October 30, 2023

Head to Head: Who has the edge in the Western Semi-Final?

Jimmy Jeong/CFL.ca

The regular season is over and it’s now time we turn our attention to the CFL Playoffs as six teams start the hunt for the 110th Grey Cup.

The Calgary Stampeders and BC Lions meet for the second-straight season in the Western Semi-Final at BC Place. Will the Lions have the same fate and head to the Western Final to take on the Blue Bombers or will the Stampeders spoil the fun for the home crowd to head to Winnipeg next week.

With the stage set, let’s take a detailed look at where each team might hold an edge in Saturday’s Western Semi-Final.

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Jake Maier has grown into his role as full time starter nicely this season, while many of the pieces around him have been in flux, such as receivers leading to a whopping 39 drops, which have greatly affected his completion percentage and subsequent perception.

Meanwhile, Vernon Adams Jr. continues to have one of the CFL’s deepest average depth of targets and has a plethora of playmakers firing on all cylinders as we arrive at playoff time. 

Chalk one up for the Lions



While the Lions have the CFL’s lowest first down run play call percentage, they do so much through the air that feels like high percentage long handoffs before putting the hammer down to accelerate the ball downfield on second down.

With that being said, any Lions running back opportunities have to come against Micah Awe and Cameron Judge who cover side-to-sideline as well as anyone in the game.

Calgary hasn’t been a great running team for much of the year, but if they can get an early lead you know they’ll try to pound it a bit, which could lead to a statistical advantage through little more than commitment to the concept.



Reggie Begelton is the Stampeders best hope as the ball catching saviour, but this Lions group is so riddled with different body types and abilities, it’s hard to make an argument for anything other than Keon Hatcher, Alexander Hollins, Dominique Rhymes, Jevon Cottoy and Lucky Whitehead.




The Lions have kept Adams Jr. clean for much of the season and despite his off-script abilities sometimes muddying the stats used to assess offensive lines, the nightmare Lions blocking stats of 2019 are far, far in the rearview mirror and won’t be coming back anytime soon.

Thankfully for Calgary, their leader in the middle, Sean McEwen, continues to play at an elite level and should be able to direct traffic up front to keep Jake Maier relatively clean.



Mathieu Betts is the difference here. I think the world of Derek Wiggan, Mike Rose and many of the Stamps edge threats, but the historic season of Betts can not go unrecognized when discussing advantages.

If nothing else, his presence will get extra attention in this game and free up some looping interior blitzes from Ben Hladik or Bo Lokombo.



Micah Awe set the single season Calgary record for tackles and Cameron Judge has evolved into a more vocal leader, while allowing his on-field game to talk more than most.

I’ve loved BC’s Ben Hladik since he was drafted out of UBC and watching him drop into the middle replacing former top pick Jordan Williams has been a pure treat, but Awe and Judge appear to be everywhere, all the time, all at once.



Through the first half of the season the BC Lions allowed one pass completion on attempts of twenty yards or more by opposing quarterbacks. One. In fourteen attempts. 

If BC can get that kind of play from their secondary, the advantage goes strongly towards Marcus Sayles, T.J. Lee, and Garry Peters.




Terry Williams has been consistent and stayed healthy for much of the season allowing him to pile up impressive combined yardage numbers while also showing with a few blocks he can out run the coverage with the best of them.





Picking between Sean Whyte and Rene Parades is like picking between the new car or the new house. There really isn’t a bad option but I have a hard time – especially late in games – counting out Parades’ smooth stroke.



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