Early Indicators: Montreal Has Inside Track on 2009 Grey Cup

Mark MyersAnalyst IAugust 19, 2009

26 Nov 2000:  Kevin Alexander #88 of the Montreal Alouettes makes it into the endzone with the ball during the Grey Cup 2000 game against the British Columbia Lions at the McMahon Stadium in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The Lions defeated the Alouettes 28-26.Mandatory Credit: Craig Klem  /Allsport

There's a long way to go in the CFL season -- anything can happen between now and November. And there's no reason to think any team is a lock for the Grey Cup.  But right now, Montreal looks like a good bet to hoist the hardware in Calgary this year.

In fact, the simulation engine at ChanceBot.com gives the Alouettes a 73% chance of making the Grey Cup and a 52% chance of winning it.

There are a few reasons for this:

First, there is the obvious -- Montreal boasts a 6-1 record and is two wins clear of second-place Hamilton in the Eastern Division. Four points is not necessarily a lot to overcome.  If the teams were evenly matched, the Tiger-Cats would have a decent chance of catching and passing the Als.

But they aren't evenly matched. So far, Montreal's performance has been about seven points per game better than Hamilton's. That's not to suggest it's impossible for Hamilton (or any other team) to beat Montreal. But the odds are pretty heavily in favor of the team from Quebec.

In fact, if you look at the results this year you can see that most of Montreal's wins have been quite comfortable while the Ti-Cats have pulled out some close ones.

Additionally, when you look at each team's remaining schedule there is a slight advantage to Montreal both in terms of who they play and where they play. The Ti-Cats remaining opponents (excluding Montreal) have a combined record of 24-39 while the Alouettes opponents have a combined record of 23-40. And in the remaining 11 games, Hamilton will play six on the road while Montreal will play five.

And in the words of a TV salesman: Wait, there's more. Montreal already has a leg up against Hamilton should the two teams finish the season tied. In fact, the ChanceBot simulator says that without a sweep by the Tabbies in their remaining games against Montreal, the division title will stay with the Alouettes.

Overall, ChanceBot gives Montreal a 94.29% chance of winning the East. And in a league like the CFL, the one seed is huge. Simply based on the structure of the CFL playoffs (home-field advantage and byes) the one seed is two-times more likely than the two-seed to advance to the Grey Cup and three-times more likely than three-seed.

On top of this. There is another factor at work. Say the Alouettes slip out of first place. In such an event, it would take almost a complete collapse for them to fall out of the number-two seed given that Winnipeg and Toronto only have a total of three wins against any of the other six teams. So on top of the 94.29% chance of the Als making the first seed. There is an additional 5.58 % chance that the capture the second seed..

So all this said, It will be fairly surprising if Montreal isn't playing on November 29. As mentioned above, ChanceBot's current estimate is that they have a 73 percent chance of making it there. And even though anything can happen in a single game. Right now they would have to be favored against any other team in the league.

So while it is way too early to write off any particular team or to consider any team a lock -- it looks like the 2009 Grey Cup is Montreal's to lose.