Grey Cup Week is upon us and the end of the CFL season is just days away. The Bombers’ offence showed flashes of brilliance this year, but the 2021 campaign was marked by dominant defensive performances and the top-two defences in the CFL will be on display on Sunday in Hamilton.
Having just one game on the slate may make lineup construction seem straightforward. Still, there are some odd but potentially interesting scenarios to keep in mind when building one last lineup for CFL Fantasy.
The “rust” concern on Zach Collaros last week wasn’t quite so bad that the doors fell off the Bomber he was flying, but it was certainly evident everywhere as he threw three interceptions. The game plan in the second half of the Western Final compensated for that by allowing him just six pass attempts.
The Winnipeg passing attack was the most efficient unit in the league during the regular season, but their Grey Cup opponents present the most challenging matchup they could face, as the Hamilton secondary allowed the fewest yards per pass attempt this season (7.34) by any defence other than Winnipeg’s.
They also allowed the third-fewest passing TDs per attempt, making Collaros’ job that much more difficult. Back in Week 1 – their only meeting of the regular season – Collaros had a fine but not eye-popping outing with 217 passing yards and a pair of touchdowns in what was a fairly lopsided win for the Bombers. It will be interesting to see what has changed over the course of 18 weeks.
With Evans replacing Masoli early in the Eastern Final, he’ll get the starting nod for the Ticats this Sunday in the Grey Cup, at home in Hamilton. Evans has rarely shown Masoli’s passing upside in 2021, as his best outing was just 249 yards, but he also tends to avoid the mistakes Masoli makes. He has the added fantasy benefit of being the Ticats’ de facto goal line running back, with five rushing TDs on the season.
No quarterback has looked good versus the Bombers this season. They allowed a 300-yard passer just twice (Arbuckle/Maier) and multiple touchdown passes in a game just twice (Trevor Harris) but never allowed both in the same game. It’s pretty difficult to envision Evans’ path to fantasy success going through the air, so it may be that his fantasy upside is best realized on the ground.
Playing a backup quarterback in a single-game contest seems a little absurd, but there is potential for McGuire to be the lone touchdown scorer for the Bombers, as he led the team in touchdowns in 2021. His floor is quite literally zero, but he also has double-digit scoring potential, as he flashed in Week 5 and Week 6. This is not a play for the faint of heart or likely even the sound of mind, but at nearly half the salary of the two starting QBs, he opens up some interesting contrarian builds with clear but unlikely game scripts that could lead to Fantasy victory.
With a 136-yard performance in his first game in almost two months, Andrew Harris should be primed for a big performance in Sunday’s Grey Cup game (The Canadian Press)
In his first action since October, Andrew Harris looked a lot like 2021 Andrew Harris: a solid north-south runner behind the best offensive line in the CFL but with little role in the passing game. He had a solid game with 136 yards on 23 carries in terrible weather conditions and was even given the honour of a carry for a touchdown from inside of the five-yard line that McGuire has generally taken away all season.
The Ticats’ rush defence was the best in the league this season – allowing just 4.23 yards per carry – and the weather should be much milder in Hamilton for the Grey Cup than it was in Winnipeg for the West Final, so it’s unlikely Harris sees 20-plus carries for a second week in a row. His superior workload, implied team total and lack of competition for touches make him the top RB play on the slate. His salary being below Don Jackson’s just kind of seals the deal.
If there’s a case to be made for Don Jackson over Andrew Harris, it requires a deeper look into the underlying situation. Jackson may not get the volume of carries that Harris does, but he does have two games in the past month with four receptions which is significant with PPR scoring in an expected game script where Hamilton has to pass more than average.
Jackson’s route to a 90th percentile outcome is game script independent, whereas Harris’ route is entirely predicated on a Winnipeg blowout. Jackson also has a much better matchup to benefit from, as Hamilton was the second-best rushing team in the league at 5.33 yards per carry and face a Winnipeg front that allowed an above-average 5.13 yards per carry on the year.
Hamilton projects for 5.48 yards per carry in the Grey Cup, whereas Winnipeg projects for just 4.34. Harris is the clear play on its surface, but there are also good data-based reasons to make Jackson an interesting contrarian pivot.
Bralon Addison will likely be a question mark through the week, whose inclusion in the lineup would create a big trickle-down fanstasy/ratio impact (Peter Power/CFL.ca)
Thankfully, the forecast for Grey Cup Sunday is currently for 4C and moderate winds at 28 km/hr, gusting to 40 km/hr. That’s weather that is much more conducive to passing the football than either the Eastern or Western Final offered. While neither passing attack will be as effective as they would be at 25C, the weather should allow both teams to run their offences as they please. This season, Winnipeg and Hamilton were the top two pass defences in the league, so both receiving corps will have a stiff test on Sunday evening.
The Bombers’ passing attack indeed looked like they had had a month-long vacation early on in the West Final with Demski’s endzone bobble that led to an interception, Wolitarsky’s fumble on the goal line, Lawler’s failure to work back to the ball that led to Marshall’s interception and Bailey’s fumble near the red zone.
Each one of the Bombers’ weapons had their struggles. Kenny Lawler and Nic Demski were the most consistently used pieces of the Winnipeg arsenal during the regular-season and sit atop the projections for the Grey Cup as a result. Demski, in particular, is interesting as he always gets a couple of carries out of the backfield each game on top of his work as a receiver. The salary relief he provides over Lawler and Addison is also worth noting.
On the other hand, Lawler has a much higher ceiling, as he put up three games of over 20 fantasy points this season, including one with 12 receptions for 205 yards and a TD in Week 9 against BC and one with multiple TDs against Hamilton in Week 1.
Bailey is clearly the third option for Winnipeg, but he also had a game over 20 fantasy points this season along with six total TDs – the same number as Lawler. If players are looking for a low-owned flier at a discount price, Darvin Adams continues to suit up and be as efficient as ever for the Bombers – he just doesn’t receive any targets anymore. If he were to have a five or more target game as he did in Week 7, he could be a contrarian path to victory.
The depth chart for the Ticats still has a couple of things to get sorted out based on the health of Bralon Addison. Addison has practiced at least in part each of the past two weeks but was unable to suit up for games against the Als or Argos. His absence opened up space for Papi White on the active roster, which led to a punt return TD that changed the tide and led to the Hamilton win over Toronto.
If Addison is active on Sunday, there’s a chance that Papi White isn’t active, Tim White gets bumped to field WR, David Ungerer is pushed to the bench and the Ticats have to find a different return man. The effect to the ratio with Ungerer on the bench could also impact the balance in snaps in the Hamilton backfield between Jackson and Sean Thomas-Erlington.
Addison’s availability is a big domino to fall that won’t be known for sure until Saturday, so fantasy players will have to have backup plans and contingencies based on what the depth charts reveal. If Addison is in, he soaks up a significant target share in Hamilton as both a receiver and a ball carrier. It keeps the projections for all of Banks, Dunbar, Acklin and Jackson down a bit, while Tim White and Papi White would likely be the ones most deeply affected.
If Addison is out, you can expect five or more targets for Tim White as a moderate value at $7K, while Papi White would become a punt option due to his work in the return game. Ungerer is also really only in play if Addison sits.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers – $4,650
Hamilton Tiger-Cats – $3,474
Both defensive units this week made their share of plays during the regular-season, as Winnipeg led the league with 38 forced turnovers while being third in the league in sacks with 39. Hamilton also forced 33 turnovers while compiling 31 quarterback sacks. Both units can have a solid fantasy outing, but the overall edge likely goes to Winnipeg as Hamilton allowed the second-most sacks in the league this season (40) while Winnipeg allowed a league-low 20.
For fantasy players, the real question is whether that edge the Bombers have in potential production is worth the extra $1,200 in salary. In a season that has been known for low-scoring games and defensive plays, it’s likely worth considering using one of these defences.
Andrew Harris > Winnipeg Defence
If Andrew Harris is going to reach his fantasy potential, it’s likely to be with 20-plus carries in a one-sided affair for Winnipeg. There are pretty direct correlations between success for the Bombers’ defence and success for Harris.
At most, one of Dane Evans/Don Jackson
While Jackson has a consistent role in the Ticats’ passing attack, Hamilton RBs have just two receiving touchdowns in 2021. Given Evans takes most of the goal line carries for Hamilton, it’s unlikely that both Evans and Jackson can both reach their upsides in the same game. If Jackson does the Ticats’ scoring on the ground, that limits Evans’ potential. At the same time, if Evans scores Hamilton’s TDs through the air or as a ball carrier, Jackson is unlikely to be the beneficiary.
At most, one of Sean McGuire/Andrew Harris
Similar to the Evans/Jackson situation, if one of McGuire or Harris scores a TD, it’s at a direct cost to the other, and both players are fairly TD reliant on their paths to fantasy success.
GREY CUP PROJECTIONS
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Sean THOMAS ERLINGTON
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