CFL Week 5 Preview: Alouettes vs Lions an exciting matchup between two good teams

2RAFRBF OTTAWA, ON - JUNE 30: Edmonton Elks wide receiver Maurice Ffrench (88) celebrates a touchdown during Canadian Football League action between the Edmonton Elks and Ottawa Redblacks on June 30, 2023, at TD Place at Lansdowne Park in Ottawa, ON, Canada. (Photo by Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire) (Icon Sportswire via AP Images)

• Edmonton Elks need big game from Maurice Ffrench: With star WR Eugene Lewis placed on the six-game injured list, the rookie Ffrench got his first career start last week and was immediately Edmonton’s most targeted receiver. He stepped up and delivered a very good performance, grading out at 72.4 for the game.

• Calgary needs Jake Maier to step up: He’s an accurate QB who may not push it deep often but will make up for it by not making bad or dangerous throws. When he’s off though, it’s the lack of a deep ball combined with bad throws. Maier’s 56.4 passing grade ranks ninth (out of 12 quarterbacks that have played at least one game this season), and Calgary needs him to be better if they want to win this game.

• Can Jeremiah Masoli recreate his pre-injury production?: Last year at the time of his injury, he was the second-highest-graded quarterback. He had eight big-time throws against just two turnover-worthy plays. His average depth of target led the league. If that QB comes back, the Redblacks have a chance to do some damage this year.

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes


With the clock ticking down to another exciting weekend of Canadian football, here is PFF's CFL Week 5 preview, highlighting the must-watch matchups and players set to shine on the field.

EDMONTON ELKS VS. SASKATCHEWAN ROUGHRIDERS

The Elks were hoping to turn things around this season but thus far, they haven’t looked like they are capable of doing much of that. Their QB carousel continues, with Taylor Cornelius returning to the starting role after a roller-coaster performance from Jarret Doege last week (59.9 passing grade, four big-time throws and four turnover-worthy plays). The Roughriders are coming off a big overtime win the week before last week’s bye and will be looking to build off it. QB Trevor Harris has been finding his groove and will look to increase his current season passing grade of 70.0 in this one.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: WR MAURICE FFRENCH, EDMONTON VS. HB ROLAN MILLIGAN, SASKATCHEWAN

With star WR Eugene Lewis placed on the six-game injured list, the rookie Ffrench got his first career start last week and was immediately Edmonton’s most targeted receiver. He stepped up and delivered a very good performance, grading out at 72.4 for the game. He’ll need to have another good game for the Elks to have a chance in this one. He’ll be going up against Milligan, who’s coverage grade is sitting above average at 73.6. Quarterbacks targeting Milligan have a rating of just 42.2 this season, so having a big game against him is easier said than done.

PLAYER TO WATCH: RB JAMAL MORROW, SASKATCHEWAN

Morrow can help the Roughriders control this game if he can take advantage of an Elks run defense that ranks at the bottom of the CFL. Morrow’s 77.9 rushing grade is fifth in the league among RBs. He’s a running back who is almost guaranteed to pick up yards every time he touches the ball, as evidenced by his 7.1% stuff rate (percentage of carries that result in no gain or loss). He also ranks third in the league in missed tackle rate (0.29 per attempt). This could be a difference maker, as the Elks defense leads the league with 43 total missed tackles.


CALGARY STAMPEDERS VS. WINNIPEG BLUE BOMBERS

Two weeks into the season, this Bombers offense looked unstoppable. Since then, they’ve put up just 20 points in two games and don’t look the same. Much of that falls to the play of star QB Zach Collaros, who graded out at 91.2 overall through the first two weeks but just 65.8 over the past two. He’ll have to do it against a Calgary pass defense that ranks among the best in the league. But more important than coverage will be Calgary’s pass rush finding success. That’s something they’ve struggled to do this season, recording pressure on just 28.2% of opponent’s dropbacks (the third-lowest rate in the CFL).

MATCHUP TO WATCH: LT STANLEY BRYANT, WINNIPEG VS. EDGE JULIAN HOWSARE, CALGARY

While Bryant may not be having the dominant season he’s had for so many years in the past, he’s still tough as nails and one of the best left tackles in the CFL. He’s allowed just one sack this year, but his nine total pressures allowed is tied for the fourth-most in the league. He’ll be seeing a lot of Howsare, Calgary’s top pass-rusher. Howsare leads the Stamps with eight total pressures but no sacks yet. The Stampeders will need him to start getting home if they want to throw off this Winnipeg passing attack.

PLAYER TO WATCH: QB JAKE MAIER, CALGARY

After a tough Week 1 performance, Maier really stepped it up in Week 2 and looked to be trending upward. That only lasted one game, however, as he fell back to his old problems in their Week 3 loss. When Maier is on his game, he’s an accurate QB who may not push it deep often but will make up for it by not making bad or dangerous throws. When he’s off though, it’s the lack of a deep ball combined with bad throws. Maier’s 56.4 passing grade ranks ninth (out of 12 quarterbacks that have played at least one game this season), and Calgary needs him to be better if they want to win this game.


OTTAWA REDBLACKS VS. HAMILTON TIGER-CATS

This game got a lot bigger with the announcement that Ottawa QB Jeremiah Masoli would start — his first one in over a full calendar year since he injured his leg. He’ll get to do it against his former team, a Tiger-Cats team trying to right the ship after three straight losses to open the season. They’ll be led once again by QB Matthew Shiltz, who struggled in his first start two weeks ago (49.4 passing grade). A big defensive performance, anchored by LB Jameer Thurman (69.2 overall grade), could be the key to a Hamilton victory.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: WR D’HAQUILLE WILLIAMS, HAMILTON VS. HB DOUGLAS COLEMAN II, OTTAWA

Williams is one of the top WRs in the CFL so far this season, as his 73.6 receiving grade ranking fourth in the league. He leads the CFL in contested catches with four and ranks second in explosive receptions with 10. He’ll see a lot of Coleman, whose 86.3 coverage grade is the second-highest in the league. Coleman has only been targeted nine times in three games and has allowed just five catches for 43 yards. He’s given up one first down and has an interception to go along with two pass breakups. This is a battle between two of the best at their position, and the winner just might decide the entire game.

PLAYER TO WATCH: QB JEREMIAH MASOLI, OTTAWA

In this game, there’s no more important player to watch than Masoli. The Redblacks have not had any luck with their backup quarterbacks so far this year. They need Masoli to come in and at least be serviceable if they want to compete for the rest of the season. But it’s been over a full year since Masoli played any CFL football. Last year at the time of his injury, he was the second-highest-graded quarterback. He had eight big-time throws against just two turnover-worthy plays. His average depth of target led the league. If that QB comes back, the Redblacks have a chance to do some damage this year.


MONTREAL ALOUETTES VS. BRITISH COLUMBIA LIONS

This promises to be an exciting game between two teams looking to bounce back from their first loss of the season a week ago. The Alouettes will look to continue to lean on an impressive defense that ranks among the league’s best in multiple categories, led by players like HB Najee Murray (78.3 overall grade) and LB Avery Williams (77.1). The Lions are hoping to get a cleaner game out of QB Vernon Adams Jr. Last week, he was the lowest-graded quarterback (51.9) thanks to his six interceptions. If he plays like that against this Alouettes secondary, it’ll be another long night for him and the Lions offense.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: WR AUSTIN MACK, MONTREAL VS. CB GARRY PETERS, BRITISH COLUMBIA

There may be no bigger surprise this season than the emergence of rookie Mack. He is currently the third highest-graded WR in the CFL (75.2 receiving grade) and is near the top of almost every category. Nobody averages more yards per route run than Mack’s 3.40. However, he’ll face a huge test this week against CFL All-Star CB Peters (78.7 coverage grade), whose play has not dropped off at all this season, as he’s yet to allow a touchdown and leads the league with six forced incompletions (on top of his interception). Peters plays a very physical game and he’ll look to slow down the Mack hype train in this one.

PLAYER TO WATCH: EDGE MATHIEU BETTS, BRITISH COLUMBIA

The CFL record for sacks in a season is 26.5, set by James Parker in 1984. Betts is currently on pace for 31.5. If you look at PFF numbers, he’s on pace for 36, as we have him at eight sacks on the season so far. Betts has the best pass-rushing productivity score among pass rushers at 17.0 and leads the league with 23 total pressures. He affects the quarterback on over 25% of his pass rush snaps. Betts has been virtually unblockable this season and he could single-handedly take down this Alouettes passing game if he keeps playing at this level.

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