Thursday 14 October 2010

Hamilton's Playoff Scenarios

The goal of every team is to win the Grey Cup. But before you can do that, you must make the playoffs.

As we stand right now, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats are likely to once again be a playoff participant. They currently sit at 7-7 with four games remaining in the season. Barring an unlikely collapse, the Tiger-Cats will be in the playoffs for the second season in a row.

But where is the fun in just saying something and not delving in deeper? Here are some questions that I will attempt to answer.

1. Will Hamilton Host the East Final?
The short answer is no. As things currently stand right now the Tiger-Cats are three games behind the Montreal Alouettes for first place in the East Division. Since the Alouettes already own the season series against Hamilton, that would mean that the Tiger-Cats would have to finish one game above Montreal to snare first in the East. That would mean that the Tiger-Cats would have to win their remaining four games while Montreal loses their final four games. Hamilton's schedule looks like this:
  • at Toronto; vs. Montreal; at Calgary; vs. BC
Two of those games (at Toronto and vs. BC) should be wins. The other two will be much harder, though not impossible to win. So say Hamilton does win their remaining four games, Montreal still has to lose theirs. Here is what Montreal's remaining schedule looks like:
  • vs. Winnipeg; at Hamilton; at Toronto; vs. Toronto
We've already established a Hamilton win, but there is no way that the Als will drop one to Winnipeg AND two to Toronto. I cannot see a scenario where Hamilton finishes first in the East.

2. Will Hamilton Host the East Semi-Final?
Probably. We have already established that the Tiger-Cats will beat Toronto this coming week. That means that Toronto -- who is likely to be the Tiger-Cats' opponent in the East Semi-Final -- would have to finish one game above Hamilton to host the playoff matchup. We've looked at Hamilton's remaining games, and let's, for the sake of argument, have them finishing 9-9. That would mean that Toronto would need to finish 10-8 to host the East Semi-Final. Here are Toronto's remaining games:
  • vs. Hamilton; at Winnipeg; vs. Montreal; at Montreal
If the Argos do lose to the Tabbies on Friday, that would mean that the Argos would have to win the rest of their games in order to host the playoff game. That is unlikely. I just cannot see a situation in which the Argos beat the Als twice in a row, let alone in back-to-back games. The Als will probably be resting players as they will have the top seed in the East Division all wrapped up, but that still doesn't mean that the Argos will beat them.

3. Will Hamilton Miss the Playoffs?
No. Even a loss this week to the Argos wouldn't kill the Cats. If they did lose, it is likely they wouldn't host the East Semi-Final, but they'd still probably make the playoffs. Winnipeg currently sits at 4-10, and since Hamilton won the season series with the Bombers, Winnipeg would have to finish above the Cats to get into the playoffs. That means a combination of one Tiger-Cat win or one Blue Bomber loss will end any hopes that Winnipeg had of catching Hamilton.

For a West team to cross over, they too would need to be one game above Hamilton. Right now the two West teams fighting for the final playoff spot are the BC Lions and Edmonton Eskimos. BC sits at 5-9 and Edmonton sits at 4-10. One Edmonton loss means they can't overtake Hamilton. Edmonton's remaining games are:
  • at BC; vs. Saskatchewan; vs. Winnipeg; at Saskatchewan
That is one tough schedule. They will lose one of those games to the Riders. That ends their chances of crossing over.

With BC, the situation is very similar, except it would take two losses to end their crossover hopes. The Lions finish the season with games against the following:
  • vs. Edmonton; at Calgary; vs. Saskatchewan; at Hamilton
Like Edmonton, that's not an easy road either. In fact, BC could lose all of those games and miss the playoffs entirely. Three of those games are very tough, and the game against Edmonton this Saturday will be no gimme since the Eskies are fighting for their playoff lives as well.

I'd say it is highly unlikely that either of the West teams take Hamilton's playoff spot.

So after looking at all the teams chasing Hamilton, I think it is safe to assume that the Tiger-Cats will be in the playoffs again in 2010. The only question is where they will finish. That could be decided this week following their game against the Argonauts. Win that game, and the Tiger-Cats are likely hosting the East Semi. Lose it, and it's looking like the Cats will take their fourth trip (one pre-season game, two regular-season games, one playoff game) to the Rogers Centre SkyDome to battle the Boatmen. Where would you rather be on November 14th?

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