37-9 win Aug. 12.
But Adams and backup Dane Evans combined for four interceptions Friday night.
Calgary starter Jake Maier didn’t crack the 200-yard passing plateau this season versus B.C. But the Stampeders ran for 213 yards on 31 carries (6.9-yard average) Friday, with Peyton Logan (105 yards, TD on eight carries) leading the way.
B.C.’s Mathieu Betts, whose 17 sacks this season is the most ever by a Canadian player, had two sacks in the three games versus Calgary. Stampeders linebacker Micah Awe (league-high 118 defensive tackles) recorded 25 tackles, two interceptions, a sack and pass knockdown against B.C.
Since 1945, Calgary’s road playoff record is 13-28-2 (. 326) while B.C. sports an 11-9 post-season home mark.
Dave Dickenson, Calgary’s head coach/GM, has a 3-3 playoff record while Rick Campbell, B.C.’s head coach/co-GM, boasts a 4-2 mark. Both have won Grey Cups as a CFL head coach, Campbell’s coming in 2016 when Ottawa upset the Stampeders 39-33 in overtime.
Calgary dispatched Ottawa 27-16 two years later to give Dickenson his first head-coaching title.
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Meanwhile in the East Division, Montreal will host Hamilton in a playoff game for the second straight season. The two teams are also squaring off in the conference semifinal for a third consecutive campaign.
Montreal won last year’s contest 28-17 while Hamilton was victorious 23-12 in 2021. The Alouettes have a 27-10 record as a home playoff squad while the Ticats are 16-31-1 on the road in the post-season.
The Als have also won the season series (2-0) this year entering action Saturday. Both of Montreal’s victories came at Tim Hortons Field as Hamilton was 3-6 at home in 2023.
Barring injury, veteran quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell is expected to be Hamilton’s playoff starter. Injuries limited Mitchell, twice the CFL’s outstanding player and a two-time Grey Cup champion, to just five starts this season, his first with the Ticats.
But Mitchell has started Hamilton’s last two regular-season contests, completing 17-of-24 passes (70.8 per cent) for 264 yards with three TDs and one interception. The Ticats are also solid behind Mitchell, with veteran Matt Shiltz and rookie Taylor Powell having both earned victories this year as starters.
However, each suffered a defeat as the starter against Montreal this season.
Hamilton’s Tim White is the CFL’s leading receiver with 75 catches for 1,269 yards and eight TDs. He had seven receptions for 143 yards in Montreal’s 38-12 win June 23.
Montreal starter Cody Fajardo is 38-of-50 passing against Hamilton for 610 yards with three TDs and two interceptions. Receiver Austin Mack has registered 10 catches for 187 yards and two touchdowns.
And in Montreal’s 27-14 win at Tim Hortons Field on Aug. 5, William Stanback ran for 108 yards on 19 carries while Mack had five catches for 106 yards.
Hamilton head coach Orlondo Steinauer has a 3-1 playoff record while Montreal’s Jason Maas is 3-3 in the post-season.
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