The final pick of the year is here.
Over the last few years we’ve seen Toronto upset Calgary, Ottawa upset Calgary, and Winnipeg upset Hamilton, so never count out the underdog in a Grey Cup game because as a movie is aptly titled: Any Given Sunday.
But Toronto is no push over and shouldn’t be considered one despite the fact the Bombers have been so consistently good since the kickoff of the 2021 season.
Toronto has, in fact, won eight of their last 10 games. Yes, many of those wins include victories over Ottawa or Hamilton, but you can only play the team in front of you.
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What’s fascinating for both the Argos and the Bombers heading into the Grey Cup is their last three games previous have been against the same opponent. For a month, all we’ve gotten to see is how the Argos matchup against Montreal and how the Bombers matchup against the BC Lions.
Judging what these teams will look like head-to-head on Sunday is nearly impossible to predict.
Let’s start going through the head-to-head matchups with the quarterbacks of McLeod Bethel-Thompson and Zach Collaros.
The success on the ground for the Bombers meant Collaros didn’t have to do much last week, while MBT threw for 299 yards and two touchdowns. Collaros was also lucky the Lions didn’t snag two possible interceptions in the game. Bethel-Thompson played a much cleaner game in the Eastern Final than Collaros did in the Western Final.
There is the other issue of the ankle. Collaros was on the major limp at the end of last week’s game and we may never know until after the Grey Cup how hurt or injured Collaros actually is.
In the run game, Brady Oliveira’s 166 yards of offence was Andrew Harris-esque or to give credit to the new main back in Winnipeg, Oliveira-esque. It’s that type of dominance on the ground from Oliveira and the offensive line that can allow a team to take over games in weather like the both teams could face in Regina on Sunday.
But, again, it was Harris-esque and Andrew Harris showed a renewed burst and when Andrew Harris plays with an edge, it’s a dangerous combination with his raw ability. Harris hasn’t denied that the departure from Winnipeg this off-season was personal for him as the Bombers made the decision to move in a younger direction and while Oliveira has shown that to be a find managerial decision, it won’t leave Harris any less motivated.
Oh, and you can’t forget he’s sharing the backfield with A.J. Ouellette, who had 91 yards on just eight touches.
When it comes to the receiving group of these two teams, you can’t ignore the talent on both sides from great Canadians like Kurleigh Gittens Jr. and Nic Demski to two veterans and former teammates of Greg Ellingson and Brandon Banks.
Dalton Schoen jumps off the page for the comparison of these two teams. He by far has been the most impressive receiver all season with the ability to have the knack to know just where to be when Zach Collaros needs to get out of the pocket.
Along the offensive lines, the edge is clearly on Winnipeg’s side. The group has been able to play far more consistently together than have the Toronto Argonauts front five, although over the last three months since Philip Blake has moved to left tackle, the Argonauts have been much more stable across the entire group.
The one thing we haven’t seen from Toronto that we have from Winnipeg is the ability to maul their opponents. We saw it again last week by the Bombers and when that group gets rolling, the opponent has little chance.
On the other side of the line of scrimmage are actually two very similar groups. The Argonauts defensive line don’t have the same reputation as a line that includes Willie Jefferson and Jackson Jeffcoat but Ja’Gared Davis leads a Toronto group who can make life miserable for the opponent quarterback. The issue for Toronto has been allowing too many yards on the ground.
That’s not a great situation to be in against the Bombers offensive line.
What the Argonauts do have is a group of playmakers who won’t let Collaros off the hook if he throws up more potential interceptions that he did last week.
The big question will be health for the Argos defence. Wynton McManis likely tore his bicep in the Eastern Final, while Jamal Peters should be able to go despite leaving the Eastern Final. Both All-Stars out of the lineup would be a huge blow.
The special teams becomes a saw off in the kicking game as neither team’s field goal kicker is the most accurate. The big shift comes in the return game as CFL All-Star Janarion Grant can take any kick back the other way like he did in the Western Final.
So, who am I taking?
I think the battle will be won up front, no matter the health of Zach Collaros, and I feel the Bombers can repeat what they did to the BC Lions, which is own the line of scrimmage and wear the Argos down.
PICK: WINNIPEG (75 confidence bonus)