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CFL 2023: Toronto Argonauts (14-2) @ Saskatchewan Roughriders (6-11) Preview/Prediction

In the penultimate week of the CFL 2023 Regular Season. The Toronto Argonauts are playing for history, while the Saskatchewan Roughriders are playing for their playoff lives.

CFL 2023 Week 20 Preview: Toronto Argonauts (14-2) @ Saskatchewan Roughriders (6-11), Saturday, October 21st, Mosaic Stadium, 4 PM EDT, TSN/RDS/CFL+

Nearly two months ago, the then 6-5 Saskatchewan Roughriders were coming off back-to-back victories over two of the CFL’s best teams: the BC Lions and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

When the smoke settled on Labour Day. The Riders were riding high, looking like a legit dark horse candidate for this year’s Grey Cup.

Six straight losses later, the now 6-11 Roughriders are looking like the least deserving CFL playoff contender in recent memory.

Saskatchewan hasn’t been the same since they suffered a demoralizing 51-6 beat down at the hands of a vengeful Blue Bombers squad in the Banjo Bowl.

The fact that the Riders still have a chance to make the playoffs at this point is miraculous. But they are going to need to best a Toronto Argonauts team that topped them 31-13 at TD Atlantic in August.

The question is, what version of the Argonauts will the Riders see on Saturday afternoon?

In the club’s historic 150th season. The 2023 version of the Toronto Argonauts has a chance to make history in their final two games of its regular season.

The Boatmen can net the franchise’s best-ever record at 16-2, topping the 15-3 regular season mark set by the 1996 and 1997 Argos.

But at what cost are the Argonauts willing to go to add two extra cherries on top of what has been a magnificent defence of last year’s Grey Cup title. A championship they won in Saskatchewan eleven months ago.

Can the Boatmen have their cake and eat it too? After all, the main objective for Toronto is getting to the East Final in top form, completely rested and healthy, before they try to earn another trip to the biggest game.

It’s quite possible that the Double Blue will continue to partially play exhibition-style football by pulling starters in midstream of Saturday’s game. That may not be a pleasing decision for the Calgary Stampeders, who are looking to steal a playoff spot. But it could prove to be the ray of sunshine that has eluded Saskatchewan since the late days of summer.

CFL Week 20: Toronto Argonauts @ Saskatchewan Roughriders Game Notes

The Betting Line: The Toronto Argonauts are 9.5-point road favorites. The point total is set at 51.5.

Toronto owns a three-game winning streak versus Saskatchewan, including this year’s Touchdown Atlantic in Halifax.

The Riders are trying to avoid going 6-12 for the second straight season in a row. They are also trying to avoid missing the playoffs for the second consecutive season—something Saskatchewan hasn’t done since their two-year swoon in 2015/2016.

  • Breakout star Riders WR Shawn Bane Jr. is looking to rise to his first-ever 1,000-yard season. Bane is currently at 968 yards.
  • Toronto recorded a season-high nine sacks last week versus Ottawa, tying a franchise record set in 1984. In their past two games, the Argos have 14. ​
  • With two games remaining, the Argos are one sack from tying the team record of 64 set in 1987.
  • The Argonauts have nine players with 4+ sacks:
    • 9 | Folarin Orimolade
    • 8 | Brandon Barlow
    • 6 | Dewayne Hendrix, Jonathan Jones, Shawn Oakman, and Robbie Smith
    • 5 | Adarius Pickett and Thomas Costigan
    • 4 | Wynton McManis
  • Toronto currently owns a +48 sack ratio (63 for and 15 allowed). Since sacks were first recorded in 1980, the best year-end ratio belongs to the 1988 Tiger-Cats at +47 (80 for and 33 allowed).
  • The Argos average 3.9 sacks per game; the league average is 2.6.
  • The team has recorded four or more sacks in eight games this season. 

Saskatchewan Roughriders Week 20 Depth Chart/Injury Report

Five players won’t be available for the Roughriders on Saturday, including defensive backs Jeremy Clark (knee) and Jaxon Ford (hamstring), alongside defensive linemen Jaylen Moody (knee) and Christian Albright (hip). Most notable is that Linebacker/DB Derrick Moncrief (shoulder/neck) is out.

Kicker Brett Lauther and defensive lineman Micah Johnson (illness) are both good to go.

Toronto Argonauts Week 20 Depth Chart/Injury Report

The Argos will be without standout offensive lineman Dejon Allen (leg), sack leading defensive end Folarin Orimolade (one-game), kicker/punter Boris Bede (healthy scratch). WR Cam Phillips (groin), and Defensive back Jamie Harry (Achilles) will also miss action on the one-game injured list.

The big shakeup this weekend is on special teams. With the ever versatile Boris Bede, who is having a career year not dressing. Global kicker Alfredo Lozada makes his CFL debut. Global Punter John Haggerty returns to the lineup after missing extensive time due to a knee injury.

Standout players, Wide receiver DaVaris Daniels (hamstring), running back AJ Ouellette (healthy scratch in Week 19), linebacker Jordan Williams (calf), and defensive back Jamal Peters (groin) are all available to play. The question is, how long will they?

CFL Week 20 Toronto Argonauts @ Saskatchewan Roughriders Game Keys/Prediction

This game is a matchup of a team that has perceivably checked out versus a team that might be in check-out mode for the playoffs.

If we get the latest versions of the Riders and Argos. On paper, this is a complete mismatch.

Toronto is first in the league in scoring at 33.4 points per game and second in points allowed at 21.8. By the same token, Saskatchewan is second to last in scoring at 21.2 and worst overall in points allowed at 30.7.

However, the last time these two teams met. Saskatchewan matched up well against Toronto. The final score of 31-13 in favor of the Argonauts was a misleading one.

The Roughriders delivered what was arguably the best defensive performance by any team against Toronto this season. They were ultra-aggressive, blitzing on early downs to stop the run, and played a two and three deep shell to prevent big plays down the field. It was an effective game plan.

The Argos mustered only 200 total yards of offence. Chad Kelly was 13 of 21 for 121 yards passing, throwing a single td and one interception. AJ Ouellette was held to 3.8 yards per carry and 34 yards rushing.

It was Toronto’s defence and special teams that seized the day with two goal-line stands, a pick-six, and a punt return touchdown by Javon Leake. Those four key plays made the difference for Double Blue.

Jason Shivers Riders’ defence has disintegrated since showing so much promise earlier this year. Can they get back to what they showed against Toronto in the Maritimes?

No matter what Argos offensive lineup they face for four quarters or how vanilla their approach is. Saskatchewan must deliver the type of effort they had on defence back at TD Atlantic if they want to salvage their season and potentially make the playoffs.

Toronto would love to jump on Saskatchewan early with big plays on all three phases and then go into cruise control late emptying out their bench for another matter-of-fact type victory. The Argonauts would love to pull their starters early in a comfortable position.

It’s a unique game they’ve been playing since they clinched up everything weeks ago. Toronto doesn’t really want to be tested. But I get the feeling that the Riders are going to push this one to the edge and could sneak a victory late against Toronto’s reserves.

Even in exhibition mode. The Argos are good enough to win against another team’s best, but I feel like a close game is at hand.

Prediction: Toronto Argonauts 26 Saskatchewan Roughriders 24

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Mike Mitchell Reporter
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