CFL Eastern and Western Conference Finals Preview

Wednesday, November 14th, 2018

By Jonathan Willis
CFL Eastern and Western Conference Finals Preview

It feels like the team that crosses over to the opposite conference never fares well in the CFL Playoffs. The BC Lions were optimistic about their chances against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats last week, but instead Jeremiah Masoli picked them apart in a 48-8 rout. The Tiger-Cats went just 8-10 in the regular season, yet they rose up when it mattered the most.

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The other conference semifinal was a war of attrition. Neither the Winnipeg Blue Bombers or the Saskatchewan Roughriders looked great on offense, but the Blue Bombers were able to prevail 23-18 to set up a clash with the Calgary Stampeders for the Western Conference title.

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  • Ottawa Redblacks vs. Hamilton Tiger-Cats
  • Date and Time: November 18, 2018, 1 p.m. ET
  • Location: TD Place Stadium, Ottawa, Ontario
  • US Television Coverage: ESPN News
  • Betting Line: Ottawa -3.5, O/U 54
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The Ottawa Redblacks and Hamilton Tiger-Cats were the two top teams in the Eastern Conference the whole season. They were dead even in the standings when they met in back-to-back weeks near the end of the regular season, and Ottawa’s two wins in those two games gave them home field advantage in the Eastern Conference and the right to host the title game.

Ottawa’s Trevor Harris was fantastic this season. Although he didn’t put up the gaudy touchdown numbers that other quarterbacks did, Harris was the most efficient quarterback in the league. He was the only quarterback with more than 20 pass attempts to complete more than 70 percent of his passes, and his 1.8 percent interception rate was the lowest in the league. Harris torched the Tiger-Cats secondary in those consecutive wins, completing 76 percent of his passes for 608 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions.

Masoli posted good numbers too for Hamilton, but he is helped out by the best receiving tandem in the league. Luke Tasker and Brandon Banks tied for the league lead in touchdowns (11) this season, and they were two of the four receivers that finished with more than 1,100 receiving yards. Unfortunately for Masoli and the Tiger-Cats, they will not have Banks available for this game. He suffered a broken clavicle last month, and he is out for the rest of the year. Banks was on pace to be the CFL’s leading receiver, and he was the only wideout to average more than 100 yards a game.

Even without Banks, this figures to be a high-scoring affair. These two defenses were in the middle of the pack in the CFL, and their total numbers were greatly buoyed by extra games against lightweights Montreal and Toronto. The over looks strong here.

  • Calgary Stampeders vs. Winnipeg Blue Bombers
  • Date and Time: November 18, 2018, 4:30 p.m. ET
  • Location: McMahon Stadium, Calgary, Alberta
  • US Television Coverage: ESPN News
  • Betting Line: Calgary -4.5, O/U 52.5

Calgary has been the best team in the CFL over the course of the season. The Stamps stumbled quite a few times over the last few weeks, but their performance over the first half of the season was enough to ensure they crossed the finish line in first.

The Stampeders have the best defense in the league by a wide margin. They allowed a full three points less than any other team per game on average, and Calgary was the only team in the league to hold opponents to less than 5.8 yards per play. This defense is somewhat banged up coming into this game though, and Dave Dickenson is hoping he will get some of his defensive linemen back from injury after the week off.

Winnipeg probably has the second-best defense in the league, but it has not been as strong as Calgary’s over the course of the year. Likewise, Matt Nichols and the Blue Bombers offense have not been able to move the ball like Bo Levi Mitchell and the Stampeders, so I’m going to bet on Calgary to put the late struggles behind them and blast Winnipeg.

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