Fantasy: Divisional Final projections

CFL

With just 10 more days until the 2021 CFL season wraps up, CFL Fantasy players should make the most of their last opportunities for action. Winnipeg carries the highest implied team total this week by a wide margin (27) and as a result, the top projected players at every position are Bombers. Given that fact, it’s likely Bombers are the most widely rostered options on the slate, which makes for some interesting contrarian options for players looking to get ahead of the masses in the Division Finals CFL Fantasy competition.

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The biggest issue for Zach Collaros might be how he fares in the rest versus rust battle (The Canadian Press)

QUARTERBACK

Zach Collaros, WPG – $9,738
Jeremiah Masoli, HAM – $9,445
McLeod Bethel-Thompson, TOR – $8,830
Cody Fajardo, SSK – $9,398

After a playoff bye last week, Zach Collaros and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers will make their 2021 CFL postseason debut at home on Sunday versus the Riders. There aren’t really any math-based reasons to believe Collaros will struggle on Sunday.

The Bombers had the most efficient passing attack in the league this season with the most yards (8.99) and second-most TDs per pass attempt. They now face a Riders’ secondary that allowed the second-most yards per pass attempt (8.73) and second-most total passing touchdowns (20). In two games against the Riders this season, Winnipeg won by a combined score of 56-17.

Suppose there are concerns around Collaros this week. In that case, they may be based on a lack of opportunities to put up points if Winnipeg goes up big early – as happened both times he played Saskatchewan this season – or rust from a lack of meaningful playing. Collaros has not played in a closely contested and significant game since Winnipeg’s tight victory over Edmonton on Oct. 15. In a game like professional football, keeping an edge by facing adversity is a real part of winning.

Jeremiah Masoli and the Ticats won over the Alouettes this past Sunday in fairly convincing fashion. Still, he and the offence did not look nearly as effective in amassing just 237 yards of total offence while putting up a meagre 11.9 fantasy points. It was his worst fantasy performance since returning from injury in Week 9. The Argos’ defence provides an above-average matchup for opposing QBs in passing yards and touchdowns allowed per attempt.

Masoli averaged 343.5 yards passing with a 1:1 TD: INT ratio in two games against Toronto this season. Granted, many of the yards in the second matchup came in garbage time in a lopsided loss in Week 15, but in CFL Fantasy, points are points no matter how they are scored. The Argos were the only playoff team with a negative points differential this season (-9), so there’s reason to believe the Ticats could be poised for a road playoff win on their way to another Grey Cup appearance.

As it was for his 2021 season overall, McLeod Bethel-Thompson was a Jekyll and Hyde-type performer against Hamilton, with a Week 10 score of 22.7 fantasy points in Hamilton, but a Week 15 score of just 12 fantasy points in Toronto. The Argos’ passing attack averaged the third-fewest yards per attempt (7.58) along with a below-average rate of passing TDs per attempt. At the same time, the Hamilton defence allowed the second-fewest yards (7.34) and third-fewest touchdowns per pass attempt through Week 15. Overall, there are more reasons to expect Hyde this week than Dr. Jekyll, making McBeth a questionable fantasy option in the Eastern Final.

There are not many games in which a professional quarterback throws four interceptions but still manages to put another tick in the QB Winz column of the stat ledger. With Fajardo’s “win or die trying” mentality reminiscent of another Grey Cup-winning Saskatchewan quarterback, Kerry Joseph, his 14.9 fantasy points as a ball carrier salvaged his day from a fantasy perspective and sent the Riders into the Western Final against Winnipeg.

The Riders’ passing game produced the second-fewest yards per attempt (7.34) and third-fewest TDs per attempt through Week 15. They face a Bombers’ defence that allowed league-low rates by a wide margin in both categories. Apart from the rust argument, there’s no evidence-based reason to expect a winning fantasy performance from Fajardo on Sunday.


With John White injured, D.J. Foster could take the bulk of the carries for the Argos on Sunday (Peter Power/CFL.ca)

RUNNING BACK

Andrew Harris, WPG – $8,075
D.J. Foster, TOR – $5,800
Don Jackson, HAM – $7,992
William Powell, SSK – $7,703

The last time Andrew Harris played in a game was also the last time the Winnipeg Blue Bombers played in a tightly contested and meaningful game – Week 11. Since then, Brady Oliveira and Johnny Augustine have done what’s needed in the backfield to get the team to where they are, but if Harris is available, he’ll clearly be the workhorse on Sunday.

In nine games of action this season, Harris had just four scores and averaged just over one reception per game, which significantly held his fantasy scoring down from previous seasons. Thankfully, his salary has dropped appropriately to reflect that new reality, making him the second-best value at the position while also being its top-projected option.

The Riders’ defence allowed the second-fewest yards per rush attempt this season (4.46), but that didn’t stop Winnipeg from averaging 113 rushing yards per game in their two matchups in 2021. With both Jackson and Powell priced in the same salary range but with significantly lower projections, the choice at RB this week likely comes down to Harris or Foster. Fantasy players will just have to keep an eye out for the depth chart on Saturday to determine whether Harris is set to return to action.

With John White expected to be done for the year, D.J. Foster will likely receive most of the touches out of the Argos backfield, with A.J. Ouellette also receiving meaningful snaps. Foster has averaged just four yards per carry this season – only 2.2 per carry in four games versus Hamilton – but much of his value is derived from his worth as a receiver, as he’s averaged 9.3 fantasy points per game as a receiver versus the Ticats this year.

Hamilton is one of the better rush defences in the league, allowing a league-low 4.23 yards per carry, so if Foster has a big game, it will likely again come through PPR scoring. Thankfully, he has to produce much less than the other starting RBs to be a solid value given the massive discount he comes at over other options at the position.

The Hamilton backfield has usually been difficult to decipher for fantasy purposes. Still, when Don Jackson has been available over the past two months, he has received the overwhelming majority of snaps, carries, and targets for the Ticats at the RB position. Somewhat surprisingly, Hamilton averaged the second-most yards per carry this season (5.33) and gets to face an Argos’ defence that allowed the most yards per rush attempt (5.64).

Jackson’s touches are projected somewhat modestly given the uncertainty of Bralon Addison’s availability for the game. If Addison were to be out, Jackson’s projection would go up an extra couple of touches and bring him within two points of Andrew Harris’s projection, making Jackson an interesting contrarian pivot.

Given that the Riders are eight-point road dogs this week in Winnipeg, it’s difficult to imagine many scenarios in which Powell outscores Harris and Jackson at similar salaries or winds up being a better value than Foster. If there’s a case to be made for Powell, it’s that he received a season-high 25 touches against Calgary in the Western Semi-Final and Winnipeg was one of the more generous rush defences this season in allowing 5.13 yards per carry. Suppose the Riders have a chance at that massive upset on Sunday. In that case, it’ll likely come through controlling time of possession through the running game because it’s nearly impossible to imagine Saskatchewan winning in a shootout.


Darvin Adams has had a quiet season but teams often look to their vets when the lights start to shine the brightest in the playoffs.  (Jason Halstead/CFL.ca)

RECEIVER

Kenny Lawler, WPG – $9,982
Bralon Addison, HAM – $9,524
Nic Demski, WPG – $7,334
Brandon Banks, HAM – $7,618
Rasheed Bailey, WPG – $6,971
Eric Rogers, TOR – $7,674
Kurleigh Gittens Jr., TOR – $6,949
D’haquille Williams, SSK – $8,764
Darvin Adams, WPG – $5,645
Jaelon Acklin, HAM – $6,026

Punt Single:

Paul McRoberts, SSK – $2,500

As mentioned above, the Bombers’ passing attack was the most efficient in the league in 2021 and drew the most appealing receiving matchup among defences remaining in the CFL playoffs. Lawler, Demski, and Bailey are priced fully to their upside, while Darvin Adams comes in at a significant discount given how much his target share has evaporated this year. He remains as efficient as ever, though, so he provides an interesting contrarian option with upside at just a $5K salary if he gets a 2019 target share instead of his usual from 2021.

Bombers receivers play in the most efficient passing offence, in the best matchup, with the highest team total on the slate. If there’s a case to be made against using at least one or two of them in every lineup, it’s that the game script may go run-heavy if the Bombers score early and often as the Vegas totals suggest.

Bralon Addison was activated from the injured list to practice for the East Semi-Final last week but did not make the game-day roster. Given an extra week of practice to get back in game shape, it’s fair to expect he’ll be active in Toronto against the Argos this Sunday. Addison was the Ticats’ most targeted receiver in each of his games this season while also garnering multiple carries out of the backfield.

His multifaceted skill set keeps him involved in the offence regardless of the game script, but his salary at nearly one-third of the cap also makes him difficult to roster. Toronto allowed above-average rates of yards and TDs per target this season, so the matchup is appealing too.

If Addison doesn’t play on Sunday, Tim White would likely be the biggest beneficiary in the projections as he probably gets bumped to field WR or the bench with Addison on the field. The rest of Banks, Dunbar and Acklin are fair but not great values at their salaries.

At last count, the Argos had at least 18 different receivers involved in the offence at different points in the season. Going into their home playoff game, it’s difficult to discern who will be involved or even active until the depth chart comes out on Saturday. If they are healthy, it’s fair to expect all of Rogers, Daniels, Collins, and Gittens to start at receiver, but the fifth spot is anyone’s guess.

That leaves all of Brescacin, Worthy, Nield, Brissett, Jeanpiere, Anderson, Phillips, Huff and Jones as possibilities for the fifth receiver spot or as part of the rotation at the position. The current projections expect the starting five to be Daniels, Rogers, Collins, Brescacin, and Gittens, but Gittens is really the only one certain to play. The Ticats’ defence was one of the more difficult matchups for opposing receivers, as they allowed the second-fewest yards per target and the third-lowest rate of receiving TDs per target in the campaign. Toronto receivers project as poor values across the board. They are likely best reserved for stacking options for fantasy players betting on McBeth having a ceiling rather than a floor performance.

The Riders’ passing attack was underwhelming in 2021 and 234.5 passing yards in two games against Winnipeg earlier this season in what were both pass-heavy game scripts. If the Riders compete and have a shot at the upset versus Winnipeg on Sunday, it will likely come through controlling time of possession and defensive scores, rather than the hope an effective passing attack will materialize out of the ether.

Duke Williams is priced well out of consideration and Shaq Evans has averaged just over three receptions for 25.2 yards per game since returning from injury. Kian Schaffer-Baker is a moderate value and worthy of some consideration for Riders fans, while Paul McRoberts is one of the few minimum salary options with upside on the slate for fantasy players looking for a punt option in the flex spot.


The Ticats’ defence has thrived on turnovers and goes up against an Argos’ offence that’s been interception prone down the stretch of this season. It could make for a nice payoff for fantasy users (Photo: The Canadian Press)

DEFENCE

Winnipeg Blue Bombers – $4,650
Hamilton Tiger-Cats – $3,500
Saskatchewan Roughriders – $3,000

If fantasy players plan on going the Winnipeg passing game route in terms of QB and WR, then it’s going to be nearly impossible to roster a defence if also playing a starting RB. Given that’s the optimal route, it’s a fair strategy to just eschew defences this week in CFL Fantasy.

For those rostering a defence this week, the Bombers’ D is priced up significantly from other options. Still, they also averaged nearly 15 fantasy points per game this year, making them the top-projected and top value option available. With Fajardo’s four-interception performance just a week ago and the Bombers’ track record versus Saskatchewan this season, it’s fair to expect a solid fantasy performance out of the Winnipeg defence again this week.

This season, the Ticats’ defence was also an above-average fantasy unit in producing 31 sacks and 33 turnovers and face a Toronto offence that didn’t give up many sacks (32) but gave up the ball at an alarming rate with a league-leading 37 turnovers. McBeth has thrown nine INTs in his past four games, so the opportunities will likely be there for Hamilton’s defence to have a good showing.

The Riders’ defence was one of the most consistent fantasy performers all season in being second in the league in sacks (47) and forced turnovers (34). Their difficulty will be that Winnipeg allowed league lows in sacks (16) and turnovers (20) during the regular season. If the Riders are to be competitive in Winnipeg, they’ll have to find a way to be productive on the defensive side of the ball.

STACKS

Zach Collaros > Demski/Bailey OR Lawler/Adams

Given the tight constraints of a $30K salary cap, if fantasy players are paying all the way up for Kenny Lawler, it’s unlikely they will be able to afford a double stack with Demski or Bailey involved. Adams makes a fine lower-priced double stack option with upside. A Demski/Bailey double stack is an option, though, given their more moderate salaries.

Winnipeg defence > Winnipeg RB

If the Bombers do indeed wind up blowing out the Roughriders as current lines predict, then it makes sense to stack their defence with their running back in what would project to be a very run-heavy game script. Fantasy players will just have to keep an eye on depth charts to see who that running back may be.


DIVISIONAL FINAL WEEK PROJECTIONS 

Name Postion Salary Team Opp Projection Points Per Dollar Pass Attempts Rush Carries Recieving Targets Punt Returns Kick Returns
Zach COLLAROS QB $9,738.00 WPG SSK 20.33 2.09 28.2 0.8
Jeremiah MASOLI QB $9,445.00 HAM TOR 18.66 1.98 31.3 3.1
Mcleod BETHEL-THOMPSON QB $8,830.00 TOR HAM 15.73 1.78 35.1 1
Cody FAJARDO QB $9,398.00 SSK WPG 15.59 1.66 31.8 6
Sean MCGUIRE QB $5,000.00 WPG SSK 7.6 1.52 3.5
Antonio PIPKIN QB $6,344.00 TOR HAM 2.01 0.32 2
Dane EVANS QB $7,606.00 HAM TOR 1 0.13 1.6
Andrew HARRIS RB $8,075.00 WPG SSK 16.69 2.07 18.3 1.6
DJ FOSTER RB $5,800.00 TOR HAM 12.71 2.19 10.6 4
Don JACKSON RB $7,992.00 HAM TOR 11.25 1.41 11 2.5
William POWELL RB $7,703.00 SSK WPG 10.47 1.36 12.2 3.8
Jamal MORROW RB $3,787.00 SSK WPG 5.48 1.45 5 3
A.J. OUELLETTE RB $4,500.00 TOR HAM 3.12 0.69 4.6 0.6
Kienan LAFRANCE RB $2,500.00 SSK WPG 2.83 1.13 1.2 1.5
Sean THOMAS ERLINGTON RB $5,653.00 HAM TOR 1.79 0.32 1 0.7
Kenny LAWLER WR $9,982.00 WPG SSK 18.33 1.84 0.1 7.2
Bralon ADDISON WR $9,524.00 HAM TOR 15.3 1.61 1.5 7.7
Nic DEMSKI WR $7,334.00 WPG SSK 15.21 2.07 1.1 5.8
Brandon BANKS WR $7,618.00 HAM TOR 13.33 1.75 0.5 6.5 2 0
Rasheed BAILEY WR $6,971.00 WPG SSK 13.1 1.88 0.5 5.2
Eric ROGERS WR $7,674.00 TOR HAM 11.68 1.52 6.6
Kurleigh GITTENS JR. WR $6,949.00 TOR HAM 11.55 1.66 6.3
D’haquille WILLIAMS WR $8,764.00 SSK WPG 11.05 1.26 6.8
Darvin ADAMS WR $5,645.00 WPG SSK 10.65 1.89 4.6
Jaelon ACKLIN WR $6,026.00 HAM TOR 10.42 1.73 0.1 5.3
Steven DUNBAR WR $5,287.00 HAM TOR 10.39 1.97 5.1
Ricky COLLINS JR WR $6,339.00 TOR HAM 10.07 1.59 6.9
Shaq EVANS WR $5,190.00 SSK WPG 9.78 1.88 6.3
DaVaris DANIELS WR $7,336.00 TOR HAM 9.51 1.3 0.1 6.7
Kian SCHAFFER-BAKER WR $4,600.00 SSK WPG 7.89 1.71 0.1 5.4
Janarion GRANT WR $3,861.00 WPG SSK 7.57 1.96 5 3
Drew WOLITARSKY WR $4,360.00 WPG SSK 7.33 1.68 3.8
Brayden LENIUS WR $3,963.00 SSK WPG 6.34 1.6 4
Chandler WORTHY WR $5,975.00 TOR HAM 6.33 1.06 0.3 0.5 5 3
Paul MCROBERTS WR $2,500.00 SSK WPG 6.32 2.53 0.5 4
Papi WHITE WR $2,751.00 HAM TOR 5.75 2.09 3 3
Juwan BRESCACIN WR $4,938.00 TOR HAM 5.43 1.1 3.5
Tim WHITE WR $7,140.00 HAM TOR 4.17 0.58 0.5 2
David UNGERER WR $2,500.00 HAM TOR 2.72 1.09 1.5

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