We’re here. After an offseason which has seen seven teams change starting pivots, the Road to the 110th Grey Cup begins on Thursday.
It also kicks off another season of Start/Sit, as we debut our expanded CFL fantasy game.
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BC at Calgary
Thursday, 9:00pm (Eastern)
Line: Calgary (-3.5)
Start: Taquan Mizzell, RB, Lions, $7,700 Salary
As the Lions’ sole back on the roster, Mizzell will be a value play since he’ll get almost all of BC’s rushing attempts. The former NFL castoff will benefit from an offence that seeks to spread the ball downfield against the Stampeders defence. If quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. ($13,000) is able to establish the pass early, Mizzell could have success at the expense of a Calgary run defence that allowed 5.2 yards per carry last season.
The only drawback to Mizzell is that he could see limited touches near the goal line. Adams is certainly capable of making plays but the bulk of those opportunities could go to new BC pivot Dominique Davis ($8,000), who scored 13 rushing majors last season with the Alouettes.
Sit: Ka’Deem Carey, RB, Stampeders, $13,000 Salary
Calgary has made it no secret the offence will be geared around their CFL All-Star back, so expect the Lions to take the Stampeders at their word.
Carey had good but not great numbers in his three games against BC last season, rushing for a combined 188 yards and a major on 30 carries. Despite the stellar 6.2 yards per carry average, Carey’s high water mark versus the Lions was 84 yards in Week 16 in which he also recorded his sole score. There will be solid running backs to consider in Week 1, but the risk/reward with Carey is too steep.
Hamilton at Winnipeg
Line: Winnipeg (-4.5)
Start: Rasheed Bailey, WR, Blue Bombers, $11,000 Salary
Overlooked by the success of Winnipeg’s 15-3-0 2022 campaign was how Bailey finished the regular season. He emerged as a complimentary piece capable of doing more, scoring six of his nine receiving majors after Week 14 that included scoring in three straight contests. With the Bombers without Kenny Lawler to open the season and Greg Ellingson ($10,000) with the Alouettes, Bailey is in excellent position to grab the bulk of the targets that would have gone to them.
Winnipeg led the league with a 9.6 yards gained per attempt last season, and there’s no reason to expect Zach Collaros ($14,100) to ease up following consecutive Most Outstanding Player awards. He recorded a season-best 342 yards against the Ticats in Week 15 last season when he averaged 10.1 yards per toss. Add it up, and watch Bailey get your fantasy team off to a good start.
Sit: Bo Levi Mitchell, Tiger-Cats, $13,000 Salary
We’re all interested to see how Mitchell is going to look with his new playmates. However, leave your curiosity to the mind instead of risking it with your fantasy squad.
Mitchell was very ineffective against the Bombers last season, throwing just one major in 53 attempts in two games. He failed to top better than 219 yards in either of his last four games while managing two touchdown passes. Time (and a new team) changes everything, but it’s best to wait for Mitchell to get a game or two under his belt before committing to him as your fantasy pivot.
Ottawa at Montreal
Line: Montreal (-1.0)
Start: Kaion Julien-Grant, WR Alouettes, $7,800 Salary
The feeling here is that Julien-Grant is going to become a fantasy standout this season, and his launching pad will be in front of the home crowd. Julien-Grant faces a REDBLACKS secondary that allowed 29 completions of better than 30 yards last season on the way to yielding a league-high 44 ‘Big Plays.’ He’s paired up with new pivot Cody Fajardo ($12,000), who thrives on letting it fly downfield.
Montreal will be a downhill running-based attack but when defences decide to crowd the line in order to slow down William Stanback ($13,300), that’s the time when Fajardo will strike. The Alouettes have a number of talented young pass catchers seeking to replace All-Star Eugene Lewis ($14,000), yet it’s Julien-Grant who has the best chance to emerge as a dangerous home run threat.
Sit: REDBLACKS Running Backs
Neither Jackson Bennett ($8,000) nor Devonte Williams ($10,000) has established themselves as the clear back of note for Ottawa, which rushed for just 85.4 yards per game last season. Both backs had limited stretches of success last season but the two failed to score a rushing major on their combined 140 carries.
The departed William Powell was the only REDBLACKS running back to record a rushing touchdown last season; of the 20 rushing scores Ottawa tallied, 16 belonged to current Alouette quarterback Caleb Evans, while pivots Nick Arbuckle (two) and Jeremiah Masoli (one) had the other visits into the end zone. With that lack of production from their running game, it’s best to avoid the REDBLACKS backfield.
Saskatchewan at Edmonton
Line: Saskatchewan (-3.5)
Start: Jamal Morrow, RB, Roughriders, $11,000 Salary
Morrow’s best game of the 2022 season came against the Elks when he rushed for 126 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries in Week 2. His effort felt like par for the course for backs who faced the Edmonton defence, which gave up a league-high 119.1 yards per game along with a CFL-high 31 rushing scores.
Honestly, fantasy users could flip the coin and run with Elks RB Kevin Brown ($12,100) who carved up the Roughriders for 109 yards on 14 carries in Week 15. That was par for the course for backs who faced the Saskatchewan defence, which allowed 118.1 yards per game on the ground yet gave up just 14 rushing majors.
Sit: Both Roughriders and Elks Defences
Of the Week 1 games, this gives the biggest slugfest vibe. While both teams spent the offseason looking to improve their porous defences, neither Saskatchewan ($7,000) nor Edmonton ($5,600) appear presentable for fantasy users to consider as a speculative buy.
On average, the teams combined to allow 59.7 points per game last season. Even if you want to consider some mild regression due to the start of the new season, this still looks like a game where fantasy users might want to consider stacking either Riders or Elks on the offensive side.