For the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Ottawa REDBLACKS, Week 19 arrives with playoff hopes still in sight, making Friday’s doubleheader mandatory viewing for Ticats and REDBLACKS fans with the flames of playoff hopes still flickering.
Saturday’s schedule offers the chance for the Edmonton Elks to spoil the Toronto Argonauts hopes for an East Division, while the Winnipeg Blue Bombers have locked up the West Division. The long-awaited rematch between Winnipeg and the BC Lions is going to have plenty of pop in a contest filled with CFL fantasy standouts.
A lot can change in the final three weeks of the regular season, both in reality and also in how fantasy leagues shape up, so let’s dive in.
Montreal (7-8-0) at Ottawa (4-11-0)
Friday | 7:00p.m. ET
Line: Montreal (-3.5)
Start: Justin Hardy, WR, Ottawa REDBLACKS, $3,895 Salary
The past two games have shown us what we — and the Ottawa offence — have missed in the 11 games that Justin Hardy has been sidelined for. Hardy has pulled in 16 of his 20 targets for 173 yards including an 11-catch performance in the Thanksgiving Monday win over the Alouettes, helping to spoil their chances of clinching a playoff spot. He also added 42 return yards on Monday, which offers bonus production for his potential fantasy users.
Hardy has averaged better than 15 fantasy points per game in his last three contests and will be in line for a high volume of targets if CFL All-Star candidate Jaelon Acklin ($7,329) is unable to go after a hit that forced him to leave the game in Week 18. Hardy has shown a strong rapport with pivot Nick Arbuckle ($8,505), and with his basement-level salary, he feels like a strong steal in Week 19.
Sit: William Stanback, Montreal Alouettes, $6,508 Salary
Naturally, the news of one of CFL fantasy’s premier producers being activated set expectations high going into the Thanksgiving weekend presented by Purolator. Those who dove in head-on with hopes of vintage William Stanback were disappointed when he finished with just 20 yards on eight carries. Sadness showered many lineups as the Montreal back managed a mere two fantasy points.
Expect Stanback to see more touches on Friday, but this is another week where caution should be taken. The Montreal Alouettes are looking at the postseason as the moment to unleash unlimited Stanback, so look at this game as more of a preseason appearance from him. The expectations here are 10-12 touches while being able to utilize both Walter Fletcher ($5,007) and Jeshrun Antwi ($3,022). Stanback could return to elite status in the next few weeks, but let’s be patient as he does.
Hamilton (5-10-0) at Calgary (10-5-0)
Friday | 9:30p.m. ET
Line: Calgary (-7)
Start: Wes Hills, RB, Hamilton Tiger-Cats, $5,500 Salary
After treating the run game as an afterthought much of the season, the Tiger-Cats have now embraced the ground thanks to Wes Hills, who has rushed for 251 yards and a major in his last three games and had a brilliant performance in Week 18 that saw him run for 132 yards on 25 carries as they subdued Saskatchewan. Hills’ ability to move the chains and control the clock will come in handy as the Ticats will look to keep the Calgary Stampeders and their explosive offence off the field.
The Stampeders defence is in the upper half of the league in fewest rushing yards allowed per game, yet they yield 5.1 yards per carry. Hills averages 5.5 yards per tote and while it’s unlikely he’ll see a second straight 25-carry outing, he is averaging 17 touches from scrimmage in his last three games. He’s a good value play that will give fantasy users more than just a bang for their buck if the Ticats are able to dictate game flow as they did last week.
Sit: Malik Henry, Calgary Stampeders, $9,394 Salary
Make no mistake: Malik Henry has become one of the league’s premier deep threats this season. He comes into Week 19 ranking among league-leaders with 62 catches for 1,023 yards and eight touchdowns while also earning a contract extension that keeps him in Calgary through the 2025 season.
So why is Henry a sit this week? Well, he has not proven effective against Eastern Division teams, which have held him to just 11 catches for 110 yards and a touchdown in four games this season. In his previous meeting against the Tiger-Cats in Week 2, Henry was held to two catches for 29 yards on six targets during the 33-30 slugfest. In his most recent meeting versus an Eastern Division squad, Henry caught four of his five targets but was held to 26 yards in the Week 17 win over the Argos. He’s been held to a reception of 19 or fewer yards three times this season, with two of those coming against Montreal (Week 1) and Toronto (Week 17). Don’t buck the trend on this one and look elsewhere for production.
Toronto (9-6-0) at Edmonton (4-12-0)
Saturday | 7:00p.m. ET
Line: Toronto (-5.5)
Start: Dillon Mitchell, WR, Edmonton Elks, $6,558 Salary
Defences know it will happen, yet no one has been able to keep Dillon Mitchell from delivering large chunks of yardage once Taylor Cornelius ($10,596) throws deep in his direction. Mitchell has recorded at least one reception of better than 45 yards in each of his last six games, a huge reason why he’s averaging 20.3 yards per catch. He’s also shown he’s not a one-act pass catcher as he has taken over the role of being the primary receiver in Edmonton since the season-ending loss of Kenny Lawler ($8,833).
Mitchell has caught six passes in each of the past two games and comes into Saturday having racked up at least 15.8 fantasy points in each of his last five games. His streak will face a stiff challenge in the form of a Toronto pass defence that is one of just three teams to have allowed more than 20 completions of better than 30 yards. The Argos also lead in lowest opponents’ pass efficiency, but Mitchell is still a value play who continues to deliver well above his salary.
Sit: Taylor Cornelius, QB, Edmonton Elks, $10,596 Salary
My, what a paradox we have here. Although Mitchell is definitely a must-start, the same cannot be said for the quarterback throwing in his direction. The last two games have been tough for fantasy users who rode with Taylor Cornelius. He has managed a combined 29.1 fantasy points in losses to Montreal and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, a distant cry from when he looked like a franchise pivot in the making.
Better days are ahead for Cornelius, who will use the last two games of the season to build toward becoming an elite player. Facing the Toronto defence is not the ideal opportunity to snap out of a stretch that has seen Cornelius throw just two majors in his last three games. While his running ability is always a source of added production, keep in mind this game is being played in Edmonton, where the Elks have lost a CFL-record 15 straight times. Come for the 1-2 big plays he’s capable of, but don’t stay for the consistency that’s not quite there yet.
Winnipeg (14-2-0) at BC (10-5-0)
Saturday | 9:30p.m. ET
Line: Winnipeg (-2)
Start: Nic Demski, WR, Winnipeg Blue Bombers, $10,502 Salary
There’s not a receiver in professional football (south of the border included) hotter than Nic Demski, who has played himself into strong consideration for a second straight West Division All-Star nod. Demski has scored in six straight games entering Saturday night while becoming an almost guaranteed source of fantasy production. In that same stretch, Demski has scored at least 15.4 fantasy points, with five of those resulting in more than 20 fantasy point outings.
Demski and teammate Dalton Schoen ($9,383) have combined for 24 touchdown catches this season. Defences cannot focus on one without having the other either finding soft spots in the zone or playing themselves into favorable 1-on-1 matchups. The connection they have with quarterback Zach Collaros ($10,859) is frightening, which is why running with Demski feels automatic. If postseason foes need more reason to fear the Winnipeg passing game, keep in mind Greg Ellingson ($8,493) is almost ready to return and rookie Brendan O’Leary-Orange ($2,500) shows flashes of potential. Defences be afraid, be very afraid whenever Collaros drops back.
Sit: BC Defence, $3,340 Salary
In a game loaded with fantasy workhorses, someone has to be the odd man out. In the end, it has to be the Lions defence, which had its worst performance of the season in a Week 5 matchup where the Lions defence totaled negative three fantasy points. The game was a breakthrough outing for Collaros, who threw three majors while completing 23 of 30 passes for 288 yards. The game was a precursor to just how devastating Winnipeg’s passing game can be, and has become.
Week 19 will have seven other defences to choose from, each of which has better potential to provide points instead of going into the negative. As good as the Lions defence has been much of the season, Saturday is a good time to avoid them.