NEWS
11/01/2011 06:43 EDT | Updated 01/01/2012 05:12 EST

Stampeders not giving up on gaining first place in CFL's West Division

CALGARY - It felt like the calm before the storm Tuesday when the Calgary Stampeders held a short practice without pads in the bright sunshine.

After a wild 32-27 win in Montreal on Sunday and the return journey home, it was a breather before the drama builds again towards the CFL's final weekend of the regular season.

The Stampeders are just one of five teams with 10-7 records and a chance to finish first in their divisions when the dust settles Saturday night.

Calgary hosts the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Saturday (TSN 4 p.m. ET) when the Stampeders could finish anywhere from first to third in the West Division.

A win over the Bombers may not be enough for them to host a playoff game at McMahon Stadium.

Edmonton and B.C. are also 10-7. If the Eskimos beat Saskatchewan on Friday and the Lions defeat the Alouettes in Saturday's later game, the Stampeders are third win or lose. On the losing end of the season series to both the Lions and Eskimos, Calgary would rank lower in the event of a tie.

So the combination of a Stampeder win and losses by both B.C. and Edmonton catapults Calgary into first place, which means the Stamps host the division final. A Calgary win and a loss by one of those clubs gives the Stampeders the division semifinal at home.

Meanwhile, first place in the East Division is at stake for Montreal and Winnipeg on Saturday.

Calgary's situation contrasts starkly with last season when the Stamps had the division lead sewn up with two games to go in the regular season.

"It is a wild finish," Calgary head coach and general manager John Hufnagel acknowledged "Maybe two teams in one division, but to have both divisions scramble like it is with five teams having a possibility of finishing first, it's quite unusual."

Historically, teams who have locked down playoff positions rest their starters in the regular-season finale. The Blue Bombers have no choice but to play backup quarterback Alex Brink in Calgary because starter Buck Pierce injured his leg in Friday's loss to Toronto.

Calgary continues to go with Drew Tate, who supplanted Henry Burris two games ago and won both of them. What Hufnagel's long-term plans are for Burris, the CFL's Most Outstanding Player last season, is a bubbling subplot in Calgary's locker-room. Burris was inserted in short-yardage situations in Montreal, which was a role Tate formerly filled.

Tate couldn't watch and stared at the ground when Als quarterback Anthony Calvillo fired the football into the end zone on the final play of the game Sunday. The Texan didn't see defensive back Johnnie Dixon knock down the pass intended for receiver for S.J. Green to seal the win for Calgary.

Continuing to block out stressful situations, Tate refused to marvel at the myriad of playoff permutations possible this weekend.

"I think you all are putting more into it," Tate told reporters. "All that stuff doesn't matter. To us, we've got a game Saturday. Keep it that simple."

Calgary's win in Montreal was important to Stampeder egos as it restored their faith they can pull a win out of a close game. The Stampeders lost back-to-back games in early October on last-second field goals by the opposition.

"When you get into playoff football, usually they are close games and usually they are going to be decided late in the fourth quarter," Hufnagel said. "We were able to win those types of games early on in the season and then when we had those back-to-back losses, maybe our confidence dwindled a little bit. The game in Montreal definitely helped be a confidence builder."

Stampeder receiver Johnny Forzani was named the CFL's Canadian player of the week for the second time this season.

The Calgarian who turned 23 on Thursday had six receptions for 108 yards and two touchdowns in Montreal. Forzani is having a breakout season filling in for Ken-Yon Rambo while the veteran deals with a nagging Achilles injury.

"I just feel like the coaches have put me in some good spots to make some plays this year," Forzani said. "Drew the last couple weeks has been awesome. I really want to finish strong, worry about Winnipeg and carry on into the playoffs.

"We're not really worried about Edmonton and B.C. Hopefully they lose and hopefully we win and get first."

The Bombers will also be without defensive back Johnny Sears Jr. on Saturday. The CFL suspended him for a game without pay Tuesday for his hit on Argonauts quarterback Steven Jyles.