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West Division playoff race still has no shortage of twists and turns


Finally, some clarity in the muddled West Division playoff picture.

The Edmonton Eskimos will finish fourth and thus become the crossover team come playoff time in the CFL. That was determined by the Saskatchewan Roughriders' 27-19 win over the B.C. Lions on Friday night.

Anything more than that will have to wait at least another week.

The Calgary Stampeders (11-5) and Riders (11-5) remain tied for top spot in the West but are just two points ahead of the third-place Winnipeg Blue Bombers (10-7) entering weekend action. Amazingly, the possibility exists for those teams to end the season all tied for first at 11-7.

Having said all that, the defending Grey Cup-champion Stampeders remain in the best position to finish first and cement home-field advantage for the West final Nov. 17.

Calgary can clinch a home playoff game with a win or tie Friday night in Winnipeg. The Stampeders would secure first place with a victory and Saskatchewan loss in Edmonton on Saturday.

Conversely, Saskatchewan can cement a home playoff game by beating Edmonton (8-8) or should Winnipeg lose or tie against Calgary. The Eskimos will become the No. 3 playoff seed in the East and visit the Montreal Alouettes (9-7) for the conference semifinal Nov. 10.

Edmonton and Winnipeg could still finish the season with identical records, but the Bombers hold the tie-breaker by virtue of winning the season series 2-0.

In the event of a three-way tie for first, Calgary would be awarded top spot based upon a 3-2 common record between the squads. Winnipeg would get second (3-3) and host third-place Saskatchewan (2-3) in the conference semifinal.

Of course, things are much clearer in the East Division. The Hamilton Tiger-Cats (CFL-best 13-3 record) have locked up first in the standings and will host the conference final at Tim Hortons Field on Nov. 17. Montreal will finish second and have home-field advantage versus the Eskimos.

The Grey Cup game will be held Nov. 24 at Calgary's McMahon Stadium.


COLLAROS WATCH: Zach Collaros could be moving up the Winnipeg Blue Bombers' quarterback depth chart.

With Chris Streveler ailing, rookie Sean McGuire could get the start Friday night when Winnipeg hosts Calgary . Streveler was seen hobbling after the Bombers' 37-33 loss to the Stamps on Saturday night.

When Streveler was forced out of the contest for one series, McGuire replaced him.

Collaros, an eight-year CFL veteran, dressed for Saturday's game but didn't play for Winnipeg. Should Streveler be unable to play in the rematch Friday night, the expectation is Collaros would serve as McGuire's backup.

It has been a difficult season for the 31-year-old Collaros. He opened as Saskatchewan's starter but left early in the Riders' season-opening 23-17 road loss to Hamilton, sustaining a concussion after taking a high hit from former Tiger-Cats teammate Simoni Lawrence, who was suspended for two games.

With the emergence of backup Cody Fajardo, the Riders traded Collaros to Toronto on July 31. Collaros never played for the Argos, who sent him to Winnipeg on Oct. 9 prior to the CFL trade deadline.


SMITH TO RETIRE: Brandon Smith, the steady Calgary Stampeders defensive back, will retire at season's end.

The five-foot-10, 188-pound Smith will have spent his entire 12-year CFL career with Calgary. Although he was named a league all-star just once (2014), Smith was a key figure in three Stampeders championship teams (2008, 2014, 2018).

The 35-year-old native of Oakland, Calif., has appeared in 172 career games with Calgary, registering 620 tackles, 14 special-teams tackles, eight sacks and 17 interceptions while scoring three touchdowns.

He missed the entire '09 season with a knee injury but returned to play 17 games in 2010 and all 18 the following season. Smith has been a model of consistency in Calgary, having played at least 11 games in each season excluding '09, and registering 40-plus tackles every year.

This season, he has 47 tackles and two interceptions. With Calgary hosting this year's Grey Cup, the Stampeders could fittingly give Smith a championship sendoff.


SPECTACULAR GRAB: B.C.'s Bryan Burnham is the CFL's leading receiver, but arguably his best grab of the season is one that didn't count.

The six-foot-two, 205-pound Burnham made a spectacular one-handed catch in the second quarter of the Lions' 27-19 loss to Saskatchewan on Friday night. The six-foot-two, 205-pound Burnham went high in the air and twisted his body around to adjust to Danny O'Brien's 30-yard pass just inside the goal-line by the pylon.

While airborne, Burnham lifted his right arm up to make the spectacular one-handed catch in much the same fashion that NFL star Odell Beckham Jr. did in 2015. Video of that grab went viral.

Unfortunately for Burnham, he was ruled to have come down out of bounds. B.C. head coach DeVone Claybrooks unsuccessfully challenged the call and the Lions had to kick a field goal.

Burnham, 29, has made numerous stellar catches over his six-year CFL career. He leads the league in receiving with 93 catches for 1,401 yards and 10 TDs this season.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 21, 2019.

Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press