2023-08-09 · 5 min read · CFL/Football
Bombers Kicker Sergio Castillo against the B.C. Lions

John Woods/Canadian Press Files

As we reach the midway point of the CFL campaign, every team now has at least one blemish to their name following the Argos’ loss to the Calgary Stampeders (20-7).
It was a week full of statements across the league, with the Bombers showing they’re still elite, the Alouettes looking sharp offensively, Mason Fine earning his first win behind centre for the Riders, and Jake Maier, who was as accurate as we’ve seen all season against the Argos.
This week the Elks search for their first victory of the season against a red-hot Bombers offence while Cody Fajardo and Jason Maas will battle their former team.
At the same time, the race for that final playoff spot will intensify when the Stampeders travel to BC, and then Ottawa takes on Toronto as the Redblacks and Calgary are in a three-way tie with Hamilton for that final postseason berth.
Here is a look at the matchups this week and my predictions.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers at Edmonton Elks
Mike O’Shea’s crew answered many questions about whether they were still a Grey Cup contender last week, scoring 50 points against a BC Lions defensive unit that has given up the fewest in the league (144).
The passing game was dynamite as the league’s leading passer Zach Collaros threw for 369 yards and three scores, with Kenny Lawler catching seven balls for 200 yards and a TD.
At the same time, the secondary easily had their best outing of the season with a pair of interceptions.
A defensive line that many believe was ageing and had already peaked have turned back the clock in 2023 as they lead the CFL in sacks made (27), with Willie Jefferson putting together an impressive nine on the year, the most of anyone in the league, while Jackson Jeffcoat’s return has provided a significant boost as he had one sack versus the Lions.
Two weeks ago, the Elks put together perhaps their best third quarter of the season only allowing eight points but were still by far the second-best team on the field as they were shut out for the second time in 2023 (27-0).
It seemed to be inevitable, but Chris Jones made it official as Tre Ford will be the starter in place of Taylor Cornelius, and the 2021 Hec Crighton Trophy winner has a lot of work to do to try and improve an offence that is last in competition percentage (60.1%), net offence (2,322 yards) and offensive points (99).
Although they’ve allowed more rushing yards than anyone in the CFL this year (1,133), this team can take away a lot of positives from their previous meeting with the Bombers, as they held them to six points in the first half and registered a pair of quarterback sacks.
Prediction- Winnipeg Blue Bombers 30-17 Edmonton Elks
The Bombers showed last week that age is just a number, and though I believe Edmonton can keep this game close for a while, the Elks always seem to make one too many mental errors which costs them.
Saskatchewan Roughriders at Montreal Alouettes
Saskatchewan ended a three-game slide last weekend, but it was a little too close for comfort as they nearly blew their fourth-quarter advantage but were saved by a late 54-yard field goal by Brett Lauther.
While Jamal Morrow continues to struggle running the ball, averaging a mere 3.6 yards per carry last week, Craig Dickenson has to be encouraged by the fact that his backup Mason Fine was much better with his reads down the field, while the defensive line registered six sacks, half as many as this team had managed through the first eight weeks of the campaign.
Even without Trevor Harris behind centre, Saskatchewan has not been afraid to go down the field, leading the league in pass attempts (286) and completions (196).
They have also been sharp in pass coverage, giving up the fewest passing yards (1,850) and competitions (144) this season.
Austin Mack continues to terrorize opposing secondaries, with the Alouettes receiver posting another 100-yard game last week, while Cody Fajardo only missed six throws, and William Stanback was efficient carrying the ball, racking up 106 yards on 19 touches out of the backfield.
Their 27-14 win over Hamilton was not without its shaky moments, though, as they allowed 202 yards through the air but created a pair of interceptions which made a big difference.
Overall the Montreal’s defensive backs by committee though have been perhaps the sharpest in the league, allowing a pass efficiency rating of 75.3 for the year, the lowest in the CFL.
Prediction- Saskatchewan Roughriders 14-24 Montreal Alouettes
Expect Fajardo to up his game, given the opposition, and we believe that he, along with Stanback, will rack up some big numbers on the ground and tire out that Rider’s defensive unit.
Calgary Stampeders at BC Lions
His numbers may not have been off the charts last Friday, but Jake Maier’s accuracy was as good as we’ve seen all season with the Stamps pivot going 22/24 for 149 yards against the Argos.
He got a lot of help from Dedrick Mills, as the CFL’s #2 rusher ran for 137 yards, while the O-line kept their QB well-protected for majority of the encounter, allowing just two sacks.
The Stamps are tied for second in the league alongside BC for sacks made (25) and were able to penetrate the best offensive line in the league for three last week, though their defence has often stayed on the field for long stretches, giving up the third-most first downs (157) this year.
Coming off a week in Edmonton when everything went right, almost everything that could go wrong for the Lions in Winnipeg did, with the secondary allowing 447 yards through the air and three passing touchdowns, as many as they had allowed heading into that encounter.
Rick Campbell will be happy to know that Vernon Adams is healthy again and should be back behind centre on Saturday.
The Lions pivot is second in the league regarding passing scores (nine) while leading in completion percentage (71.3).
BC have kept the ball for long stretches throughout the campaign, leading the league in average time of possession per game (32:02) and scoring the third-most offensive touchdowns (16).
Prediction- Calgary Stampeders 19-30 BC Lions
With Adams back in the fold, I expect BC to be dominant offensively this week, while it’s hard to fathom the secondary will be nearly as poor against the Stamps as they were in Winnipeg.
Ottawa Redblacks at Toronto Argonauts
For a while, it looked as though Bob Dyce’s crew would pull off another big come-from-behind victory last Sunday, but it wasn’t to be, as the defence failed to step up in the latter stages.
Dustin Crum couldn’t get the offence moving all that much against Saskatchewan, with just 174 yards through the air while only rushing for 21 yards, but his offensive line has not helped him out much, giving up six sacks in that outing and leading the CFL for sacks allowed in 2023 (33).
Meanwhile, they’ve been unable to get as much penetration along the line of scrimmage, failing to get to backup QB Mason Fine last week and registering just one sack over their previous two encounters.
Nobody’s perfect, and the Boatmen were anything but that against the Stampeders last weekend, as the team with the highest points-per-game average this season (32) only had seven versus Calgary.
Cameron Dukes couldn’t get anything going in relief of the injured Chad Kelly, throwing for a mere 63 yards and a pick, while the third leading rusher in the CFL, AJ Ouellette (459 yards), didn’t have a lot of room to run with just 32 yards on the ground.
The Argos are last in the league in overall completions (116), while their secondary has given up more completions than anyone in 2023 (182), and allowing a league-high completion percentage of 72.8.
Prediction- Ottawa Redblacks 14-20 Toronto Argonauts
Whether it's Dukes or Kelly who starts, I don’t foresee the Argos being quite as stagnant offensively as they were last week, while there just aren’t many receiving threats on the Ottawa roster to trouble that poor Toronto secondary.
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