It has been a long season, but we are finally down to the final six.
One of Hamilton, Montreal, Edmonton, Calgary, Saskatchewan or Winnipeg will lift the Grey Cup at McMahon Stadium on November 24.
Only one team can win, and while everyone thinks it will be their team, it more than likely won’t be… but maybe it will.
Here is one reason why each team will (and won’t) win this year’s Grey Cup.
Why they will win: first place means something
The last time a two-seed advanced to the Grey Cup was 2013 (both the Ticats and Riders won on the road in their divisional finals), meaning chalk has held for the past five years. That puts the Riders (and the Ticats) in the catbird seat when it comes to making it to the Grey Cup.
If the Riders harness their immense home field advantage in the West Final there is no reason they won’t be in a defacto home Grey Cup a week later. When Rider Nation comes out in full force in Calgary, they will see their beloved green and white win their fifth every championship.
Why they won’t win: Fajardo’s injury
The back injury to West MOP Cody Fajardo clouds everything in Saskatchewan. If Fajardo can’t find those Jesus Sprinkles to fix his ailing back, the Riders will have to rely on Isaac Harker to led them to a championship. No matter who escapes the West Semi, if they are going up against a Harker-led Riders team, the Riders are toast.
Why they will win: home cooking.
It has been a while since we have seen a home team play in the Grey Cup — it was Saskatchewan all the way back in 2013 — and when teams get to stay home for the championship it is nearly assured they will come out on top.
The last team to beat a host team in the Grey Cup was… the Calgary Stampeders in 2008. They won’t have to worry about that this time, as Bo and Co. lead the Stamps to their first ever back-to-back championships in front of a raucous (and jubilant) home crowd.
Why they won’t win: no bye
Since 1995, the Stampeders have made the Grey Cup 10 times, seven of those times they have been the one-seed in the West, the other two were as the two-seed as they are this year. The Stamps have made it routine for the West Final to be in their stadium, but the last time they were forced on the road for the West Final they fell 45-31 to Edmonton.
To say the Stamps need the bye wouldn’t be fair, but they have become accustomed to having it and without it this year their quest for their first ever back-to-back championships will fall short.
Why they will win: Collaros finds the magic one more time
The reemergence of Zach Collaros could be the story of the playoffs.
The guy who Ticats fans once thought would take them to, and win, multiple Grey Cups was tossed aside by two teams this year only to find a home in Winnipeg. The numbers weren’t stellar, but we saw some vintage Collaros magic in his lone start for the Bombers, a Week 20 victory over the same Stampeders team he will face in the West Semi-Final.
The Zach Collaros revenge tour will begin in Calgary (the team that beat him in his only Grey Cup start to date), take him through Regina (the team that traded him earlier this year) and end with him topping the Ticats (the team that dealt him 18 months ago) to end the Bombers 29-year championship drought.
Why they won’t win: the three-seed curse
A three-seed in the West hasn’t made the Grey Cup since 2005, when Edmonton went on the road to Calgary and then B.C. to get to the title game (which they ultimately won, beating the Montreal Alouettes 38-35 in overtime).
Going on the road and winning once is difficult; doing it twice is a Herculean task that, quite frankly, I don’t think the Bombers are up to. Sorry Bombers fans, but the drought reaches 30 years.
Why they will win: they are the league’s best team
Sometimes we complicate things because the easiest answer seems boring. We talk ourselves out of saying the New England Patriots are the favourites and pick some other team to win the Super Bowl. Then February rolls around and Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are hoisting the Lombardi trophy once again.
The Ticats might not be anywhere close to a Pats-level dynasty, but they were far and away the best team in the CFL this year. The Ticats are the favourites to win the Grey Cup for a reason, that reason is they are the best team. That holds in these playoffs and the Ticats end their 20-year drought and bring the Grey Cup back to Hamilton.
Why they won’t win: the Nightmare at McMahon Stadium
Do you remember 2004? I do. Usher’s Yeah! was the hottest song of the year, Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2 (that’s two Spider-Man franchises ago), Shrek 2 and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban were topping the movie charts. That is also the last time the Hamilton Tiger-Cats won a game at McMahon Stadium. The McMahon curse is real, folks, and that is the main reason why the Ticats will see 20 years of futility reach 21.
Why they will win: Jones and Adams
If the Als are smart, the Khari Jones-Vernon Adams Jr. duo will be combining their talents for the next 10 years. These two have been two of the biggest reasons the Als went from 5-13 laughingstock to 10-8 Grey Cup contender.
They have something special, that intangible that you just can’t quantify, and because of that the Als will go back to the scene of their biggest Grey Cup heist (right, Riders fans?) and capture their first championship since 2010.
Why they won’t win: they suck on the road
I have long said whatever Western crossover team went to Montreal would get obliterated. A Ticats-Als East Final has been in the cards since about mid-season. It should be a great game, but one that will come out in Hamilton’s favour for one simple reason: the Alouettes have been not good on the road.
They went 4-5, but those four wins came against the Ottawa Redblacks (twice), the Toronto Argonauts in Moncton and the Calgary Stampeders. The Stamps was an impressive win, but the other three were decidedly not.
Montreal’s one trip to Tim Hortons Field this year ended with them on the receiving end of a 41-10 beatdown by the Ticats. That was in June and these two teams are much different now than they were then, but the Ticats didn’t finish 9-0 at home for nothing.
I don’t see the Als ending the Tabbies’ undefeated run in the East Final. It’s been a good year for the Als, but it won’t end in a championship.
Why they will win: the ex-Redblacks
Experience matters in the playoffs and despite being a team that missed the dance a year ago, Edmonton has a plethora of experience thanks to raiding the Ottawa Redblacks back in February.
Trevor Harris, Greg Ellingson and SirVincent Rogers all played in the Grey Cup last year, while Larry Dean and Don Unamba came over from a Ticats team that made it to the East Final a year ago. Add in DeVaris Daniels, who came over from the team that made it to the last three Grey Cups as well. That is the type of experience is invaluable at this of year, and will be the main reason why the green and gold do the impossible and win the Grey Cup as a crossover team.
Why they won’t win: Jason Maas’ decision making
There are a number of reasons why Edmonton won’t win the Grey Cup: a Western crossover team has never advanced to the Grey Cup, let alone won it; the three-seed in the East hasn’t made it to the Grey Cup since 1970; and Edmonton is an 8-10 outfit that went 1-10 against the other five playoff teams this year.
But the biggest reason might be that Jason Maas will make some type of stupid decision — probably kicking a field goal when he shouldn’t — that will cost his team the game and will likely lead to his firing. Edmonton is not a great team, but middling teams can be coached up if their coach is a good one. That’s not the case in Edmonton, and being led by a coach who will make a head-scratching decision will be their ultimate downfall.