The BC Lions host the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in a clash of two 11-4 teams tied for first in the West Division. It is the final match between these two teams this season who have already met twice. BC won in week 3 in Winnipeg 30-6 and Winnipeg won 50-14 in their second meeting which took place in week 9. BC was without Vernon Adams Jr. in their second meeting. Both of their previous meetings were in Winnipeg.
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Date/Location: Friday, October 6 /BC Place, Vancouver, BC
Kickoff Time: 10:00 PM ET, 7:00 PM PT
Channel: TSN (Canada), CFL+ (USA, International)
Spread: BC -1.5 (-120), Winnipeg +1.5 (+100)
Moneyline: BC -120, Winnipeg +100
Over/Under: 51.5 (Over -110, Under -110)
BC Lions (11-4): The BC Lions have won their last 4 picking up wins against Montreal, Ottawa, Edmonton and Saskatchewan. BC is coming off another very strong performance defending against the run as they held Saskatchewan’s Frankie Hickson to 22 yards on 10 carries. The week before they held Kevin Brown to 18 yards on 6 carries. Vernon Adams Jr. is coming off of a 458-yard passing performance with 3 touchdowns.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers (11-4): In the past 20 years a running back has won the Most Outstanding Player Award once. If Brady Oliveira has not done enough to be in that conversation then I don’t know what more a running back has to do. Oliveira leads the league in rushing yards with 1,359 yards on 227 carries (6 yards per carry) and 6 touchdowns. Oliveira also has 29 receptions for 380 yards and 4 touchdowns. This match is going to be a big test for Winnipeg’s running game as they face BC’s strong run defense. Winnipeg is mostly spoken of for their passing game yet has had much of their success come from the running game. In Zach Collaros’ 7 playoff games, he has been under 200 yards in 4 of those games with more interceptions than touchdowns with 6 touchdowns and 7 interceptions.
Lions Keys to the Game
Protect Vernon Adams Jr.
Big Play VA has forced himself into the MOP Conversation with 300-yard performances in 7 of his last 8 games. Last week he threw for over 450 yards and became the first QB to cross the 4,000-yard threshold but was playing through some obvious pain in the lower back area after getting sacked. An injury to Vernon Adams Jr. would be more detrimental than a loss. Winnipeg has a tremendous pass rush with tremendous talent in their edge rushers. Willie Jefferson has been the CFL game-breaker for years and Jackson Jeffcoat does not get nearly enough media attention for his ability to ruin a quarterback day on the other side. Jake Thomas and Ricky Walker at defensive tackle have also proven to be effective in the pass rush with Thomas having 5 sacks and Walker having 4 so far this season.
Keep Running the Football
Toronto and Winnipeg won the East and West respectively last season and both share in common their ability to run the football well. This ability has been pivotal in the Grey Cup runs that we saw these 2 teams have in the last 3 seasons with Winnipeg winning the Cup in 2019 and 2021 and making it again in 2022 which Toronto won.
Mizzell rushed 10 times last week for 3.8 yards. The week before he rushed 16 times for 112 yards against Edmonton. Come playoff time it is going to be very important to have a run game that is effective as the weather in outdoor November games can be quite unpredictable.
If BC is going to win the Grey Cup they need to stop Brady Oliveira. Oliveira is having himself quite a season and has served as the blunt instrument that Winnipeg has frequently bludgeoned their opponents to defeat when leading in the 4th quarter.
The first time BC played Winnipeg Mattiue Betts looked as though he was playing against a left tackle who was in slow motion. Stanley Bryant was unable to contain Betts’ speed in that first meeting as he generated frequent pressure and collected 3 sacks. BC’s pass rush was a major factor as to why Zach Collaros was held to 191 yards with no touchdowns and 1 interception. Of course, Garry Peters’ 2 knockdowns in the endzone were helpful as well.
Collaros has been an elite scrambler throughout his career not in rushing for yards but in escaping pressure and extending the play by rolling out of the pocket. However in multiple games this season he has been more prone to be limited by an effective pass rush.
Tight Pass Coverage With Good Communication
The last time BC played Winnipeg they gave up 50 points. Zach Collaros had 369 passing yards and 3 touchdowns in that game. Kenny Lawler had 200 yards and a touchdown and Dalton Schoen had 137 yards and 2 touchdowns. Winnipeg and BC both have elite receiving rooms.
One of the things that Winnipeg has exploited at times this season has been defensive players not switching off their receiver correctly or quickly enough in zone coverage on crossing routes. This also happened in the game in which Winnipeg scored 50 as Kenny Lawler got open for a big play on the first drive due to defensive miscommunication for a 34-yard gain. The very next play Dalton Schoen tore off a 71-yard touchdown.
Lions to Watch
QB Vernon Adams Jr.
VA has thrown over 300 yards in 7 of his last 8. He leads the league with 4,005 passing yards and has 28 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. Vernon Adams Jr. is the only quarterback to average over 300 yards passing per game so far this season.
WR Keon Hatcher
Hatcher posted video game numbers last week catching 10 passes for 172 yards and a touchdown with 55 YAC. Hatcher has 1,103 yards receiving which is 2nd in the league and also has 6 touchdowns.
WR Alexander Hollins
Hollins is 6th in the league with 1,019 receiving yards and is 2nd in touchdowns with 8.
CB Garry Peters
Peters’ high level of play was essential when BC last defeated Winnipeg as he broke up 2 passes in the end zone. Peters Island has 4 interceptions, 10 passes defended, and 41 tackles on the season.
LB Ben Hladik
Hladik is on a 4-game sack streak and once again led the team in tackles last week with 11. Hladik leads the team with 82 tackles on the season. Hladik has a chance to become the first Canadian BC Lion to reach 100 tackles in a season and would be the 4th Canadian to do so.
DE Mathieu Betts
Betts has 15 sacks this season. The Canadian sack record is 17. The last time BC defeated Winnipeg Betts’ pass rush was a major reason for Winnipeg being limited to 6 points. Betts is also tied for first with Winnipeg’s Willie Jefferson in forced fumbles with 3 this season.
DT Tibo Debaillie
Tibo picked up his first sack of the season last week. The beast from Belgium has been on the PFF Team of the Week in week 15 and in week 4 due to his run-stopping abilities.
Blue Bombers to Watch
QB Zach Collaros
This game is one that may be pointed to at the end of the season regarding the MOP conversation. Collaros is first in the league in QBR at 112.6 and has the most touchdown passes. He has 3,738 passing yards with 30 touchdowns and 14 interceptions this season.
RB Brady Oliveira
Leads the league with 1,359 rushing yards.
WR Kenny Lawler
Lawler has 649 yards in 9 games and 6 touchdowns. The last time he played BC he had 200 yards and a touchdown.
WR Dalton Schoen
Schoen leads the league in receiving yards with 1,136 on 66 catches and 10 touchdowns.
WR Nic Demski
Demski has 963 receiving yards and 6 touchdowns. If Demski crosses the 1,000-yard threshold it will be the first time a CFL team has had a Canadian reach 1,000 yards rushing and a Canadian reach 1,000 yards receiving in the same season.
CB Demerio Houston
Leads the league in interceptions with 7. He also has 48 tackles, 4 passes defended, and a touchdown this season. Houston is listed as questionable on the injury report due to a knee injury and did not practice on Tuesday or Wednesday.
DE Willie Jefferson
Jefferson leads the Bombers with 8 sacks. He also has 3 forced fumbles which is tied for the league lead and a league-leading 11 passes defended.
DT Jake Thomas
Thomas has been effective this season contributing 5 sacks in 9 games as well as 14 tackles.
CB Evan holm
Holm is tied for 2nd in the league with Garry Peters in passes defended with 10. He also has 58 tackles, a sack, and 2 interceptions.
Last Week’s Depth Chart
I wrote an article last week in which I predicted every game for the rest of the CFL season. In that article, I predicted Winnipeg to win a close game by a score of 23-21 and I am sticking to that prediction.
I did predict BC to later win on the road in the West Finals in that article.
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