In this week’s edition of Bold Predictions for the CFL Division Finals, a prediction was made that the West Final between the Calgary Stampeders and British Columbia Lions would come down to a field goal. A lot of games this season have turned out like this, especially for these two teams. Perhaps this prediction for the CFL West Final isn’t so bold. Let’s explain by breaking down the CFL West Final.
Breaking down the CFL West Final
A history of close games…
Considering the history of the Lions and Stamps this year, predicting a game winning field goal isn’t such a surprise. In fact, it’s more likely than not. Out of their 18 regular season games this year, the Stampeders won by a field goal or less four times. One of these was against the B.C. Lions in Week 6. That game went to overtime where Calgary’s kicker, Rene Paredes, won the game for the Stamps with a clutch kick. In Week 3 against the Ottawa RedBlacks the game also went into overtime and ended on a tie, thanks again to Paredes. And in Week 14, the Stamps beat the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 36-34 with Paredes’ leg putting the game away.
The Lions, on the other hand, have had six games come down to a field goal or fewer. This includes the Semi-Final game against Winnipeg where B.C. won by a single point.
It’s safe to say that these two teams have seen their fair share of close games.
Sizing up the Teams
The 2016 Stampeders campaign was a strong one. They ended the season with 15 wins, two losses and one tie. It should also be mentioned that one of those losses was against the Lions in Week 1. Those same Lions ended their season with 12 wins and six losses. The Stamps and the Lions are two very strong teams, and both stack-up quite similarly.
At the head of the Stamps, Bo Levi Mitchell has thrown 5,385 yards and 32 touchdowns while Jonathon Jennings of the Lions follows closely with 5,226 yards and 27 touchdowns. Offensively, both teams have talented receiving corps that their quarterbacks can target with ease. B.C. may be at a slight disadvantage only if Shawn Gore and Emmanuel Arceneaux are not ready to play by kick-off. Arceneaux has been undergoing concussion protocol since last week’s hit by Winnipeg’s Taylor Loffler, but the outlook is positive he will be back. In terms of the running game, both teams have powerful rushers in Jerome Messam and Jeremiah Johnson. Yet it is advantage Calgary here, as Messam leads the league with 1,198 rushing yards and 11 rushing touchdowns.
Defensively, there’s no denying that the Lion’s Solomon Elimimian and Adam Bighill are a threat to any offence, both are at the top of the league for defensive tackles with 129 and 108 respectively. On Calgary’s defence, Charleston Hughes is the league leader with 16 sacks and will probably be hungry to increase that number with free agency coming at the end of this season. The Stampeders also have the fewest sacks allowed and have recorded the fewest turnovers. Yet even with Alex Singleton, the Stamps breakout rookie, the Stamps may sit at a bit of a disadvantage without linebacker Deron Mayo. Mayo’s injury could certainly be significant enough to put a snag in the Stamp’s defence.
Despite the injury concerns, Calgary has a trump card that B.C. shouldn’t ignore: Home-field advantage. Calgary did not lose at home all regular season, and that’s something the Lions should not take lightly. Lions fans are sure to show on Sunday in Calgary, but McMahon Stadium will have it’s share of screaming Stampeder fans as well.
Winning by a Field Goal
The B.C. Lions have given Calgary a run for its money this season. Not many other teams have challenged the Stampeders and their impressive 2016 record. As mentioned, B.C. handed Calgary one of their two losses and played them close in Week 6. The Lions are not going to lay down and let the Stampeders run over them. It will be a fight, and it will be a tough one. This game is going to be nothing like Week 9 when the Stamps won 37-9 without breaking a sweat against the Leos.
Because these two teams are so evenly matched in talent on both sides of the ball and have a couple bumps and bruises that will effect their production, this game will go down to the very end. Look at last week’s Semi-Final games, both games were decided by 3 points or less. It’s going to be that kind of Final match-up as well.
The kickers for both teams have both made a name for themselves in the CFL. Paredes broke B.C. kicker Paul McCallum‘s record for most consecutive field goals in 2013 and earned the highest field-goal efficiency with 94.7%. McCallum’s record speaks for itself, Wally Buono certainly didn’t ask him to come out of retirement for nothing. Yet even though McCallum did make all of his attempted field goals in the final week of the season, Paredes has the advantage simply for total game time this season alone.
Two teams, one game and only one winner. It may not be a bold prediction, but it’s one nonetheless. Calgary wins the West Final by a field goal.