The 2-0 Argos are off to a great start in defence of their CFL title, but they are moving up in class on Monday night as they face the 3-0 B.C. Lions‘ at BMO Field in what could be a preview of the 2023 Grey Cup.
CFL Week 4 Preview: Toronto Argonauts (2-0) vs. B.C. Lions (3-0), Monday, July 3, 7 pm ET, BMO Field, TSN, RDS, CBS Sports Network (U.S.), and CFL+ (international)
Point Spread: The B.C. Lions are 3-point road favorites. Over/Under: 47.5
- The Lions are looking to improve to 4-0 for the first time since 2007, while the Argonauts look to start 3-0 for the first time since 1991.
- The Argos’ offence and the Lions’ defence lead the league in several categories:
- Toronto – average points per game | 37.5
- BC – average points allowed per game | 7.0
- Toronto – net offence per game | 399.0
- BC – opponent’s net offence per game | 211.7
- Toronto – average yards per play | 7.3
- BC – average yards allowed per play | 4.4
- Toronto has allowed the fewest sacks this season (1), while BC leads the league with 11.
- Both teams are tied with a +4 turnover ratio – second-best in the league.
- Through three games, the Lions have allowed 21 points – good for second-best in team history behind the 1964 team’s record of 16. That team won the Lions’ first Grey Cup.
- Vernon Adams Jr. leads the league with two 300+ passing-yard games. He is a career 2-3 versus the Argonauts.
- In 2022, the teams split the season series 1-1. The last meeting between the two squads occurred in Toronto, with the Argonauts topping the Lions 23-20 last October.
CFL Week 4: B.C. Lions Depth Chart/Injury Report
The Leos will be without dynamic WR/KR Lucky Whitehead. However, British Columbia’s passing attack gets a boost with star receivers Keon Hatcher and Dominique Rhymes back in their lineup.
RB Taquan ‘Smoke’ Mizzell, who is off to a great start this season, is active for Monday night’s game after dealing with a knee injury.
A situation to monitor for BC is left tackle Jarrell Broxton, who showed up on the injury report late in the week. He is listed as a game-time decision. The Lions’ have only one other offensive linemen dressed for Monday’s game. Swing linemen David Knevel.
CFL Week 4: Toronto Argonauts Depth Chart/Injury Report
Trevon Tate, who has only started four games for the Argos the last two seasons, moves into the left tackle spot vacated by a once again injured Isiah Cage (thigh). Ryan Hunter remains at left guard after moonlighting on the blindside in Cage’s place in Edmonton.
Darius Ciraco is active after missing Week 3 but, after starting in Week 2, will provide depth behind Peter Nicastro at centre. Last week’s standout performer Dylan Giffen remains at right guard.
The good news for Toronto is that WR Kurleigh Gittens Jr. returns to the lineup after dealing with a hamstring injury.
Cam Phillips is also in the Argos lineup Monday night after a thigh injury sustained in week three.
With the return of Gittens and Phillips, WR/KR B.J. Byrd goes back to the practice roster. Byrd returned kicks a week ago against Edmonton. Look for Javon Leake to assume those duties with Toronto dressing four running backs.
Defensively, Toronto welcomes Shawn Oakman back after being a healthy scratch against the Elks. But the Boatmen will be without MLB Jordan Williams (1-game injured list). The former first-round pick of the Leos was in Henoc Muamba’s stead. Due to a knee injury, he will be replaced by Jonathan Jones, with special teams ace Jack Cassar backing him up at the MAC position.
B.C. Lions Vs. Toronto Argonauts Key Matchups
Lions’ elite passing attack versus the Argos ultra aggressive blitz scheme: Under Corey Mace, Toronto’s defensive scheme has undergone a transformation this season.
A year ago, the Argos played more of a bend but don’t break style defensively, which would often result in modest sack totals for Toronto.
That’s not been the case in 2023; Toronto is showing blitz looks on almost every down. Perhaps it’s a byproduct of the opponents they’ve faced to start the year—Hamilton and Edmonton, who have struggled mightily upfront.
Against the Elks’, the Argos registered six sacks, and by head coach Ryan Dinwiddie’s count, they should’ve had twelve if not for some missed tackles in the backfield. Because of the Boatmen’s confusing blitz packages, defenders are running free into the backfield unblocked. Last week, Dime Back extraordinaire Adarius Pickett had two sacks, and his well-timed blitzes led to his teammates running free into the quarterback.
Against BC’s elite OT duo of Jarell Broxton (provided he plays) and Kent Perkins. Free reign into the Lions’ backfield will not come easy. And with the mobile Vernon Adams at the controls, corralling him in the pocket will be challenging for Toronto.
The Argos’ defence is in a pick-your-poison position against the Leos’ offence. Blitzing often could be a recipe for disaster. Especially if ‘Big Play VA’ can break containment in the pocket.
That’s because B.C. boasts the deepest and most talented receiving corps in the CFL, notwithstanding the absence of the electrifying Lucky Whitehead. Dominique Rhymes and Keon Hatcher are a lethal duo, and they are complemented well by Jevon Cottoy, Alexander Hollins, and Justin McInnis.
The Argonauts are also without key two key players in the middle of their defence. Henoc Muamba, who is one of the more cerebral defensive players in the league. And now, Jordan Williams.
How aggressively Toronto plays the Leos could be decided early on if B.C. finds success immediately countering it.
The Lions’ lethal pass rush vs. The Argos’ much-improved offensive line: Toronto has allowed only one sack this season. Part of that has to do with the team’s heavy-handed and sometimes three-headed rushing attack, including Chad Kelly. The Argonauts have dominated the line of scrimmage and kept their prized pivot clean in manageable second-down situations.
Toronto will be tested by Ryan Phillips’s defensive unit if they are forced into obvious passing downs. The Leos have been on a tear defensively; their elite pass coverage combined with a talented front has made life hell for opposing offenses. A week ago, they embarrassed reigning MOP QB Zach Collaros and the Bombers’ vaunted offensive line. B.C. sacked Collaros seven times and kept Winnipeg out of the end zone.
Ryan Phillips’s defence has allowed only one touchdown on a total of 39 possessions by their opponents through three games. They have currently gone 27 straight possessions without allowing the opponents into the end zone. Teams are recording just 4.4 yards per play.
Chad Kelly, who will be making his third CFL start, is coming off a game against Edmonton, where the Elks’ frequently dropped nine into coverage to bait the inexperienced pivot into mistakes. And it worked to an extent; Kelly threw two interceptions, including a pick-six.
Kelly tends to rely heavily on his elite arm strength by attempting to squeeze throws into tight coverage. The Lions will look to feast on that trait.
The key matchup to watch upfront is edge rusher Matthieu Betts, who leads the CFL in sacks with five, against left tackle Trevon Tate. That’s not a matchup that favors the Boatmen. Tate hasn’t played in a while, and when he has, he’s been functional at best.
B.C.’s special teams versus the Argos kick coverage: When a team is winning in the decided fashion, Double Blue has to start the year. Certain weaknesses tend to be overlooked or ignored by the masses. But not when it comes to an opposing coaching staff. The Lions have gone to school on what transpired for Toronto’s coverage units in Week 3.
The Argos special teams are coming off a week where they made a very talented young player in CJ Sims look like a combination of Gizmo Williams and Pinball Clemons. Sims averaged 30 yards per punt return and nearly scored on all his returns.
Against the Mike Benevides-led special teams unit, who are third in the league in return yards, Mickey Donovan’s group has to play more disciplined than they did against Edmonton. The Elks consistently had a short field to play with. And although their 31 points were very misleading, considering that nearly half those points came from a pick-six and deflected hail mary. The Argos gave Edmonton ample opportunities to stay in the game despite being outmatched.
Against the Lions, Toronto can’t afford to play that game of roulette. B.C.’s offensive attack can generate points on their merit; they don’t need an added boost.
CFL Week 4: B.C. Lions @ Toronto Argonauts Prediction
The recurring theme for Monday’s night game is how the reigning CFL champion Argos are the ones who will “finally” be tested. Double Blue loyalists would like to tell you that it’s B.C. who is encountering the same dilemma.
While I understand that sentiment, the Leos are the team that just passed a major checkpoint against the now 3-1 Blue Bombers on the road. You could argue that B.C.’s dominating conquest of Winnipeg last week was one of the most impressive regular-season victories by any CFL team in the last several seasons.
With all due respect to the combined 0-7 Ti-Cats and Elks. British Columbia is a major step up in class for Toronto.
The Argos being at home against the Lions is a plus in this matchup. The grass surface at BMO usually favors the Boatmen. And let’s face it, winning in Vancouver would’ve been a horse of a different color for Double Blue.
However, I don’t think the Argonauts are at full strength for this meeting. They are without two of their best defensive players at MLB and have a questionable situation at left tackle.
Therefore, I think the Boatmen get their first taste of humble pie in 2023 on Monday night.
Prediction: B.C. Lions 31 Toronto Argonauts 23
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