- Winnipeg EDGE Willie Jefferson dominates Montreal: The last time these two teams met, Jefferson finished the game with two sacks and 10 total pressures. That’s been his season-high thus far in a year where he’s racked up 44 total pressures.
- RT Dejon Allen on Toronto is one to watch: His 80.2 pass-blocking grade leads the entire CFL this year. He’s allowed just one sack and a mere seven total pressures across 234 pass-block snaps.
- Is Tre Ford Edmonton’s QB of the future: Ford has an 82.3% adjusted completion rate through his two games as the starter. He has four big-time throws already and an 86.3 passing grade.
Estimated reading time: 9 minutes
With the clock ticking down to another exciting weekend of Canadian football, here is PFF's CFL Week 12 preview, highlighting the must-watch matchups and players set to shine on the field.
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MONTREAL ALOUETTES VS. WINNIPEG BLUE BOMBERS
It’s been quite a season for the Alouettes, who were not expected to be as good as they’ve been. They’ve won six games and at this point, it would take a second-half-season collapse for them to not be in a playoff spot at the end of the year. Winnipeg, meanwhile, has been as good as advertised, sitting at 8-2 and in first place in the West while QB Zach Collaros and his 90.7 overall grade leads the CFL. Montreal should get starting QB Cody Fajardo (74.6 overall grade, fifth in CFL) back in this game. That could be big, as backup QB Caleb Evans has struggled passing this football in relief of Fajardo, posting a 53.3 passing grade in the last two games. Fajardo could help right a passing offense that features a rookie of the year candidate in WR Austin Mack (74.0 receiving grade, sixth among WRs).
MATCHUP TO WATCH: LT NICK CALENDER, MONTREAL VS. EDGE WILLIE JEFFERSON, WINNIPEG
The last time these two teams met, Jefferson finished the game with two sacks and 10 total pressures. That’s been his season-high thus far in a year where he’s racked up 44 total pressures. Jefferson is an absolute force, as his 81.5 pass-rush grade being one of the highest in the league. While Callender is known more for his run blocking, his pass blocking hasn’t been too bad. His 66.8 pass-blocking grade ranks second among left tackles and 18th among all starting offensive linemen. However, he’s allowed five sacks and his 96.0 pass blocking efficiency score is the lowest of all Montreal’s starting linemen. Look for Jefferson to use this matchup to really get after the quarterback and try to disrupt Montreal’s passing attack.
PLAYER TO WATCH: HB REGGIE STUBBLEFIELD, MONTREAL
Montreal lost starting halfback Ciante Evans early in the season. Then their other starting HB Dionté Ruffin went down in Week 8. They also lost star SAM linebacker Najee Murray in that game. That forced Stubblefield into a starting halfback spot in a decimated secondary. To say he’s stepped up is an understatement. He’s allowed just three catches for 25 yards and a single first down. He has one interception, two dropped interceptions and four total forced incompletions. His 85.8 coverage grade over the last three weeks is tied for highest in the league. He’ll have his work cut out for him this week, as the Winnipeg slot WR duo of Dalton Schoen and Nic Demski currently grade out second and fifth respectively among slot receivers in the CFL.
CALGARY STAMPEDERS VS. TORONTO ARGONAUTS
Three weeks ago, Calgary handed Toronto its first loss of the season. Since then, Toronto has bounced back with a big win while Calgary has lost two straight. As good as Calgary QB Jake Maier looked in that Toronto win (80.2 passing grade), that’s how much he’s struggled since (56.1 pass grade). Meanwhile, Toronto QB Chad Kelly bounced back big-time in Week 10, posting an 89.4 overall grade in that game. Toronto is also led by league-best do-it-all running back A.J. Ouellette, whose 88.2 overall grade is the third-highest grade among all qualified offensive players in the league. This game will likely come down to Maier. In Calgary wins, he has an 81.9 grade while, in losses, that drops to 55.5. If he plays well, Calgary wins. If not, they don’t.
MATCHUP TO WATCH: WR DAVARIS DANIELS, TORONTO VS. HB KOBE WILLIAMS, CALGARY
Daniels broke out for Toronto two weeks ago when he caught six passes for 180 yards, three TDs and a 90.7 receiving grade. Nonetheless, he had been having a solid season before that too. Daniels is currently the fourth-highest-graded slot WR in the league. His 14 explosive plays rank seventh. He’ll have a tough matchup this week against Williams, whose 78.1 coverage grade ranks ninth among CFL defenders. He’s allowing just 0.69 yards per coverage snap, a far cry from Daniels’ 2.30 yards per route run. Something will have to give in this matchup. Depending on which way it goes, that could decide the game.
PLAYER TO WATCH: RT DEJON ALLEN, TORONTO
It isn’t always easy to watch offensive linemen. If you’re not noticing them, that generally means they are doing a good job. When it comes to pass-blocking, no offensive lineman is noticed less than Allen, as his 80.2 pass-blocking grade leads the entire CFL this year. He’s allowed just one sack and a mere seven total pressures over 234 pass-blocking snaps. The last time he played Calgary was actually his worst game of the year, and he allowed just two quarterback hurries. That’s how well he’s played this season. Allen deserves to be watched this week as he matches up with Stampeders’ edge rushers Julian Howsare and Isaac Adeyemi-Berglund just to see if he can shut them down as he’s done all season long.
HAMILTON TIGER-CATS VS. BRITISH COLUMBIA LIONS
It’s been a disaster season for the Tiger-Cats. They opened the season with the highest win total odds at 10.5, and many predicted them to beat that. However, they currently sit at 3-6 on the season and are down to their third-string rookie quarterback. The Lions are comfortably sitting at second in the West, although they are coming off a tough loss to the Saskatchewan Roughriders. They’ll look to bounce back, especially with a pass rush that struggled last week. Star EDGE Mathieu Betts (82.5 pass-rush grade) needs to get more than the two total pressures he got last week if the Lions want to win this game comfortably. At least QB Vernon Adams Jr. has picked up where he left off before his injury (90.7 overall grade in his two games since returning).
MATCHUP TO WATCH: RB JAMES BUTLER, HAMILTON VS. LB EMMANUEL RUGAMBA, BRITISH COLUMBIA
With an 89.1 rushing grade, Butler ranks third in the CFL currently among running backs. His 34 missed tackles forced ranks second, and he averages a league-high 4.0 yards after contact per carry. He also leads all RBs in receiving yards (308), first downs gained (13) and missed tackles forced (15). Simply put, he’s one of the best all-around running backs in the league. Across from him will be Rugamba, whose 90.7 run defense grade currently ranks first in the entire CFL. He has eight solo stops and has not missed a tackle. Hamilton needs a big game out of Butler to have any chance of winning this game, and Rugamba is a guy who can ruin all of that.
PLAYER TO WATCH: QB VERNON ADAMS JR., BRITISH COLUMBIA
As mentioned above, Adams Jr. picked up right where he left off upon returning from injury. Adams is your classic no-risk-it-no-biscuit quarterback. His 23 big-time throws lead the CFL but so do his 15 turnover-worthy plays. Nobody throws it deep more than Adams Jr., as he leads the league in both average depth of target (13.5 yards) and deep attempts (75 attempts, second-most has 49). Adams Jr.’s 84.2 passing grade sits third among quarterbacks, and he’s proved this season that he’s taken that step into the top echelon of CFL quarterbacks. He can single-handedly take over a game and win it for the Lions. He’s a must-watch every week.
OTTAWA REDBLACK VS. EDMONTON ELKS
It was a huge week for the Elks last week, as they finally broke into the win column for the first time this season. They’ll be looking to keep the good times rolling and finally end the dreaded home losing streak this week. But the Redblacks won’t go down so easily. Despite another solid week from rookie QB Dustin Crum in Week 11 (72.7 overall grade), the Redblacks lost again (four straight) and now sit dead last in the East at 3-7. This game will be a battle of the young quarterbacks, as Edmonton looks to have turned a corner under young Canadian QB Tre Ford, who was the highest-graded quarterback last week in Edmonton’s win. If he can keep that going, he could be the one to finally end the home drought.
MATCHUP TO WATCH: LT DINO BOYD, OTTAWA VS. EDGE JAKE CERESNA, EDMONTON
It’s been a quieter season for Ceresna. He hasn’t quite been at that top level of pass-rushers in the CFL over this season, but he’s closing in. Over the past three games, Ceresna’s 14 total pressures lead the league. When he’s on his game, he’s one of the best pass-rushers in the game. He’ll see a lot of Boyd in this game. Boyd currently has a 59.2 pass-blocking grade, which is slightly below average. He’s allowed five sacks and 19 pressures but has lost 16 additional pass block reps. He’ll need to slow Ceresna down to give his quarterback time to read the defense if the Redblacks want to win this game and end the slide.
PLAYER TO WATCH: QB TRE FORD, EDMONTON
In his first game, Ford played well enough to give Edmonton hope. In his second game, he played more than well enough and led his team to their first win of the season. What’s he going to do in his third? Ford has an 82.3% adjusted completion rate so far through his two games as the starter. He has four big-time throws already and has an 86.3 passing grade. Plus, Ford is creating damage with his feet. He’s averaging 8.2 yards per carry with 5.5 of those coming after first contact. He’s looking like a dual-threat quarterback who can do damage in the CFL. This game should do a lot to tell if it’s just a hot start, or if Ford really could possibly be the next great Canadian quarterback.