Assessing the Riders (minuscule) playoff hopes

Caleb Holley (88) during the Labour Day game between the Saskatchewan Roughriders and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers at Mosaic Stadium in Regina, SK. Sunday, September 4, 2016. (Photo: Johany Jutras)
Receiver Caleb Holley (a.k.a. No. 88) during the Labour Day.

Believe it or not, there’s at least one scenario in which the woeful Saskatchewan Roughriders could finish with a better record than all four of the CFL’s East Division teams . . . and still miss the playoffs.

It’s quite complicated and would involve the Roughriders winning their six remaining games.

So there’s really no cause for concern about the CFL playoff system being unfair, because a team that has won only twice in 12 games and has trundled 220 players through its dressing-room doors this season certainly won’t win six straight games and, more fittingly, won’t make the playoffs.

Keeping track of that many players is a difficult task. The team’s roster is so fluid that head coach Chris Jones regularly refers to his players by number, rather than by name, as he did last week when he called blossoming receiver Caleb Holley “Eighty-eight.”

According to, the Roughriders have a .0719 per cent chance of qualifying for the postseason. They can’t even qualify for the playoffs in their own division because the West’s top three teams are out of reach. There is an extremely remote chance they could pass Edmonton, the West’s fourth-place team, and finish above two of the East’s teams — Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa and Hamilton — to earn a wild-card berth.

Can anybody picture that happening? Maybe only inside the Roughriders’ crowded locker room.

Quarterback Darian Durant, displaying a player’s never-say-die mentality, told reporters his team still has a chance of making the postseason following their 26-23 overtime victory against Edmonton. Durant said the Roughriders should be inspired by their most recent performance.

Meanwhile, his supporting cast keeps changing. Injuries have sidelined every offensive starter this season, except for international offensive lineman Thaddeus Coleman. The Roughriders’ fortunes have been hurt by injuries, but in all honesty not everyone on their injury lists has actually been injured; a handful of players are just being stashed to keep them away from other teams.

Defensively the team has started at least two different players at every position except middle linebacker, where free-agent signee Greg Jones has been a stalwart.

CFL statistics show the Roughriders have deployed 50 different starters through 12 games, 14 more than the Edmonton Eskimos during the same stretch. The Roughriders have had a league-record 95 players on their roster this season, with 86 seeing game action.

The CFL record for the number of players playing during a season was set by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in 2013 — 88. The Roughriders are two shy of that record with six games remaining.

Since training camp began the Roughriders, according to a team source, have assessed 220 players. Some were on the “pre-practice squad” that was declared illegal by the CFL office, leading to league-imposed fines.

The airlift has slowed in the past few weeks. And there have been fewer roster changes. The result: The Roughriders have been playing better and it looks like they have a few players worth keeping for next year, when they move into a new stadium and may actually have a realistic chance of making the playoffs.

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