CFL Week 7 Preview: Argonauts vs. Tiger-Cats a top matchup between two good teams

2R82Y5T Toronto, Canada. 18th June, 2023. Toronto Argonauts quarterback Chad Kelly (12) celebrates after scoring during first half CFL action against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in Toronto on Sunday, June 18. Credit: The Canadian Press/Alamy Live News

• Elks and Blue Bombers attempting to get on track: After a major collapse last week against the Ottawa Redblacks, one would have to assume that the Blue Bombers will come out firing in this one. That doesn’t bode well for the 0-6 Elks, who struggled once again last week.

• Argonauts and Tiger-Cats are both riding high: The Argonauts had their first tough game of the year last week and rose to the challenge when beating Montreal. The Tiger-Cats also looked great last week in their second-straight win

• All eyes on Chad Kelly: His performance last week pushed him up to the top, the highest-graded CFL player this season at 90.4 overall. Everyone knew Kelly could make plays with his legs, so it’s no surprise his 87.0 rushing grade ranks second in the league.

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes


With the clock ticking down to another exciting weekend of Canadian football, here is PFF's CFL Week 7 preview, highlighting the must-watch matchups and players set to shine on the field.


EDMONTON ELKS VS. WINNIPEG BLUE BOMBERS

After a major collapse last week against the Ottawa Redblacks, one would have to assume that the Blue Bombers will come out firing in this one. That doesn’t bode well for the 0-6 Elks, who struggled once again last week. It appears that the Elks will be sticking with QB Taylor Cornelius as their starter again this week. Cornelius actually played his best game of the season last week, but even that was marred by his incredibly poor decision that led to the Hamilton pick-six. This Winnipeg defense has playmakers all over, and its CB duo of Demerio Houston (70.4 coverage grade) and Abu Daramy-Swaray (68.9 coverage grade) are going to make it very difficult for Cornelius and the Elks offense. On the other side of the ball, the Bombers get star WR Kenny Lawler back.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: LT MARTEZ IVEY, EDMONTON VS. ED WILLIE JEFFERSON, WINNIPEG

Ivey has taken over the left tackle position for the injured Andrew Garnett and has performed adequately in that role. Ivey has yet to allow a sack or a hit, although he has surrendered 10 pressures. He’ll have his work cut out for him this week if he wants to keep that sack number at zero. Jefferson has six sacks and a league-leading 31 total pressures this season. He also has an incredible five batted passes already this season. Those are all big reasons why he’s the fourth-highest-graded pass-rusher off the edge this season at 78.7. If Ivey can’t slow him down, Jefferson could wreck this game himself.

PLAYER TO WATCH: RB BRADY OLIVEIRA, WINNIPEG

A common trend when facing the Elks is to run the ball, and then run the ball some more. The Elks defense is the lowest-graded run defense in the CFL (46.4 team grade) thanks largely in part to a 20.7% missed tackle rate. Oliveira doesn’t force a ton of missed tackles (averages one missed tackle every 7.8 attempts), but he runs hard. He’s been stopped for no gain or less just seven times this season despite rushing the ball a league-high 86 times. Oliveira is also one of the most dangerous pass-catching RBs in the CFL, with a 73.0 receiving grade (second in the CFL). Don’t be surprised if Oliveira ends this game with over 25 total touches on offense.


TORONTO ARGONAUTS VS. HAMILTON TIGER-CATS

No team looks better all-around than the Toronto Argonauts. The CFL’s only unbeaten team had their first tough game of the year last week and rose to the challenge when beating Montreal. The Tiger-Cats also looked great last week in their second-straight win, but it came at a cost. QB Matthew Shiltz, who was having himself a fantastic game (83.4 passing grade), was injured and will be out long-term. With QB Bo Levi Mitchell still injured, this game will fall to third-string QB Taylor Powell, who threw a touchdown on his first-ever CFL pass last week. However, performing against this Argos defense is a whole other story.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: QB TAYLOR POWELL, HAMILTON VS. HB ROBERTSON DANIEL, TORONTO

This might seem odd, calling a quarterback against defensive halfback a matchup. But with the way Toronto uses Daniel, it’s exactly that. Daniel can line up at basically any position and is effective no matter what. He’ll roam around in coverage and read the quarterback’s eyes before making a play on the ball, as evidenced by his three interceptions and three additional pass breakups. He’s also great at taking away the quarterback’s check-down option. Powell is going to need to avoid falling into the CFL’s highest-graded defender’s traps if he wants to have a successful first start.

PLAYER TO WATCH: QB CHAD KELLY, TORONTO

After his game last week, all eyes should be on Kelly. His performance last week pushed him up to the top, the highest-graded CFL player this season at 90.4 overall. Everyone knew Kelly could make plays with his legs, so it’s no surprise his 87.0 rushing grade ranks second in the league. However, it’s his passing that is turning heads. His 75.5% adjusted completion percentage ranks second in the league, as does his 9.4% big-time throw percentage. That adjusted rate is all the more impressive considering 24.5% of his pass attempts have been deep throws (20-plus yards downfield). He’s pushing the ball downfield while still being accurate. If he can keep this up, he should keep leading the Argos to wins.


SASKATCHEWAN ROUGHRIDERS VS. BRITISH COLUMBIA LIONS

The Roughriders found themselves in the wildest game of a wild week last week, losing on a final-play field goal after taking the lead on a deflected Hail Mary catch and run. But it was more than just a loss in the standings, as the Roughriders also lost legendary QB Trevor Harris to injury. With him out long-term, they’ll turn to QB Mason Fine to lead the way against a very strong BC Lions defense. The Lions were on a bye week, but they’ll be looking to get back to their winning ways. The Riders need to find an answer for EDGE Mathieu Betts, who leads the CFL with a 14.9 pass-rushing productivity score and is on pace to beat the CFL single-season sack record.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: WR KEON HATCHER, BRITISH COLUMBIA VS. HB DEONTAI WILLIAMS, SASKATCHEWAN

He’s only been back for two games, but Hatcher already ranks third in the CFL with five contested catches. He has six explosive receptions (16th in CFL) and is averaging 2.59 yards per route run (second in CFL). He’s been a go-to for BC QB Vernon Adams Jr., and that shouldn’t be any different this week. The task of slowing him down will fall to Williams, who has been up to the challenge so far this season. His 73.2 coverage grade ranks 16th among all CFL defenders this season. He’s yet to allow a touchdown and has an interception and three pass breakups. If he can slow down Hatcher, the Riders have a chance.

PLAYER TO WATCH: CB NICK MARSHALL, SASKATCHEWAN

There hasn’t been an outside corner as dominant as Marshall has been to start the season. He effectively shuts off his side of the field when he’s in coverage. Marshall is currently the second-highest-graded defender in the league at 85.2 overall. He’s allowed just five catches on 15 targets this season for a mere 83 yards. He has two interceptions (and has dropped two other would-be interceptions) and has broken up three other passes. Quarterbacks targeting him have a rating of 35.6, which is the lowest mark in the league. Not bad for a former college quarterback.


OTTAWA REDBLACKS VS. CALGARY STAMPEDERS

What a Saturday it was for both of these teams last week. First, it was the Redblacks, going into the fourth quarter down 25-6 and fighting all the way back to a 31-28 overtime win. Then the Stampeders looked as though they had lost after surrendering a 69-yard Hail Mary touchdown on third down with under a minute left. But they marched down the field and won the game on a 50-yard field goal on the game’s final play. For Ottawa, QB Dustin Crum looked fantastic in his first start, finishing with an 84.2 overall grade (third in the CFL last week). QB Jake Maier also looked good for Calgary, finishing with a 77.6 grade. This game just might come down to which of these quarterbacks has the better game.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: RG JACOB RUBY, OTTAWA VS. DI MIKE ROSE, CALGARY

There are few interior defenders in the CFL that can rush the passer like Mike Rose. He ranks sixth among all defenders this season with a 79.9 pass-rush grade. His seven sacks are second in the league, and he has an additional eight hurries. He’ll line up across from Ruby a lot in this game and that could be a matchup that he enjoys. Ruby has allowed three sacks, six hits and seven additional pressures in pass protection. His 37.9 pass-blocking grade is the lowest on the Ottawa offensive line. If he can’t step up and slow down Rose, there’s going to be a lot of pressure coming up the middle at QB Crum.

PLAYER TO WATCH: QB DUSTIN CRUM, OTTAWA

What a fourth quarter it was for Crum last week. Through three quarters, he had played as many expected him to. Not overly accurate throwing the ball, not particularly pushing the ball downfield. But a switch flipped in that fourth. He went from an adjusted completion percentage of 61.9% in the first three quarters to 84.2% in the fourth quarter. He started throwing past the sticks more and, of course, had his huge scrambles for touchdowns. Crum is a dangerous runner, having forced nine missed tackles on 12 scrambles this season. But this game may tell if that fourth-quarter passing performance was a product of a sagging Winnipeg defense, or if it really was Crum figuring things out.

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