The Hamilton Tiger-Cats can make the playoffs — but it'll take some complicated math and lots of good fortune to get it done.
Following a 34-32 road loss to the Calgary Stampeders on Saturday, the Tiger-Cats must win their two remaining games against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers at home next Saturday and against the Toronto Argonauts on the road on Nov. 1.
"As I've told these guys all year long, the only must-win game is the one you have to win or your season's over," said Hamilton coach George Cortez. "We're probably approaching that this week."
Hamilton (5-11) also needs lots of help from other teams to qualify for post-season action.
"We're depending on other people right now, but the bottom line is if we don't take care of our own stuff come game day, it doesn't matter what happens with anybody else," said Ticats quarterback Henry Burris. "We've got to figure out a way to win these last two. We've got a couple eastern teams that we know very well, that we've seen a lot this year. It's all about how we show up."
In order to finish second in the CFL's East Division, the Ticats need to hope that the Argos (7-9) lose at home to the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Saturday.
The Ticats would then need to beat the Argos by at least nine points on Nov. 1 in Toronto, which would give both teams 7-11 records. Hamilton would then win the tiebreaker over Toronto to finish second in the East Division.
Failing that, the Ticats could also still finish third in the East Division if they win their remaining two games and the Eskimos lose to both the Montreal Alouettes on the road next Sunday and the Stampeders at home in Edmonton on Nov. 2.
That would give both teams identical 7-11 records and prevent the Eskimos from earning a cross-over berth to compete as the third seed in the East.
Hamilton actually had a great chance to win the game against Calgary in the dying seconds Saturday when Luca Congi lined up to kick a 40-yard field goal. But the ball slipped from the fingers of holder Andy Fantuz and Congi didn't get the kick away.
"It seems like it sums up our season, but we're not dead yet," Fantuz said. "We've just got to keep fighting and keep our head up, but it's disappointing."
Despite the long odds the Ticats face to make the playoffs, Cortez has confidence that his players can bounce back from the disappointing loss to the Stamps.
"I'm always amazed by the resiliency of players," Cortez said. "They usually bounce back pretty well. It's a tough loss there's no doubt about it."