CFL WEEK THREE PREDICTIONS

2023-06-21 · 5 min read · CFL/Football
Toronto Argonauts and Calgary Stampeders

Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press | TSN

As we get set to tee up week three of the CFL campaign, we have four teams with a perfect record thus far, and it’s the four divisional finalists from 2022.
That is likely to change when the week kicks off on Thursday as the unbeaten Winnipeg Blue Bombers host the 2-0 BC Lions, while the Tiger-Cats can avenge its East semi-final loss from 2022 when they host the Montreal Alouettes and the week wraps up with the Elks looking to end an 18-game losing streak at Commonwealth Stadium.
Here is a look at all four matchups this week and my predictions.
BC Lions at Winnipeg Blue Bombers
Vernon Adams had some big shoes to fill in BC when Nathan Rourke left for the NFL during the offseason.
Still, so far, the former Alouettes pivot has looked fantastic behind center, leading the league in competition percentage (74.6), going 25/35 for 324 yards, a touchdown and one interception in a 22-0 win over the Elks.
Offensively this team have picked up where they left off in 2022, second in the league regarding net offence (852 yards), while they have not given up a lot without the ball, conceding a league-low 15 points.
The depth of Rick Campbell’s offensive unit will be tested Thursday as the CFL leader in receiving touchdowns, Dominique Rhymes (three), is out with a foot injury, while Lucky Whitehead is questionable due to a hamstring strain, which means we could see the league’s leading rusher Taquan Mizzell get more touches in this game.
Stopping the Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ offensive unit is proving to be easier said than done, as they have lit up their two opponents when in possession, leading the league with 87 points scored in just two games; 40 more than the second-highest scoring team, the Lions.
Two-time CFL Most Outstanding Player Zach Collaros looks equally as good if not better than in his previous two campaigns as he leads the league in passing yards (647) and touchdown throws (five), while the Bombers have the highest net offence (874 yards), the most first downs (51) and more completions of 30+ yards than anyone in the CFL (six).
They could be depleted offensively this week, as the CFL’s top receiver Dalton Schoen is questionable with a hip flexor, and the #1 rusher Brady Oliveira is doubtful because of a sore thorax.
On the other side of the ball, the Bombers secondary has been picked apart, allowing more yards through the air than anyone so far (613) while also giving up the second-most completions (46).
Prediction- BC Lions 30-37 Winnipeg Blue Bombers
Even with some key injury concerns on both sides, these teams have tons of weapons that can break open a game, but the big play ability in Winnipeg has us giving them a slight edge on Thursday.
Montreal Alouettes at Hamilton Tiger-Cats
Fresh off its bye week, Montreal can do something on Friday that this franchise has not managed to do since 2011, begin the regular season 2-0.
Jason Maas’ coaching debut in La Belle Province was a successful one as ex-Riders QB Cody Fajardo went 14/20 for 261 yards, while the defense held their ground, failing to allow a major score in a victory over Ottawa as they are the only team who have not conceded an offensive touchdown this year.
Replacing Geno Lewis will not be easy, but Austin Mack did his best to fill those big shoes in their season opener, racking up 120 yards receiving on four grabs, while the Als have allowed fewer first downs than anyone in the league so far (15).
Costly turnovers proved to be Hamilton’s undoing last Sunday as Bo Levi Mitchell tossed a pair of end zone picks in their 32-14 loss to the Toronto Argonauts as Orlondo Steinauer’s crew have started the regular season 0-2 for a third successive time.
Matthew Shiltz will be behind center Friday as Mitchell is out with an adductor injury, and the 30-year-old out of Butler has a lot to do if this group are to transform from a middle-of-the-pack offense, to an elite one, currently sixth in the CFL when it comes to passing yards (479).
Their experienced defensive unit has been shockingly poor in 2023, allowing a league-high 74 points while giving up the most yards on the ground (255) and more first downs than anyone (47).
Prediction- Montreal Alouettes 20-17 Hamilton Tiger-Cats
Both teams have been average offensively thus far, but the Als have done a nice job of putting their opponents in second and long situations, allowing the fewest rushing yards in the league (54), while their secondary has been exemplary as well.
Saskatchewan Roughriders at Calgary Stampeders
For three quarters, the Riders held their own against the class of the CFL West, the Blue Bombers, but they ran out of steam in the fourth quarter, falling 45-27.
After an impressive defensive display in their opener, they regressed significantly last Friday, allowing five touchdowns and conceding more offensive scores than anyone in their division this season (six).
Trevor Harris put up some big numbers versus Winnipeg with 413 yards through the air without an interception, though their secondary has not stepped up as of yet, allowing the second-most receiving scores in the CFL (three).
The Calgary offense got back on track last week with Dedrick Mills rushing for 102 yards on 19 carries with a touchdown in relief of Ka’Deem Carey, while Reggie Begelton and Malik Henry were massive threats down the field, combining to make 15 catches between them for 249 yards.
Begelton and Henry missed practice on Monday and Tuesday, and if they can’t go this weekend, Jake Maier will need to be better in his decision-making, having tossed a pick in each of his two starts this year.
Dwayne Cameron’s defensive backs have had difficulty keeping up with opposing receivers allowing a league-high 49 completions, though they have gotten themselves out of danger with a CFL-leading +4 turnover ratio.
Prediction- Saskatchewan Roughriders 24-20 Calgary Stampeders
The Riders have been a lot better offensively than I thought, and they have moved the ball much more efficiently when compared to the Stamps, who could be one-dimensional should Begelton and Henry be unavailable.
Toronto Argonauts at Edmonton Elks
Toronto began its title defence well as Chad Kelly ran for three scores, while they produced a pair of turnovers in a 32-14 win over the Tiger-Cats.
Pass protection did its job last Sunday, allowing just one sack, tied with BC for the fewest thus far while putting up 341 yards of net offence, more than any Eastern squad in 2023.
Moving the ball consistently was the main area of concern for Ryan Dinwiddie last weekend, with his Argos posting the fewest first down passes (eight), though they have 10 first downs on the ground.
They put up a good fight in their opener versus Saskatchewan, but under the dome in Vancouver last Saturday, we saw the same uneasy Elks squad that struggled mightily in 2022 as Edmonton failed to put points on the board while only managing one sack.
With just 13 points scored in its first two games, Taylor Cornelius’ potential as a quarterback has been called into question as he couldn’t come up with a big play against the Riders and, in BC, only managed to throw for 103 yards.
Chris Jones’ team have allowed the second-highest rushing average this season (5.3 yards) while posting the second-lowest total on the ground themselves (127 yards), as Kevin Brown only touched the ball seven times at BC Place, racking up 41 yards.
Prediction- Toronto Argonauts 24-14 Edmonton Elks
You would think the Elks are due to win a home game at some point, but their below-average play offensively makes it hard for us to believe that slide will end this weekend, especially against an Argos squad that showed they could make game-changing turnovers last week.
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By: Joel Lefevre

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