The biggest game of the 2021 CFL regular season takes place this Friday night at BMO Field. As the 8-4, Toronto Argonauts battle with the 7-5 Hamilton Tiger-Cats with not only the East division title up for grabs but potentially a trip to the Grey Cup at stake.
BetRegal, the CFL’s sponsored sportsbook, has Hamilton as one-point road favorites over Toronto. The over/under for the game is currently 45.5. The game will air on TSN and ESPN+.
The Argonauts will have a capacity crowd for Friday night’s game at BMO. Extra tickets could become available before game time. Due to social distancing measures, the capacity is a little over 12,000. There’s no doubt that the importance of the game plays a factor. But certainly, the Tiger-Cats fandom played a part in the game selling out.
Hamilton Tiger-Cats @ Toronto Argonauts Game Preview
For the Toronto Argonauts, this game is a winner take all scenario. Technically, although very unlikely, it’s also a tie takes all scenario as well.
A third victory over the Ticats this season will not only give Double Blue the Eastern crown but an easier pathway to the 108th Grey Cup. The road to the big game would have to go through Toronto.
The Argonauts want to make one more road trip to Tim Horton’s this season, but they want it to be on December 12th.
The Boatmen would love to walk into the final week of the regular season with everything sewn up. Ensuring a home game in the Eastern final. And buying themselves nearly three weeks to rest up their injured troops as they set sail for December 5th.
The Ticats can reclaim their throne in the East by beating the Boatmen on Friday night. Both rivals would have the same record. But by virtue of tie-breakers, Hamilton would take control with one week left in the season.
A Toronto loss to Hamilton would not only jeopardize their chances of winning the East. With the Argos having to defeat Edmonton and hope for a Saskatchewan victory over the Tiger-Cats in Week 16. But it could also put Double Blue’s chances of hosting a playoff game in jeopardy. With Montreal still lurking in the shadows hanging a tie-breaker over the Argonauts heads.
The road to the Grey Cup would become much more challenging if Toronto had to beat both the Alouettes and Tiger-Cats to get there, particularly if the goal has to be accomplished away from the Six. The Argos are currently undefeated at home this year.
Round 4 in the ‘Battle of The QEW’ takes place in Week 15. But there’s a chance there could be a Round 5 between the two bitter rivals; the question will be, where will it take place? The answer arrives when the smoke settles on Friday night.
Hamilton Tiger-Cats Week 15 Depth Chart/Injury Report
The big news coming out on Hamilton’s side is that they will be missing RB Don Jackson, who showed up late in the week with a groin injury. Jackson has been arguably the Ticats most dynamic player the last two weeks. Sean Thomas Erlington who has had success against Toronto this year will lead what could be a commitee approach by Hamilton at running back.
WR Bralon Addison, who has had an injury-plagued season remains on Hamilton’s injured list.
Frankie Williams, another Argos killer is still on the injured list. Brandon Banks and David Ungerer III will handle return duties.
OL John Yarbrough is back in the lineup and will be starting at Centre for the Tiger-Cats. Jordan Murray is also back in at left tackle after being out last week against BC.
Hamilton’s defence is as healthy as you can be at this point of the season.
Toronto Argonauts Week 15 Depth Chart/Injury Report
No major changes or surprises on the Argos Week 15 Depth chart. None of Toronto’s key players on their six-game injured list like WR Eric Rogers are making a surprise return against Hamilton.
As expected, RB John White is out. DJ Foster is back in the lineup after missing last week’s game due to a foot injury.
DE Charleston Hughes is out this week. Cordarro Law, coming off a CFL top performer outing last week starts on the edge opposite Shane Ray.
DT Fabian Foote is back from injury and will be lined up next to Shawn Oakman in the trenches.
LB Cam Judge is once again active but listed behind Justin Tuggle on the depth chart. Tuggle struggled mightily last week. Nate Holley is not ready to join the roster yet. He is still on the team’s suspended list. The good news is that although he was banged up a bit last week, Chris Edwards is healthy and back at his usual Sam spot.
C Jonathan Zamora is however active, after the Argos signed him off the Stampeders practice roster last week. Zamora will back up Philip Blake, who is subbing for the injured Peter Nicastro.
DB Jamal Peters, who was having an outstanding rookie campaign is out again this week. Jalen Collins and Treston Decoud will continue to man the corner sports on the outside.
22 players currently reside on the Boatmen’s injured list.
Hamilton Tiger-Cats @ Toronto Argonauts Matchups
Toronto’s Offence Versus Hamilton’s Defence
- The Ti-Cats have one of the CFL’s best overall defenses. Only Winnipeg (147) has allowed less points this year than Hamilton (210).
- Hamilton’s run defence has been stellar all-season long. They are second in the league in yards allowed per game at 83.1. First in the CFL in yards per carry allowed at 4.3.
- The Tiger-Cats pass defence has been in the middle of the pack (4th overall, sixth in sacks (26) but second in interceptions with 14.
- Toronto’s offence has been very inconsistent all season long. And its reflected in the team’s offensive numbers.
- The Argos are 4th in scoring at 19.8 points per game. 5th overall in yards per game at 342. 6th in yards per play (4.7).
- The Argonauts are third in the CFL in pass yards per contest at 271.5 yards but the they have thrown the second most interceptions (16).
- Toronto’s rush offence is seventh in the CFL at 87 yards per game. They also have the league’s second lowest yards per carry at 4.7
Ryan Dinwiddie and Jarious Jackson’s offence has struggled mightily this season against Hamilton’s defence led by defensive-minded head coach Orlondo Steinauer and Mark Washington.
Save for a brilliant second-half performance on Thanksgiving by McLeod Bethel-Thompson, where he threw for 300 yards after halftime. Toronto’s offensive attack has struggled for long stretches against Hamilton’s defence. Particularly in the first and third quarter of all three of the Boatmen’s games this year versus the Ticats.
Toronto has scored zero points against Hamilton in the first and third quarters. This suggests that the offensive game plan going into these contests hasn’t panned out. The third quarter ineptitude also means that second-half adjustments haven’t gone according to plan either, except for the Argos 19-point fourth quarter in their last meeting.
Running the football against Hamilton’s active front seven will be very difficult for Toronto. So the Boatmen will sink or swim based on how McLeod Bethel-Thompson holds up to the Ticats aggressive blitzing scheme. MBT has done a lot of sinking in recent weeks since he played hero in Hamilton over a month ago.
The Argos can’t defeat the Ticats if McLeod Bethel-Thompson plays poorly. Even in their victory at Tim Horton’s, a reprieve on a brilliant roughing the passer challenge by Ryan Dinwiddie erased a late game-sealing interception by Hamilton. McLeod got a second chance and made the absolute most of it.
In this game, the Argos offensive line without Peter Nicastro and Jamal Campbell needs to hold up and keep defenders out of McLeod’s face in the pocket. Thompson needs to be smart with the football and connect on big plays when they are presented.
The Argos offence has gotten by in the last two weeks, settling for 10 Boris Bede field goals. That may have worked against Ottawa and BC, but it won’t suffice against Hamilton.
Toronto’s Defence Versus Hamilton’s Offence
- Overall season statistics for Hamilton’s offence can be very misleading. Because of how poorly the season started for them.
- The Ticats are 5th in the league in scoring per game (19.6) and 7th in yards per game at 326.8. 3rd in rushing and 7th in passing. But in the last few weeks, Hamilton’s offence thanks to a rejevunated Jeremiah Masoli and Don Jackson’s insertion into the lineup, has started to resumble its elite 2019 form.
- While Hamilton’s offensive attack has been on the upswing. The Argos defence has taken a turn for the worse in recent weeks.
- Toronto’s pass defence is sixth in the league, allowing 262 yards passing per game, and have surrendered the second most td passes in the CFL with 19. They are also seventh in the league in sacks with 26.
- The Argos rush defence has fallen off the cliff. Toronto went from best in the league to now 7th, allowing 109 yards per contest. Opposing runners are averaging a league high 5.7 yards per rush play against the Boatmen.
This is a bad matchup for Toronto. Based on how these two opposing units are currently playing. Especially now that OT Chris Van Zeyl has stabilized their offensive line, a weakness for the Ticats earlier in the season.
Hamilton has run for over 300 yards in their last two games. A big reason for that is a fresh-legged Don Jackson, coming into the Ticats lineup and rushing for 200 yards in two games. But Jackson will miss this game due to a groin injury. The Ticats love to rotate different players on run plays. So Tim White could see some action along with Thomas-Erlington and company.
Toronto has also struggled against running quarterbacks, and Jeremiah Masoli can undoubtedly hurt the Boatmen’s defence in that respect as well.
The scariest aspect of Hamilton’s attack is that not only has Jeremiah Masoli regained his form, but Brandon Banks, who missed the previous two meetings with Toronto, is also getting back to being the dangerous playmaker, CFL defenses fear. He’s not all the way there yet but any minute now.
It hasn’t been smooth sailing for the Boatmen’s defence under Chris Jones and Rich Stubler. Two brilliant defensive minds who have struggled to get Toronto’s banged-up defence to play at a consistently high level.
This type of playoff-caliber game with high stakes against an elite opponent is where coaches like Jones and Stubler need to be at their best. Toronto’s D is coming off of an excellent performance against CFL novice Duck Hodges and Ottawa. But they are stepping up several classes facing the Ticats. The Argos’ defence needs to step up mightily if they want to have a chance to win this game.
Toronto Argonauts-Hamilton Tiger-Cats Special Teams Matchup
No team in the CFL has had a more decided advantage in their kicking game than Toronto has had this year. Boris Bede is arguably the Argonauts team MVP. And for whatever reason, opposing kickers have struggled mightily against Toronto when facing off against Bede.
From BC Lions kicker Jimmy Camacho missing multiple game-winning kicks at BMO two weeks ago to the always reliable Lewis Ward misfiring on three makeable field goals last week in Ottawa.
Even Hamilton experienced the opposing kicker jinx firsthand when former Ticats kicker Michael Domagala doinked a game-tying extra point in their 17-16 loss to Toronto. Current Hamilton kicker Taylor Bertolet better be living right this week.
Sooner or later, Boris Bede is going to stop being perfect. At some point, he will come back down to earth and assume mere mortal status.
The Ticats special teams have given Toronto fits in the past. Hamilton is led by one of the very best coordinators in Jeff Reinebold. Mark Nelson’s group has steadily improved all season. And it helps not having to face Frankie Williams, but the Argos need to be more than just Boris Bede this week against the Tiger-Cats.
Hamilton Tiger-Cats @ Toronto Argonauts Prediction
If this game wasn’t being played in Toronto at BMO Field. All signs would point to an outright victory by Hamilton. The Tiger-Cats are clicking on all cylinders at the right time. In contrast, the Argonauts are limping to the finish line.
This is the first big pressure spot for rookie head coach Ryan Dinwiddie, his staff, and players. In recent weeks, Ryan Dinwiddie has not held up well in these spots, making several rookie mistakes that nearly cost his team victories.
When you live on the edge repeatedly, sooner or later, you fall off and die. That’s what is going to happen this week for Toronto. The Argos will fight back late to make a game of it, but unfortunately, the Boatmen will run out of steam and not have one more against all odds last-second victory left in them. The Tiger-Cats will reclaim their throne in the East.