The Canadian Football League heads into the playoffs this weekend with the Saskatchewan Roughriders flying into Ottawa to face the REDBLACKS in the Eastern Conference semifinal, while the Edmonton Eskimos travel to Investors Group Field in Winnipeg to take on the Blue Bombers in the Western Conference semifinal.
If the final stats leaders are any indication, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers may have an edge in the playoffs. With a varied attack, a key at playoff time, Winnipeg could be dangerous. Andrew Harris topped the CFL in rushing while QB Matt Nichols was the 5th leading passer while not a single Blue Bombers receiver was in the top eight meaning Winnipeg has a very balanced attack. Stampeders QB, Bo Levi Mitchell was the 3rd leading passer while his RB, Jerome Messam, was the 3rd leading rusher and here too, the Stampeders did not have a single receiver in the top eight.
While stats may not win games, they can indicate tendencies. Let’s take a look at the top individual performers in the CFL in 2017.
Edmonton Eskimos QB Mike Reilly took over the passing yardage lead in mid-September following a 323 yard performance against the Toronto Argonauts and held it the rest of the way to finish with 5,830 yards and 30 TDs. Despite being sidelined for a couple of games, Rickey Ray from the Toronto Argonauts was not far behind with 5,546 yards and 28 TDs. Calgary’s Bo Levi Mitchell finished third with 4,700 yards and 23 TDs while Trevor Harris of the Ottawa REDBLACKS ended up in 4th with 4,679 yards and 30 TDs. Winnipeg Blue Bomber pivot Matt Nichols started slow but finished the year strong ending with 4,472 yards and 28 TDs.
Andrew Harris of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers won his first ever CFL rushing title, holding on in the final weekend of the year to finish with 1,035 yards and 6 TDs. Ottawa RB William Powell finished the year with a flourish averaging 116.6 yards in his last 5 games and finishing with 1,026 yards and 5 TDs. Jeremiah Johnson was steady for the BC Lions throughout the season, ending in 4th with 913 yards and 9 TDs. Toronto’s James Wilder wound up 5th with 872 yards and 5 TDs.
With a prolific QB like Mike Reilly, it is no wonder that an Edmonton Eskimo led the league in receiving yardage. Brandon Zylstra was superb despite missing games due to injury and topped the CFL with 1,687 yards and 5 TDs. Argos WR SJ Green came in 2nd with his 1,462 yards while Greg Ellingson of the REDBLACKs finished 3rd with 1,459 yards and a league-leading 12 TDs. Lions WR Bryan Burnham had a solid year with 1,202 yards, catching passes from two different QBs. Hamilton’s Jalen Saunders wound up 5th, also adjusting to two different QBs and finished 5th with 1,170 yards, a mere three yards in front of teammate Luke Tasker.
For second year in a row and the third time in the last four years, BC Lions LB Solomon Elimimian has won the CFL’s tackling title. He amassed 150 total tackles (144 defensive + 6 special teams). Alex Singleton of the Calgary Stampeders finished 2nd with his 125 (123 + 2). Surprisingly, Alouettes LB Kyries Hebert came 3rd with 110 while another BC Lion, Chandler Fenner was 4th with 103, Larry Dean from Hamilton finished tied for 5th with Edmonton’s Kenneth Ladler ,each with 99.