How the East will be won

We have hit the midway point of the season and the race for first in the East Division is about as clear as mud. All four teams are within one game of each other, with first-place Ottawa having just a three-point lead over fourth-place Montreal. This is still anyone’s race to win and while some lament how the East has been poor this year, I see it as an opportunity for some exciting football in the second half of the season.

But what would a close race be without some analysis and a few predictions. So let’s take a look at the remaining schedules for the four East Division teams and how this might all play out.

Ottawa Redblacks
Current record: 4-4-1
Remaining schedule: at Montreal, at Calgary, vs. Toronto, at BC, vs. Saskatchewan, at Hamilton, vs. Hamilton, at Winnipeg, vs. Winnipeg
Remaining strength of schedule: .494
Toughness Rank: 3

Even the most ardent Redblacks fan would have to admit that this team has taken a tumble over the last month. After a scintillating 3-0-1 start by the team and Chris Williams lighting up the scoreboard in a way that had people like myself talking MOP, the Redblacks have won just one of their last five and squandered their chance to really take advantage of slow starts by their division mates.

Ottawa’s second-half schedule has a few daunting matchups — games at Calgary, BC, Hamilton and Winnipeg will be tough — but overall their schedule is favourable to them making the playoffs and probably finishing no lower than second, especially if Trevor Harris recaptures that early season form and the Redblacks start piling up the points. With where they are now, the talent on this team and their remaining schedule, it would take a big fall off for this team to miss the playoffs. The home-and-home with the Ticats is likely what will decide first and second in the East Division.

Projected finish: 9-8-1, 2nd

Hamilton Tiger-Cats
Current record: 4-5
Remaining schedule: vs. Toronto, at Toronto, vs. Montreal, at Saskatchewan, vs. Calgary, vs. Ottawa, at Ottawa, vs. Edmonton, vs. Montreal
Remaining strength of schedule: .449
Toughness Rank: 4

Hamilton dealt with some bumps and bruises while they waiting for their all-star-calibre quarterback to get back from injury, and their current record reflects that. While Hamilton has come away victorious just once in their first three games with Zach Collaros back, their two losses came on the road against the two best teams currently in the CFL. Oh, and they lost those games by just seven and four points, respectively.

What really gives Hamilton the advantage in the race for first is their stunningly easy schedule. They play just two teams that currently have winning records and they get them both at home. The Ticats leave the province of Ontario just once over the the final nine games and that is for an away game against the putrid Riders.

We have seen that Zach Collaros is just as good as he was pre-injury, and despite some issues elsewhere, the Ticats are well positioned to go on a significant run and find themselves atop the East Division standings when all is said and done.

Projected finish: 10-8, 1st

Toronto Argonauts
Current record: 4-5
Remaining schedule: at Hamilton, vs. Hamilton, at Winnipeg, at Ottawa, at Montreal, vs. Calgary, vs. Saskatchewan, at Calgary, at Edmonton
Remaining strength of schedule: .513
Toughness Rank: 2

Figuring out the Argos this year has been a real chore. They have been the very definition of mediocre. They have dealt with a slew of injuries, especially on offense, and just have not found any consistency. The worst part about their start is that 1-4 home record. That type of trouble at home is how you find yourself on the outside looking in come playoff time.

The Argos second-half schedule does them no favours, either. They still have a pair of dates with that juggernaut from Calgary and end the season, when they will likely need wins, with back-to-back road games in Alberta. The next two games will likely dictate where the Argos land come season’s end. They have to, at worst, get a split with the Ticats. Anything less than at least one win and this team will be in tough to make the playoffs, especially with three on the road right after their double dip versus the Ticats.

Projected finish: 6-12, 4th

Montreal Alouettes
Current record: 3-6
Remaining schedule: vs. Ottawa, at BC, at Hamilton, vs. Toronto, vs. Edmonton, at Calgary, at Saskatchewan, vs. Calgary, at Hamilton
Remaining strength of schedule: .544
Toughness Rank: 1

Montreal’s season has beeb defined by an incredible lack of consistency. Look no further than their last two games. Two week’s ago, they went into TD Place — one of the toughest venues to go into in the entire CFL — and absolutely pasted the Redblacks. Then just a week later, they lay an absolute egg against the Bombers at home. You have never known which Montreal team you are going to get on a week-by-week basis.

The Als get no help from the schedule makers either as they have the toughest remaining schedule of any team in the East Division. They have games left against Edmonton, two against Calgary, a pair of games left at Tim Hortons Field.

Where they catch breaks, however, is that by the time they see the Stamps and Ticats at the end of the season, both teams could have already clinched first in their respective divisions. If that’s the case, the Als will not finish in last. But the record they have still might not be good enough to get them into the playoffs.

Projected finish: 7-11, 3rd

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