Cauz: Six matchups to watch in the Division Semis

The playoffs are that glorious time of year where we get to hyper focus on every square inch of a game as we break down every play.

The stakes are far higher, and the consequences are infinitely more pronounced than in the regular season.

In the past two playoff years, seven of the ten games were decided by one score meaning every play is so critical. In some cases, the difference between winning and losing can come down to either one moment of excellent or one mistake.

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With that as my backdrop to the Eastern and Western Semi-Finals, let’s take a look at three different individual matchups in each game that will play a big part in deciding who survives and who is going home.

Eastern Semi-Final: Hamilton at Montreal

Bo Levi Mitchell vs. Marc-Antoine Dequoy

In one corner you have the older quarterback who has accomplished all there is to do in the CFL but is looking to turn the back the clock to 2019 and have one last prolonged period of glory.

In the other corner is the 29-year-old East Division nominee for Most Outstanding Canadian. The third-year pro was a turnover creating machine with five interceptions and two fumble recoveries.

The last three years have not been up to Mitchell’s lofty standards with the future Hall-of-Famer throwing for more interceptions (29) than touchdowns (25). We have seen glimpses of his former self, most recently in Week 19 against the BC Lions when he put together two touchdown drives, completing 10 straight passes after his interception to Josh Woods.

As for Dequoy, we’ve seen him play at an All-Star level, just look at his two-interception day against Zach Collaros. I’m hoping Mitchell will challenge Dequoy so we can all see if the 2018 Quebec Conference Player of the Year winner is up for the challenge.

Bonus Match-Up: Mitchell vs. the Hamilton Tiger-Cats coaching staff.

Even when healthy, Mitchell did not have a great first season in Hamilton and coach Orlondo Steinhauer has stated his plans to use Matthew Shiltz. I’m curious what happens if Mitchell comes out firing darts? Does Steinhauer stick with his plan? What sort of leash does Mitchell have if he can’t move the team? So many questions!

James Butler vs. Tyrice Beverette


I will keep this one brief.

Who doesn’t love a good primal, on-field tussle between a 1,000-yard rusher and an imposing linebacker coming off a career-high season in tackles (85) and sacks (seven)?

Butler went over 100 yards four times in 2023 with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, going 3-1 in those contests. Butler went up against the Montreal Alouettes twice this year and was held to a combined 65 yards on the ground. Hamilton did not register a win against their East Division rival this season and the lack of production from their running game was a big part.

Austin Mack vs. Stavros Katsantonis

Our second American versus Canadian matchup!

There are plenty of reasons why Montreal went 3-0 against the Tabbies, one of them being the production of their first-year receiver against Hamilton’s secondary and on the other side, the lack of big plays from Hamilton’s ultra productive safety.

Mack tallied 10 receptions for 187 yards and two scores while Katsantonis was limited to a pair of tackles in games between these teams. This year saw Katsantonis pick off the league’s best quarterbacks. During his hat trick of games with an interception Stavros got the better of Chad Kelly, Dustin Crum, and Zach Collaros. The big question is will Stavros be locked up in man-to-man situations with Mack or will he be tasked to help in double teams with Montreal’s latest receiving threat?

Western Semi-Final: Calgary at BC Lions  

Mathieu Betts vs. the right side of the Calgary Stampeders offensive line

This is the Captain Obvious part of the column. The Canadian Crippler set a Canadian single-season record with his 18 sacks to go along with three forced fumbles. Keeping Betts in check is rarely a one-man job, so expect Ryan Sceviour and Joshua Coker to be working in tandem on Saturday night. It should be noted that the Stampeders did as good a job as any team in Canada against Betts as Mathieu “only” finished with two sacks in three games against Calgary.

Reggie Begelton vs. Garry Peters


Playoff upsets usually happen when the underdog can hit on some big plays early and force the favourite to chase. For Calgary, that means Jake Maier is going to have to find a way to hit Begelton on some deep shots when the opportunity presents itself. Begelton finished sixth in receiving yards and had over 400 more yards than the next best receiver on the team.

As for Peters, he had more pass knockdowns than any non-Winnipeg Blue Bomber defender, finished the year with four interceptions and most impressive of all, did not allow a single touchdown all season. Here’s hoping defensive coordinator Ryan Phillips lets Peters shadow Begelton on second and long situations.

Calgary Linebackers vs. Vernon Adams Jr.

Adams has no fear as a passer and both Cameron Judge and Micah Awe have benefited from the swashbuckling ways of the Lions quarterback.

In Week 1 it was Judge swooping in 15 yards down field for a pick, then in Week 10 it was Awe’s turn for a little ball thievery. Both interceptions looked quite similar with Adams pushing the ball downfield and not seeing the Stampeder linebackers preying on the pass.

It needs to be stated that on both occasions, Vernon led his team to a win registering 300 or more yards and six total touchdowns. Yes, you would rather not have your quarterback turn the ball over, but you can live with the occasional mistake when you lead the league in passing.

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