2023-08-02 · 5 min read · CFL/Football
Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Corey Scott/USA TODAY Sports

After eight weeks in the 2023 CFL regular season, the playoff race has gotten a lot tighter for second and third in the East division, with three teams tied at three victories, while the reigning champions appear to be on their way to a bye into the East Final.
Out West, the Elks made the wrong kind of history, losing at home for the 21st consecutive time, a North American record for a sports team, as they sit at 0-8; the Redblacks had their mini Cinderella run snapped, and Bo Levi Mitchell was back behind centre in Steeltown.
The month of August begins with a first-place showdown in the West division as the Winnipeg Blue Bombers seek redemption at home to BC; the Argos will then look to remain the only unbeaten team in the league before the Alouettes and Tiger-Cats renew hostilities in a matchup with early playoff implications and the week wraps up with the Redblacks seeking a first victory in Saskatchewan since 2018.
Here is a look at the week nine matchups and my predictions.
BC Lions at Winnipeg Blue Bombers
In his first start at quarterback for the Leos, Dane Evans had no trouble moving the offence down the field against an undisciplined and frustrated Elks unit, with the two-time Grey Cup finalist throwing for 330 yards and a pair of scores in a comfortable 27-0 victory.
While the offence gets plenty of attention when blowing out a team in that manner, this defensive unit should not be overlooked, having allowed fewer than 10 points in four encounters this year, including just six in Winnipeg earlier this season.
For a team that is first in many offensive categories such as passing yards (2,097), completion percentage (70.8%), net offence (2,577) and first downs (148), Rick Campbell’s had more of a systematic approach when his team have the ball, as the Lions have the second-fewest completions of 30+ yards (nine) while leading the CFL in an average time of possession (32:06).
They may have returned to winning ways in week seven, but throughout the bye week in Winnipeg, there were plenty of questions surrounding this team, who were tied with the winless Elks at the half in their previous encounter.
Even though he’s thrown an interception in back-to-back contests, Zach Collaros is still putting together an outstanding campaign, leading the league in passing touchdowns (13), with four of those scores coming courtesy of Drew Wolitarsky.
Since being thoroughly outplayed by the BC Lions in week three, losing 30-6, the Bombers have found the end zone 10 times as they sit second in the league regarding offensive scores (19).
However, they’ve not given their QB as much time in the pocket as we’re used to, allowing 18 sacks this season, seven coming against BC.
Prediction- BC Lions 20-27 Winnipeg Blue Bombers
In the last four seasons, the Bombers have only lost once after a bye week, and the defence can rest easy knowing that despite allowing a league-high for average rushing yards in 2023 (5.9 per carry), Evans is not nearly as potent with his legs as Vernon Adams.
Toronto Argonauts at Calgary Stampeders
They continue to pile up the points, putting over 30 on the board last weekend, but if we want to nit-pick, Ryan Dinwiddie’s got some work to do offensively, as his unit only had 200 yards of net offence in their Touchdown Atlantic win over the Riders (31-13).
Chad Kelly had his worst passing performance of the season last week, throwing for only 122 yards, but the Argos QB has the luxury of two outstanding running backs in Andrew Harris and AJ Ouelette, who’ve been a handful for opposing teams, as Ouellette averaged 8.4 yards-per-carry against the Tabbies, and leads the CFL in rushing yards per attempt (5.5).
The Achilles heel in this undefeated team lies in their secondary, who’ve allowed more competitions than anyone in 2023 (160) while also giving up a league-high for completion percentage (70.8%) and passing touchdowns (11).
An inability to finish drives has held Calgary back all year long, and last Sunday, it cost them against the Alouettes as they have now dropped back-to-back games.
Jake Maier’s accuracy has been questionable throughout the campaign as the Stamps have the second-lowest completion percentage in the CFL (60.9%) and tossing a pair of interceptions plus 20 incompletions like he did versus Montreal will not silence the critics.
They may be tied for the fewest competitions allowed of 30+ yards (seven); however, the Stamps have given up an average of 27.4 points a game, the second-highest average in the league, as Calgary has been vulnerable to big plays all year, allowing 17 of them in 2023, while conceding three kick return touchdowns.
Prediction- Toronto Argonauts 33-20 Calgary Stampeders
Toronto’s offensive line will face a more challenging test along the line of scrimmage this week; however, that two-headed monster they possess in the backfield could see a lot of daylight against a defensive unit that has given up the second-most yards on the ground this season (842).
Montreal Alouettes at Hamilton Tiger-Cats
Despite another weather delay and its struggling offence, Montreal managed to gut out a home victory over Calgary last weekend with adequate play, which, most importantly, was not littered with mistakes.
Perhaps most encouraging about their win against the Stamps was the fact that the Als got the run game going, with William Stanback averaging 5.7 yards on the ground, with Cody Fajardo failing to toss an interception.
Even though the passing game continues to sputter, with the second-fewest completions in the league (117), Jason Maas will be encouraged by the work of his offensive and defensive line a week ago, as his unit, who’ve produced fewer sacks than anyone this year (10) had three versus Calgary.
In contrast, its second-worst O-line regarding sacks allowed (27) gave up just one a week ago.
Bo Levi Mitchell is back in the saddle for Hamilton, but although he threw for over 350 yards in his return from injury, perhaps during his time on the disabled list he needed treatment on his reads as he tossed five interceptions last weekend.
Fortunately, Orlondo Steinauer’s defensive unit had perhaps their best outing of the season against the Redblacks, registering seven quarterback sacks on the mobile Dustin Crum, putting them in a tie for second in the CFL in that category (22)
Their running game has dropped down to levels we saw in 2022, with the Ticats putting together a league-low for yards on the ground this year (516), while the defence needs to be more consistent at generating sacks, with Hamilton allowing the second-most first downs (153).
Prediction- Montreal Alouettes 10-17 Hamilton Tiger-Cats
That Hamilton D-line should be full of confidence given their previous performance, and we expect them to disrupt Fajardo throughout this contest seeing as the Als offensive line has given up the joint second-most sacks in the CFL (27).
Ottawa Redblacks at Saskatchewan Roughriders
Following a pair of thrilling come-from-behind victories, Bob Dyce’s Redblacks were knocked back down to earth versus Hamilton as Dustin Crum failed to get the offence going, with just 158 yards through the air and a pick.
Against Hamilton, Crum ran as many times as he completed passes (13) and staying out of second and long situations will be pivotal if they are to return to winning ways, as they were faced with 14 of those last week, converting on only three occasions.
They have the lowest pass efficiency rating in the CFL (67.8), while the secondary has given up 18 completions of 30+ yards.
It’s been a solid bounce-back campaign to date in Riderville, but with Mason Fine at the controls and Saskatchewan giving up 31 points in a loss to the Boatmen, there are undoubtedly a few fans a little concerned that this team might suffer a collapse like we saw a year ago.
Jake Dolegala looked great in relief, going 4/5 for 100 yards and a score and could leave Craig Dickenson with an interesting decision this week.
Saskatchewan leads the league in completions (173), with the secondary allowing the second-lowest completion percentage (62.1).
Still, despite their big-play receivers and moving the ball effectively, they haven’t put points on the board as often as you’d think, scoring the second-fewest on offence this season.
Prediction- Ottawa Redblacks 14-20 Saskatchewan Roughriders
After a few weeks, opposing defences should have a better idea of Dustin Crum’s tendencies, and without a legit deep ball threat, this Redblacks offence could be a little one-dimensional.
Whether it’s Fine or Dolegala starting, there are plenty of reliable pass catchers, which should enable the Riders to move the ball and put points on the board against a team in Ottawa that has allowed the third-most offensive touchdowns in 2023 (15).
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By: Joel Lefevre


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