The BC Lions host the Calgary Stampeders in the Western Semi-Final. Both teams enter the playoffs after a wake-up call of sorts closing their regular season with a tough loss at home with BC losing to Calgary 16-41 in week 20 before entering their bye week and Calgary losing 13-36 to Winnipeg in week 21. It is the 8th time these clubs have met in the Western Semi-Finals. Calgary won the first 6 meetings and BC defeated Calgary last year in the Western Semi-Finals
The last time the visiting team won in a divisional semi-final was in 2019 when both semi-final games were won by the visiting team that season.
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Date/Location: Saturday, November 4 /BC Place, Vancouver, BC
Kickoff Time: 6:30 PM ET, 3:30 PM PT
Channel: TSN (Canada), CFL+ (USA, International)
Spread: BC -6.5 (-110), Calgary +6.5 (-110)
Moneyline: BC -280, Calgary +230
Over/Under: 49.5 (Over -110, Under -110)
BC Lions (12-6): The BC Lions ended their season on a low note with a 16-41 loss to the Calgary Stampeders which was one of their most incomplete all-around games of the season. The BC Lions have since had their bye week to rest and refocus on this win-or-go-home rematch with the Stampeders.
The Lions’ strongest aspect may be their passing game as Vernon Adams Jr. completed 68.2% of his passes and led the league in passing yards with 4,769 with 31 touchdowns and 18 interceptions.
BC Lions defensive tackle Tibo Debaillie on if ending the season on a low note leaves less room for complacency.
“Yeah for sure, we have to make sure that we bring our a-game to this game. The last game didn’t really matter to us and it meant everything to them so they definitely brought their A-Game and it showed up in the end at the score.” Tibo Debaillie said.
Tibo was asked if there’s any element of an advantage in being the visiting regarding their being less pressure.
“I wouldn’t say so. Playing in our stadium I know for opposing offenses it’s really loud. It’s a really loud environment because outside the really, really loud, and it’s a dome. So, I think for the offenses it’s definitely harder to play in our stadium.” Debaillie stated.
Calgary Stampeders (6-12): The Calgary Stampeders were one of 3 teams to beat the BC Lions at home this season. Calgary has now made the playoffs 18 years in a row. It seemed an improbability that they would qualify until recently as they were able to pass Saskatchewan who finished their season with a 7-game losing streak.
According to Pro Football Focus the key area for the Calgary Stampeders this season has been their pass coverage. The Stampeders were second in passing first downs allowed at 186 and they allowed the third-fewest passing yards at 4,344.
Lions Keys to the Game
More Forward Passes
Vernon Adams Jr. joined Doug Flutie this season as one of the only 2 quarterbacks in Lions history to throw for 300+ yards in 6 games in a row. The Lions’ passing game has been electric most of the season.
The Lions also have one of the most talented receiving rooms in the CFL. Alexander Hollins and Keon Hatcher were both in the top 4 of the CFL’s leaders in receiving yards. Jevon Cottoy has been a bulldozer at times and finished 5th in the league in YAC with 417. Cottoy also caught 57 passes for 807 yards. Lucky Whitehead and Dominique Rhymes both missed time this season due to injury but both had over 1,000 yards last season and both were highly effective at different times this season. Justin McInnis has stepped up as a starter at times and has also played very well when called upon contributing 46 catches for 690 yards and 5 touchdowns.
Run the Ball
BC’s running game has been inconsistent this year and that has been in part due to the fact that they have run the ball fewer than any other team in the CFL. BC has 297 rushing attempts while the team with the 2nd fewest rushing attempts has quite a few more with Saskatchewan at 342.
While Mizzell has had 6 games in which he averaged under 4 yards per carry, he had 7 or fewer carries in 4 of those 6 games. Mizzell had 10 carries or more in 9 games and over those games, he has rushed 124 times for 651 yards averaging 5.25 yards per carry.
Mizzell has been an effective back this season, he just needs to be given the rock.
Strong Run Defence
Calgary’s running back, Ka’Deem Carey, had a down year compared to his all-star season in 2022. Carey had a strong game in week 20 and did not play in week 21 so it appears that he should be poised to play to his full potential. BC has had some highly impressive performances stopping the run this season such as in week 7 when they held Saskatchewan’s Jamal Morrow to 11 yards on 12 carries or in week 9 when they held Edmonton’s Kevin Brown to 5 yards on 5 carries.
With Sione Teuhema suspended Woody Baron will be starting at defensive end rather than being a part of the interior defensive line’s rotation that saw other players such as Tibo Debaillie, Francis Bemiy, and Josh Banks contribute to the run defense. Marcus Moore will enter the Lions lineup to provide depth in the interior defensive line.
Cover the Pass
BC has allowed the 2nd fewest passing yards per pass attempt at 7.7. They have also allowed the third least passing touchdowns at 20 despite having their opponents attempt the 2nd most pass attempts against them.
BC will be without cornerback Jalon Edwards-Cooper this week and will have Mike Jones starting again in his place. Jake Maier has often gotten rid of the ball quickly. If BC’s cover team can keep the coverage tight it will give time for the pass rush to take over.
Stampeders Keys to Victory
A Monster Game From Ka’Deem Carey
It’s been a down year for Ka’Deem Carey who averaged 5.3 yards per carry and had a season limited to 9 games due to injuries. Last season Carey had 6.6 yards per carry and had over 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns.
This year for Calgary Dedrick Mills had the most carries rushing for 802 yards and 4 touchdowns. Calgary will be without Mills who is on the 1-game injured list. Dedrick Mills had the highest rushing grade from Pro Football Focus this season.
Jake Maier to Push the Ball Downfield
Calgary has talented receivers but Jake Maier has not really taken that next step this season and rarely pushes the ball downfield. Maier has often made a lot of quick short passes which at this point BC will be expecting. Maier is going to need to take some deep shots to keep the defense honest and this could also make the short passes and the run game more effective for Calgary.
Stop the Run Early
BC has had success this season but has run the ball less than any other team and has had a handful of games in which they largely abandoned the run game early. If Calgary can get some early stops they may be able to encourage BC to abandon that element of their game.
Effective Pass Rushing
In addition to good pass coverage, Calgary will need to have an effective pass rush to limit the amount of time the Lions receivers have to get open. Vernon Adams Jr. is quite talented at minimizing the effects of an effective pass rush so Calgary’s pass rushers will need to win some battle at the line quickly and play smart in the backfield to pass rush efficiently without allowing BC’s quarterback to escape. They will need a strong game from Mike Moore who is starting at defensive end and led Montreal last year in sacks.
Lions to Watch
QB Vernon Adams Jr.
Vernon Adams Jr. led the league in passing yards by over 500 this season. He completed 333 of his 488 passes (68.2%) for 4,769 yards with 31 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. He also rushed 48 times for 324 yards (6.8 average) and a rushing touchdown.
RB Taquan Mizzell
Taquan Mizzell returns to the lineup for his first game since a rib injury sustained in week 18 against Winnipeg. Over 14 games Mizzell rushed 157 times for 773 yards (4.9 average) and 3 touchdowns.
WR Keon Hatcher
Hatcher caught 78 passes and finished the season 2nd in receiving yards with 1,226 yards despite playing in only 14 games. Hatcher also had 6 touchdowns and had the highest average yards per game at 87.6.
WR Alexander Hollins
Hollins caught 78 passes this season for 1,173 yards and 9 touchdowns. He had the 4th most receiving yards in the league.
DE Mathieu Betts
Mathieu Betts set a single-season record for most sacks by a Canadian in a season at 18. He also had 44 tackles, 4 forced fumbles, and a pass defended. Betts also had the highest PFF Pass Rush Grade this season.
DE Woody Baron
Woody Baron had the third-highest PFF pass-rush grade among defensive linemen. Baron had 22 tackles, 8 sacks, a forced fumble, and 2 passes defended over 12 games this season.
LB Ben Hladik
Hladik became the 4th Canadian to surpass 100 tackles in a season. Hladik had 101 tackles, 5 sacks, an interception, and 2 passes defended this season.
HB TJ Lee
T.J. Lee was named to the divisional all-star team this season. He had 82 tackles, 3 interceptions, 4 passes defended, and 1 sack.
CB Garry Peters
Peters was the most targeted defensive back this season and did not allow a touchdown his way. According to Pro Football Focus, he forced 12 incompletions and had the 2nd highest coverage grade among cornerbacks. Peters had 51 tackles, 11 passes defended, and 4 interceptions this season.
K Sean Whyte
Sean Whyte was ridiculously accurate this season making 50 of his 53 field goals. Whyte made 23 of his 24 field goals from the 40-49 yard range. To put that into perspective the most accurate kicker in the NFL last season from that range had 1 miss in 14 tries, and Whyte had 1 miss in 24 tries.
Stampeders to Watch
QB Jake Maier
Jake Maier had somewhat of an inconsistent season. He had the most pass attempts in the league completing 363 of his 578 passes (62.8%) for 4,244 yards with 19 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. While Jake Maier had the third most yards passing this season he had the lowest yards per attempt at 7.3 among quarterbacks with over 100 yards passing.
RB Ka’Deem Carey
Carey played in 9 games rushing 89 times for 476 yards (5.3 average). Last season Carey was a CFL All-Star rushing for over 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns averaging 6.6 yards per carry.
WR Reggie Begelton
Begelton finished 6th in the CFL in receiving yards catching 86 passes for 1,119 yards and 5 touchdowns. Begelton had the 6th most YAC in the league as well at 403.
WR Marken Michel
Michel had 48 receptions for 710 yards and 3 touchdowns. Michel is a very fast receiver with deep-threat ability.
WR Tre Odoms-Dukes
Odoms-Dukes caught 60 passes this season for 686 yards and 2 touchdowns.
DT Mike Rose
Mike Rose was named to the divisional all-star team. He led the team in sacks with 11 and also had 25 tackles and a forced fumble.
DE Julian Howsare
Howsare had 48 tackles, 6 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles this season. He had the 8th highest PFF pass-rush grade this season among defensive linemen.
LB Micah Awe
Awe led the league in tackles with 131 but has also been fined 4 times for high hits.
LB Cameron Judge
Judge has 89 tackles, 5 interceptions, 2 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 3 passes defended, and a touchdown.
HB Kobe Williams
Williams will be asked to do a lot this weekend against a volatile passing offense. According to Pro Football Focus, he has allowed only 1 touchdown and had a forced incompletion rate of 14.5%. Williams has 46 tackles, 2 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles, a sack, and 8 passes defended this season.
I am predicting the BC Lions to win by a score of 30-21.
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