The only things in life you can guarantee are death, taxes and the fact that when the CFL schedule comes out, certain teams (and their fanbases) will inevitably gripe and feel slighted. Some years it’s much ado about nothing, but for 2017, there’s no denying the Ottawa Redblacks were dealt a brutal hand by the schedule makers. Still, the team can’t let a bad schedule be used as an excuse for a poor season. With the Grey Cup being hosted at TD Place, the Redblacks will simply need to overcome another obstacle on their road to repeating as champions. Here’s the rest of my thoughts on Ottawa’s schedule:
Grey Cup rematch (x2)
Traditionally, the opening week of the CFL season features a Grey Cup rematch, but this year offers an extra layer of intrigue as the teams face off in a home-and-home series during the first two weeks of the season. There’s plenty of storylines (Stamps seeking revenge, life after Burris, etc.) and both teams will be looking to get off to strong starts. It’s also worth mentioning that three of the last five times these two teams have met, the game has gone to overtime.
In a tough 11 day stretch, the Redblacks play three games, including two on the road. First, they travel to Edmonton for a Friday night showdown, then fly home to face Montreal on Wednesday and four days later play the Argos at BMO Field on a Monday night. If you include the first game of the month on July 8th, the Redblacks average merely four days between games for the entire month. With four games in 16 days, the probability of players sustaining serious injury is high.
Baffling bye weeks:
How did anyone at league headquarters think that giving the Redblacks two bye weeks in the final three weeks of the season was a good idea? While teams like the Ticats might be upset at having to play 10 straight games to close out the season, the Redblacks will play an insane 17 games in a row before having their first official bye week (or 11 if you count the eleven days between games at the end of July/August). Every other team in the CFL (minus the Argos) will have had both of their bye weeks before the Redblacks have their first official one. Not only are injuries a legitimate concern, but if the Redblacks do wind up winning the East again, they could theoretically play a single game in 37 days and have a 23 day wait before hosting the East Final. Should they qualify, Ottawa can forget about riding any kind of momentum into the postseason.
Given that Canada turns 150 this year, hosting a Canada Day game in the nation’s capital seemed like a no brainer. But, the Redblacks play on June 29th in Calgary and the Canada Day game will instead feature Winnipeg at Saskatchewan. It’s not a big deal but it does seem like a bit of a wasted opportunity by the CFL. Plus, last time an Ottawa team played on Canada Day, this happened.
Massive gaps in home schedule
The good part of the Redblacks’ home schedule is that 7/9 games are on the weekend, which a) ensures capacity crowds and b) allows for plenty of pre-game tailgating and socializing at Lansdowne’s many bars and restaurants. The bad part is 20 days between home dates in September (9th-29th), followed by another 27 day interval before closing out the regular season on Oct. 27th.
Western swing to close out the season
Four of Ottawa’s final five games are against Western teams and three of them are on the road. Despite that, just like the last two years, the East division might ultimately be decided by a late October meeting with Hamilton, as the Redblacks close out their regular season by hosting the Ticats on Oct. 27th.