CFL’s divisional structure kills potential playoff race

One of the main arguments people often make in favour of the CFL’s divisional structure is its prolongation of playoff drama. Splitting the league’s teams into two division allows for clubs to remain in the playoff hunt for longer, particularly in the event that one division is stronger than the other.

Looking at this year’s standings, this sentiment couldn’t be farther from the truth.

West Division Standings

Team Record Points
Calgary Stampeders 13-1-1 27
Winnipeg Blue Bombers 11-4 22
Edmonton Eskimos 9-6 18
Saskatchewan Roughriders 8-7 16
B.C. Lions 6-9 12

There may be three weeks remaining on the regular season schedule, but the West Division is essentially settled. Calgary will lock-up first place with a win or Winnipeg loss, Winnipeg will lock-up second place with a win or Edmonton loss, and B.C. will be eliminated from playoff contention with a loss or Saskatchewan win.

The only real race that remains in the West is the battle for third place between Edmonton and Saskatchewan. Ironically, it would be in the best interest of both teams to finish fourth. The West’s fourth-place team will earn the crossover spot, earning them a playoff spot in the East Division. Neither team would admit it publicly, but the road through Ottawa and Toronto is significantly more appealing than the path through Winnipeg and Calgary.

East Division Standings

Ottawa Redblacks 7-9-1 15
Toronto Argonauts 7-9 14
Hamilton Tiger-Cats 4-11 8
Montreal Alouettes 3-12 6

Believe it or not, the race in the East is even less interesting. Hamilton and Montreal have both been eliminated from playoff contention, leaving two sub-.500 teams in Toronto and Ottawa to compete for the right to host the East Final. Ottawa has just one game remaining (vs. Hamilton), while Toronto has two (vs. Winnipeg, at B.C.).

With three weeks of virtually meaningless football ahead of us, it’s worth considering what the playoff race might look like if the CFL had just one division. The answer? Pretty darn interesting.

Divisionless Standings

Team Record Points
Calgary Stampeders 13-1-1 27
Winnipeg Blue Bombers 11-4 22
Edmonton Eskimos 9-6 18
Saskatchewan Roughriders 8-7 16
Ottawa Redblacks 7-9-1 15
Toronto Argonauts 7-9 14
B.C. Lions 6-9 12
Hamilton Tiger-Cats 4-11 8
Montreal Alouettes 3-12 6

Calgary and Winnipeg have the top two spots virtually locked up, while Hamilton and Montreal remain eliminated in this hypothetical, one-division CFL. Aside from that, the race is on.

Edmonton and Saskatchewan would be on pace to earn home playoff games, though Ottawa, Toronto, and B.C. would be within striking distance of a top-four finish. Just six points separate these five clubs, making for some high-quality entertainment through the end of the season. The three-point gap separating B.C., Toronto, and Ottawa would be particularly interesting — instead of the Argos and Redblacks each being handed home playoff games while the Lions flounder, the three clubs would be in a dead-heat to earn the league’s final two playoff seeds.

Consider the implications of Toronto and B.C.’s match-up in week twenty. In today’s two-division CFL, the clubs’ game on November 4 will likely be meaningless for both teams. In a one-division league, the game would potentially decide which team earns the CFL’s final playoff spot.

There are legitimate arguments to be made in favour of the CFL’s current two-division format. The assertion that it intensifies the push for the playoffs isn’t one of them.

Must Read