The Canadian Press
Week 17 brings us back to a four-game schedule, and with five weeks left in the regular season the pursuit of post-season glory will only help to ramp up production for CFL fantasy users to exploit.
Fantasy leagues are tightening up, so the decision on who fits into your lineup this week can’t be a simple knee-jerk reaction, nor a well-timed hunch. That’s not what we’re here for, so here’s a look at the players who can guide you to victory along with the players who can make your first weekend in October gloomy.
Saskatchewan (6-8-0) at Winnipeg (12-2-0)
Friday | 8:00p.m. ET
Line: Winnipeg (-8.5)
Start: Dalton Schoen, WR, Winnipeg Blue Bombers, $7,015 Salary
Only the Hamilton Tiger-Cats have allowed more 30-plus yard completions (25) than the 23 given up by the Saskatchewan Roughriders. If there’s a player who can further add to Saskatchewan’s troubles, it’s Dalton Schoen, who leads the league with an 18.6 yards per catch average and is just a mere 12 yards away from cracking 1,000 yards in an already stellar rookie campaign.
To their credit, the Saskatchewan secondary has held their own against Schoen, limiting him to nine catches for 98 yards in the two previous games this season. However, Schoen had a reception of better than 20 yards in each game and scored touchdowns in both contests. The rookie leads the league with 10 receiving majors along with sporting a CFL-best 147.0 efficiency rating. So, if there’s a player capable of making Friday a long, miserable evening for the Riders, it’s clear-cut choice for Most Outstanding Rookie.
Sit: Cody Fajardo, Saskatchewan Roughriders, $9,828 Salary
Yes, it’s well-documented, yet reality is reality: Fajardo is a bad matchup against the Blue Bombers. A team that has proved to have his number over the past couple of seasons.
Fajardo has just one passing touchdown in his last five games against Winnipeg, to pair alongside six interceptions. In the two regular season meetings this year, he has led the Roughriders offence on just two scoring drives, although both resulted in rushing scores from him.
Despite having a talented receiving corps around him, Fajardo has had five games of fewer than 200 yards passing, which goes a long way in demonstrating why Saskatchewan is at the bottom of the league in passing yards per game. Obviously, trends can end, yet until this one does, it’s best to stay away.
Ottawa (3-10-0) at BC (9-4-0)
Friday | 10:30p.m. ET
Line: BC (-8)
Start: James Butler, RB, BC Lions, $7,590 Salary
James Butler’s fantasy stock has risen over the past couple of games as he has rushed for 144 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 24 carries, averaging 6.5 yards per carry. He has also added six receptions for 34 yards.
BC’s offensive volatility may be trending downwards after Saturday’s lackluster effort against the Stampeders. However, Butler is in position to help lift it up as he gets a favorable matchup against an Ottawa REDBLACKS run defence that yielded 116 rushing yards to a Toronto Argonauts team that averages the fewest rushing yards league-wide.
One of Butler’s best fantasy games this season came at the expense of Ottawa in Week 4 when he tallied 29.9 fantasy points on the strength of 129 yards from scrimmage, finding the end zone both rushing and receiving. After weeks of being a fantasy avoid, it’s time to begin looking at Butler as a solid fantasy asset once again.
Sit: Lucky Whitehead, WR, BC Lions, $8,078
No one is missing Nathan Rourke than BC’s speed demon, who has been grounded since losing his big-play connection. While the rest of the Lions’ receiving corps has shown flashes of productivity without Rourke, Lucky Whitehead is going through a tough four-game stretch that has not only seen him go without a major, but also one reception of longer than 20 yards.
Whitehead’s last two games have really hammered home what his production without Rourke could looked like. He has just seven catches for 64 yards. Without being involved in the return game, he has gone four straight games without hitting double digits in fantasy point. It doesn’t look like his Luck (pun intended) is going to find good fortune anytime soon.
Montreal (6-7-0) at Edmonton (4-10-0)
Saturday, 4:00p.m. ET
Line: Montreal (-3.5)
Start: Dillon Mitchell, WR, Edmonton Elks, $4,549 Salary
Dillon Mitchell is a value play who has become Edmonton’s go-to target since Kenny Lawler was placed on the six-game injured list. The rookie has shown his impact in each of his last four games, catching a pass of at least 45 yards per contest, including a 77-yard touchdown from Taylor Cornelius ($10,703) in the Week 15 win over Saskatchewan.
Although he lacks enough production to be ranked among league leaders, Mitchell’s 27.3 yards per catch average is pushing him close to destiny. If Mitchell is able to continue to inflict a lethal dose of big-play ability upon defences, his current average would be the second-highest in league history (minimum 30 receptions), topped only by Rupe Andrews’ 28.3 average with the 1954 Stampeders.
It will be up to Montreal’s pass defence, ranked third in fewest yards allowed per game to keep Mitchell from both dampening their East Division playoff hopes and keeping Andrews atop the CFL Record (and fact) Book.
Sit: Montreal Alouettes running backs
As a tandem, Walter Fletcher ($3,869) and Jeshrun Antwi ($5,304) have brought some stability to the Montreal ground game since becoming a timeshare. While it has helped boost the Als to seventh in the league with 91.8 rushing yards per game, it does not do wonders for the fantasy value of either back.
Antwi has served as the backup to Fletcher, yet is sixth in the league with 518 rushing yards along with a solid 5.9 yards per tote. Fletcher is tenth coming into Week 17 with 327 yards, averaging 5.8 yards per carry. If either of them were to get 15-18 carries, they would be a strong fantasy play against an Edmonton Elks defence that is still last with both a 115.2 yards allowed per game and 5.2 yards per carry average. Edmonton has also given up a league-high 26 rushing majors, a number that may make backup pivot and short yardage specialist Dominique Davis ($5,366) and his CFL-best 10 rushing touchdowns a stronger fantasy option than either Fletcher or Antwi.
Toronto (8-5-0) at Calgary (9-5-0)
Saturday | 7:00p.m. ET
Line: Calgary (-5.5)
Start: McLeod Bethel-Thompson, QB, Toronto Argonauts, $9,172 Salary
Acknowledge him. McLeod Bethel-Thompson has thrown the Argonauts to the edge of winning the East Division during a four-game stretch that has seen him throw nine touchdowns while averaging 291.5 yards per game. He’s averaging nearly nine yards per attempt in the same span while — most importantly — winning all four matchups.
Calgary contained BC’s passing attack, holding them without a passing touchdown in consecutive games against the Lions, but the Stampeders are still last in the league, allowing 296 yards per game. Although the Calgary Stampeders are solid when it comes to preventing the deep ball, they do yield completions at a 66.6 per cent clip, seventh overall. That plays perfectly into Toronto’s spread-it-around style of passing, and if Bethel-Thompson continues finishing drives with his right arm, a fifth straight win could become reality.
Sit: Jake Maier, QB, Calgary Stampeders, $9,371 Salary
Jake Maier came off the bench to rally the Stamps to a 22-19 overtime win over Toronto in Week 11, but his numbers weren’t nifty in the process. He failed to throw a touchdown and was intercepted in his 18 attempts while replacing Bo Levi Mitchell ($6,416) in the starting lineup the following game.
Getting the ball into the end zone will be a challenge for Maier, as Toronto has allowed a league-low 13 passing touchdowns and currently hold the elague-lead with 22 interceptions, earning five of those against Ottawa in Week 16.
Despite being at the bottom of the league in sacks, the Argos have still shown to be effective at defending the pass, a testament to a defence that has given up just 24 offensive touchdowns this season.
Maier will likely get his share of yardage, but his fantasy users may see a repeat of his Week 16 numbers, the most noticeable of which was no passing touchdowns.