An Update on the CFL's Geographical Imbalance

CFL Jul 20, 2022

The continental divide between East and West is threatening to dampen the CFL's postseason prospects.  Is it time to revamp the playoff format?

The Toronto Argonauts upset win last week versus the Saskatchewan Roughriders was noteworthy for a reason.  Through six weeks of action, it marked only the second win by an East Division team when facing a West Division team.

Something's amiss.  We thought this problem between the quality of West vs. East teams would even out eventually.  But now it appears we can draw an irrefutable conclusion about the severe geographical disparity that exists within the CFL.

And in recent weeks, the problem is getting worse.  Yes, the Canadian Football League has a serious problem.

What the data shows:  All the good teams are in the western half of the country, and thus, they play in the West Division.  That leaves the mediocre and bad teams in the eastern half of the country, in the East Division.

Take a look at the five teams in the West, and four teams in the East:

Now, take a look at the standings though the first six weeks of the 2022 season:

Some findings:

(1)  The East teams continue to dominate West teams.

(2)  The East Division is a combined 4 wins and 15 losses.  The West division is a combined 19 wins and 8 losses.  Take away the last-place Edmonton Elks, and the West is 17-4!

(3) Only one team from the West Division is undefeated at the moment – the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.  However, three teams -- the BC Lions, Calgary Stampeders, and Saskatchewan Roughriders – can also claim to be playoff-worthy. Meanwhile, no team in the East Division even has a winning record.

(4) West Division teams have won the last three Grey Cups.  It's been five seasons since an East Division team won – which was Toronto in 2017.

(5) The BC Lions plays Hamilton on Thursday and are big favourites at -8.  Saskatchewan plays Toronto and is laying -5.5  Assuming those favourites win, the Argos would still remain in first place with a 2-3 record!  

Obviously, these level of disparity can't continue indefinitely without threats to the integrity of the league.  Given the playoff format, it's very possible both Hamilton and/or Montreal (which are a combined 2-8) would make the postseason.  Those teams do not belong in the playoffs.  

Sure – as the current season goes along, East teams will win a few more games (since they play each other) and West teams will lose more games, including expected losses by the West four power teams teams.

Nonetheless, the talent balance has never been more heavily skewed in one direction as it is now.

The problem is -- the best four teams in the CFL are all in the West Division.  When the next Grey Cup championship is contested between the winners of the CFL's East and West Divisional playoffs, will we continue to get mismatches?

Obviously, it would be ideal for the CFL to have at least one more team, thus rounding out the East and West with five teams each.  However, there's not much to be done about that now.

It appears the CFL will remain a West-dominated league for some time to come.