Taman: First-round bye week is not without its challenges
Rarely in pro football can you win without actually playing a game, but that is what the Saskatchewan Roughriders and Hamilton Tiger-Cats will feel like this week.
Coaches and players will be delighted to receive a playoff bonus cheque without having to step on the field during the upcoming weekend.
Such is the benefit of finishing in first place and earning a first-round bye.
Hamilton ran away with the East Division, posting a CFL-best 15-3 record. Saskatchewan (13-5) secured first place on the final day of regular-season play. Next up for the Roughriders is the West final, Nov. 17 at Mosaic Stadium.
Resting up, both physically and mentally, during a bye week before your division final preparations begin in earnest is a huge advantage. (This is especially true in the case of Roughriders quarterback Cody Fajardo, who is nursing an oblique injury that forced him to miss the regular-season finale.)
The anticipation will build later this week, and intensify Sunday once the next opponent is known.
When I was a general manager, I always found rest and little time on the field was the best approach for this week.
I never really bought into practising for two days while using, say, a “what if it’s Winnipeg?” approach before turning the attention to “what if it’s Calgary?” for the rest of the bye week.
The players had as much interest in partaking in those practices as in watching a tree grow.
Film work and game plans are put together during this time, allowing for both possibilities, because that will save the coaches time. They can then delete the losing team’s data on Sunday and be ready to go for practice the next week.
The most challenging aspect of this week from the GM’s chair was getting ready for the possibilities that your staff and players could be faced with shortly after the division final.
Will your club be getting ready for charter flights to the site of the Grey Cup? What about tickets for family members? Hotel plans?
Or, will there be a sombre exit meeting the day after the division final?
None of this is talked about publicly at the time, but it has to be considered internally.
The good news is that some teams would relish the opportunity to have to make those choices and deal with those matters, tentative as the plans may be.
Sunday’s West final, between the Calgary Stampeders and Winnipeg Blue Bombers, will dictate the scenario with which the Roughriders are presented.
Then the answer becomes easy: Just win, and you’re in the Grey Cup.
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The weekly predictions …
EAST DIVISION SEMI-FINAL
Edmonton at Montreal (Sunday, noon)
Taman: Eskimos make it a game. Montreal wins on a last-minute score. Alouettes by three.
Rob Vanstone: Penalties continue to plague Edmonton. Alouettes by 13.
WEST DIVISION SEMI-FINAL
Winnipeg at Calgary (Sunday, 3:30 p.m.)
Taman: The upset in the playoffs happens early this year. Blue Bombers by four.
Vanstone: Bo Levi Mitchell > Winnipeg’s quarterbacking. Stampeders by 11.
Season records: Taman 54-27 (3-1 last week); Vanstone 54-27 (4-0).
• • •
Hero: Boris Bede, Montreal Alouettes. In a weekend of awful football, Bede tied a CFL record for kickoff singles in a game (three).
Zero: Edmonton Eskimos, for their penchant for undisciplined penalties — which could be costly in the playoffs.
(Taman’s Take appears weekly.)