Snow plowed into piles on McMahon Stadium’s sidelines and the installation of extra seating for the Grey Cup game had the Calgary Stampeders in a post-season frame of mind Monday.
“CFL, when that cold wind starts to come in, and obviously we skipped that and went straight to the snow, it’s playoff time,” Stampeder quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell said.
“It starts to kind of get to that feeling. We’ve got a long way to go though.”
Not as long as a month ago, when the defending Grey Cup champions were 5-4 and looking up at three teams above them in the West Division.
Winner of four in a row in September, Calgary is tied atop the West with the Saskatchewan Roughriders at 9-4. Both teams have a game in hand on Winnipeg (9-5).
With all three guaranteed a playoff spot, the last five weeks of the regular season is about jockeying for seeding and home-field advantage in the post-season.
Calgary played in the last five Grey Cup games and hoisted the trophy twice.
The Stampeders have never played in a Grey Cup game on home field, however.
The 2019 Grey Cup will be held Nov. 24 at McMahon.
Taking the division and earning the bye to a divisional final at home is no guarantee of a Grey Cup berth.
That road is considered easier, however, than being an away team in a division semifinal.
Calgary hosts Saskatchewan on Oct. 11 followed by a home-and-home against Winnipeg and the regular-season finale versus the B.C. Lions.
But before that, the Stampeders are on the road Saturday against the Montreal Alouettes.
Montreal is a tough place for the Stampeders to win with a 3-7 record in that city over the last decade.
“We’re in a better position than we were going into the last month and I think we’re getting better too.
“We’re not getting any healthier, but I feel like our teams understands the formula to win and we’re doing the right things. Now, it’s just a matter of can we get it done?”
Calgary is coming off a bye week.
Dickenson said running back Ka’Deem Carey (broken arm) and receiver Markeith Ambles (ankle) have both undergone season-ending surgeries since Calgary’s 23-16 win over the host Toronto Argonauts in Week 15.
Calgary’s top receiver Reggie Begelton and middle linebacker Cory Greenwood, who leads the CFL in tackles with 79, were scratches for the game in Toronto.
Begelton was back at practice Monday, but 34-year-old Greenwood from Kingston, Ont., was not.
“We feel like he’s getting better, but not quick enough,” Dickenson said of Greenwood. “We were a little bit concerned there.”
Calgary’s four-game win coincided with the return of Mitchell, whose Labour Day start Sept. 2 was his first in just over two months because of a shoulder injury.
The Texan’s pass completion rate was 65 per cent for an average of 301 yards per game in September. Mitchell threw five touchdown passes and was intercepted five times.
Calgary’s offensive line allowed just one sack.
“I have to make sure I continue to take care of the football,” Mitchell said. “Some of those are, obviously, barely a missed throw here or there, but still at the same time, we pride ourselves on turnovers, so I have to make sure we’re watching that and not giving the defence chances to touch the ball.
“I feel like we’re progressing offensively, but I just want us to match the defence’s efforts right now.
“I think defence is really balling, special teams have really taken a step these last four or five games, so I want to make sure we’re matching that and kind of figuring it out once we get past the 50.”
The Alouettes edged the Stampeders 40-34 in overtime at McMahon back on Aug. 17.
Calgary snapped a four-game losing streak in Montreal last year with a 12-6 win.
“We’ve struggled there. It’s kind of our kryptonite right now,” Dickenson said. “We’ve got to figure it out.”