2022-10-05 · 6 min read · CFL/Football
Winnipeg Blue Bombers

John Woods/The Canadian Press

Following Week 17 of the CFL campaign, the reigning Grey Cup champions have assured themselves of a home playoff date, the Redblacks have a new man in charge, and the race for first in the East is officially on.
At the same time, another team can officially clinch their spot in the postseason this week, and one way or another the Edmonton Elks playoff hopes will be on the line.
As we get set to gobble down on Thanksgiving Turkey this long weekend, here is a look at all four matchups for Week 18 in the CFL and my predictions.
Saskatchewan Roughriders at Hamilton Tiger-Cats
Amid a four-game losing streak, Craig Dickenson’s Riders can only hope for a crossover game in the East Semi-Final.
A victory over Hamilton would put them ahead by three games in that race heading down the home stretch of the regular season.
Cody Fajardo put up some substantial numbers in a 31-13 loss to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers last weekend, going 26/38 for 307 yards and a touchdown, and they improved in their pass protection, not allowing a single sack, though they have still allowed the most in the league (59).
They have had a hard time hurrying opposing quarterbacks lately, dropping down to second in the league (38) in that category, and having the fewest first downs among CFL teams in the West Division (273).
Knowing how to motivate this Ti-Cats team is proving to be a tall task for Orlondo Steinauer, as his players looked fantastic in the Hall of Fame game versus the Blue Bombers but allowed 11 fourth-quarter points against the Montreal Alouettes a week later in a 23-16 defeat.
Dane Evans has not thrown a pick in back-to-back games, while Tim White caught six passes for 105 yards against the Als and is 17 yards away from reaching 1,000 for the season.
Throughout the year, they have had a hard time winning those battles along the line of scrimmage with the third-fewest sacks (29) in the CFL, while they have the second-worst second down conversion percentage (43.3%).
They have conceded the second-fewest first downs in the league (263), and while their running game has been almost nonexistent, they have done a great job at shutting down their opposition’s ground game, allowing the least number of rushing yards defensively (1133 yards).
  • Prediction- Saskatchewan Roughriders 24-27 Hamilton Tiger-Cats
The Riders are low on confidence, and while both teams have struggled, there are more positives for the Ti-Cats to take away from their previous defeat as Evans is making more intelligent decisions with the ball, while their defence have done a decent job at shutting down opposing offensive units.
BC Lions at Toronto Argonauts
Vernon Adams put together his best outing as Lions pivot a week ago, firing only five incompletions and zero interceptions in his team’s 34-19 triumph against the Ottawa Redblacks.
Dominique Rhymes and Lucky Whitehead played a big part in that victory, combining for 190 yards receiving, with Rhymes currently leading the league in receiving yards (1,165).
In comparison, Whitehead needs 34 more yards through the air to hit the 1,000 mark, though he missed practice this week with an ankle injury, leaving him questionable for this weekend.
BC will be back in the playoffs for the first time since 2018, leading the league in passing yards (4560) and allowing the fewest through the air (3468).
Big plays have played a significant part in their success of late as they lead the CFL in competitions of 30 yards or more (29), but at the same time, their secondary have blown some coverages, allowing a competition percentage of 67.2%, the third-worst rate in the CFL.
The Argos return to BMO Field, holding a narrow lead atop the East Division standings after falling 29-2 versus the Calgary Stampeders.
It was not the best outing by McLeod Bethel-Thompson, who tossed a pair of interceptions, dropping into second in the CFL for passing yards this season (2,866 yards).
That outing dropped Toronto’s overall completion percentage down drastically this season, as they are currently third from the bottom in that department, while special teams have been an Achilles heel for them in 2022, currently ranked last in punt return average (6.9 yards), and field goal percentage (77.3%), while also allowing the highest average of punt return yards (11.3 yards).
Their corners and safeties have stepped up their game in recent weeks, causing two interceptions in a losing effort last week, as they have allowed the fewest amount of yards allowed per pass (7.7), while also allowing the lowest pass efficiency in the league (80.5).
  • Prediction BC Lions 30-24 Toronto Argonauts
The Lions seem to have settled into life with Vernon Adams at quarterback, and while the Redblacks may be the best measuring stick for how good you are, BC looked sharp on all three sides of the football last weekend.
Even if Whitehead can’t go, the Argos secondary will face a stiff test in trying to shut down this BC receiving crew, while Adams should have time to throw and use his legs, going up against a defensive line who have produced the fewest sacks in the CFL (27).
Edmonton Elks at Winnipeg Blue Bombers
After making the wrong kind of history last weekend, setting a CFL record for the longest home losing streak (15 games), Chris Jones and the Elks could be officially out of postseason contention before this game begins.
They need the Tiger-Cats to beat the Riders to stay alive, putting them in a must-win situation against the Bombers.
While it has been another disappointing campaign in Edmonton, they have managed to keep pace until the fourth quarter in many games this season, as Taylor Cornelius threw for 273 yards and two interceptions against the Alouettes last weekend, while Kevin Brown had another solid outing on the ground, averaging 5.4 yards per carry.
Defensively Edmonton have allowed the second-highest conversion percentage in the league (52.1%) and have also allowed their opponents into the end zone more often than not, conceding a league-high 57 major scores in 2022.
The bye week seemed to reinvigorate this Blue Bombers squad as the second-highest scoring offensive unit in the league (410 points) put up 31 points versus Saskatchewan last weekend to clinch a home playoff berth.
Winnipeg’s stars shone brightly as Zach Collaros tossed four touchdown passes, and he leads the league in that category (32 TD passes).
Brady Oliveira had 101 yards on the ground, Dalton Schoen had 125 yards on four catches and a TD, and Nic Demski collected two TD grabs.
The third-best rush defence in the CFL will face a stiff challenge this week to try and contain Kevin Brown, though they will be relieved to know that the Elks will be without former Bomber Kenny Lawler, especially given that Winnipeg are tied for the second-most competitions allowed in the CFL (338).
Winnipeg have the highest pass efficiency in the league right now (114.3), and despite being in the bottom half of the CFL stats for net offence allowed (sixth), they have been able to minimize the damage done to them, conceding the fewest touchdowns in the league.
  • Prediction Edmonton Elks 18-28 Winnipeg Blue Bombers
Edmonton’s running attack could keep them in this game for a while, but eventually, you have to think the Bombers will find a solution to stopping Brown, while Cornelius is missing his top target, s which should work to Winnipeg’s advantage.
A BC loss and a Bombers victory would give Winnipeg a bye into the West Final.
Collaros and the offence should eventually find a way to break down an Elks defence that has allowed the highest competition percentage this season (73.1%).
Ottawa Redblack at Montreal Alouettes
Ottawa finally dropped the axe on Paul LaPolice after the Redblacks suffered a third straight defeat last week, 34-19, at BC Place.
Bob Dyce will take over on an interim basis, and he has a lot of work to get done if he wants to get this team back on track, as Ottawa are tied with Saskatchewan for the most completions allowed of 30 yards or more and have allowed the second-highest pass efficiency defensively (104.8).
On the opposite end, they have put up many big plays, with 24 completions of 30 or more yards, second only to BC, while conceding the fewest completions defensively (280).
For a man who prides himself on being a special team’s guru, Dyce’s unit have been mediocre in that department in 2022, with the lowest kickoff return average (19.1 yards), though they do have the second-best average field position.
Danny Maciocia’s Alouettes have themselves right back in the mix to capture the East Division, beating the Elks 25-18 to kick off this month, moving to .500 on the season, a game behind the Boatmen for first place.
An offence that is last in net yards (4542) and first downs (268) have been aided by a defensive unit who have conceded the second-fewest number of yards through the air (3678) and the lowest completion percentage (65.2%).
Trevor Harris has not put up massive passing numbers lately, going 14/17 last Saturday for 180 yards and a touchdown, but he has made fewer mistakes, without an interception in back-to-back games.
Big plays are not the strong suit of this offensive unit, with the fewest competitions of 30 yards or more (15), though they have 15 interceptions on defence, which is good for fourth in the CFL.
  • Prediction- Ottawa Redblacks 20-30 Montreal Alouettes
The Als will not be winning over many fans with their conservative approach offensively, but Maciocia will not care as this team is winning.
Do not expect much of a new coach bump in this one, as the Redblacks have plenty of deep threats, but overall, Montreal seem well equipped to contain them through the air and chip away before an opening arises.
Sports Tree Profile

By: Joel Lefevre


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