September 23, 2021

Lions Kick Off Huge Home Stretch Against Saskatchewan

BC Lions wide receiver Bryan Burnham (16) under pressure from from Saskatchewan Roughriders safety Mike Edem (15) during second half CFL action in Regina. The Saskatchewan Roughriders defeated the BC Lions 33-29 on Friday, August 6, 2021. (CFL PHOTO - Matt Smith)

It’s the first game of the year where it really feels like playoff implications are in the air. How fitting in the first week of fall? All you have to do is look at the numbers to realize how big it is. Michael Reilly and the BC Lions are back home to face the Saskatchewan Roughriders in a battle of 4-2 squads.

Just how big is it? The winner of this one would take over sole possession of second place in the West Division and move to within two points of idle Winnipeg for top spot. That would set up a juicy matchup with the Bombers at BC Place next week. But we can ill afford to look ahead.

Reilly will look to continue his climb atop the CFL passing charts after collecting a second consecutive CFL Top Performer of the Week in a 303-yard, two-touchdown performance in the 27-18 win over Montreal Saturday night. Reilly leads the CFL in passer efficiency rating (119.5) and completion rate (75.6) while his 1,601 passing yards trail only Winnipeg’s Zach Collaros for the league lead.

Being back on the fast track at home should be a nice boost for Reilly, Lucky Whitehead, Bryan Burnham and the cast of Lion playmakers.

On the other side, Cody Fajardo is also in the top three in most of the major categories. The Roughriders’ offence has proven to be a force at times this season. Look no further than the week one meeting between these two squads where the Riders jumped out to a 31-0 halftime lead before the visitors nearly clawed all the way back in an eventual 33-29 loss to begin 2021.

Fajardo’s favourite targets have been Kyran Moore, Kian Schaeffer-Baker and Brayden Lenius, all of whom are enjoying breakout seasons. The Riders are coming off a 30-16 home win over the Toronto Argonauts on September 17th.

This one potentially has the makings of a good old-fashioned Western shootout. But let’s not discount the defences. We’ve talked at length about how this Lions’ unit has kept opponents out of the end zone and is the only one in the league to record at least one interception in every game. The Riders have a few guys who know about takeaways as well including Ed Gainey, Nick Marshall and former Lion DB Loucheiz Purifoy. Buckle up. It should be a good one.

After these contests against the Riders and Bombers, the Lions will enjoy their second bye week of the season followed by another home tilt with Calgary on October 16th. It no doubt presents a great opportunity to bank some more wins as we approach the second half of the season.

Lions/Riders Notebook

  • A Lions victory by five or more points would also give them the head-to-head tiebreaker advantage after Saskatchewan prevailed by four points in week one.
  • Dating back to the 2015 season, BC has won four of six home contests against Saskatchewan.
  • Second half dominance: this Lions defence has yet to allow a touchdown after halftime this season.
  • Another beauty nugget from CFL stats man Steve Daniel: Since allowing touchdowns on three straight drives to begin the opener in Regina, the Leos’ D has given up just two in a total of 79 possessions.
  • The Lions have not trailed for a second during this three-game win streak and have also built double-digit leads in each of the games. The last time they trailed was in the week three loss to Edmonton.
  • More Reilly numbers: the team has won all four contests this season in which he has thrown for over 300 yards. In his career, Reilly has an overall record of 32-20 when he goes over 300 yards in a game.
  • Whitehead has two catches of 75-plus yards this season. The last Lion to do that was Manny Arceneaux in 2013 (80 and 77 yards).
  • Changes for the Lions: running back Shaq Cooper is back on after missing last week with a hip injury. He will take the spot of Chris Rainey (hamstring). Receiver Lemar Durant returns after missing the last two games with a foot injury but is listed as a backup to Keon Hatcher on the depth chart. Defensive end JR Tavai and defensive back Isaiah Guzylak-Messam (both hamstring injuries) will sit this one out while linebacker Dyshawn Davis moves to the active roster.

Matt Baker: