As if the Canadian Football League wasn’t quirky enough with its three downs, deep end zones and, yes, bigger balls, its now become apparent that we’ll have to closely examine yet another oddity when it comes to playoff implications in the Eastern and Western Conferences. A little something we like to call the “crossover.”
It doesn’t happen every year, and that further complicates the matter, but it certainly has come into play in a big way in 2016 and teams and fan bases in both Conferences had better begin to take notice. The “crossover” has a better than average chance this time around of deciding which teams will be playoff contenders and which will be sidelined for post-season play.
(Well, ultimately it’s the records of each of the franchises that determine their fates. So if your team finishes in third place and is still eliminated from further play beyond the regular season, blame the offence or the defence or even the referees. Don’t blame the “crossover.” It’s the same rule for every franchise)
So, what exactly is the “crossover?” Here’s the nutshell version:
The top three teams in each conference are targeted to make the playoffs in the CFL’s nine-team league. So, the top three from the East and the best three from the West based on their season long records and it’s all simple enough.
However, here’s where it gets interesting.
If a team that finishes fourth in one conference has a better record than the team that finishes third in the opposite conference, that team will “crossover”, thus becoming a member of the rival conference and eliminating said third-place squad from post-season competition. So there could be four teams from one conference and only two teams from the other competing in the Grey Cup Final on the last day of the season. Get it?
Maybe it’s better if we explain with actual names and numbers because that’s where you’re going to see the possibilities a lot clearer.
Currently in the Western Conference, the Grey Cup Champion Edmonton Eskimos sit in fourth place with a record of 7-7 and are currently surging in the standings. The Toronto Argonauts, this year’s Grey Cup hosts, are residing in third place in the East, after getting whomped by the Alouettes on Sunday. The Double-Blue have a record of 5-9, are in the midst of a losing streak and await the powerful Calgary Stampeders this weekend. So if the season were to end today, the Eskimos would become the third place team in the Eastern Conference and the Argos would miss the playoffs solely based on their won-loss records for the season. Edmonton would play the second place Tiger Cats in Hamilton in the Conference Semi-Final and with a win, could possibly make it all the way to the Grey Cup once again. Only this time, they would not be a representative of the Conference that they belong to. The Toronto Argonauts, despite finishing in third place in the Eastern Conference, the usual criteria for making the playoffs, would be knocked out of contention and become spectators at their own Grey Cup party.
What makes it even more amazing is that the Edmonton Eskimos, until a recent two game winning streak, looked dangerously close to missing the playoffs altogether. They could still make it in the West by overtaking Winnipeg or BC, but their fall-back position of the “crossover” is looking more and more plausible as the season winds down in the next few weeks. So it’s possible that the Eskies could be defending their Grey Cup Championship in Toronto as the Eastern Conference Champions and that the Grey Cup, played in the East, will be a head to head battle between two teams from the West.
It certainly wouldn’t dampen the spirit of the thousands of CFL Fans who travel to the Grey Cup game despite where it’s being played or who is representing which city or conference. The atmosphere will be electric, the spectators will embrace it, the teams and players will be ready to rumble and the game will be a battle of best on best. Just like it is every year.
So … the “crossover.” Like we said off the top….quirky.