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Argonauts, Blue Bombers in control of finishing atop respective divisions

It's going to be a busy second half of the CFL regular season for Chad Kelly and the Toronto Argonauts. Kelly and Co. come off their third — and final — bye week preparing to host the Calgary Stampeders on Friday night.
It's going to be a busy second half of the CFL regular season for Chad Kelly and the Toronto Argonauts. Kelly (12) and head coach Ryan Dinwiddie look on during second half CFL football action against the Ottawa Redblacks in Toronto, Sunday, Aug. 13, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Lahodynskyj

It's going to be a busy second half of the CFL regular season for Chad Kelly and the Toronto Argonauts.

Kelly and Co. come off their third — and final — bye week preparing to host the Calgary Stampeders on Friday night. Toronto (7-1) remains atop the East Division, just ahead of the Montreal Alouettes (6-3), who have won four straight.

With no more bye weeks, the defending Grey Cup champions will play in each of the remaining 10 weeks of the 2023 campaign. They'll face Montreal, Hamilton and Ottawa twice, needing just one more win against each squad to clinch the respective season series.

That would also put Toronto in a solid position to secure first in the East for a third straight year and earn a bye to the division final.

Every other CFL team will have at least one more bye week before the end of the regular season.

The West Division-leading Winnipeg Blue Bombers (8-2) will play five of their remaining eight regular-season games against conference competition. That includes a key showdown with the second-place B.C. Lions (7-3) at B.C. Place Stadium on Oct. 6 with the teams having split their previous two games.

Here's a look at what lies ahead for the CFL's nine teams:

East Division

Toronto Argonauts --- The Argos have two games left with Hamilton, Ottawa and Montreal, needing a split of each to win the season series. They're 4-0 within the East this season. Toronto must also face Winnipeg (IG Field), Saskatchewan (Mosaic), Calgary and Edmonton. A key for the Argos is keeping Kelly healthy. He has 13 touchdown passes and just five interceptions but suffered an ankle injury in the first half of their lone loss (20-7 at Calgary). Kelly threw for 417 yards and four TDs the following week in a 44-31 home win over Ottawa before the bye.

Montreal Alouettes — Five of the Alouettes' nine regular-season contests will be against East rivals (they're 4-1 within the division), including a key home-and-home with Toronto (Sept. 9, Sept. 15) after the Argos won the first meeting at Molson Stadium. Backup quarterback Caleb Evans has led Montreal to consecutive victories with incumbent Cody Fajardo (shoulder) ailing. Montreal visits Winnipeg this week and its schedule also includes games versus B.C. Calgary and Edmonton. The club is 2-2 versus West Division competition.

Hamilton Tiger-Cats — Hamilton (3-6) will play five of its remaining nine regular-season games versus West Division teams, including two with B.C. and another in Winnipeg. The Ticats have dropped two straight overall and their season series with Montreal. Hamilton is 0-2 versus Toronto with two more games upcoming. Rookie QB Taylor Powell remains the starter with veterans Bo Levi Mitchell (leg) and Matt Shiltz (lower body) both on the six-game injured list. Hamilton faces B.C., Toronto (twice) and Winnipeg over the next five weeks.

Ottawa Redblacks — Hard-luck Ottawa (3-7) has dropped four straight by a combined 20 points. That includes a 13-point (44-31) loss to Toronto. Overall, Dustin Crum is 2-4 as the starter. Five of its eight remaining contests are within the East Division (where the Redblacks are 0-5) with a visit to B.C. also on the schedule. Ottawa has already lost the season series with Hamilton and twice to Montreal with two games to play against the Als. The Redblacks are 2-7 this season in games decided in final three minutes.

West Division

Winnipeg Blue Bombers — Five of their remaining eight games are versus West Division rivals (Winnipeg is 6-1 within its division), including a potentially key showdown in Vancouver on Oct. 6. There's also the Labour Day home-and-home with Saskatchewan. The Bombers do have two bye weeks left. Star quarterback Zach Collaros (neck) is back practising after missing last week's 19-18 win over Calgary. Locking up a post-season berth may come soon, given the Bombers already have eight wins while the Stampeders have just three.

B.C. Lions — Despite Sunday's 34-29 road loss to Saskatchewan, the Lions (7-3) remain in the hunt for top spot in the West Division with that crucial meeting with Winnipeg still pending. B.C. will play four games within the West Division but its next three are versus East Division teams (Hamilton, Montreal and Ottawa). The Lions also still have five contests at B.C. Place Stadium, where they're unbeaten (4-0).

Saskatchewan Roughriders — Sunday's 34-29 win over B.C. solidified Saskatchewan (5-5) in third in the West but it still has five games within the West Division, including two with Winnipeg and another versus the Lions. It also has three games with East Division teams but will face Toronto and Hamilton at home while visiting Ottawa. However, the Riders' next two games will be the home-and-home Labour Day series with Winnipeg.

Calgary Stampeders — Calgary (3-7) has ground to make up in its quest to reach the CFL playoffs for an 18th straight season. With five of its remaining eight games within the West Division, the club will have a chance to make hay. While two are against Edmonton, the Stamps must still also face Winnipeg, B.C. and Saskatchewan and they're just 1-5 within the division but can still win the season series with the Riders. And given Hamilton's and Ottawa's struggles, a crossover spot could also be available.

Edmonton Elks — The Elks (1-9) snapped a 13-game losing streak with last week's 24-10 road win over Hamilton. But consider they're 0-6 within the West and five of their eight remaining games are versus division teams. Edmonton hosts Ottawa on Sunday riding a CFL-record 22-game home losing streak. But a win over the Redblacks and Labour Day sweep of Calgary would put the Elks into the thick of things, although they'd still face Winnipeg, B.C. and Saskatchewan having already lost the respective season series.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 21, 2023.

Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press