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November 16, 2019

Players to Watch: 20 names to know for the division finals

Arthur Ward/CFL.ca

TORONTO — The Shaw road to the Grey Cup is well under way, and what a weekend it was.

Both road teams came away victors, as Trevor Harris set a passing efficiency record in the Eskimos’ win in Montreal, while Zach Collaros and Chris Streveler upset the reigning Grey Cup Champions in Calgary.

This week, the Eskimos continue their journey east, stopping in Hamilton for a date with the Tiger-Cats. The Ticats haven’t won the Grey Cup since 1999, while the Eskimos hope to become the first crossover team in history to win a Grey Cup.

In Regina, the Bombers and Roughriders will meet for the fourth time this season. Sunday marks the second year in a row the clubs will meet in a playoff game, after Winnipeg eliminated Saskatchewan in last year’s Western Semi.

Last week CFL.ca revealed the list of 30 players to watch in the Grey Cup Playoffs. Who are some players worth monitoring in Sunday’s division finals?

20.
GREG ELLINGSON
WR | EDM

Greg Ellingson caught seven passes and broke 100 yards in the first half alone vs. Montreal, clearly re-establishing himself as Trevor Harris‘ number one receiver. Where the Grey Cup goes, so goes the veteran receiver, who has seen his team reach the Grey Cup in five of his six CFL seasons. He’ll be busy again on Sunday.

19.
JUSTIN MEDLOCK
K/P | WPG

Justin Medlock was money in the semi-final, making all four of his attempts including a long of 52 yards. The Bombers tested Medlock with the longest average attempt in the CFL in 2019, but Medlock responded by making 86 per cent of his tries, his longest coming from 55 yards out. He’s one of the top choices in any situation.

18.
SOLOMON ELIMIMIAN
LB | SSK

Solomon Elimimian has enjoyed a resurgent season with the Riders, leading the team with 88 tackles in 14 games after leaving BC. The veteran linebacker will play a key role in trying to slow a Bombers rushing attack that’s led the CFL with 148 yards per game, in addition to 195 yards vs. the Stampeders in the semi-final.

17.
C.J. GABLE
RB | EDM

C.J. Gable helped the Eskimos solve their red zone woes, finding the end zone twice in the Eastern Semi-Final, his first game since being injured on Oct. 4. A back-to-back 1,000-yard rusher, Gable provides a dangerous tandem alongside the elusive Shaq Cooper. He’ll try to eliminate his former team in a rare Eastern Final against the Ticats.

16.
ADAM BIGHILL
LB | WPG

Before the Western Semi-Final, Adam Bighill said Stamps quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell could be stopped. The Bombers’ defence delivered, intercepting Mitchell three times while allowing just 207 total yards of offence. Bighill anchors the CFL’s best run defence since 1995 (64 yards per game) and is one to watch vs. Saskatchewan.

15.
TYRELL SUTTON
RB | HAM

The Ticats have no shortage of options at running back, but Tyrell Sutton is the best of them after averaging 5.8 yards per carry in four contests. Not only is Sutton a physical inside runner, he also makes a positive impact in the passing game as a receiver and blocker. With the lighter workload this season, he’s sure to have fresh legs in the playoffs.

14.
NICK MARSHALL
DB | SSK

Leading one of the CFL’s most athletic and versatile secondaries, Nick Marshall looks to build on a four-interception season when the Riders take the field vs. Winnipeg. The sophomore must be aware of the strong arm of Zach Collaros, who burned the Stampeders for a 71-yard touchdown in the semi-final.

13.
BRALON ADDISON
WR | HAM

While teammate Brandon Banks stretches the field vertically, Bralon Addison typically does his best work underneath. It’s a good fit for the Ticats’ offence, as the two receivers form the league’s most productive duo heading into the post-season. Even with the return of Luke Tasker, Addison should see plenty of targets throughout the playoffs.

12.
SIMONI LAWRENCE
LB | HAM

Well known as one of the CFL’s most vocal players on the field, Simoni Lawrence has backed it up on the stat sheet in 2019 with a career-high 98 tackles, including a league record 17 in one game vs. Winnipeg. Lawrence has to be on the Eskimos’ radar in a matchup with Trevor Harris and C.J. Gable among others.

11. 
DYLAN WYNN
DL | HAM

No interior defensive lineman recorded more sacks in 2019 than Dylan Wynn, who took down 11 quarterbacks in his first season in Hamilton. A year after the Ticats gave up a playoff record six touchdown passes to Trevor Harris, Wynn should make a difference in the rematch on Sunday.

10.
CHARLESTON HUGHES
DL | SSK

Charleston Hughes is a big part of the CFL’s top-ranked defence, recording the fourth season of his career with 15 or more sacks. With double digit sacks in seven of the last eight seasons, no defensive end has had greater success for a longer period of time. Zach Collaros can expect to see plenty of Hughes on Sunday.

9.
SHAQUELLE EVANS
WR | SSK

As good as Cody Fajardo has been, he’s had plenty of help from his No. 1 receiver in Shaq Evans. Evans leads all qualified receivers with 18.5 yards per catch, showing a penchant to not only separate but also pick up yards after the catch. The 28-year-old might be one of the CFL’s most underappreciated stars.

8.
ANDREW HARRIS
RB | WPG

At 32 years old, Andrew Harris hasn’t lost a step. If the Bombers are going to win, Harris is certain to play a role after putting up 1,909 yards from scrimmage and averaging a career-best 6.1 yards per carry in 2019. The Winnipeg native has a chance to lead his hometown team to its first Grey Cup since 1990.

7.
WILLIAM POWELL
RB | SSK

Two of the CFL’s premier running backs are set to go head to head, as William Powell takes on Andrew Harris and the Bombers. Powell has delivered on high expectations in his first season in green and white, doubling his career high in touchdowns with 12, while leading the nation’s third ranked rushing attack.

6.
TREVOR HARRIS
QB | EDM

Injury or otherwise, there should be no more questions about Trevor Harris following a record-breaking performance vs. the Als. Harris operated with clinical precision in the Eastern Semi-Final, breaking his own playoff record with a 92 per cent completion efficiency. When the Esks’ pivot gets in a rhythm, he’s pretty much unstoppable.

5.
WILLIE JEFFERSON
DL | WPG

Twelve sacks, 16 pass knockdowns, six forced fumbles — has any player disrupted opposing offences more than Bombers defensive end Willie Jefferson? One of the CFL’s biggest free agent signings has lived up to the hype, leading a Winnipeg defence that tops the CFL with 45 takeaways. On Sunday, a matchup against his former team.

4.
DANE EVANS
QB | HAM

As good as Dane Evans has been the second half of the season, averaging 372 yards per game since Labour Day, the next two games will define his season. Evans will make his first career playoff start on Sunday, with the 25-year-old looking to cement his status as an elite quarterback in the three down game. The spotlight has never been bigger.

3.
ZACH COLLAROS
QB | WPG

Those who aren’t sold on Zach Collaros may want to re-watch the Western Semi-Final, especially his 71-yard touchdown to Darvin Adams. The ball traveled 40 yards in the air on a frozen rope, beating one of the league’s top defenders in Tre Roberson. Zach’s back and there’s no reason he can’t lead Winnipeg even deeper into the post-season.

2.
BRANDON BANKS
WR | HAM

No surprise that the CFL’s two Most Outstanding Player finalists are the players to watch in the playoffs. Brandon Banks is the league’s most electrifying player, coming off a 1,500-yard season to lead the CFL’s No. 1 offence. Banks has done plenty of talking off the field for the Ticats, but a Grey Cup Championship would make him a Hamilton legend.

1.
CODY FAJARDO
QB | SSK

Surrounded by injury concerns, Cody Fajardo looks to overcome an oblique strain as the Riders host the Blue Bombers. Fajardo didn’t play his best football against Winnipeg, throwing more interceptions (3) than touchdowns (2) in three head to head matchups. Can the 27-year-old Most Outstanding Player candidate win his first career playoff start?