The BC Lions host the Saskatchewan Rough Riders on Friday night. The BC Lions are on a 3-game winning streak while the Saskatchewan Roughriders are on a 3-game losing streak. The Roughriders were victorious by a score of 34-29 when these two teams last met in week 11 in Regina.
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Date/Location: Friday, September 29 /BC Place, Vancouver, BC
Kickoff Time: 10:30 PM ET, 7:30 PM PT
Channel: TSN (Canada), CFL+ (USA, International)
Spread: BC -9.5 (-115), Saskatchewan +9.5 (-105)
Moneyline: BC -490, Saskatchewan +360
Over/Under: 48.5 (Over -115, Under -105)
BC Lions (10-4): BC Lions have won their last 3 games with wins coming against Montreal, Ottawa, and Edmonton. BC is coming off another strong defensive performance in which they held Edmonton to 219 total yards of offense. Heading into last week Tre Ford had 471 rushing yards in 6 games (78.5 per game) and BC held him to rushing 43 yards. Kevin Brown had rushed 19 times for 175 yards in the week before Edmonton played BC and the Lions held him to 18 yards on 6 carries.
Saskatchewan Roughriders (6-8): Saskatchewan has suffered losses to Winnipeg, Edmonton, and most recently Ottawa over their last 3 games. Saskatchewan’s most recent game was a 28-36 loss to the RedBlacks. The RedBlacks are a far better team than their 4-10 record would suggest as 12 of their games were decided in the final 3 minutes of the game heading into last week’s contest. Despite many members of Rider Nation feeling down on their team for losing to the 3-10 RedBlacks, Ottawa is also a team that nearly defeated BC in the week prior.
Lions Keys to the Game
Protect Vernon Adams Jr.
Last week Jake Ceresna generated 8 total pressures on passing plays for Edmonton against BC and A.C. Leonard generated 4. Saskatchewan has not been as effective as BC’s last two opponents in the pass-rushing regard as Saskatchewan is 8th in the CFL in sacks with 8. Saskatchewan will be without Anthony Lanier II who has had some very dominant performances and is tied for first in sacks for the team despite having played in only 8 games.
At this stage of the season, an injury to Vernon Adams Jr. could be catastrophic and in my opinion, would be more detrimental to the Lions’ Grey Cup chances than missing out on the bye would be. Despite the interceptions last week, Vernon Adams Jr. had the third-highest PFF passing grade.
Establish the Run
BC has been a pass-first and pass-second team this season. Last week it was positive to see Taquan Mizzell rush 16 times for 112 yards (7 on average) and 2 touchdowns. Mizzell averaged 43.5 yards per game over the 4 games prior to last week and averaged 4.14 yards per carry.
If Winnipeg wins the west and BC finds themselves traveling to Winnipeg having a strong running game is going to be crucial. A November 11, 5:30 PM local time kickoff in Winnipeg is likely going to have some cold weather impacting the passing game. November 19 in Hamilton is not exactly warm weather either.
The importance of run support to a Greay Cup run can not be over-emphasized.
Stop the Run
With Jamal Morrow being out again this week for the Roughriders Frankie Hickson will be getting the start at running back for the 2nd week in a row. Last week he rushed 9 times for 77 yards (8.6 yards per carry) against Ottawa.
Consistent Run Defense
The Lions have had a really good last 5 quarters of run defense. In the 4th quarter against Ottawa, the Lions contained Devonta Williams to 13 yards on 7 rushes. Last week against Ottawa Kevin Brown was limited to 18 yards on 6 carries.
From here on out everything is a tune-up game to get things in order to be playing football the right way. These games are important as the Lions are tied with the Blue Bombers for first in the West. I would go as far as to argue that the form of football being played towards the end of the season is more important than placement on the standings.
The pathway to a Grey Cup for BC would most likely include Winnipeg and Toronto for BC provided there are no upsets. As much as Zach Collaros and Chad Kelly are discussed from those teams, Toronto and Winnipeg are smash-mouth football teams that pound the rock. Toronto has the fewest pass attempts in the league and Winnipeg has the 2nd most rushing attempts.
Tight Pass Coverage
Last time the Lions played Saskatchewan Samuel Emilus made some amazing catches for the Riders. Tevin Jones has emerged this year as he leads Saskatchewan with 855 receiving yards. Shawn Bane Jr. has had a very strong year as well with 764 yards. Kian Schaffer-Baker is heating up as well after a slower start following a later start due to recovering from hip surgery.
BC has limited their opponents to just 7.5 yards per pass attempt which is the 2nd best in the CFL. It is important for the Lions’ defensive backs to stay disciplined and continue playing at a high level as every team that would currently make the playoffs if the season were to end today has a very talented receivers room.
5 Lions to Watch
QB Vernon Adams Jr.
Last week was Vernon Adams Jr.’s first game under 300 passing yards after a 6 game streak. The only other time a BC Lions quarterback had more than 4 300+ passing yard games in a row was Doug Flutie in 1991.
WR Dominique Rhymes
Rhymes will be suiting up for his first game after being on the 6-game injured list for 6 games due to a knee injury. Rhymes had 316 receiving yards and 5 touchdowns over 6 games prior to being on the injured list.
LB Ben Hladik
Hladik has a sack in each of the last 3 games. Hladik leads the team with 71 tackles.
DE Mathieu Betts
Mathieu Betts is closing in on the Canadian sack record of 17. Currently, he has 14 sacks over 14 games played.
K Sean Whyte
Whyte was 3 for 3 last week with his longest being a 40-yard field goal. He also made all 4 of his extra points. He is currently tied with Calgary’s Rene Paredes for first in special teams points with 146 points.
5 Roughriders to Watch
QB Jake Dolegala
Last week Dolegala completed 26 of his 37 passes for 279 yards and 2 touchdowns with 2 interceptions. So far this season Dolegala has completed 116 of his 185 passes (62.7%) for 1,377 yards and 9 touchdowns with 4 interceptions.
WR Kian Schaffer-Baker
Schaffer-Baker is coming off his best game of the season so far in which he caught 7 passes for 76 yards last week.
WR Tevin Jones
Jones leads the Roughriders in receiving yards with 855 over 62 catches and 3 touchdowns.
LB Larry Dean
Leads the team with 91 tackles. He had 12 tackles last week. If Dean reaches 100 tackles it will be the third time he has reached that mark in his career. There have only been 6 players to have 3 seasons with 100 tackles or more.
KR Mario Alford
Alford had his third punt return touchdown of the season last week returning one for 107 yards. He is now tied for most punt return touchdowns in a season by a Roughrider.
Injuries, Depth Chart Changes From Last Week:
Sukh Chungh is out with an ankle injury at right guard. Andrew Pierson will start at right guard in his place. Tyler Packer enters the lineup to provide depth to the offensive line.
Dane Evans is out due to a back injury. Chase Brice will dress as the third string quarterback with Dominique Davis being listed as the 2nd string this week.
Kienan LaFrance enters the lineup to start at fullback in place of David Mackie who is out with a knee injury.
Bo Lokombo is back in the lineup and is listed as a second-string linebacker after missing last week due to a rib injury. Maxime Royer is out this week with a groin injury.
Amir Siddiqi is moved to the practice roster after providing depth on the defensive line last week. Isaiah Messam is brought into the lineup listed as a third string linebacker this week.
Dominique Rhymes is back after missing 6 games due to a knee injury. Justin McInnis is listed as a second-string receiver this week. Daniel Petermann is listed on the 1 game injured list after being listed as a second-string receiver last week.
I predict the Lions to win this game 34-23.
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