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

Photo courtesy: CFL

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 eleven weeks of the 2021 CFL season, let’s 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

Reminder that our ‘exciting game’ definition means swings in winning percentage, not scoring. That is saved for ‘shootout games.’

OTT 16 @ MTL 20 Week 10: 95.9 percent

Thanksgiving Day game. Ottawa was playing Monday after playing the Wednesday of the prior week. The Redblacks were leading the game by a field goal after Montreal conceded a safety with four minutes left. Vernon Adams Jr. leaves the game with about two minutes left after scrambling on a tackle by Avery Ellis. Matt Shiltz replaces him and completes that drive for a game-winning TD with 24 seconds left.

Runners up:

SSK 31 @ BC 24 Week 8: 94.6 percent

This was a one-score game throughout and for most of the contest it was within a field goal despite regular scoring for each team. Lucky Whitehead was the star of the game with a 47-yard run-after-catch touchdown in the first and another major in the second quarter. However, a shanked punt by Stefan Flintoft with two minutes left gave Saskatchewan a short field that they used to score a game-winning TD with two seconds on the clock.

OTT 16 @ EDM 12, Week 1: 87.2 percent

(formerly number 1)

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

Three shootout games

All three of these games replace the former three from the first five weeks.

SSK 31 @ BC 24 Week 8: 90.8 percent

This runner up game is also the top shootout game. In addition to being 94th percentile exciting due to its regular swings of win percentage, this game was also rather high-scoring (especially for this low-scoring 2021 season.)

Runner up:

MTL 23 @ HAM 20 OT Week 9: 69.5 percent

You can tell it has been a lower-scoring game when the second ‘shootout game’ (exciting game with higher scoring) is a low scoring game and only 69.5 percentile.

Hamilton had taken control of the game in the third but in the fourth quarter Adams Jr. came storming back with 25 and 28-yard touchdowns to take a field goal lead with 29 seconds left.

Hamilton would answer with a field goal with two seconds left to send the game to overtime. In OT Hamilton would fumble the ball on their offensive possession letting Montreal take a quick field goal and win the game on their possession.

WPG 37 @ EDM 22 Week 7: 69.4 percent

Edmonton did come back to lead this game by one point 16-15 just into the third quarter. However, that disappeared soon after on a pick-six thrown by Taylor Cornelius in the middle of the quarter. Winnipeg would take that swing of momentum and roll over Edmonton for the win. Cornelius would give up a fumble TD as well in the third quarter.

Three comeback games

MTL 23 @ HAM 20 OT Week 9: 98.2 percent

This game was a runner-up for top shootout game. The Adams Jr. go-ahead drive with under 30 seconds left and the matching field goal kick by Taylor Bertolet to send the game to OT made this the best comeback game of 2021.

Runners up:

TOR 24 @ HAM 23 Week 10: 94.4 percent

Toronto had played Wednesday of the same week and was playing Monday in this Thanksgiving Day game. At one point the lead was 20-8 for Hamilton with about 13 minutes left. MBT ‘The Law Firm’ would complete two TD drives with about eight and four minutes left of game time to take a one point lead after a failed two-point convert on the second. Hamilton would kick a field goal to take the lead with one minute and 30 seconds left but it wouldn’t be enough as Boris Bede would kick a final winning field goal as time expired.

SSK 31 @ BC 24 Week 8: 92.9 percent

This game has already appeared as a runner-up exciting game and the top shootout game. It also has a runner-up for largest comeback at 92.9 percentile. The shanked punt that turned into a seconds left go-ahead TD for the Riders decided the game in thrilling comeback fashion.


SSK @ BC Week 8 is clearly the game of the season so far.

League-wide the season has had ‘exciting’ games and ‘comebacks’ but it has been a really weak season for exciting ‘shootout’ games. After the SSK @ BC game, the runner-ups aren’t worthy of being in the conversation in the last decade.

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