• Ottawa EDGE Lorenzo Mauldin getting over slow start: Mauldin has been heating up as of late, with 11 total pressures in his last two games. He hasn’t recorded a sack since Week Five but has 39 total pressures since then
• Eugene Lewis looking like the WR Edmonton brought him in to be: Lewis has been the top-graded WR in the league since Week 12 at 82.6. An amazing 14 of his 17 receptions in that span have gone for first downs and he’s caught all five contested targets he’s seen.
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Estimated reading time: 9 minutes
SASKATCHEWAN ROUGHRIDERS VS. OTTAWA REDBLACKS
While not technically an elimination game, this has essentially become a must-win for the Redblacks if they hope to make a late-season playoff push. Ottawa still has two games against Montreal coming up, but they are three games behind the Alouettes in the standings. The Redblacks have been getting strong play from QB Dustin Crum (90.1 season grade), but it hasn’t been enough. They’ll need to improve defensively if they want to beat these Roughriders. Speaking of Saskatchewan, a win for them would keep their two-game cushion for the final West Division playoff spot. The loss of edge rusher Anthony Lanier II is going to be tough to overcome, as his 86.6 pass-rush grade and 20.9% pass-rush win rate both lead the league. If their other edge Pete Robertson can’t play (currently questionable), they might be in real trouble against this Redblacks offense.
MATCHUP TO WATCH: RT BRANDON COUNCIL, SASKATCHEWAN VS. EDGE LORENZO MAULDIN IV, OTTAWA
Saskatchewan is currently decimated with injuries and won’t have star RB Jamal Morrow this week. That means they’ll need to rely on their passing game, which means pass protection needs to hold up. Council has struggled at that when he’s had to play this year. His 39.1 pass-blocking grade is the lowest among tackles (minimum 300 snaps) this season. He’s allowed eight sacks and has lost over 14% of his pass-blocking snaps. Mauldin has been heating up as of late, with 11 total pressures in his last two games. He hasn’t recorded a sack since Week 5 but has 39 total pressures since then. A matchup against Council might be just what he needs to break that sack-less streak and really turn the tide of the game in Ottawa’s favor.
PLAYER TO WATCH: QB JAKE DOLEGALA, SASKATCHEWAN
Dolegala has been going through growing pains, as one would expect for a young quarterback thrust into a starting role. Nonetheless, he played his best game of the season last week, finishing with two big-time throws, a 71.4% adjusted completion rate and an 84.0 passing grade. He was seeing the field well and making big throws while limiting the dangerous mistakes he had made in previous weeks. Without Morrow, Dolegala will be relied on more than ever. If Saskatchewan is going to come out on top, he’s going to need to prove that last week wasn’t a fluke and that he’s turning a corner as a CFL quarterback.
BRITISH COLUMBIA LIONS VS. EDMONTON ELKS
A win by BC in this game puts the Lions into a tie for first in the West Division. A win by Edmonton potentially pulls the Elks within a game and a half of a playoff spot. Both teams want this. BC has been the better team all season, there’s no doubt about that. QB Vernon Adams Jr. (87.3 overall grade) is one of the best quarterbacks in the CFL. The Lions have one of the league’s best pass-rushers and corners in EDGE Mathieu Betts (84.6 pass-rush grade) and CB Garry Peters (83.6 coverage grade). However, will they be able to stop the red-hot Elks? Edmonton is 4-1 in their last five games and playing like one of the top teams in the league. RB Kevin Brown leads the CFL in rushing yards in that span and ranks second with 24 missed tackles forced. Then there’s QB Tre Ford (84.9 overall grade), whose dual-threat ability has completely turned Edmonton’s season around. A win over BC would really cement them as a legitimate playoff threat.
MATCHUP TO WATCH: WR EUGENE LEWIS, EDMONTON VS. CB GARRY PETERS, BRITISH COLUMBIA
This should be one of the most exciting individual matchups of the season. You have arguably the most talented receiver in the CFL against the top corner. Lewis has been the top-graded WR in the league since Week 12 at 82.6. An amazing 14 of his 17 receptions in that span have gone for first downs, and he’s caught all five contested targets he’s seen. The contested catch number is important because no CFL defender plays tighter coverage than Peters. It’s the reason he leads the CFL with 10 pass breakups on top of his four interceptions. If he is playing man on a receiver, a quarterback is better off throwing it away (39.6 QB rating) than trying to throw at Peters (37.8 QB rating). This really is two titans of the game matching up, the winner of which could very well decide the outcome of the game.
PLAYER TO WATCH: EDMONTON OFFENSIVE LINE
This is cheating a bit but it’s not just one player on the Edmonton offensive line to watch, it’s the entire unit. Since Tre Ford took over at QB, they’ve completely turned things around up front. Prior to Ford, the offensive line had surrendered 13 sacks and 111 total pressures in eight games. In the six games with Ford, they’ve allowed zero sacks and just 32 total pressures. Their run game (designed runs only) doubled their yards before contact per carry, going from 1.4 to 2.8. While some of this is defenses having to respect the threat of Tre Ford, most of it is just the offensive line just playing better. RT Brett Boyko is the standout with just three hurries allowed in those six games, but C Mark Korte is the second highest-graded centre over that span as well.
MONTREAL ALOUETTES VS. CALGARY STAMPEDERS
The Stampeders are on a 1-4 skid right now and desperately need a win to stay out of the basement of the West Division. The Alouettes are coming off two straight losses to the league-leading Toronto Argonauts, but they can build off a very good effort they put in last week.
MATCHUP TO WATCH: LT NICK CALLENDER, MONTREAL VS. EDGE JULIAN HOWSARE, CALGARY
The last time these two met, they matched up 14 times. Howsare won four of those matchups, which is a good rate for an edge rusher. Nevertheless, he only recorded one hurry off those wins. It’s been a good pass-rushing season for Howsare overall, as he ranks sixth in grade (83.6) and eighth in pressures (49). Will he be able to find success against Callender? With a 72.5 season grade, Callender is the top-graded left tackle in the CFL, but he has had some off games when it comes to pass blocking. His 96.0 pass-blocking efficiency score ranks seventh among left tackles (minimum 300 snaps). If Howsare can turn some of those pass rush wins into sacks or hits, it could change this game.
PLAYER TO WATCH: WR KAION JULIEN-GRANT, MONTREAL
Julien-Grant returned from injury last week and had a quiet game. But if he can return to pre-injury form this week, that doesn’t bode well for Calgary. Julien-Grant is one of the most elusive slot receivers in the league. At the time of his injury, Julien-Grant ranked third in receiving grade (74.7) and third in receiving yards after contact (136). Despite missing six games, he still leads all CFL receivers with 20 missed tackles forced. When the ball is in his hands, there are few players that can do more damage. Look for Montreal to get him the ball any way they can and if Calgary struggles with tackling him, they could be in for a long night.
HAMILTON TIGER-CATS VS. TORONTO ARGONAUTS
This game is intriguing just for the fact that Toronto really has nothing to play for. The Argonauts have clinched first place in the East and the first-round bye that comes with it. They still have six games left with no byes, so you can bet that making sure the team is healthy come playoff time is their top priority. Expect QB Chad Kelly (league-leading 91.2 season grade) and RB A.J. Ouellette (90.2, third overall) to play but perhaps not the entire game. Meanwhile, Hamilton has a chance to move into second place in the East after winning three of their last four games.
MATCHUP TO WATCH: LT BRANDON REVENBERG, HAMILTON VS. EDGE FOLARIN ORIMOLADE, TORONTO
With usual LT Joel Figueroa getting injured last week and not practicing all week, it seems likely that Revenberg will slide back out to left tackle. This could be big for Hamilton when it comes to stopping Orimolade. In the three games they’ve played against each other already, Orimolade has recorded three sacks and a ridiculous 18 total pressures. But none of those came against Revenberg. In fact, he only won one pass-rush snap in 18 attempts against Revenberg in those games. Orimolade is third in the league with 56 total pressures this season, but Revenberg is the second-highest graded pass blocker in the CFL with a 79.2 grade. If he can slow down Orimolade, that could be the spark Hamilton needs to finally get a win against Toronto.
PLAYER TO WATCH: RB JAMES BUTLER, HAMILTON
Butler is one of the top running backs in the CFL, there’s no doubt about it. His 90.4 rushing grade ranks fourth in the league. But it’s his elusiveness that’s so impressive. Butler has forced 66 missed tackles this season and is averaging an impressive 3.6 yards after contact, despite getting hit, on average, after only one yard. It’s the lowest yards before contact per carry average among all RBs. He makes things happen despite an offensive line that struggles to block the run. If Hamilton can get even a little bit of a push up front, Butler could explode for a massive game. That would really help the Tiger-Cats so they don’t solely have to rely on rookie QB Taylor Powell to lead them against the league’s best team.