2023-07-25 · 5 min read · CFL/Football
Saskatchewan Roughriders' Mason Fine

NNN/Getty Images | Larry MacDougal/3DownNation

A third of the way through the 2023 CFL season and the starting quarterbacks are dropping like flies, with the latest being BC’s Vernon Adams, while Hamilton is onto its third-stringer.
For some it’s been a blessing in disguise like in the nation’s capital where the cardiac kids with Dustin Crum have been the uplifting story of the past two weeks.
The Argos are still the team to beat, while the loss of Adams could open the door for a mediocre Bombers team to get back to dominating the West when they return to action in a couple of weeks.
Here is a look at the matchups this week and my predictions
Hamilton Tiger-Cats at Ottawa Redblacks
Bringing in a two-time Grey Cup MVP and Most Outstanding Player in Bo Levi Mitchell was supposed to be the start of a resurgence in Steeltown, but instead, Orlando Steinauer is scrambling to try and figure out how to get his Tabbies back to its consistent winning ways.
The backbone of this team in 2022 was its defensive unit, but they’ve arguably been their Achilles heel this season, with Hamilton tied for the most points allowed after seven weeks (185), while they have been especially susceptible to the deep ball, conceding the second-most completions of 30+ yards (14).
Taylor Powell has lots of room to grow behind centre, going 27/41 versus the Argos last week, tossing a pick, and he needs to be better at reading coverage, with the Ti-Cats giving up the third-fewest sacks in the CFL (13), but the offence having the third-lowest completion percentage (62.6).
If you’re looking for the early feelgood story in the CFL this year, look no further than Ottawa, as Bob Dyce’s Redblacks have been down but never out, coming back to win their last two games in overtime with a 24-year-old who had little to no knowledge of the Canadian game sparking both comebacks.
While it’s been very much a trial by fire for Crum behind centre in Ottawa, the Frisco Bowl MVP in 2019 and a brief member of the Kansas City Chiefs has grown quickly, throwing a pair of touchdown passes last week and looking dangerous when scrambling.
His mobility has been a massive boost to this team offensively, with the Redblacks currently averaging a 6-yard gain per rush, the highest among CFL clubs, while their defensive unit has only given up an average of 3.5 yards-per-carry, the lowest in the league.
Prediction- Hamilton Tiger-Cats 20-35 Ottawa Redblacks
Dustin had a crummy performance in week five versus Hamilton, but that seems like a long time ago, with the Kent State product among the top performers over the past two weeks in the CFL.
He’ll have a more challenging time finding holes against that strong Hamilton run defence; however, the Tabbies subpar pressure along the line of scrimmage will probably not be enough to slow him down.
Saskatchewan Roughriders at Toronto Argonauts
When Trevor Harris went down with an injury in Saskatchewan, Rider nation was understandably uneasy, but although they lost to BC last week, Mason Fine looked comfortable behind centre for them last week against a talented Lions defensive unit.
If they’re going to upset Toronto, though, nine points on the board and 11 yards rushing from Jamal Morrow like we saw a week ago will not cut it, nor will the 11 sacks they’ve registered to date in 2023.
What they have done well defensively is limit the damage against them, allowing the second-fewest completions in the league (115) and the second-lowest completion percentage (62.2%), so if Craig Dickenson’s crew can improve in those offensive categories, they could be back to winning ways sooner rather than later.
He’s not blowing away opposing secondaries, but Chad Kelly and the Argos don’t look like letting up any time soon, scoring the second-most points in the league (186), while Kelly has the best QB rating in the CFL (116.5).
They may have given up the highest completion percentage (70.5), however Toronto also has the top completion percentage offensively (71.1).
The offence is aided by an exceptional running game, averaging 129.6 yards a game on the ground, led by AJ Ouellette, who has more rushing scores than anyone this season (five).
Toronto may be middle of the pack regarding sacks, but at the moment, there’s no offensive line as solid as they are when it comes to pass protection, allowing a mere six sacks all season, while the offence has often had the luxury of working with short fields, starting a series on average at the 41.1-yard line.
Prediction- Saskatchewan Roughriders 24-34 Toronto Argonauts
Saskatchewan cannot seem to get any penetration along the line of scrimmage, and when you allow Chad Kelly, Ouellette and Andrew Harris holes to run through, they will tear you apart.
BC Lions at Edmonton Elks
Brought in as an insurance policy, just like in his early CFL days with the Tiger-Cats, Dane Evans could be back behind centre for the foreseeable future in BC.
Unlike a season ago, however, the man who guided Hamilton to a Grey Cup appearance in 2019 and 2021 will have a stronger supporting cast, including Keon Hatcher, who had 74 yards receiving last week and Lucky Whitehead, along with an O-line that’ve only given up just 14 sacks all year.
His receiving crew should be a lot sharper than what he had with the Ti-Cats, enabling him to throw fewer interceptions, while defensively, they’ve been a force along the line of scrimmage throughout 2023, with 24 sacks, second only to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (25).
It’s the same old song and dance for Chris Jones and the Edmonton Elks, who looked sharp in the opening half in Winnipeg but were haunted by another poor third quarter and some poor decision-making at times by Taylor Cornelius which did them in.
Jones and his staff seem to be running out of answers as Cornelius has tossed five picks in his last three games, as Edmonton currently have a 61.1 completion percentage, the lowest in the CFL.
Kyran Moore and Dillon Mitchell are a solid receiving duo, but if Geno Lewis is not available again, it could put a lot of pressure on Kevin Brown to put this team in second and short situations.
Prediction- BC Lions 24-14 Edmonton Elks
If it’s Evans behind centre, as I anticipate, that’ll eliminate a significant threat running the ball, while Evans isn’t the smartest at reading the secondary.
This could be a game where Edmonton ends a 20-game home losing streak, but I’ve been fooled by that many times before, and Rick Campbell and the Lions are not a one-person team, so I expect their defence to come up big this weekend, while they are not prone to mistakes nearly as much as Edmonton.
Calgary Stampeders at Montreal Alouettes
Jake Maier’s been putting up some big numbers in recent games, but the Stamps' defensive unit hasn’t been able to shut the door, giving up 74 points in their past two outings.
Calgary has allowed nine touchdowns through the air this year, the second-most behind Toronto (10), while as high as his passing yards have been over the past two games, Maier has still thrown at least one interception in each game played this season.
They’ve been relatively solid offensively despite all of that, averaging 354.5 yards of net offence in 2023, while only giving up six completions of 30+ yards.
After holding their own for a half against the Argos a couple of weeks ago, the Alouettes are back home, looking to shake off a three-game losing skid.
Cody Fajardo is third in the league for passer rating (101.2) and continues to make intelligent decisions with the football.
At the same time, Austin Mack has been a nightmare to cover, with 458 yards receiving and Kaion Julien-Grant leads the league in yards after the catch (209).
The Als have made their share of big plays with a dozen completions of 30 yards or more but far too often have had to settle for either a field goal or nothing, with a league-low eight offensive scores.
Prediction- Calgary Stampeders 26-16 Montreal Alouettes
Montreal has given up more sacks than anyone in the CFL (26), while they have made the fewest (seven), and a few big plays and the legs of Cody Fajardo might not be enough in this one, even if Dave Dickenson makes some more questionable third down gambles.
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By: Joel Lefevre


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