Welcome to the new BC Place, and welcome to the new BC Lions.
Long gone are the marshmallow roof, the vacuum seal, and the Lions’ 1-5 start; here now are a state-of-the-art retractable roof, a comfortable and exciting stadium, and yeah, a playoff berth just over the horizon.
BC kicked off the 2011 season with a 1-6 record, but have since found their legs on defence – offence was basically never at issue, and ride a five-game win streak into this Friday night’s home affair with the Eskimos.
They are flying high and will have the energy of essentially a brand new stadium to fuel the fire against Edmonton this week.
After early scares of a potential East-to-West playoff crossover, the Lions seem now to be a lock for the post-season, and not only would a win against the Esks take them one step closer, it would actually bring them into a tie for at least second place in the division.
Not only that, combine a BC win on Friday with a Calgary loss on Saturday, and the Lions, Stampeders, and Eskimos will be in a three-way lock for first in the division.
While BC was in the middle or bottom of most of the CFL’s defensive categories early on, the Leos now lead or are near the top in several key stats, including the second-most sacks in the league with 34, and the fewest TDs allowed overall with 23.
The Eskimos are in the midst of a win-lose-win-lose pattern that saw them get a W in Calgary on Labour Day, lose at home to the Stamps the following week, win at Hamilton, then lose at home to Montreal. It’s tough to tell which end is up in E-Town right now.
Both sides feature the potential to blow it up on offence, but this one will likely come down to the home team’s defence. They say offence sells seat, but defence wins championships – Friday night’s affair will go a long way towards seeing if either of these sides has what it takes to go deep in the playoffs.