A date with destiny potentially awaits one of these two legendary CFL clubs. The coronation of a dynasty or a return to the mountain top for the winningest franchise in league history.
CFL 109TH GREY CUP Preview
Toronto Argonauts (12-7) vs. Winnipeg Blue Bombers (16-3)
Mosaic Stadium, Regina, Saskatchewan
Sunday, November 20 at 5 p.m. local/6 p.m. ET
TSN, RDS, ESPN2
This marks the seventh time in the history of Canadian Football that the modern-day incarnations of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Toronto Argonauts have played for a championship after having met in 1937-38, 1945-47, and 1950.
The Argonauts and Blue Bombers have competed against eachother in the championship game six times, and the team from the Six has won each of those encounters. However, history can be very misleading. After all, the two clubs haven’t met in this type of game for 72 years. The Infamous Mud Bowl.
Perhaps a statistic that means a bit more is that Toronto has won their last six Grey Cups. However, the Argonauts haven’t met a team like Winnipeg in this setting.
The Bombers, led by Argos great Mike O’Shea, have been the best team of the modern CFL era. Winnipeg is looking to win its third consecutive championship. The Bombers have been to 26 Grey Cups throughout their history. Winnipeg is trying to win its 13th Cup. But their 27th trip to the big game could have the most meaning. The last CFL team to win three Grey Cups in a row was Edmonton during a run of five straight (1978-1982).
Toronto has won 17 Grey Cups in 23 appearances. Last winning the big one in 2017 over Calgary. But winning their 18th trophy against a dynasty in the making will be their most challenging task.
“To be the best, you’ve got to beat the best.” That’s what Argonauts’ head coach Ryan Dinwiddie told the media this week. Dinwiddie, the second-year CFL head coach, a former Bombers quarterback, is squaring off with a former Argonauts standout assistant and player, Mike O’Shea, who has become one of the league’s greatest tacticians ever.
There are storylines galore in this Grey Cup. Such as Andrew Harris taking on his former team in what could be a swan song for the future first-ballot Hall of Famer. There are even rumblings that this could be the end of the line for McLeod Bethel-Thompson in Canada. But nothing quite surpasses the potential historical significance at stake this Sunday evening.
CFL 109th Grey Cup: Toronto Argonauts Depth Chart
The Argos will be without 2022 CFL All-Star WLB Wynton McManis. An expected but tough blow for Toronto heading into this game. Jonathan Jones returns to the starting lineup to take McManis’s place.
Other than that, there are very few lineup notes of significance, and the Boatmen are going with what brought them to the big dance. Players like Eric Rogers, Peter Nicastro, and Isiah Cage are not dressing for Double Blue. Toronto has a lot of talented players sitting the big game out.
Similar to the East Final. The team will once again dress six running backs. 4 halfbacks and two fullbacks.
CFL 109th Grey Cup: Winnipeg Blue Bombers Depth Chart
This week, the trumped-up drama surrounding Zach Collaros’s ankle injury was a major storyline. But there was no doubt that the league’s MOP would suit up and play in this game. Similar to Toronto’s position chart. Winnipeg’s depth chart lines up with what they had in the West Final.
Keys To An Argos Grey Cup Victory
The number one goal for any team playing Winnipeg is avoiding turnovers and mental mistakes. Because the Bombers are always well-coached and prepared and never beat themselves. There are no short cuts when it comes to besting the Blue Bombers.
Toronto might have some jitters playing this game. It helps that they have veterans like Andrew Harris and JaGared Davis, who have played in games with championship stakes before. In Davis’s case, it’s a yearly thing. However, the vast majority of the Boatmen have never been in this setting.
Early-game nerves can cost a team in a championship game. And against a Winnipeg team falling behind early against them usually ensures defeat.
McLeod Bethel-Thompson was up for the task in the East Final against Montreal. But he’s never played a game as important as this one. He must be composed and play efficient football against Winnipeg’s stellar defence. Otherwise, the game can turn on Toronto rather quickly.
The Double Blue’s dynamic duo at RB of A.J. Ouellette and Andrew Harris could be crucial to Toronto’s success. On July 4th, Harris displayed his independence from Winnipeg by rushing for 111 yards against the Bombers. Harris’s former team will be out to stop him in the second meeting. But the value of Harris and Ouellette as receivers and pass blockers could prove to be the difference. Harris wants nothing more than to have the game on his shoulders. But East All-Star A.J. Ouellette is more than capable of doing his part.
Ryan Dinwiddie has to find a way, as he did against Montreal, to keep both players involved against Richie Hall’s stout defensive unit.
The Bombers rarely give up big plays down the field, and they force opposing teams to stay patient. Winnipeg is extremely effective at closing pass windows. To combat that so the Bombers don’t sit on routes. Toronto’s receivers need to find a way to win and find openings deep down the middle of the field. If Kurleigh Gittens, DaVaris Daniels, and Brandon Banks can. Toronto might have a shot at winning this game.
Defensively, Corey Mace has an arduous task matching wits with Winnipeg OC Buck Pierce. For Toronto, it’s all about stopping the run game. Winnipeg will try and lean on it to rule the day. Especially with Zach Collaros banged up.
In the pass game, The Bombers feast on winning individual matchups that result in chunk plays. Sound open-field tackling will be of utmost importance against Winnipeg. Dalton Schoen, in particular, has been a handful for opposing secondaries this season. But the Bombers have multiple players who are assignment sound, get open in zones, and eat up real estate quickly with long gains down the field.
There’s no beating around the bush. The Argos will try to take advantage of Zach Collaros’s limited mobility. They need to get to him quickly before he finds easy completions, as Trevor Harris did against them. One of the keys will be designed blitzes that free up Shawn Oakman and JaGared Davis to win their matchups one on one.
Mickey Donovan’s special teams’ acumen will be tested against the duo of Paul Boudreau and Mike O’Shea. Toronto can’t let Janarion Grant wreck the game like he did last week against B.C. Grant has quietly been the deciding factor in many of the Bombers’ close victories.
Keys To A Bombers Victory
Ball control is the name of the game for Winnipeg. If the Bombers want to three-peat as champs. They would be well served by repeating what they did to B.C. last week. Winnipeg ran the ball 31 times for 173 yards and had a passing efficiency of 97 percent. A significant reason for that is their elite offensive line. The Bombers play bully ball. And that was on full display against the Lions last week.
When it comes to big games and playoff time, the Bombers’ are at their best running the football. It not only benefits their offense, and gives their defence fresh legs but it hinders opposing offenses by testing their patience when they do have the ball. A win-win-win scenario for the W.
The Argos’ play a bend but don’t break defence. And with Zach Collaros’s mobility being limited. They may decide to blitz more than they normally do. If that’s the tact they take, Collaros can make Toronto pay by challenging them down the field.
The quick passing game is something Montreal had success with against Toronto. Winnipeg should look to test the Argos’ tackling in open space.
Defensively, the key will be forcing McLeod Bethel-Thompson to rush his throws. MBT has a tendency to miss throws when he is pressured. And will start to force the issue if you disrupt his comfort level.
The Argos do not have a physical presence at receiver. So pressing them at the line and disrupting their routes could lead to forced throws or coverage sacks.
Taking a page from how Calgary’s defence played Toronto’s passing game would be beneficial.
CFL 109th Grey Cup Prediction
Depending on what sportsbook you rely upon. The Toronto Argonauts are four to six point underdogs in this game. And it’s for a good reason, in this spot, against a special team like Winnipeg. You should be the overwhelming underdog.
Recent Grey Cup history has favored the underdog on this stage. Maybe not in the last three games with the Dynasty bound Bombers winning two straight or the Stampeders’ triumph in 2018. But not too long ago, an 8-9-1 Ottawa team defied the odds and beat a 15-2-1 Calgary team. One year later, the 9-9 Toronto Argonauts topped a 13-win Stamps team to hoist the iconic trophy.
Toronto is treating this like a road game in their preparation. Because even though in a perfect world, Riders fans would flood their own stadium to disrupt a Winnipeg team they despise. It appears that Blue Bombers fans will rule Mosaic.
The Toronto Argonauts are game enough to stand toe to toe with Winnipeg and challenge them for the throne. But when the dust settles on Sunday, the Argos will not be able to deny destiny or a dynasty.