Mid Season Review + Predictions

    It’s been a bit. College football returned so I’ve been v busy with that. 

    Season Simulation

    Finally I have re-run the season simulation. As expected, heavy favourites are Winnipeg & BC. 
    A few words on the sim before I really dive into it. Firstly, I have assumed David Watford & Taylor Cornelius are NOT the rest of season starter. It varies, but I project Watford to be replaced in 3-4 weeks and Cornelius to be replaced in 4-5 weeks. These situations are highly variable though, and it is certainly possible that an earlier or later return would change how I would value the team’s chances. 

    Quickly on each team:


    Coming into the year, I was very down on Winnipeg. Though Collaros had won games with the Blue Bombers, his underlying metrics were not strong, and his time in Saskatchewan was extremely poor. He has really bounced back this season, with his highest Yards per Attempt since his MOP year. The improvement of their offence has made me (and my model) shift opinion on Winnipeg. Winnipeg deserves to be Grey Cup favourite. Below is a plot of Collaros' passing results for his career.


    BC has been solid this year, and it appears Michael Reilly is back. I’m a little hesitant to put them in the upper echelon of CFL contenders, as they have wins against Ottawa, Calgary, and an impressive win over Montreal. Still, their underlying metrics (predictive EPA / play, time leading, explosiveness) are all that of a top Grey Cup contender. The defence has also been surprisingly good, allowing just 6 yards per play, along with a massive turnover margin & EPA impact from those turnovers. This may regress in the 2nd half.


    Saskatchewan has had a bit of a bumpy road recently, with two losses to the aforementioned Blue Bombers, after a very strong start to the season. Cody Fajardo appears to have regressed slightly from his outstanding 2019 season, however it is hard to tease out if that is a) worse offensive line, b) missing receivers or c) adjusting to a new OC. I do think that Saskatchewan needs to get more explosive, and that includes pushing the ball deeper down the field. Fajardo’s depth of throw has fallen from 2019, from 10.2 to 9.0. Here is his 2019 vs 2021 depth of throw comparison:


    Edmonton has not lived up to my expectations, and that will be even more difficult with Trevor Harris out for the time being. The offence is below average, but the defence has honestly been slightly better than I had thought at the beginning of the year. Edmonton has been the victim of very poor fumble luck, however. They have fumbled 5 times on offence. 3 times the opposing team recovered, and twice they turned the ball over on downs as a result of a fumble (QB sneak fumbles). On defence, they have forced & recovered one sack fumble, forced & did not recover 1 rushing fumble, and forced and did not recover 1 receiving fumble. It seems like this should even out in the 2nd half of the year.


    Calgary has been a mess. This is their worst defence in my database (2010-now), and Bo Levi Mitchell appears to have either regressed or is still injured. If there is reason for optimism, it is that the Stampeders have been in every single game. They have had four 1-possession losses, and as such, their point differential is far better than their record. Still though, I believe Maier should really be looked at to give the Stampeders their best shot at making the playoffs. 
    I’m not really sure where to start here, the East has been crazy.


    Hamilton looked like they were in trouble early in the year, but it turns out they just were not quite as good as projected, and played two top teams in their first two games. They have righted the ship now, despite getting (frankly) horrible QB play. I have my doubts that David Watford will be anything more than a fill-in, but it is hard to be worse than 65% completion rate, 5 interceptions and 20 sacks taken in 5 games without Watford as a starter. The defence has been a pleasant surprise, allowing under 7 yards per pass attempt, so if the offence can get it going, look out.

    Hilariously, David Watford set the "record" for the lowest DoT game this past week, while Vernon Adams set the "record" for the highest one day later. Here they are overlayed:


    Toronto is another difficult team to figure out. I feel as though my pre-season prediction of Nick Arbuckle being closer to Mcleod Bethel-Thompson than others thought has panned out, as Arbuckle has been fine, but not fantastic. Interestingly, Arbuckle is tied for the league lead in interceptions, but also has six fumbles on 12 sacks to his name. In fact, Toronto has put the ball on the turf 11 times, or almost twice a game. That’s a lot. Toronto loves to start strong and then kind of just fades away, as seen below:


    Now to my favourite, the Montreal Alouettes. It has been covered a lot, but Vernon Adams’ 14.3 ADOT is absolutely absurd. There is nothing better than Adams running around & chucking it down the field. His completion percentage, however, is worrying. It sits at 54.2%, which is far lower than his 62% expected completion percentage after accounting for the fact that he is throwing down the field so often. Even so, throwing the ball so far down the field is a cheat code, as big plays win games in the CFL. In previous years, Eugene Lewis was on the end of many of those targets, but this year, Lewis and Adams have had trouble connecting, with Lewis catching just 48% of his targets.


    Ottawa… Nichols was not the answer, Davis is not the answer… I don’t even know. They have spent an absurd 3%(!!!!!!!!!!) time leading this year. That number is just unfathomable (and their week one win over Edmonton still annoys me :)). I’m not really sure what they can do, but I’d love to see crazy experimentation with the playbook. Throw some hook and ladder, take crazy shots down the field, fake hook and ladder, 4-2-6 defence, Coastal Carolina offence, anything. They won’t win games playing like everyone else (that said I have a nice position on them this week against Hamilton), so might as well try some new things.