By the numbers: best CFL games of the first five weeks

Photo courtesy: Ottawa Redblacks

We can predict the odds of a team winning a game on each play based on factors including possession of the ball, spot on the field, time left in the game, and point differential.

Using this we can judge exciting games as games with large swings in which a team is likely to win a game. We can also judge games with large swings and higher scoring as shootouts. Finally, we can judge games where a team recovered from a low likelihood to win a game in a comeback.

Through the first five weeks of the 2021 CFL season, we’ll look at the top three games played. Each game will be ranked according to its excitement, shootout and comeback factors. A percentage value will be given that is relative to all games since 2008.

Three most exciting games

OTT 16 @ EDM 12, Week 1: 87.2 percent

Abdul Kanneh‘s 102-yard pick-six turns a low-scoring game on its head and gives Ottawa its only win of the season. A low-scoring game meant every possession had the chance to swing the game either way.

Runners up:

WPG 23 @ SSK 8, Week 5: 85.2 percent

The Labour Day Weekend game was in the balance until Winnipeg took control late.

CGY 16 @ WPG 18, Week 4: 79.4 percent

A boxing match where either team looked poised to win the game and it came down to back-to-back last minute drives — one field goal made, and the final one missed.

Three shootout games

EDM 32 @ CGY 20, Week 5: 59.7 percent

Shootout games are a balance of exciting games with higher scoring. Scoring has been missing so far in the 2021 season. The first win on Labour Day since 2011 for the Elks was our leading shootout game, with a barely above average rating. The game appeared to turn after Calgary settled for a field goal after losing their roughing the passer challenge early in quarter four.

Runners up:

TOR 23 @ CGY 20, Week 1: 54.8 percent

Another back and forth game won late on a field goal drive by Toronto.

MTL 22 @ CGY 28, Week 3: 51.0 percent

Vernon Adams Jr. looked uncomfortable for most of the game and Jake Maier surprised in his first start.

Three comeback games

TOR 23 @ CGY 20, Week 1: 89.9 percent

We saw this game previously as the second ranked shootout game of the year. We also can see that Calgary had good moments of control late in the fourth quarter before surrendering the ball and losing game on a field goal drive by Toronto.

Runners up:

MTL 22 @ CGY 28, Week 3: 85.3 percent

Second appearance of this game as well, third ranked shootout game. This time Montreal is the team who looked to have early control of the game in the second quarter, however from that point Adams Jr. struggled and Maier in his first game led the Stampeders back to a win.

OTT 16 @ EDM 12, Week 1: 82.4 percent

This was our most exciting game. Second appearance of this game. Edmonton looked to be leading a game-controlling drive that would produce at least a field goal against an Ottawa team unlikely to match, until the Trevor Harris pick-six TD.


Four of the Stampeders five games appear here. In fact the only game that doesn’t is the BC 15 @ CGY 9, Week 2 game. Interestingly enough, this game is fifth ranked for excitement (61.1 percent) despite being very low-scoring. If you are a fan of interesting football games this year and like to watch Calgary struggle, you’ve likely enjoyed your first five weeks of the 2021 CFL season.

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