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CFL Week 10: Ottawa Redblacks @ Toronto Argonauts Preview/Prediction

The East Division-leading Toronto Argonauts are back home at BMO Field on Wednesday Night. The Argos (4-3) will be squaring off with the Ottawa Redblacks (2-5). Technically, Double Blue will be seeing double games in Week 10, as they will turn around and face the Ti-Cats in Hamilton on Monday.

The 148-year old Toronto Argonauts club will host a 1991 championship celebration to honour the 30th anniversary of one of the most memorable teams in CFL history when they play host to the Ottawa REDBLACKS on Wednesday night at BMO Field.

  • The first 2,000 fans in attendance will receive a replica of the 1991 championship sweater.
  • A large group of the 1991 team will be in attendance and honoured at halftime of the game.
  • Throwback “A” helmet design will be worn by the Argos as an ode to the championship team.
  • 90’s themed content and activations at BMO Field throughout the game.

The 2021 version of the Toronto Argonauts hopes to find the same glory that their glorious 1991 team once did.

Ottawa Redblacks @ Toronto Argonauts Week 10 Preview

BetRegal, the CFL’s sponsored sportsbook, has the Argonauts as 8.5 point favorites at home versus the Redblacks. The point total for the game is a healthy 47 points.

Thanks to two quarterbacks on entirely different career trajectories, both Ottawa and Toronto are coming off of victories.

On one side, CFL rookie QB Caleb Evans stunned the world last week with a smashing debut, accumulating 250 total yards through the air and on the ground, with three touchdowns and zero interceptions, to help lead Ottawa to a 34-24 victory over the Edmonton Elks. Evans, the 23-year old Louisiana-Monroe standout, is out to prove that last week was no fluke.

On the other side, CFL veteran McLeod Bethel-Thompson will make his fourth start of the season for Toronto in place of the injured Nick Arbuckle. Antonio Pipkin will again dress as the team’s backup on the pivot, as Arbuckle has been deactivated due to a hamstring injury.

McLeod Bethel-Thompson is 2-1 as a starter this season for the Boatmen. MBT has completed 64 percent of his passes and thrown for 745 yards, five majors, and zero interceptions on the season. The veteran signal-caller, who led the CFL in touchdown passes in 2019, is getting a grand opportunity to potentially take hold of the Argos quarterback position for the rest of the 2021 season.

Toronto has had an up and down season but is undefeated at home thus far at 3-0. The Argos are looking to make a serious push towards the playoffs in the second half of their season. To do so, they will have to raise their standards to meet their expectations. A divisional game at home is their first significant test in proving if they are ready to meet that challenge.

Toronto Argonauts Week 10 Depth Chart/Injury Report

Some significant developments, as it pertains to the Toronto Argonauts starting lineup. And it’s not just at the quarterback position.

On offence, Starters, RB John White, G Dariusz Bladek, and WR Eric Rogers are out for Wednesday’s game.

As a result, the team is dressing only one running back. DJ Foster, one of the league’s best American rookies, will be tasked with making his first start and carrying the load for Toronto. It’s a risky move by the Argos coaching staff. If Foster were to be banged up, an emergency player would need to be inserted at tailback.

The team is dressing four fullbacks. So it’s possible that the versatile Declan Cross, rookie Dion Pellerin or CFL veteran Patrick Lavoie could seem some carries if the situation arises.

Chandler Worthy and Damon Jeanpiere are back in the starting lineup at the wide receiver position after making big plays for the team’s offence in Week 8 against Montreal. The two speedsters might be leaned upon again. Worthy and Bethel-Thompson have formed great chemistry, on and off the field, dating back to the 2019 season.

The Argos are still without Daniel Braverman and Juwan Brescasin, but they made some other news today when they surprisingly released NFL veteran Kendall Wright. From what I have been told, Wright struggled to assimilate to his short time in Canada. So both parties are moving on.

Philip Blake returns from injury and returns to his natural position at guard, while rookie standout Peter Nicastro remains at centre. Shane Richards, who had replaced Blake in the starting lineup, will need to step in for one of the Argos’ best players in Dariusz Bladek, who will miss Wednesday’s game.

On defence, rookie standout MLB Jack Cassar is being thrust into the starting lineup in place of Henoc Muamba, who is on the team’s six-game injured list with a hamstring injury. Fellow rookie and Carleton teammate Trevor Hoyte will back up Cassar in the middle of the defence. Cameron Judge (foot sprain) will be missing in action as well. Dexter McCoil will make his second straight start at linebacker.

Shane Ray is back after a hand injury put him on the shelf in week one. But the big news is that Ray is starting at the defensive end, with Charleston Hughes listed as a backup behind him. Travis Feeney is starting opposite of Ray. An intriguing development on the Argos’ defensive line.

Drake Nevis and Cordarro Law are making their debuts for Toronto also as backups. It’s possible that veterans like Nevis, Law and Hughes could be on a pitch count because the Argos are playing two games in five days.

Ottaw Redblacks Week 10 Depth Chart/Injury Report

All things considered, the Redblacks are relatively healthy going into this game. Like Toronto, Ottawa will be playing two games in five days. So the close proximity of these contests plays a factor in not only who plays but in how much certain veterans do play.

Ottawa will be without RB Justin Davis (knee), DL Ese Mrabure (hand), and DB Brad Muhammad (hamstring) when they head to Toronto for Wednesday night’s game. Former Argos’ standout pass rusher DT Cleyon Laing will suit up for the Redblacks after dealing with a hip injury all week.

Ottawa WR RJ Harris will also be active despite dealing with a hand injury. The Redblacks are getting healthier at the receiver spot. They recently added veteran wideout Kenny Stafford to their lineup to help fortify their group of pass-catchers.

Redblacks-Argonauts Matchups

Toronto’s Offence Versus Ottawa’s Defence

The Argonauts offence is ranked 4th overall in the CFL. But 6th in the league in points per game (19.1). The Boatmen are third in pass yards per game (276.7), fifth in rushing (89.6). It’s been a mixed bag all season for the Boatmen on offence.

Opposing offenses have viewed Ottawa’s defence as a cure-all this year. The Redblacks have given up the most touchdown passes in the league (13) and has allowed the second-most pass yards per game (287.3). Ottawa also has the worst rush defense in the CFL, allowing over 110 yards per game. Part of that has to do with the team falling behind in games, but they allow nearly 5 yards per run.

Expect Toronto to challenge Ottawa’s secondary down the field. Especially with 4.2 speedster Chandler Worthy and Damon Jeanpiere in the starting lineup. McLeod Bethel-Thompson has had success in his recent outings, stretching the field with deep shots, and the Redblacks should be alert for that in this game. The Redblacks give up 9.2 yards per pass play.

Toronto aims to jump Ottawa early and then force them to play from behind on the road. The Argos will need to execute early on offence to accomplish that. If they are successful, expect a heavy dose of DJ Foster with some designed runs for Antonio Pipkin sprinkled in.

Argonauts Defence Versus Ottawa’s Offence

Since Toronto’s shakeup on their defensive staff with the departures of coordinator Glen Young and defensive backs coach Joshua Bell, combined with the injuries to Henoc Muamba and Cameron Judge, the Argos defence has struggled mightily in recent weeks.

Chris Jones is on board with the Boatmen to right the ship. And this will be his unit’s first big step, coming off the team’s bye week.

In their last two games, Toronto’s rush defense allowed 182 yards on the ground to Saskatchewan and then 178 to Montreal. In two weeks, the Argos went from being the top team against the run in the CFL to 8th in the league.

Ottawa has ranked near the bottom of the league in every statistical category on offence. 7th in rushing per game and 8th in passing. But the inclusion of the mobile Caleb Evans may give the team’s offensive attack, and specifically its ground game, a boost.

Against Edmonton, Evans rushed for 59 yards on seven carries. His mobility also helped him evade pressure in the pocket against the Elks. The Argos have had struggles against running quarterbacks this season. Not only from the likes of Vernon Adams but also from players like Dane Evans and Cody Fajardo. So Evans’s escapability could present a problem for Toronto.

Very quietly, the Redblacks have some explosive players on offence. Kenny Stafford gave their receiving corps some experience and scored a major last week in his team debut. RJ Harris is coming off a solid game as well, leading Ottawa in receiving. But CFL newcomer Ryan Davis has shown good versatility, and he had solid chemistry with Caleb Evans a week ago, snagging five receptions for 67 yards and a score against the Elks.

Toronto needs to put Ottawa in second and long situations and use their crowd and pass rush to put pressure on the talented but inexperienced Caleb Evans.

Special Teams Matchup

This is where things can get a bit hairy for the Boatmen. Especially if this is a close game. Veteran Coordinator Bob Dyce is one of the league’s very best assistant coaches. Ottawa’s specialists, kicker Lewis Ward and punter Richie Leone, are solid performers. But the player that keeps opposing special teams coordinators up late at night is the dynamic DeVonte Dedmon.

In six games played this season, Dedmon has left opposing special teams units dead to rights. DeVonte already has three returns for touchdowns. Two on punt returns and is averaging 27 yards per kick return.

Toronto’s special teams’ units have produced mixed results this season. Boris Bede has done a great job being mister everything on punts, kickoffs, and field goals. But the Argos return game, coverage units, and blocking have been shaky at times.

With elite returners like Dedmon and Ryan Davis. Mark Nelson and his special teams have to raise their level of play.

Final Prediction

All the stars are aligned for an Argonauts’ victory. They are at home, celebrating one of, if not their greatest team of all time, and Toronto had a bye week to prepare for this showdown with Ottawa.

But the scariest element is often the unknown. A week ago, on paper. This looked like a lock for the Argos. With all due respect to Ottawa. There is a significant talent gap on paper between both teams. But the emergence of Caleb Evans is a wildcard in this game. The Redblacks have new life and hope as they push forward. Based on how Evans played last week in LaPolice’s offence.

Ottawa would love nothing more than to spoil Toronto’s homecoming and put a dent in their lofty playoff hopes. I am taking Toronto, but I feel that they will have to sweat this one out like most of the Argos victories this year.

For Toronto to prove that they are a genuine contender, they have to win this game. The Argos haven’t won two in a row yet this season. To be a real challenger in the East, they can’t lose divisional games at home.

The Argos are paying tribute by throwing back to the old A. Their fanbase hopes that the team honours 1991 by doing what that team used to do. By sailing away with another W at home.

Final Score: Toronto Argonauts 27 Ottawa Redblacks 20

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Mike Mitchell Reporter
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