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Toronto Argonauts @ Saskatchewan Roughriders Week 7 Preview/Prediction

Week 7 of the CFL season kicks off on Friday Night. The 3-2 Toronto Argonauts are taking on the 3-2 Saskatchewan Roughriders in one of the electric environments in the league at Mosaic Stadium.

BetRegal, the CFL’s sponsored sportsbook, has the Riders as 2.5 point home favorites against the Argos. The over/under is 44 points. The game will air Friday at 9:45 pm ET on TSN and ESPNNews.

Week 7 Preview: Toronto Argonauts @ Saskatchewan Roughriders

A tale of two different teams despite both having the same 3-2 record. The East-leading Toronto Argonauts are coming off an important must-win game against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats last Friday at home after losing the LDC classic to them a few days earlier.

A few weeks back, the Saskatchewan Roughriders were undefeated and sitting on top of the CFL mountain. Back-to-back decisive losses to the defending champion Blue Bombers has many questioning whether or not the Riders’ 3-0 start to the season was fool’s gold.

Both franchises have quite a bit of uncertainty heading into this game. The Argos have experienced a shakeup on their coaching staff. Defensive Coordinator Glen Young and defensive backs coach Joshua Bell have left the team for “personal reasons.” Veteran defensive coach Rich Stubler is at the controls coordinating the Boatmen’s defense in Week 7.

The Riders are looking to set their season back on track after two humbling defeats against Winnipeg. And it looks like they will be attempting to do so with quarterback Cody Fajardo, despite uncertainty over whether he would play due to a concussion suffered in week 6.

The result of this game could be a turning point for Toronto or Saskatchewan. A win by the Argos on the road against one of the CFL’s better teams would send a clear message that the Boatmen are for real. A victory by the Riders would silence the doubters, even within their own team and the league’s most passionate fanbase.

Toronto Argonauts Week 7 Depth Chart/Injury Report

Two big returns on defense for the Toronto Argonauts. Both DE Charleston Hughes and FS Crezdon Butler will be back in the starting lineup after missing last week’s game.

Wide Receivers Daniel Braverman and Llevi Noel are out again. Chandler Worthy will return kicks and punts for the Boatmen and play some snaps at the receiver spot on the outside. Ricky Collins is also good to go despite missing some practice time this week.

Defensive Linemen Cordarro Law and Drake Nevis are still on the Argos injured list and won’t return until potentially next week’s game against Montreal.

Here is a look at Toronto’s current practice roster and the injured list below. (Courtesy of the Argos)

Saskatchewan Roughriders Week 7 Depth Chart/Injury Report

The big news for SSK is that QB Cody Fajardo has received clearance to play after suffering a head injury last week. The Riders have missed one of the league’s best receivers, Shaq Evans, in recent weeks. Brayden Lenius, Kian Schaffer-Baker, and Mitchell Picton will continue to try and pick up the slack for Saskatchewan’s receiving corps opposite another standout in Kyran Moore.

Veteran DB Loucheiz Purify is back in the Riders secondary starting at HB after missing last week’s game.

The Argos Offense Versus The Riders Defense

Team Rankings

  • The Toronto Argonauts offense is ranked in the middle of the pack in the CFL. The passing offense is 4th in yards per game at 276.8 and 4th in rushing yards per game at 94.6.
  • Despite some injuries on the Argos offensive line. The team has only given up 9 sacks on the season. However, Toronto ranks near the bottom of the CFL in yards per pass play. (7th overall-7.3). And the Argos’ first down passing percentage is 8th in the CFL at 33.3 percent. On the year, the Argonauts have 6 touchdown passes and 5 interceptions. The Boatmen’s up and down performance passing in the first five games is reflected in these numbers.
  • The Roughriders defense is currently 2nd in the league in rush defense behind Toronto. Allowing only 72.6 yards per game on the ground. They have also allowed the fewest yards per carry at 4.2. The team has allowed 7 touchdowns, tops in the league, but that number is misleading. Bombers backup quarterback Sean McGuire had three touchdowns alone last week against SSK, on quarterback sneaks at the goal line.
  • Saskatchewan’s pass defense is 6th in the CFL, allowing 260 yards per game. The Riders defense leads the league with 16 sacks in five games. They also has six interceptions on the season but SSK has allowed the second highest completion percentage in the CFL at 68.9 percent.

The biggest key to this game for Toronto’s offense will be handling the crowd noise and atmosphere on the road. Saskatchewan’s defense and pass rush gets a significant boost playing at home in front of their rabid fan base. And Toronto’s offense has had its fair share of struggles with communication and penalties this season. Specifically, in their last two outings away from home at Winnipeg and Hamilton.

Rookie Center Peter Nicastro, who has had an excellent start to his CFL career, will be facing his most difficult challenge to date, captaining the Boatmen’s ship in Regina. Toronto is missing veteran Philip Blake for this encounter, and his experience would’ve helped in this setting.

Toronto’s offense has run hot and cold all season long. Most of the time, running through lulls in mid-game. Part of that has to do with their young quarterback Nick Arbuckle. He’s not coming off a great performance last week. Arbuckle has made several ill-advised throws in key spots this season. His mistakes a week ago almost cost Toronto a game that they had no business nearly losing last week against Hamilton.

For Toronto to have a chance to beat Saskatchewan. Their offense has to get off to a good start. Falling behind early at SSK is a recipe for disaster. And early turnovers are usually the catalyst for creating that scenario.

One of the Argos’ biggest weaknesses this season has been their inability to challenge teams down the field. Besides a bubble screen to Ricky Collins that went 81 yards in week one, the big-play has been missing from the Argonauts’ passing attack. Toronto has had to rely on creativity in their ground attack and an underneath passing game to sustain drives.

Ryan Dinwiddie has seen SSK’s defense at work before as Calgary’s offensive coordinator. So his knowledge of their scheme should help. However, Jason Shivers is one of the CFL’s very best young defensive coordinators. And the Riders’ defense excels when they are playing with a lead at home. The Argos offense needs to try and avoid playing chase mode in this contest.

The Argos Defense Versus The Riders Offense

  • The Toronto Argonauts defense is tops in the CFL against the run. Allowing just 65 yards per game. Opposing teams are averaging only 4.2 yards per run. The lone rushing touchdown, the Argos gave up on the season, came late in week 6 on a Sean Thomas-Erlington score.
  • Against the pass, the Boatmen’s defense is ranked 4th in the CFL, allowing 253 yards per game. The team has only 10 sacks on the year but 4 of them came a week ago against Hamilton. Opposing teams have completed 68 percent of their passes and 8 touchdowns against Toronto’s secondary. (The 2nd most allowed in the CFL).
  • The Roughriders offense has struggled in their last two games. Their shaky results against Winnipeg has brought down their overall numbers for this season.
  • Saskatchewan’s pass offense is 6th in the CFL, throwing for 244 yards per game with only 4 passing touchdowns in 5 games.
  • Saskatchewan’s ground game has fared much better. The Riders are second in the CFL in rush yards per game (105.0). SSK is 3rd in the league with 5.1 yards per run.

Cody Fajardo remains in the saddle for the Roughriders. They need him to play better than he has the last couple of games. The Bombers did a great job frustrating him with consistent pressure two weeks in a row. Fajardo has thrown zero touchdowns and 4 interceptions in his last two games.

There’s no doubt that the Riders have missed star receiver Shaq Evans, but Fajardo is certainly capable of performing better than he has in recent weeks.

Despite how well they have played, the Argonauts’ defense is going through some adversity and could be susceptible this week. Toronto has lost its defensive coordinator Glen Young; Rich Stubler will be calling the plays. But perhaps a more significant loss is that of Joshua Bell. The former player/coach is a beloved figure in the Argos locker room who has done a fantastic job with the team’s young defensive backs.

Toronto and former Rider Charleston Hughes will look to pressure Fajardo into the same mistakes he has made in recent weeks. But the uncertainty with the Argos secondary, due to them losing their leader, could create opportunities for the Riders passing attack to get going. Toronto will have Crezdon Butler back at free safety after rookie Josh Hagerty struggled mightily. So that should be a boost for the Boatmen, but it will be interesting to see how their DB’s hold up without their boss/leader.

The Riders have one of the league’s best runners in William Powell. And although, Toronto’s defense has been the stoutest against the run game this season. It would be foolish for the Roughriders to abandon their rushing attack. Considering how well it’s performed this season. The Argos need to make SSK one-handed on offense and force them into second and longs. The Boatmen’s emerging young defensive line duo of Shawn Oakman and Eli Harold would cherish that scenario.

The Argos-Riders Special Teams Matchup

Toronto’s special teams have been their Achilles heel in both of their losses this season. The team has gotten solid kicking and punting by Boris Bede. But the return game has been lackluster. Tied for the worst in the league in kick and punt return average with Edmonton. (18.4/5.8)

The Argos coverage units have been prone to mental and physical errors all season long. The team has had two punts blocked and has had nearly five others blocked in the early season. Opposing teams see the Argos’ weakness in their protection schemes and are throwing the kitchen sink at them with all kinds of different looks and blitzes.

Saskatchewan’s special teams coached by Kent Maugeri are solid all-around. The numbers haven’t been spectacular for them this season. They are in the middle of the pack in every category. But they are fundamentally sound.

The Riders have one of the better kickers in the league in Brett Lauther. He’s uncharacteristically missed 3 field goals in recent weeks, but he’s a career 82 percent kicker with a range of over 50 yards. (Career long-57, Season-long-54)

Things can get pretty windy in Regina. It could affect the kicking game, as well as the passing game on Friday night. Winds are expected to be 30 km/h, gusting to 50 later towards the evening. So it’s something to monitor during the contest.

Toronto Argonauts @ Saskatchewan Roughriders Prediction

When the CFL schedule was released before the season started, Toronto’s trip to SSK was one of the game’s that many wrote down as a likely loss for the Argos. After all, the Riders are projected to be one of the league’s best teams, and beating them on their home field is exceedingly difficult. It still is, but the perception of both teams and this game has changed in the last two weeks.

The oddsmakers still have Saskatchewan as favorites over Toronto, and understandably so.

Even though the Riders are coming off of two losses where the Bombers dominated them, it’s not exactly like Toronto scored many style points themselves with last week’s 17-16, off the crossbars extra point victory over Hamilton at home.

Having Cody Fajardo in the Riders lineup and being at home helps. And Saskatchewan should be highly motivated in this matchup. Especially after a humbling last two weeks, the Riders will be playing this game with a great sense of urgency. This is a must-win game for them.

Toronto, on paper, is as good, if not better, than Saskatchewan. But the timing here is not ideal for the Boatmen. The shuffle on their coaching staff is a hindrance for their defense in this game. And until Nick Arbuckle and Toronto’s offense shows that they can play composed in a big spot, particularly on the road. You have to roll with the Riders this Friday night.

Final Score: Saskatchewan Roughriders 23 Toronto Argonauts 20

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Mike Mitchell Reporter
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