Now comes the fun part for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (4-4), who visit the B.C. Lions (5-3) on Friday to kick off a telling home-and-home series.
Hamilton's wins have come against Winnipeg (three) — including Saturday's 37-14 decision in Guelph, Ont. — and Edmonton, both 1-7 this season. Granted, four of the Eskimos losses have been by a combined 12 points but good teams find ways to win close games.
B.C. is coming off a stunning 39-38 road loss to Montreal. With the Alouettes missing nine starters, the Lions were expected to win easily. But rookie Tanner Marsh's 57-yard completion to Eric Deslauriers set up Sean Whyte's game-ending 15-yard field goal for the unlikely comeback victory.
Marsh had four interceptions and two fumbles against B.C but threw for 329 yards while running for another 71 versus the CFL's stingiest defence.
The Lions still top the CFL in fewest total yards (297 per game) and passing yards (213.8) allowed and are third in points allowed (25.4). But twice this year they've lost to teams playing young quarterbacks, as sophomore Zach Collaros led Toronto to a 38-12 home win July 30.
Hamilton's Henry Burris is the CFL passing leader with 2,454 yards and has a solid receiving corps featuring rookie Greg Ellingson (33 catches, 538 yards, three TDs), Bakari Grant (38 catches, 506 yards) and a healthy Andy Fantuz (19 catches, 252 yards, one TD). Sam Giguere (26 catches, 394 yards, one TD) was injured during practice and might not play.
Former USC halfback C.J. Gable has been impressive, averaging 5.3 yards per carry and scoring a combined seven TDs running and receiving.
Hamilton's defence is improving and has surrendered a league-low 147 completions.
B.C.'s offence has been criticized for being too predictable. Running back Andrew Harris had a season-low 19 rushing yards on eight carries versus Montreal while quarterback Travis Lulay has yet to throw for 300 yards in a game and was sacked five times by the Alouettes.
Two factors worth considering: the Lions are 4-0 at home and will feel they have something to prove to the B.C. Place faithful.
Pick — B.C.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers at Saskatchewan Roughriders on Sunday
Saskatchewan (7-1) has the league's best record while Winnipeg (1-7) is tied with Edmonton for the worst. And while the Riders have won their two games since suffering their first loss of the season, both have been by just three points.
A constant this season has been Kory Sheets, the CFL rushing leader with 1,058 yards already. Quarterback Darian Durant has a league-high 17 TD passes with no interceptions.
The Bombers' biggest issues continue to be on offence. They managed just 11 first downs and 235 net yards against Hamilton and had just five plays for no first downs in the opening quarter.
Max Hall made his second straight start but suffered a hand injury on the first drive. Veteran Buck Pierce replaced him but left in the fourth with an unspecified upper body injury, forcing third-stringer Justin Goltz to finish.
New offensive co-ordinator Marcel Bellefeuille faces a difficult task trying to revamp a unit scoring a league-low 20.9 points per game in mid-stream.
Pick — Saskatchewan.
Edmonton Eskimos at Calgary Stampeders on Monday
Calgary (6-2) showed character last week downing Toronto 35-14 minus receivers Nik Lewis (fractured fibula) and Maurice Price (ankle) and running back Jon Cornish (thigh contusion). Jonathan Williams and Matt Walter combined for 138 rushing yards while quarterback Kevin Glenn threw for 228 yards and two TDs before leaving the game.
Calgary defensive lineman Charleston Hughes delivered the decisive blow, knocking Toronto's Ricky Ray from the game with shoulder injury in the first quarter. Ray completed his first five passes and staked the Argos to an early 7-0 lead.
Kicker Rene Paredes ran his CFL-record consecutive field goal streak to 39 before missing from 22 yards out. He finished the game hitting three-of-four attempts.
These are indeed tough times for Edmonton (1-7), which has lost six straight. However, an optimist points to the Eskimos being 30-20-1 at McMahon Stadium on Labour Day.
Calgary swept last year's series, winning 31-30 at McMahon before capturing a 30-18 victory at Commonwealth. The Stampeders are 3-0 this year at home and should Cornish or Price return, they'd certainly provide a big boost.
Pick — Calgary
Montreal Alouettes at Toronto Argonauts on Tuesday.
The big question with Toronto (5-3) is Ray's status. While he didn't suffer a shoulder dislocation or separation or hurt his collarbone versus Calgary, Thursday's practice will be coach Scott Milanovich first look at Ray since his injury.
Even if Ray can play, it wouldn't be surprising if Milanovich waited until the last possible minute to declare so and with good reason.
That would force Montreal (3-5) to prepare for both Ray and backup Zach Collaros, two vastly different players. Ray is more a dropback passer while Collaros is very athletic and a threat to run.
Toronto has the CFL's top-ranked aerial attack (320.6 yards per game) and Ray has completed 78.3 per cent of his passes.
Montreal's defence is second overall in fewest yards allowed (316.1 per game) and sacks (27). The Als are tied with Toronto for second-fewest touchdowns allowed (18) but have surrendered a league-low three rushing TDs.
There are also quarterback questions with Montreal. Veteran Anthony Calvillo (concussion) missed last week's game and if he can't play chances are Marsh will make his first CFL start. But Marsh would have to be much better protecting the football.
Running back Brandon Whitaker (shoulder) could return, which would help Montreal.
Pick — Toronto.