Elo Ratings: Examining West Division scenarios using win leverage numbers

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

The East is set.

Edmonton at Montreal in the East Final with the winner to visit Hamilton.

In the West all we know is that Saskatchewan has a home playoff game, unless the Riders lose to Edmonton twice and Calgary loses to both B.C. and Winnipeg.

If you give coin flips odds to those four games, then the Riders finishing third only has 6.25 percent chance of occurring. Even less if you factor in both the Riders and the Stampeders being favourites, franchise Elo Rating puts these odds at below two percent.

The West Final bye remains the most interesting scenario. To examine how those odds can swing this week we will again use Win Leverage comparisons.

Win Leverage: the difference in odds between a team losing versus winning their weekly game.

For example, below is a win leverage chart for the West Final bye for Week 20. There are two games that directly influence this result: Calgary at Winnipeg and Saskatchewan at Edmonton.

The line in between the pale sections is the odds each team currently has. The Stampeders are at about 66 percent, the Riders 33 percent and the Blue Bombers eliminated. There is no way the Blue Bombers can reach first. A three-way tie puts them second, and at best they can tie the Riders and lose the tie break to fall to second.

The chart shows the result of a win-loss by Calgary or Saskatchewan independent of what the other team does. This chart is in many ways deceptive. For example, a win result is an average of the win-loss results in the other game. Calgary could in fact clinch the bye this week with a win if the Riders lose.

As last week I have created a win leverage chart for the West Final bye based on whether or not the first game swings either way. If Calgary wins or if Calgary loses.

Calgary losing is the most interesting of the scenarios. If Calgary loses, then the Riders can flip the odds of who gets the West Final bye with their own win. As they currently sit, the green and white are tied with Calgary and do not have the tie break. A Calgary loss moves the Riders to 55 percent odds temporarily. A win pushes those odds to 80 percent. However, a loss would drop them to 21 percent.

A Calgary win puts all the pressure on the Riders. Calgary would temporarily sit at 88 percent. The Stampeders could either clinch the West Final with a Rider loss or with a Rider win fall slightly to 79 percent.

Win Total Charts

Hamilton has slightly above 50-50 odds to reach 15 wins with two games left versus a Montreal team with nothing to play for and the lowly Argos. 3Down contributor Ryan Ballantine has a bet that the Stampeders will reach 12 wins, otherwise he will have to use a sippy cup all Grey Cup weekend. Currently, these odds for franchise Elo Rating sit at around 85 percent. The Stampeders would have to lose both remaining games for him to lose this bet.

What are the ‘stories’ from the CFL franchise Elo Rating charts?

The top is unchanged. Winnipeg has slipped slightly further out of the top. Edmonton and Montreal remain neck and neck. The return of Trevor Harris makes the East Final much more intriguing from a competitive standpoint. B.C. has lost twice following their brief win streak versus mostly lesser competitive teams and with the devastating loss of Reilly.

What is different in CFL season Elo Rating charts?

Hamilton remains on top but are now playing against Eastern teams that they are judged to be strong favourites over so increasing their lead will be hard. Calgary and Saskatchewan remain tightly matched.

Divisional Finishes

All playoff teams are decided, with the crossover being Edmonton. The Riders have a home playoff game unless the really low odds of a three-way tie scenario discussed previously occurs. The Stampeders hold the advantage in hosting the West Final due to the tie break with the Riders. Winnipeg’s hopes for a home playoff game rest on the three-way tie or the Riders taking first and Winnipeg winning this weekend to take the tie break versus Calgary. In this second case, Calgary would have to lose to B.C. to finish the season.

Playoffs Odds

For playoffs odds we can drop Ottawa, Toronto, and B.C.

Hamilton’s Grey Cup odds remain essentially unchanged (80 percent).

Calgary leads the race in the West. Winnipeg has been eliminated from the discussion for hosting the West Final.

As always, the benefit of hosting the West Final and being only one game away from the Grey Cup always helps a division-leading team’s odds.

Grey Cup Matchups

Hamilton features heavily given how expected it is that they would make it out of the East over Montreal or Edmonton.

Hamilton is in the Grey Cup in 80 percent of the matchups with the most likely competitors being Calgary, Saskatchewan or Winnipeg based on their current standings’ expectations.

The Stampeders have a slim lead over the Riders to take the lead in Grey Cup match-up combination expectations.

A Grey Cup featuring only West divisional teams sits at 8.5 percent .

Strength of Schedule

Winnipeg still maintains the hardest strength of schedule with one game versus a division leader. Of playoff teams, Hamilton has the easiest, followed by Montreal. Edmonton has the second hardest strength of schedule with two games versus the Riders.


Saskatchewan’s Markov Chain ranking still stands out. Season Elo Rating and RPI, which are based more on winning rather than score, have the Riders ranked stronger than the Markov Chain. The Markov Chain method is all about points for and against opponents. The implication is that the Riders win, but the margin of victory has not been convincing relative to their opponents in those games.

The Blue Bombers RPI is weak. This is because the Blue Bomber schedule since the loss of Matt Nichols has been against teams in the league with better records, and they have gone 3-5 in those games.

The implied tiers of the average of the season ranking methods are:

1. Hamilton

2. Calgary

3. Winnipeg and Saskatchewan

4. Montreal

5. Edmonton

6. B.C.

7. Toronto

8. Ottawa

Hudson is a Ph.D. graduate and instructor in computer science at the University of Calgary. He is a fan of football in all its forms