The Toronto Argonauts can clinch an East Division title this weekend. They will need a little bit of help along the way but a win over the Riders followed by an Ottawa loss in B.C. this Saturday means Toronto can turn their attention to the post season. But is that a good thing?
Coaches will say the challenge will be to keep the players sharp and focussed for what will be 3 meaningless football games. Debate will also begin on playing time. Should some players already nursing an injury play? How much? What if Toronto finds themselves in a blow out, should they start sitting some of their regulars?
If you’re in fact a division winner those are all good problems to have. But the larger question still exists, is a division clinching win in week 16 good for the CFL. Let’s face it the East Division is pretty bad this year. The 2nd place REDBLACKS primed for a home playoff game would be in last place in the West.
Even though the league does have a crossover playoff format that provides little comfort to a team like B.C. that may miss the playoff and have a better record than an Eastern playoff team. More than that, it really hits the league hard in terms of credibility.
Right now Edmonton is slotted as the cross over team and has the same record as Toronto. The Eskimos have only 2 wins against Western teams. Toronto has only 1 and finishes the final 4 weeks of the season against Western teams with playoff repercussions. To be fair the lone Toronto victory did come against Edmonton, but they will need to win at least 2 preferably 3 before the team is seen as legitimate.
We can try and sell the historical rival between Hamilton and Toronto as much as we want but it means nothing when only one team have a .500 record. It’s a rivalry based on geography. Nothing more, and frankly that isn’t enough. Do people in Toronto really care about being better than Hamilton? If you’ve been an Argo fan all your life I guess it does. If you’re new to the CFL and are thinking about following, the Battle of the QEW won’t grab you.
We can also speak about a Battle of Ontario football style but losing records just don’t allow the stakes to get high enough. And that’s what matters when it comes to rivalries, a high stake game against two good teams.
Last year’s Grey Cup was a great one, but Ottawa didn’t necessarily play championship calibre football all season long. They were afforded the luxury of being in the East Division where 8-9-1 was good enough.
From a Toronto perspective the East needs to be better. For many in the GTA the CFL lacks credibility. I hear it almost daily. It’s a nine team league and six make the playoffs. That makes celebrating a division title with 3 teams below .500 difficult.
For this season it is what it is. Week 16 includes 4 Eastern division games going against their Western counterparts. It’s a small victory but let’s hope ALL East teams win. Yes even Hamilton.
The West is constantly looking down on the East, lets push back for at least 1 week. There’s that saying about being stronger united and weaker divided. Whatever it is it applies to the CFL East Division.
Follow Anthony @comicanthony