CFL Overview

While most of our readers will be mainly concerned with the NFL we thought it would be interesting to delve into the world of the Canadian Football League. There are many rule differences but the footballing essence still remains true, and the summer start can fill that footballing void for NFL fans, who may find themselves turning into CFL fans!

Founded: 1958
Commissioner: Randy Ambrosie
Teams: 9
Headquarters: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
2017 Champions: Toronto Argonauts
Most Titles: Edmonton Eskimos


In the CFL the season runs from June to November. There are 9 teams and 2 divisions. The WEST Division and EAST Division. Teams and divisions can be seen below.

Teams CITY HEAD COACH 2017 Record
Hamilton Tiger-Cats Hamilton, Ontario June Jones 6-12
Montreal Alouettes Montreal, Quebec Mike Sherman 3-15
Ottawa Redblacks Ottawa, Ontario Rick Campbell 8-9
Toronto Argonauts Toronto, Ontario Marc Trestman 9-9
BC Lions Vancouver, British Columbia Wally Buono 7-11
Calgary Stampeders Calgary Alberta Dave Dickenson 13-4-1
Edmonton Eskimos Edmonton, Alberta Jason Maas 12-6
Saskatchewan Roughriders Regina, Saskatchewan Chris Jones 10-8
Winnipeg Blue Bombers Winnipeg, Manitoba Michael O’Shea 12-6
Playoff Berth
Grey Cup Champions


Regular Season:

The regular season lasts for 20 weeks. During which each team plays the other 8 teams twice. Each team also plays 2 divisional matches which change each season. 2 points for a win, 1 point for a tie and 0 for a loss.


Six teams earn spots to the November playoffs. The top team of each division earn a bye for the first week, which is the Division Semi-Final. Normally the 2nd placed team in the Division will play the 3rd place team. The only time this is different is if the 4th place team in the East Division has a better record than the 3rd place team in the West. In this situation the 4th place East team plays the 2nd place West team. This is the crossover rule.

Grey Cup:

The Championship game. Competed by the winners of the West and East brackets. It is the second oldest trophy in North American sport (Stanley Cup is number 1). Named after the Early Grey, Canada’s governor general in 1909. Fun fact, originally was intended for the senior amateur hockey championship but after another cup was donated for that it was decided to be used for the Canadian Football League (Then the Canadian Dominion Football Championship).

Main differences to the NFL

  • The Field: In the CFL the field is larger than the NFL. 110 by 65 yards, and the end zones are also 10 yards deeper.
  • Team Size: 12 players are on the field for each team rather than the 11 used in NFL. The extra player is a back-fielder on offense and defensive back on defence.
  • Downs: NFL standard is 4 downs to advance 10 yards,  in the CFL it’s only 3 downs to advance 10 yards.
  • Fair catches and Touch-backs: Both are not used in the CFL
  • Snap motion: In the NFL only one player on offense can be in motion when the players are set and he cannot move towards the line of scrimmage. However in the CFL only the QB cannot be in motion and players can move in the direction of the line of scrimmage provided they don’t pass it, leading to ability of running starts for receivers.
  • Timing: 40 seconds per a play is the standard in the NFL while in the CFL it is only 20 seconds. Also the CFL only allows for 2 timeouts per a team in the game, and cannot use both in the final 3 minutes of the game. The 2 minute warning is replaced with a 3 minute warning in CFL too.
  • Fumbles: If the ball fumbles out of bounds the team who touches the ball last retains possession.
  • Kicking: CFL allows for open field kicks. Rugby style. Field goals are possible and retaining the kicked ball in the endzone. PATs in CFL are also taken from the 25 yard line as opposed to the 15 yard line in the NFL.
  • Rouge (Single Point): This comes down to kicking but deserves it’s own spot. If the team kicks the ball, from any play other than a convert (Extra Point), into the end zone and the receiving team doesn’t return it, so if it goes out of bounds past the end zone, the team is awarded 1 point.

There are other rule differences in the CFL that I recommend looking up but these are the key, or big changes. As you can probably tell it leads to a fast and entertaining version of football.

I’ll leave you with this, courtesy of the CFL YouTube channel, showcasing the above rule differences to tickle your fancy!