Thursday, February 22, 2024
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CFL Preview: Saskatchewan Roughriders (6-8-0) at British Columbia Lions (10-4-0)

VANCOUVER — With their playoff ticket punched, the BC Lions now turn their attention to securing a home playoff game and winning the West Division as they get set to host the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Friday night.

Saskatchewan’s path to the postseason isn’t as clear after dropping their last three games and it begins with a tough assignment as they face one the league’s most well-rounded teams.

The Lions and Roughriders have met twice this season, with BC securing a 19-9 win in Week 7 and Saskatchewan coming away with a 34-29 victory in Week 11.

The Lions are led by a potent offence that stretches from sideline to sideline and had another impressive game a week ago.

There’s been no shortage of receiving options when quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. drops back, evident by him finding Keon Hatcher for 91 yards and Jevon Cottoy for 88 in their win over Edmonton in Week 16. Add in the dynamic playmaking ability of Alexander Hollins and Lucky Whitehead, coupled with the return of Dominique Rhymes, and the Roughriders secondary will be spread thin.

With a playoff spot secured, Adams Jr. wants to keep things rolling.

Don’t count out head coach Craig Dickenson’s squad, however, as they feature plenty of playmakers on the defensive side of the ball more than capable of hanging with the talented Lions receivers.

Nick Marshall heads the unit with four interceptions, while C.J. Reavis has forced a pair of fumbles, recorded a sack and pulled down an interception.

The Lions offensive approach appears to be expanding with the recent strong performance of running back Taquan Mizzell, meaning downfield won’t be the only area of focus for Dickenson’s defence. Mizzell rushed for 112 yards and two touchdown on 16 carries against the Elks. With the Riders giving up 193 yards on the ground in their loss to Ottawa last week, more touches could be coming his way.

Halting the run game falls on a defensive line and group of linebackers that has allowed 126.9 yards per game to date and has dealt with its fair share of injuries.

Linebacker Larry Dean is fourth in the league with 93 defensive tackles and will need to support linemen Anthony Albright, Micah Johnson and Pete Robertson.

Offensively for the Riders, quarterback Jake Dolegala has played admirably in the pocket with an expanding set of receivers. Not only have Tevin Jones, Shawn Bane Jr. and Samuel Emilus been among the league’s best this season, Kian Schaffer-Baker comes into the game off seven catches for 76 yards and a touchdown.

Having multiple options gives Dolegala confidence that his team can get it done against a tough opponent.

Dolegala threw for three touchdowns and didn’t turn the ball over in the team’s last meeting. Ball security is going to be important to the Riders success given the skillset of the Lions secondary. Defensive back Garry Peters leads the team with three picks and has 40 defensive tackles through 14 games.

The Riders will still be without running back Jamal Morrow in the run game. Frankie Hickson filled in last week with 77 yards and will look to provide Dickenson additional offence.

The Lions have been one of the league’s best defences against the run and held the dynamic duo of Tre Ford and Kevin Brown under 100 yards a week ago.

Defensive linemen Woody Baron and linebackers Ben Hladik and Quincy Mauger all had a sack in that game. They are joined up front by Mathieu Betts, who leads the CFL in sacks.

The Lions can move to 11-4 with a win and as they continue to battle Winnipeg for first place in the West Division.

The Riders are trying to snap their three-game skid while creating separation between themselves, Calgary and Edmonton for third in the division.

Kickoff is scheduled for 9:30 p.m. ET from BC Place. International and U.S. audiences can watch the game on CFL+. Canadian viewers can catch the action on TSN.

Leather Head Sports

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