How the East Division will be won down the stretch in 2021

Photo courtesy: Alex Lupul/

The final four weeks of the 2021 CFL season are upon us and the race for first in the East Division is as hot as it has been in quite some time.

For the first time since 2015, it is possible and maybe even likely that three teams will make the playoffs from the East. One game separates the first-place Alouettes from the third-place Tiger-Cats with each having four games remaining on their respective schedules.

I thought it might be fun to look at what the teams having coming up and where everything might fall when the season ends in just over three weeks time.

Keep in mind: the Ticats own the tiebreaker over the Als, so if they finish with the same record, Hamilton will get the higher seed. The Alouettes own the tiebreaker over the Argos thanks to their 37-16 smashing of the Boatmen in Week 12. The tiebreaker between the Argos and Ticats will be decided when the two teams meet for the fourth time on November 12.

With that out of the way, let’s get to it.

Montreal Alouettes
Current record: 6-4, first in the East
Remaining schedule: vs. Saskatchewan, at Winnipeg, vs. Winnipeg, vs. Ottawa
Remaining strength of schedule: .651

Record-wise, Montreal has by far the hardest schedule remaining, but that can be a bit misleading. While playing the Bombers in back-to-back games looks daunting, Winnipeg has already clinched first in the West and you have to wonder how many of their regular starters will play and, if they do, for how long?

This week’s game against the Riders is tough, but it is in Montreal so maybe that gives the Als a slight advantage. The last game against the Redblacks is a guaranteed win. Let’s say the Als drop a close one to the Riders, split with the Bombers and destroy Ottawa — that seems reasonable.

Projected finish: 8-6, third in the East

Toronto Argonauts
Current record: 6-4, second in the East
Remaining schedule: vs. B.C., at Ottawa, vs. Hamilton, vs. Edmonton
Remaining strength of schedule: .325

The Argos have the easiest schedule of the three teams, but that is also misleading because their game against the Elks will come just four days after the Double Blue take on the Ticats in what will be a very emotional, seed-determining matchup. Luckily for Toronto, the Elks will be playing that game three days after their last and three days before their next one, so Toronto catches a break against one of the league’s doormats.

B.C. is reeling and the Redblacks are terrible, and they get the Ticats at home, so a 4-0 finish is a possibility for the Argos, but I don’t think it is likely. I think they beat the Lions and Redblacks, drop a tight one to the Ticats and beat a battered and bad Elks squad.

Projected finish: 9-5, first in the East

Hamilton Tiger-Cats
Current record: 5-5, third in the East
Remaining schedule: at Edmonton, vs. B.C., at Toronto, vs. Saskatchewan
Remaining strength of schedule: .461

Hamilton doesn’t have a hard schedule, but they don’t have an easier one either. Their last two games against the Argos and Riders could have major importance, especially the tiebreaker-deciding clash with their provincial rivals.

They do get lucky in that they get to play the god-awful Elks and get to host the Lions and Riders, while the game against the Argos in Toronto almost always turns into a de facto home game for the black and gold considering how many fans make the trek up the QEW.

Is it possible the Ticats go 4-0 down the stretch? Yeah, I guess, but this team has been too inconsistent to put that much faith in them, so I will say they beat the Elks and Lions, win a nail biter in Toronto, and lay an egg and lose to the Riders.

Projected finish: 8-6, second in the East

So there you have it, the East Division will play out as follows: the Argos will snag first place and the all-important bye, while the Als will slip from first to third and be forced to head to Hamilton for what will likely be an excellent semi-final matchup with the Ticats.

Josh Smith has been writing about the Ticats and the CFL since 2010 and was sporting his beard way before it was cool. Will be long after, too.