• Edmonton Elks attempt to break their losing streak: The Elks haven’t won a game in Edmonton since 2019. Nonetheless, they should have a decent chance against a Tiger-Cats team that just edged out the Redblacks last week for their first win of the season.
• Alouette's run defense will be key against the Argonauts: If LB Avery Williams (87.3 run defense grade) and his teammates can slow down this elite Toronto rushing attack (90.4 team rushing grade), they have a chance.
• Can Robertson Daniel provide an encore?: After his two-interception performance a week ago, all eyes are on what Daniel can do this week.
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
With the clock ticking down to another exciting weekend of Canadian football, here is PFF's CFL Week 6 preview, highlighting the must-watch matchups and players set to shine on the field.
HAMILTON TIGER-CATS VS. EDMONTON ELKS
It’s back to Edmonton this week for the Elks, who haven’t won a game there since 2019. Nonetheless, they should have a decent chance against a Tiger-Cats team that just edged out the Redblacks last week for their first win of the season. This sounds like a broken record, but if Edmonton wants to win, they need to figure out what to do with QB Taylor Cornelius. He’s penciled in as the starter right now but has been benched or sat multiple times this season already. He is currently our lowest-graded passer with a 40.5 passing grade. However, he leads all QBs with a 90.5 rushing grade. If the Elks can figure out a way to minimize his passing while taking advantage of his running skills, they could win this game.
MATCHUP TO WATCH: RB JAMES BUTLER, HAMILTON VS. LB NYLES MORGAN, EDMONTON
This is more of a Butler versus the entire Elks' run defense matchup. Butler’s raw numbers aren’t overly impressive, as he’s averaging just 3.9 yards per carry. However, he is averaging a mere 0.7 yards before contact. He’s getting hit almost immediately, so it’s impressive he’s only been stuffed on 12.0% of his runs. That’s largely thanks to his league-leading 16 missed tackles forced. This is a chance for him to pop off in a big way, as Morgan (49.7 run defense grade) and the Elks defense have really struggled against the run. They are the lowest-graded run defense and have missed a league-high 27 tackles.
PLAYER TO WATCH: QB MATTHEW SHILTZ, HAMILTON
Shiltz’s two starts this season could not have been more different. In his first game, he was slinging the ball, as his average depth of target (aDOT) was 13.4 yards, recorded multiple big-time throws (but also some turnover-worthy throws), and his adjusted completion percentage was just 60.9%. Last week though, those numbers were 6.1 aDOT and 82.6% adjusted completion rate. Which Shiltz are we going to get? He didn’t grade particularly well in either game. Conventional wisdom says somewhere in the middle is ideal. If he can find a way to push the ball downfield a bit more without losing too much accuracy, he’ll have a good game.
TORONTO ARGONAUTS VS. MONTREAL ALOUETTES
Montreal started off the year strong but have faltered in the last two weeks with tougher matchups. They’ve got their work cut out for them if they want to stop the skid, as the Argonauts look like a juggernaut this season. Their defense has been one of the best in the league, and their offense leads the league in scoring. Does Montreal have what it takes to stop them? If LB Avery Williams (87.3 run defense grade) and his teammates can slow down this elite Toronto rushing attack (90.4 team rushing grade), they have a chance.
MATCHUP TO WATCH: RG KRISTIAN MATTE, MONTREAL VS. DI DEWAYNE HENDRIX, TORONTO
Much has been made about Montreal’s pass-blocking woes, as the team is on pace to challenge for the sacks allowed record. However, there’s evidence that the offensive line is actually playing much better than the sacks allowed number would indicate. Matte is an example, as he has allowed zero sacks and just three total pressures. He’ll have his work cut out for him this week, though, as Hendrix has recorded two sacks and 14 total pressures in just two games played. If Matte and the Als offensive line can’t slow down Hendrix, it’ll be a long game.
If we add all those up, Montreal OL have only been beaten 47 times on 148 pass blocking snaps. That's the lowest percentage of any OL in the league at 6.35% (47 divided by 148*5 OL).
But 25.5% of those times they were beaten, resulted in sacks, the highest percentage by far.
— Bryson Vesnaver (@PFF_Bryson) July 12, 2023
PLAYER TO WATCH: HB ROBERTSON DANIEL, TORONTO
After a three-interception game his last time out, everyone is waiting to see how Daniel will follow it up. His play in the two previous games would indicate that the pervious game wasn’t just a fluke. Daniel is PFF's highest-graded coverage player at 88.7, and he hasn’t allowed a touchdown while averaging just 7.5 yards allowed per target. He’s been no slouch against the run either, grading out at a very respectable 75.5. Daniel can do it all, and he could single-handedly ruin Montreal’s offense with another big game.
WINNIPEG BLUE BOMBERS VS. OTTAWA REDBLACKS
Last week was more than just a tough loss for the Redblacks. What was supposed to be the exciting return of star QB Jeremiah Masoli ended in disaster, as he ruptured his Achilles in the second quarter. With Masoli and backup Tyrie Adams both done for the year, the Redblacks will turn to QB Dustin Crum as their starter. He’ll be going up against a stout Winnipeg defense that is led by a trio of top pass-rushers in Willie Jefferson (78.2 pass-rush grade), Jackson Jeffcoat (77.4) and Celestin Haba (77.1).
MATCHUP TO WATCH: WR DALTON SCHOEN, WINNIPEG VS. HB DOUGLAS COLEMAN II, OTTAWA
Schoen may not be getting the attention he got during last year’s incredible season, but he’s been every bit as productive. He’s the fourth-highest-graded receiver in the league at 72.7 overall. He leads the league in first downs (18) and explosive receptions (14). Nonetheless, Coleman may be his biggest challenge yet, as he has allowed just three first downs in coverage and has surrendered zero explosive plays. He’s broken up four passes, and his coverage grade of 80.3 is fourth in the league.
PLAYER TO WATCH: QB DUSTIN CRUM, OTTAWA
Crum played admirably in relief last week, but it’s a lot to ask of a young quarterback to jump into a game like that and play well. He’ll benefit from a full week of preparation. Crum was a fantastic dual-threat college quarterback at Kent State and was the 19th-highest-graded QB over the span of 2019-21. If Crum can bring some of his legs (90.4 rushing grade in his 2021 college season) and avoid making the mistakes he made last week (two turnover-worthy throws), he could surprise some people.
CALGARY STAMPEDERS VS. SASKATCHEWAN ROUGHRIDERS
Before the season started, one might have guessed that these teams’ records would be reversed at this point in the year. Nevertheless, Calgary has disappointed their way to a 1-3 record due to a struggling passing game and a defense that struggles to get pressure. Meanwhile, Saskatchewan has already won half as many games as they won all last season. Signing QB Trevor Harris has paid off in a big way, as he’s currently the second-highest graded passer in the league with a 77.7 passing grade. Calgary will need to slow him down if they want to come out on top of this one.
MATCHUP TO WATCH: LT BRYCE BELL, CALGARY VS. ED ANTHONY LANIER II, SASKATCHEWAN
The caveat with this matchup is that Bell may not be playing left tackle. He started there last week but has also played at RT and LG this season. Nonetheless, assuming he starts at tackle, he’ll see a lot of snaps against Lanier. Bell has given up eight total pressures, and his 95.1 pass-blocking efficiency score is among the lowest in the league. That’s music to Lanier’s ears, as he leads the league with an 83.0 pass-rush grade. He has 22 total pressures and wins 26.1% of his pass-rushing snaps, the highest in the league among defensive linemen.
PLAYER TO WATCH: RB DEDRICK MILLS, CALGARY
In the Week 2 preview, Mills was listed as a player to watch, as he was the replacement for injured star RB Ka’Deem Carey. He’s back in this spot because he’s proven that he’s more than just a replacement. Mills has been the best RB in the CFL so far this season and boasts an impressive 85.9 rushing grade. He averages forcing a missed tackle every 2.9 carries, which also leads CFL RBs. His nine explosive runs (10-plus-yard runs) also lead the league. Mills has done a good job taking pressure off the Calgary passing offense with his rushing. Now, they just need to capitalize.