October 31, 2023

3 stats that could loom large in the Western Semi-Final

Jimmy Jeong/CFL.ca

TORONTO — Playoff games are often decided by the smallest of details.

The BC Lions and Calgary Stampeders will face off in Vancouver in the Western Semi-Finals for the second straight year. The Leos got a 30-16 win in 2022 but the Stamps won their latest matchup 41-16 at the BC Place in Week 20 to secure their post-season spot.

There are a lot of factors that could determine who advances to face the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on November 11, including two offences that have complete opposite styles. The big-play down-the-field force for the Orange and Black and the ball-control, relatively mistake-free Red and White attack makes for a fascinating game.

It is also a matchup between the two top scoring kickers with 52 makes by Rene Paredes and 50 by Sean Whyte. Who’ll get the win on Saturday? CFL.ca takes you through three stats that could answer that question.

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


5,672 – Passing yards

BC finished first in passing yards with Vernon Adams Jr. under centre and will go against a Stampeders team that not only finished second-best in passing yards allowed but also stopped the Leos from going anywhere just two weeks ago at the BC Place in Week 20.

Adams and Dane Evans combined for 241 passing yards but also threw four interceptions against a ball-hawking secondary. BC’s success through the air relies heavily on a pass-catching group that features the likes of Keon Hatcher and Alexander Hollins, who ended the season second and fourth in receiving yards respectively.

That’s not to say that the Stampeders can’t push the ball down the field as well. Receiver Reggie Begelton finished fourth in the CFL in targets and totalled 1,119 yards despite missing a couple of games due to injury. The chemistry is there for Jake Maier to find Begelton down the field for one of those down-the-field bombs the two were able to connect during the season.


34 – Sacks allowed

Calgary’s offensive line did a really good job protecting Maier all season, allowing only 34 total sacks, third best mark of the season behind only the Toronto Argonauts and Winnipeg Blue Bombers. The Lions meanwhile were the second best team rushing the passer with 55 sacks made – led by Mathieu Betts with the record by a National player with 18.

In the last matchup between the two teams the Leos had only one sack – by Betts to set the new record – on Maier.

It’ll be paramount to give the quarterback time to operate in the pocket as he’ll be going against a Lions defence that led the league in yards per play allowed with 5.97, while Calgary finished second-last in yards per play on offence with 5.91.

Two matchups to watch are Betts against left tackle D’Antne Demery and right tackle Joshua Coker. The Lions like to move the veteran D-lineman around the line (with a 60-40 split between right and left), meaning both Demery and Coker will see plenty of the National pass rusher on Saturday. A good news for Calgary fans is that both tackles for the Stamps graded in the top 30 for all offensive lineman in 2023 according to PFF.

+9 / -12 – Turnover Ratio


The Stampeders also had a lot of success taking care of the football in 2023. Calgary finished with the third-best turnover ratio (plus nine), finishing with the second fewest interceptions thrown (16) and fumbles lost (seven).

The same does not ring true for a BC team that ended the season with the third-worst turnover ratio (minus 12). The Orange and Black operate a high-risk/high-reward type of offence that tied for the league lead in interceptions with 23, while finishing middle-of-the-pack in fumbles lost with 10.

The Red and White will need to steal a few possessions to bridge the gap between an offence that scored 33 touchdowns and BC’s attack that tallied 45 majors.

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