Why haven’t CFL games been close in 2013?

One of the key selling points for the CFL is the idea that games go right down to the wire. This is generally true: the league's clock rules make it harder for a team in the lead to kill time, and its larger field and passing-focused game makes it easier for a trailing team to catch up. However, there are still variations year to year in just how close CFL games are, and this year doesn't appear to be a particularly good one for close finishes thus far. As per league head statistician Steve Daniel's game analysis notes after the first four weeks of CFL action, significantly less games have been resolved late this year. Only six of the 16 games from Weeks 1-4 (37.5 per cent) were decided in the last three minutes of play, which doesn't compare favourably with the marks of 55.6 and 50.0 per cent recorded in 2012 and 2011 respectively.

It's not just about when the decisive points are recorded, either. Overall, many fewer games are ending up with a close final score. Through the first 16 games, we haven't seen a single contest decided by zero to four points. For comparison, 21 of the league's 72 regular-season games (29.2 per cent) fit that category last year. What about games within one touchdown with a normal one-point conversion (seven points)? There have been just two of those so far, 12.6 per cent of all CFL games to date heading into Week Five. By contrast, 31 of the 72 games last year (43.1 per cent) were within seven points. Thus, we're not seeing nearly as many ultra-close games as we typically have.

What's behind that? Well, part of it may be the vast disparity between the East Division and the West Division. Heading into Week Five, the West had a 4-0 team (Saskatchewan), two 3-1 teams (Calgary and B.C.) and a single 1-3 team (Edmonton); meanwhile, the Toronto Argonauts led the East with a 2-2 mark, and the division's other three teams were 1-3. East Division teams lost all six games they'd played against West Division teams in weeks one through four, and many of those were blowouts. At the moment, there isn't a whole lot of parity in the CFL, especially when considering interdivisional games.

There is hope that we may see closer games in the future, though. Saskatchewan has been dominant thus far, but they could slip back to the pack, and B.C. and Calgary have both played well enough that the Riders certainly won't have an easy path to the West Division title. Meanwhile, East-on-East games should make for some close contests, as none of those teams have established much separation thus far. Continuity is also notable: teams under a new head coach tend to get more used to his systems and philosophies as the year goes on, and three East Division teams have a head coach in his first full season at their helm (Winnipeg's Tim Burke took over part of the way through last year, while Hamilton's Kent Austin and Montreal's Dan Hawkins both are in their first season with their current team), so those teams could get better and pose more of a challenge to West Division rivals as the season progresses. Still, on the whole, it hasn't been a great year for CFL parity thus far. We'll see if that changes.

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