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CFL 2023: Hamilton Tiger-Cats @ Toronto Argonauts Preview/Prediction

The Grey Cup Champion Toronto Argonauts open their 2023 CFL season Sunday night at BMO Field against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. On Father’s Day, the great-grandfather of the CFL hoists a league-leading eighteenth banner as the Argos embark upon their 150th year of existence.

CFL 2023 Week 2: Hamilton Tiger-Cats (0-1) @ Toronto Argonauts (0-0), Sunday, June 18th, 7 pm ET, BMO Field, Toronto, TSN/CBSSN/CFL+

Point Spread: Toronto Argonauts favored by 1.5 points
Over/Under: 46.5

Weather Forecast: Clear skies, light win, High 26C

Hamilton Tiger-Cats Week 2 Depth Chart/Injury Report

Toronto Argonauts Week 2 Depth Chart/Injury Report

In a surprising turn of events. The returning Jamal Peters will not be in the Argos lineup against Hamilton. CFL rookie Qwantez Stiggers will be in his stead instead. Henoc Muamba, another key cog of Toronto’s 2022 Grey Cup is also out due to a knee injury. He will be replaced in the middle by star linebacker Jordan Williams.

Offensively WR Markeith Ambles is out. Dejon Brissett enters the starting lineup for Sunday night. The interior of the Argos line sees Dariusz Bladek out with Peter Nicastro playing guard next to Centre Darius Ciraco and Ryan Hunter. Isiah Cage gets the call at left tackle.

Game Preview/Matchup Keys

You don’t want to overstate the importance of one game. After all, it’s an 18-game season, and the Boatmen and Tiger-Cats will meet again three times during the regular season after Sunday night. And perhaps once again in the playoffs.

However, this Sunday’s matchup between Toronto and Hamilton can significantly affect both teams’ directions in 2023.

Particularly on Hamilton’s side of the fence.

The Ti-Cats drew the short end of the stick facing off with the Blue Bombers in Winnipeg last week. They battled back to make things more respectable after falling down 32-4 before succumbing to a 42-31 defeat.

The Bo-Levi Mitchell-led Tiger-Cats are in another challenging spot this week, facing Toronto in its home opener. Hamilton would like to spoil the Argos party and avoid going 0-2 to start their season. A loss to the Boatmen wouldn’t be a death knell but would begin to create doubt and distance in Hamilton’s championship hopes for 2023.

Bo Levi’s opening game with Hamilton produced mixed results. He got off to a rocky start but settled down somewhat as the game progressed. With another week under his belt, Mitchell needs to raise his level of play against a talented Toronto defence coordinated by Corey Mace.

Under Mace, the Argos’ defensive unit doesn’t blitz very much. They rely on their front to apply pressure on their own. The key for Toronto against Bo Levi Mitchell is providing pressure up the middle. The grizzled veteran lacks mobility and is not much of an improvisational player. A week ago, Winnipeg successfully pushed the pocket and disrupted Hamilton’s operation.

A clean pocket for Bo to operate in is a must for Hamilton.

A player to watch for making his Toronto debut is the prized off-season acquisition of DE Folarin Orimolade. The former Stampeder is one of the more effective edge rushers in the league. He can play a pivotal role in Sunday’s game.

Although, the Argos have welcomed back Jamal Peters. He will not be in the defensive lineup. Hamilton could decide to test Toronto’s inexperience and early season communication/crispness on the back end of their secondary. Something that the Argos struggled with last year at the outset of the season.

Conversely, Toronto is starting a new era with Chad Kelly at quarterback. There’s tremendous pressure on him to keep the Argos at a championship level by filling the void left by veteran leader McLeod Bethel-Thompson.

The enigmatic signal-caller is getting a grand opportunity to prove his heroic Grey Cup performance off the bench wasn’t just a fluke. The hope for the Argos is that Kelly will finally realize his potential and earn the superstar trajectory many had envisioned.

It’s only the second start of Kelly’s CFL career; the first came in last year’s regular-season finale, which resembled more of an exhibition game.

Therefore, expect Hamilton Defensive Coordinator Mark Washington to do everything he can to ruffle Chad Kelly and force him into mistakes. Kelly tends to throw caution into the wind and force throws. The Ti-Cats will set traps for Kelly to bait him into errors.

Both teams have talented offensive backfields.

Hamilton’s new arrival James Butler had a solid performance in his debut last weekend (66 yards and a touchdown). He can present problems for Toronto in the run-and-pass game.

The Double Blue’s duo of A.J. Ouellette and Andrew Harris can be one of the better ones throughout the league. How will Ryan Dinwiddie and his staff divvy up the reps between both? Ouellette and Harris can significantly aid the neophyte Chad Kelly by providing balance on the ground and as safety valves in protection and the passing game.

Hamilton has one of the more talented linebacker/dime back tandems in the CFL with All-Stars Jameer Thurman and former Argo Chris Edwards. The latter might be on a revenge tour, looking to shut down the ground game and disrupt Chad Kelly into mistakes underneath. Edwards is one of the most instinctive big-play defenders in the CFL, with a history of feasting on inexperienced quarterbacks.

Toronto has some changes upfront to their offensive line. Most notably at left tackle, with veteran Philip Blake gone. Isiah Cage, who has a world of promise but hasn’t lived in it for a while, is being tasked with protecting Chad Kelly’s blindside. He will face off with former Argo now once again Ti-Cat JaGared Davis. That’s one of the key matchups this Sunday.

One area that has determined so many games between Toronto and Hamilton in the last few seasons is special teams.

Jeff Reinebold is back in the CFL, captaining the Ti-Cats unit. His group will face off with Mickey Donovan’s.

Hamilton is coming off a week where their special teams blocked a punt for a touchdown and forced a fumble for another near score on a kick return.

Hamilton has had great success in the past with their return game against Toronto. Reinebold has been at the controls for many of those games. Mickey Donovan’s unit has to be at the top of their game and avoid the usual hiccups that teams typically experience in their opening game.

CFL Week 2: Hamilton Tiger-Cats @ Toronto Argonauts Prediction

Talent-wise, these are two of the best teams on paper in the CFL. It should be a great contest and setting on Sunday night in the Six. Something that would’ve been a more fitting opening game for the CFL in week one.

Nevertheless, the odds-makers have the Argos as very slim favorites in their home opener, despite having a bye to start the season and extra time to prepare for Hamilton.

I think the reason for that is the doubt that exists at QB for Toronto.

The assumption that Chad Kelly will easily slide into his anointed role and immediately take off as a superstar is bullish.

I think Hamilton, coming off a loss, will be ultra-focused in this game. At the same time, the Boatmen are still basking in last year’s glory. I like the Ti-Cats to take round one in the 2023 battle of the QEW.

Hamilton Tiger-Cats 29 Toronto Argonauts 23

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Mike Mitchell Reporter
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