Wins by Argos, Redblacks put Ticats playoff push in jeopardy

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats just had a cruddy weekend that put a big dent in what remains of their playoff hopes.

After losing to the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Friday night, the Ticats watched as the two teams they are trying to catch in the East Division won their games over the next two days. Those victories have made Hamilton’s path to the post-season, already an uphill slog after an 0-8 start, even more difficult.

The Toronto Argonauts’ home win over the Edmonton Eskimos on Saturday was particularly painful. The West Division was 20-4-1 against the East coming into the weekend and the Argos, who had lost two in a row and five of its last six, were previously 0-5 against the West.

Then on Sunday, the Ottawa Redblacks downed the Montreal Alouettes to retake the East Division lead. Ottawa lost quarterback Drew Tate, who was already filling in for the injured Trevor Harris, but Alouette pivot Darian Durant was just awful, failing to complete a pass in six attempts before getting pulled.

So now the East standings look like this: Ottawa on top with 11 points, Toronto second with 10. Montreal is third with just three wins while Hamilton remains in the basement at 2-9, good for a measly four points. The Ticats have played one less game than the Argonauts and Alouettes and have two in hand over the Redblacks.

The win against Hamilton coupled with B.C.’s loss to Calgary has vaulted the Riders into the crossover spot with 12 points, a full eight ahead of Hamilton: in other words, the Ticats didn’t just lose ground to their division rivals, they helped a West team looking to grab the last East playoff spot as well.

Next week’s schedule isn’t much better for Hamilton. The Ticats are in B.C. on Friday, where they’ve lost five straight games and 11 of the last 15 dating back to 2002: the travel and time-change make it a tough place for Eastern-based squads to win (also, B.C. has generally been good.) The team is going out a day earlier than normal, flying out after practice on Wednesday, in hopes of getting their body clocks right.

Ottawa is in Winnipeg – no gimme there – but Toronto hosts the woeful Alouettes, who are, by consensus, the worst team in the CFL right now, regardless of record. The CFL is an unpredictable league but it’s hard to see Montreal, with a new coach (Kavis Reed) and a quarterback (Darian Durant) who’s been pulled in two of his last three starts, winning against the Argonauts.

Ticat head coach June Jones laid out his blueprint for making the playoffs shortly after taking over: take care of business at home and against the East while stealing a few on the road. For two weeks everything went perfectly. But now they’ll likely have to win out against Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal (four games) while finding a way to get a victory in B.C. or in Winnipeg on Oct. 6. Even then, they’ll need some help.

There’s one more date that’s not on the Ticats schedule worth keeping an eye on: Oct. 11. That’s the CFL trade deadline and if the team is well and truly out of it by then, that would be the time to move players that aren’t in the long-term plans for future assets.

The Ticats will play three games before then, including a crucial Sept. 30 match up against Toronto. Without some victories, the only date that will matter will be the season-opener… in 2018.

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