Thursday, February 22, 2024

CFL Preview: Calgary Stampeders (5-11-0) at British Columbia Lions (12-5-0)

VANCOUVER — If the BC Lions hope to host the Western Final on November 11, they need to take care of business when they welcome the Calgary Stampeders to BC Place on Friday night for their final game of the regular season.

A Lions loss means the path out of the West to the Grey Cup goes through Winnipeg. A win means the Lions still need Winnipeg to lose on Saturday night to keep the dream of first alive.

When they take the field on Friday, they’ll see a desperate Stampeders team aiming to keep their playoff fate in their own hands. With a win over Saskatchewan last week, the Stamps claimed the season series and sit just one game behind the Roughriders for the final playoff spot. A win over the Lions, combined with a Riders loss to Toronto, secures Calgary’s spot in the post-season for the 18th consecutive year.

The Week 20 opener pits the league’s top ranked passing game against the second best pass defence. Vernon Adams Jr. goes under centre sporting 4,653 yards and 31 touchdowns. Equipped with two of the top five receiving yard leaders in Keon Hatcher and Alexander Hollins, the offensive game plan will surely go through the air. With 44 yards, Hatcher can surpass Hamilton’s Tim White for the most in the CFL.

Looking to keep the Lions explosive offence at bay is a group of defensive backs and linebackers holding opposing quarterbacks to 237.3 yards.

Cameron Judge can make an impact in both facets of the defence and picked off a Jake Dolegala pass a week ago. Further downfield Branden Dozier, Jonathan Moxey, Brad Muhammad and Kobe Williams blanket the secondary.

With all eyes on the pass game, the Lions will search for ways to gain yardage on the ground by handing the ball to JaQuan Hardy again as Taquan Mizzell misses his second straight game. Hardy rushed for 26 yards on eight carries in his team’s victory over Hamilton.

While the Lions run game is last in total yardage, the Stamps defensive front has also struggled to contain opposing rushers. It’s a responsibility that falls on Julian Howsare and Mike Moore off the edge with the support of Micah Awe and his league leading 119 defensive tackles at linebacker.

The Stamps on the other hand can feel good about giving the the ball to the dynamic Ka’Deem Carey. With the offence averaging 327.3 net yards per game and the Lions having given up 101 on the ground a week ago, head coach Dave Dickenson should be looking for production from anywhere he can get it.

If Carey hopes to have a big game, he’ll have to find a way through a defence full of talent. Defensive linemen Mathieu Betts and David Menard both had a sack in Hamilton and linebacker Bo Lokombo led the way with eight defensive tackles.

Quarterback Jake Maier completed 17 passes for 184 yards, a touchdown and didn’t turn the ball over in the air against the Riders. Taking care of the football and sustaining drives is critical against a strong pass defence.

Maier gets his top receiver back as Reggie Begelton returns. He’ll join the likes of Luther Hakunavanhu, Marken Michel and Tre Odoms-Dukes in what Dickenson hopes produces their best performance yet. Watch for Carey to also make his presence felt in the pass game.

The Stamps will see a strong secondary of T.J. Lee, Quincy Mauger, and Garry Peters. Linebacker Josh Woods chipped in an interception in their most recent win and Mike Jones has played well of late, giving the Lions plenty of options to shut down the receiving corps.

BC can move into top spot in the West Division with a victory.

A victory for Calgary moves them into a tie with Saskatchewan for the final playoff spot.

Kickoff is scheduled for 10:00 p.m. ET. Canadian viewers can watch on TSN while U.S. and International viewers can catch the game on CFL+.

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