CFL WEEK 18 PREDICTIONS

2023-10-04 · 4 min read · CFL/Football
Winnipeg Blue Bombers' Nic Demski and Toronto Argonauts' Javon Leake

Jason Halstead/CFL | CFL.ca

Four weeks remain in the CFL regular season, but this weekend could determine who makes the playoffs and who gets a bye into the West Final.
The defending Grey Cup champions are coming off their second loss of the season as Ryan Dinwiddie decided to rest Chad Kelly against the Bombers; Winnipeg and BC are tied for first in the West (11-4) as they square off on Friday night, Hamilton is a game behind Montreal for second in the East, while the two Alberta rivals are tied for third with identical 4-11 records.
Saskatchewan has cooled off, losing four in a row; Montreal has assured themselves a playoff berth, while the Redblacks’ postseason aspirations are hanging by a thread, trailing the Riders by two games in the crossover battle with just three games remaining.
In what is shaping up to be a high-stakes weekend, here is a look at each matchup and my predictions.
Edmonton Elks at Toronto Argonauts
Following a week off to process their defeat versus BC (37-29), the Elks are in virtually must-win territory from here on out, entering this encounter having allowed the highest net offence in the CFL (5,689 yards), while they have had difficulty slowing down the run, allowing over 2,000 yards on the ground this season (2,020), the most in the league.
Tre Ford has thrown at least one touchdown pass in each game since becoming the starter in week 10.
At the same time, Kevin Brown has gotten the ground game going, ranked second in the league for rushing yards (1,022).
They might be able to improve their consistency through the air in this contest, as they rank dead-last in the passing game (3,256 yards) but are facing an Argos secondary that allows over 300 passing yards per game (300.9).
For three quarters, it looked as though keeping Chad Kelly on the sidelines would pay off for the Boatmen as Cameron Dukes went 17/24 for 231 yards and a score, but in the end, the Argos defence crumbled, allowing 15 fourth-quarter points and suffering their second defeat of the campaign.
It is clear that the secondary needs improvement between now and the end of the regular season, having allowed the highest completion percentage in the CFL (71.9%) along with the most completions (363), while on offence, they have completed the second-fewest number of passes (249).
Prediction- Edmonton Elks 20-34 Toronto Argonauts
Toronto is the best defensive unit at stopping the run, though you wouldn’t have known it given the kind of day the league’s leading rusher, Brady Oliveira, had against them, but I expect Toronto to clean that up and be a lot sharper in that department this week.
Edmonton has big-play receivers to count upon but haven’t found much consistency on that end, so we expect the Argos to emerge victorious whether Chad Kelly starts or not.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers at BC Lions
As we have often seen throughout the year, Zach Collaros and the offence got things moving eventually against the Argos, keeping pace with BC atop the standings with the league leader for passing TDs connecting with Brady Oliveira for a score, with the Bombers running back posting another outstanding game out of the backfield, rushing for 169 yards on 25 carries, while Dalton Schoen had six grabs for 101 yards.
Big plays have saved the Bombers often in 2023 as they lead the CFL for completions of 30+ yards (37).
Although their secondary has given up a passing score in consecutive games, they have limited the damage, ranked first in completions conceded of 30+ yards (18), and they have allowed the lowest pass efficiency rating in the league (79.1).
Despite making his share of mistakes of late, Vernon Adams and the Lions offence have done enough to get by with the CFL’s leading passer (4,005 yards) tossing five interceptions in his last two games, but also throwing multiple TD passes on consecutive occasions.
Rick Campbell will need his defensive unit to be just as solid against the run as they were versus the Elks, only allowing 18 yards on the ground to Kevin Brown, while Taquan Mizzell was great running the ball himself with 112 yards on 16 carries with two scores.
Prediction- Winnipeg Blue Bombers 28-31 BC Lions
As good as both of these quarterbacks have been, they still tend to make mistakes; the difference in this one is that overall, the Lions have been able to dig themselves out of holes that Adams has made for them, whereas the Bombers do not seem quite as consistently sharp defensively despite what the stats suggest.
Hamilton Tiger-Cats at Saskatchewan Roughriders
Since a dismal home outing in the Labour Day Classic versus the Argonauts, losing 41-28, the Tabbies have picked up steam, winning three of their last four contests with Matthew Shiltz getting it done last week throwing for 225 yards and a score in a 22-15 triumph over the Calgary Stampeders.
While defensively, they have struggled to get to the quarterback, second from the bottom regarding sacks (32), they have improved in pass coverage, allowing the fourth-fewest competitions (288).
Jake Dolegala’s age is beginning to show as the 26-year-old Riders pivot has thrown at least one touchdown pass since their Labour Day victory over Winnipeg (32-30 in overtime), but he’s forced the ball into tight coverage far too often, with multiple interceptions in each of his last two games.
It hasn’t helped that defensively they’ve given up the highest pass efficiency rating in the league (104.3), though, on the opposite side, they lead in completions (348), which seems to be keeping them in the playoffs for the moment.
Prediction- Hamilton Tiger-Cats 24-17 Saskatchewan Roughriders
James Butler was much more productive running the ball versus the Stamps, averaging 6.6 yards per carry; combine that with the number of mistakes Dolegala has made and momentum in favour of the Tabbies, and it all seems to add up to another loss for Saskatchewan.
Ottawa Redblacks at Montreal Alouettes
Whatever momentum the Redblacks had gained from their 36-28 victory over Saskatchewan in week 16, that went away after three-quarters of football versus the Alouettes, with Ottawa failing to score a single point over that stretch and dropping a 32-15 result.
Dustin Crum tossed a pair of picks in the loss, and although they registered two sacks defensively, they were manhandled by the Als defensive line, allowing five sacks themselves, putting them up to 54 for the year, tied with Montreal for the most in the CFL.
It has rarely been pretty for Cody Fajardo and the Alouettes, but job one of getting into the playoffs is now complete.
The former Riders pivot didn’t toss an interception last week, while the ground game has picked up the slack, with William Stanback averaging 6.5 yards per carry against the Redblacks after gaining 5.8 yards per rush the previous week.
In pass coverage, the Als have been excellent, tied with Calgary and Toronto for the second-fewest competitions allowed of 30+ yards (19) while also giving up the lowest passer rating among East division clubs (82.2).
Prediction- Ottawa Redblacks 14-16 Montreal Alouettes
Give the edge to the Montreal secondary in this one, as Dustin Crum’s decision-making has been anything but stellar, so I expect the Als to have a few short fields to work with and some game-changing turnovers.
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By: Joel Lefevre

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