CFL Week 19 Preview: BC Lions face Hamilton Tiger-Cats in a clash between two playoff teams

2RH1AND Vancouver, Canada. 12th Aug, 2023. B.C. Lions' Woody Baron, left, tackles Calgary Stampeders' Ka'Deem Carey during the second half of a CFL football game, in Vancouver, on Saturday, August 12, 2023. Credit: The Canadian Press/Alamy Live News

BC’s Woody Baron can make big impact up the middle: The interior defender has seven sacks and 46 total pressures this season. That’s tied for the second-most pressures among all interior linemen in the CFL.

• S Marc-Antoine Dequoy having All-Star season for Alouettes: His 90.3 season grade trails only QBs Chad Kelly and Vernon Adams Jr. He ranks near the top of the league in almost every coverage stat and grade category.

• Since Week 12, few RBs better than Redblacks Devonte Williams: He’s gained a league-high 71.5% of his yards after first contact in that span. That is due to his ridiculous 43 missed tackles forced over that span, which is the most in the league by a large amount (second place has 26).

Estimated reading time: 9 minutes 

WR:CB Matchup Chart


BRITISH COLUMBIA LIONS VS. HAMILTON TIGER-CATS

While both of these teams have clinched playoff spots, this game is still very meaningful. For the Lions, a win means they still have a slim chance of finishing first in the West Division and that all-important first-round bye. It’s also a chance for QB Vernon Adams Jr. to add to his growing Most Outstanding Player award resume. Adams is second in the CFL with a 90.8 overall grade and leads the league with 39 big-time throws.  Across from them will be a Hamilton team that needs to avoid a loss if it wants any chance of hosting the East Division semifinal game. Look for Hamilton to try to control the clock and keep BC’s potent offense off the field with a heavy dose of RB James Butler. The running back is second in the CFL with 82 total missed tackles forced.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: LG BRANDON REVENBERG, HAMILTON VS. DI WOODY BARON, BRITISH COLUMBIA

While edge rusher Mathieu Betts gets the attention for this BC defense, Baron's play should not be overlooked. The interior defender has seven sacks and 46 total pressures this season. That’s tied for the second-most pressures among all interior linemen in the CFL. He’s no slouch in the run game either, but he’ll have his work cut out for him this week against the CFL's highest-graded offensive lineman in Revenberg (77.5 season grade). The left guard has allowed pressure on just 3.5% of his snaps, one of the best marks in the league. If Revenberg can handle Baron, the Tiger-Cats can look to send help elsewhere and really shut down this vaunted BC Lions’ pass rush.

PLAYER TO WATCH: QB BO LEVI MITCHELL, HAMILTON

It’s been a tough season for the veteran star Mitchell. Injured multiple times, and when he has played, he has not looked good. It seems as though he’ll be the starting quarterback going into the playoffs. But if Hamilton wants success, it will need better play from him. In his limited snaps this season, he has a 49.6 passing grade, the lowest big-time throw rate (1.9%) and by far the highest turnover-worthy play rate (12.3%, second worst is only 5.0%). Last week he looked OK, as he led the Tiger-Cats to an early touchdown, but he also threw a pass that should have been intercepted and then took a safety with an ill-advised endzone throwaway. With talented QB Matthew Shiltz (69.9 passing grade, 12 big-time throws, five turnover-worthy plays) sitting behind him, Mitchell will need a big game to prove that he deserves to keep his starting job going into the playoffs.


SASKATCHEWAN ROUGHRIDERS VS. CALGARY STAMPEDERS

This is the one game this week with big playoff implications. A Saskatchewan win means it clinches a playoff spot. A Calgary win pulls it to within one win of Saskatchewan, with the tiebreaker. Saskatchewan is currently in the midst of a freefall after losing five straight games. Calgary is coming into this game on a three-game losing streak. Something will have to give in this one. The game will likely come down to which quarterback steps up for their team. For Saskatchewan, QB Jake Dolegala has really been struggling lately, putting up a 57.0 passing grade over the past three games. For Calgary, QB Jake Maier has been very up and down this season. He has five games with a 75.0-plus grade but also five games with a grade below 60.0. If good Maier shows up, this could be a big win for Calgary.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: LT D’ANTNE DEMERY, CALGARY VS. EDGE ANTHONY LANIER II, SASKATCHEWAN

Lanier is having a fantastic season. He ranks fourth with an 85.3 pass-rush grade. His 10.4 pass rush productivity score ranks second. His 19.8% pass rush win rate is the best in the league. But he might have met his kryptonite in Demery. The big tackle has matched up with Lanier on 14 pass rushes this season and hasn’t lost a single one. The same can be said about him in the run game as well. Demery is batting 1.000 against Lanier despite all the pass rusher’s success this season. Can he do it again? If he can’t and Lanier is allowed to get after the quarterback, it’ll be tough for Calgary’s offense to overcome.

PLAYER TO WATCH: RB KA’DEEM CAREY, CALGARY

With Calgary missing top RB Dedrick Mills (92.2 rushing grade, tied for first) and star WR Reggie Begelton (77.7 receiving grade, ranks third), much of the load is likely to fall to Carey. Last year’s top running back has been dealing with injuries this season, but this game is a perfect chance for him to get back on track. Carey is averaging 0.28 missed tackles forced per attempt and 0.16 explosive runs per attempt. Both of those are down from last year’s marks of 0.36 and 0.22 respectively. His rushing grade this year is a respectable 83.5 but a far cry from last season’s 93.7. For Calgary to win this game, it will need a throwback game from Carey where he reminds everyone just why he was the top RB in the CFL last season.


MONTREAL ALOUETTES VS. EDMONTON ELKS

With the loss last week, Edmonton no longer has anything to play for other than their own pride. After an 0-8 start, the Elks have gone 4-4 since switching to QB Tre Ford (83.3 season grade, fifth-ranked quarterback). Finishing the year with a winning record under Ford has to be on the Elks' minds going into this one. For Montreal, a win guarantees them a home playoff game against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. QB Cody Fajardo stepped up big time last week with a 79.4 game grade, his highest since Week 3. Look for a big game from WR Austin Mack, the sixth-highest-graded receiver in the CFL this year at 73.7. He only saw three targets last week but averages over eight per game this season.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: WR EUGENE LEWIS, EDMONTON VS. CB KABION ENTO, MONTREAL

It hasn’t quite been the All-Star season that many were expecting from Lewis. The receiver has broken 100 yards just twice this season, missed time with an injury, and his 70.2 receiving grade ranks 14th in the CFL. Not bad by any means but not quite the level of past seasons. Nonetheless, he’s still incredibly dangerous and a threat to go all the way whenever he’s on the field. He’ll see a lot of the impressive rookie Ento in this game. Ento has allowed a lot of yards this season (558, eighth most in the league), but he makes up for it by breaking up passes. His 12.3% forced incompletion rate is near the top of the league for outside corners. Shutting down a player of Lewis’s caliber would be very impressive for Ento.

PLAYER TO WATCH: S MARC-ANTOINE DEQUOY, MONTREAL

Forget just safeties, Dequoy is one of the best players at any position in the CFL. His 90.3 season grade trails only QBs Chad Kelly and Vernon Adams Jr. He ranks near the top of the league in almost every coverage stat and grade category. His six interceptions are impressive, three of which he’s returned for a touchdown, but he’s also broken up eight other passes and allowed just one touchdown all season. Dequoy is also as sure a tackler as there is in the CFL, with just seven missed tackles on 76 tackle attempts. Dequoy’s range and ballhawk skills make him a must-watch every time the other team drops back to pass.


OTTAWA REDBLACKS VS. TORONTO ARGONAUTS

The first true “nothing to play for” game of this CFL season. The Argonauts have locked up first place in the East and are just looking to get clean, healthy reps as they prepare for their Grey Cup run. Ottawa was officially eliminated last week and now will just look to finish the season on a high note. At one point, Ottawa QB Dustin Crum graded at the top of the league among quarterbacks. He’s really fallen back down to earth in the past two games, where he has just a 56.1 passing grade. He’ll need to step up if he wants to keep up with these Argonauts. For Toronto, it remains to be seen how much playing time its top stars will get, if any. Don’t be surprised if there’s a lot of QB Cameron Dukes in this game as the team tries to keep star QB Chad Kelly healthy going into the playoffs.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: RT DONTAE BULL, OTTAWA VS. EDGE FOLARIN ORIMOLADE, TORONTO

It hasn’t been a great season for the rookie right tackle. He’s currently the lowest-graded offensive lineman in the league at just 36.5 overall and a tough 14.5 pass block grade. Bull has allowed 25 total pressures and has been beaten on over 20% of his pass block snaps. This bodes well for star edge rusher Orimolade. He ranks fifth on the season with a pass rush grade of 83.8 and has 63 total pressures (fourth-most). His 15.9% pass rush win rate is one of the best marks in the league. He should have a field day against Bull and could make it a long night for Ottawa QB Crum.

PLAYER TO WATCH: RB DEVONTE WILLIAMS, OTTAWA

Williams got off to a slow start this season, but he’s been on fire over the second half. Since Week 12, Williams is the third highest-graded RB at 85.1. He’s gained a league-high 71.5% of his yards after first contact in that span. That is due to his ridiculous 43 missed tackles forced over that span, which is the most in the league by a large amount (second place has 26). With Ottawa’s pass game struggling lately, look for a big dose of Williams in this one. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him force double digit missed tackles.

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