What was once a summer breeze has now become an early autumn of chilly winds as Week 21 of the CFL fantasy season has arrived. The playoffs are set, and for Edmonton, Ottawa and Saskatchewan, an early start to the 2023 season begins on Sunday morning.
The only thing certain about this week’s Start vs. Sit is uncertainty. For the six playoff teams in action the final weekend of the regular season, the issue of starting and sitting will be paramount as each squad with Grey Cup aspirations will juggle the balance between keeping starters fresh or sitting them completely in order to avoid an unfortunate injury.
We don’t have unlimited access to the minds of coaching staffs, so consider this week more of a dart throw.
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BC (12-5-0) at Winnipeg (14-3-0)
Friday | 8:30p.m. ET
Line: Winnipeg (-4)
Start: Brendan O’Leary-Orange, WR, Winnipeg Blue Bombers, $2,500 Salary
Both teams have their playoff spots secured, so expect this contest to be dominated by reserves. However, Brendan O’Leary-Orange is a starter who could see considerable snaps as the second-year pro has shown upside in limited action. O’Leary-Orange has caught 18 passes for 212 yards and a touchdown in his 11 games this season, with his best showing coming in Week 15 when he caught six passes for 72 yards on seven targets in a loss against Hamilton.
With the possibility of Dalton Schoen ($10,174) seeing limited snaps, O’Leary-Orange should get the opportunity to further display why the Bombers have perhaps the league’s best receiving corps. A strong performance on Friday will further his progress while also bolstering the number of targets he could see in the postseason when defences will be doing all they can to limit the Bombers passing attack.
Sit: Quarterbacks from both teams
This is probably not going to be the game where fantasy users will want to find their quarterback. It’s unlikely we’ll see a lot of either Vernon Adams Jr. ($8,183) or Zach Collaros ($10,859) as both will probably get just enough snaps to stay in tune before yielding to their respective backups.
Their is added intrigue coming from the prospect of seeing the return of Nathan Rourke ($12,831) on Friday. It would be his first game since a foot injury in Week 11 that altered the course of the BC Lions’ bid to win the West. Tempting as it may be if Rourke’s return is announced before Friday, it’s best to avoid him despite the glimmer of hope that the pivot who was on pace to rewrite the CFL record book will simply pick up where he left off.
Montreal (8-9-0) at Toronto (11-6-0)
Saturday | 2:00p.m. ET
Line: Toronto (-3)
Start: Daniel Adeboboye, RB, Toronto Argonauts, $3,500 Salary
A.J. Ouellette ($6,648) should get his share of snaps, but with the East locked up, Saturday is a good time for the Toronto Argonauts to give Daniel Adebobye his most extensive look of his rookie season. Adeboboye once looked like he’d be in position to grab some snaps after Andrew Harris ($7,801) was injured, yet the emergence of Ouellette as a valuable two-down back is a big reason why Toronto has next weekend off.
With just seven carries for 32 yards in four games this season, Adeboboye has plenty in his motor, which is why it almost feels natural that the Argonauts would want to give their 15th overall pick from the 2022 CFL Draft an opportunity to show why he was worthy of such a high selection.
Sit: William Stanback, Montreal Alouettes, $6,469 Salary
After easing him in during his first two games back from injury, the Montreal Alouettes gave their lead back 13 touches in Saturday’s nail-biting loss to Toronto, William Stanback rushed 10 times for 65 yards, while adding three receptions for 41 yards.
With that level of production, one would think he’s ready to welcome the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in next weekend’s Eastern Semi-Final, so while he may get a touch or two, this is likely the game where the Alouettes utilize Jeshrun Antwi ($3,048), who has seen a decline in targets since Stanback’s return. Montreal has found additional success in Walter Fletcher ($6,286) as a dangerous presence as a receiver the past three weeks. Antwi has had fantasy success at times this season and would be a good option if the Alouettes choose to place him atop the depth chart this week.
Hamilton (7-10-0) at Ottawa (4-13-0)
Saturday | 5:00p.m. ET
Line: Hamilton (-2.5)
Start: R.J. Harris, WR, Ottawa REDBLACKS, $4,771 Salary
Friday was a reminder of how good R.J. Harris can be when he’s on the field, he caught seven passes for 62 yards on a team-best 11 targets in the loss to Hamilton. It was only the fourth game this season for Harris and his first since Week 7 as injuries kept the team’s leading pass-catcher from 2021 sidelined for this season.
What has gone almost unnoticed is the sneak peek of just how good the Ottawa REDBLACKS receiving corps could be in 2023. Jaelon Acklin ($7,329) established himself as a potential East Division All-Star after catching 75 passes before being injured in Week 18, while Justin Hardy ($5,277) has caught 29 passes in his last four games, along with what has been the steady hands of Nate Behar ($5,904) before he was sidelined. Saturday is a golden opportunity to give Harris and pivot Nick Arbuckle ($6,738) plenty of time to develop a rapport that could carry over into next summer.
Sit: Tim White, WR, Hamilton Tiger-Cats, $10,151 Salary
Tim White comes into the regular season finale with consecutive 100-yard games (and three in his last four) and is just six receptions shy of breaking 100. However, with the Ticats’ traveling to Montreal for the Eastern Semi-Final on November 6, it would be hard to envision Hamilton risking the health of their second-year breakout performer.
Whoever is at quarterback for the Tiger-Cats, be it Matthew Shiltz ($7,099) or Dane Evans ($8,692), will have their share of targets to connect with as the offence is in need of a complement with White and Steven Dunbar Jr. ($6,843). This might be a game where someone like Tyler Ternowski ($2,500) or Lemar Durant ($3,280) could see a healthy share of targets.
Saskatchewan (6-11-0) at Calgary (11-6-0)
Saturday | 8:00p.m. ET
Line: Calgary (-7)
Start: Dedrick Mills, RB, Calgary Stampeders, $4,881 Salary
Dedrick Mills racked up 21.5 fantasy points in the win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Saturday, even though he and Ka’Deem Carey ($9,210) worked as a committee. The rookie from Nebraska ran for 103 yards, marking the second time he has hit the century mark in the five games he has appeared in this season. With the Western Semi-Final against BC looming, Mills’ production is an excellent reason why the Calgary Stampeders might consider limiting Carey’s touches on Saturday.
Mills has scored at least 10 fantasy points in four of his five games. Like Carey, he can be a factor in the passing game, having averaged a healthy 8.7 yards on his 13 receptions. Should Mills be atop the depth chart, consider him a fantasy anchor.
Sit: Roughriders quarterbacks
Mason Fine ($7,000) averaged just seven yards per pass in Saturday’s loss to the Stampeders and while he did throw an interception, he only managed 196 yards and one touchdown pass. Fine likely gets the start, and even if Saskatchewan pivots to Cody Fajardo ($9,322), his salary and recent production is too much to consider investing in.
If there is one thing about the Roughriders’ passing game to look forward to, it’s the fact Kian Schaffer-Baker ($7,326) is just 65 yards shy of reaching 1,000 receiving yards. The Stampeders have had their challenges against the deep ball this season and Schaffer-Baker has shown that all he needs is one target to reach that plateau. In what has been a tough year in Regina, having the second-year standout record his first 1,000-yard campaign will offer a bit of optimism to build on during the offseason.