November 1, 2023

Weekly Predictor: Who advances to the Finals?

Jimmy Jeong/

The CFL Playoffs have arrived!

The time of year where you can throw away the records and start looking at a team based on where have they been lately and not so much where they are as an 18-game collective.

Sure the 16-2 Toronto Argonauts and 14-4 Winnipeg Blue Bombers barely have a blemish on their records, but that’s why they’re sitting at home this week and we get to pick apart the four teams vying for a chance to move their season forward.

It’s an exact repeat of last year’s top six and in the same order. The last time that happened where the same six teams finished in the exact same spot was the 1963 and 1964 season. In those two seasons the division leaders at the end of the regular season met in the Grey Cup with Hamilton beating BC in the 1963 Grey Cup and the Lions returning the favour the next season with a win over the Tiger-Cats.

There was a change in one of the division semis, however, as the Riders beat Calgary in the Western Semi-Final in 1963 and the Stampeders beating the Roughriders the following season. Ottawa beat Montreal in both Eastern Semi-Finals those two seasons.

Enough useless CFL history. Let’s get to the present shall we?


» Head to Head: Who has the edge in the Eastern Semi-Final?
» 3 stats that could loom large in the Western Semi-Final
» 3 stats that could loom large in the Eastern Semi-Final


WR Tim White led the league in receiving yards in 2023 (Kevin Sousa/

Hamilton at Montreal
Saturday, November 4
3:00 p.m. ET

It’s interesting how these two teams got to the Eastern Semi-Final this season. The Alouettes have a perfect 11-0 record against teams below .500. That also means the Als are 0-7 against teams above .500.

In come the 8-10 Hamilton Tiger-Cats who have yet to win a game against an Eastern playoff team. Yes, the Tiger-Cats went 0-7 against Montreal and Toronto this year, while compiling an 8-3 record against every one else, including wins over BC and Winnipeg.

The Tiger-Cats can win on the road. They’re 5-2 on the road since July and one of those losses was last week’s effort in Montreal, where they almost pulled off the win, albeit in garbage time.

The issue I’m having with the Tiger-Cats is the way they’re going into the playoffs. I’m not sure they even know which quarterback gives them the best chance to win. Is it Bo Levi Mitchell? Is it Matthew Shiltz? In two games when they split the reps against Saskatchewan and BC you would believe that maybe the two quarterback system is the best?

I’m not sure that’s a winning strategy in the playoffs, though it allows them to go with the hot hand and Orlondo Steinauer will not be scared to pull the trigger quickly on Saturday.

The other thing the Tiger-Cats have going for them is a strong run game with James Butler. You can win on the road with a great run attack, the issue with that is the Alouettes are even more formidable in run defence since the addition of tackle demon Darnell Sankey.

The Alouettes come in knowing exactly who they are and what has gotten them here. Cody Fajardo is the tough quarterback who will take a licking and keeping on ticking. Once again Fajardo has been one of the most sacked quarterbacks in the CFL.

Fajardo leads the league in completion percentage, he’s done so because of a lot more high percentage throws as he’s ‘aired it out’ less than most offences in the CFL.

The Alouettes also have one of the better running backs in the league if they need to rely on William Stanback, whose 5.4 yards per carry is among the better averages in the league.

When looking at the Eastern Semi-Final, I’m looking for the best playmakers. Who have the difference makers?

The kick return games are fairly even with the Alouettes and Tiger-Cats having the ability to break a game open.

On offence, Austin Mack and Tim White are in the conversation for best receivers in the division.

On defence, they both have two National safeties who will pop the ball loose or take the ball away with key interceptions.

I’m really basing this game on a hunch. My brain says pick the Alouettes. My gut says the Tiger-Cats are figuring it out at the right time and have a few more impressive victories in the back half of the season no matter who their quarterback has been.


QB Jake Maier threw two touchdown passes in the 41-16 Stamps win over the Lions in Week 20 (Jimmy Jeong/

Calgary at BC
Saturday, November 4
6:30 p.m. ET

On paper this should be an easy game to predict. The Lions are 12-6, while the Stampeders are 6-12.

The problem is we just saw the Stampeders go on the road to BC and beat up on the Lions 41-16. It was the Lions final game of the season and to me, it looked like a team that wasn’t emotionally engaged in the game as the Stampeders were.

In the moment, the Lions had a shot at first, though extremely unlikely. The Stampeders were playing for their playoff lives.

The Lions also turned the ball over six times, while the Stampeders didn’t allow one turnover. It was among the sloppiest games we’ve seen the Lions play all season.

The Lions did have a bye week to start figuring some things out. It’s also their defence that needs work. Over the last three months, the Lions are statistically one of the worst defences in the CFL. They rank right there with the Saskatchewan Roughriders and Ottawa REDBLACKS. That is not good company to keep for a defence.

The Stampeders defence has always been a pretty decent group, they’ve just needed their offence to pick up the pace.

So this game really comes down to a strong defence against a very talent offence. On the other side we have a struggling offence against an equally work in progress defence.

However, the Lions defence was simply outstanding in the first two months of the season. So will defensive coordinator Ryan Phillips find the secret sauce again? Or will the Stampeders continue to find a way to exploit a group that has been gashed for big yards recently?

I’ll be interested to see how both quarterbacks play in this one as well.

Jake Maier goes back into BC where he was yanked for Bo Levi Mitchell in last year’s semi-final, while this will be the first playoff action for Vernon Adams Jr. since the 2019 Eastern Semi-Final when he threw two late interceptions in a loss to Edmonton, despite having a great game in the first 55 minutes of that one.

In this one, I can’t ignore the amount of playmakers the Lions have of offence. While the Stampeders have struggled to find a game breaker, the Lions have three or four. And it’s in a dome. The Lions speed will be on full display.


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