CFL Western Final: BC Lions (13-6) at Winnipeg Blue Bombers (14-4) Preview: Prediction, Depth Chart, Injuries, Odds
The Western Final is a rematch of last year’s Western Final as the Winnipeg Blue Bombers host the BC Lions. It is the fourth meeting of the season between these two teams which saw the Bombers win 2 of the 3 regular season meetings. Out of the three regular-season games between the Lions and Blue Bombers, the visiting team has won 2 of those matchups.
“Personally, I just like to play there because the fans are so loud, and, they’re a bit more crazier than other fans. You know. And me being from Europe, I’ve been to a lot of soccer games, and the fans, they are crazy too. They just love the sport. They love their home team, I just love the energy and I try to feed off that.” BC Lions defensive tackle on his thoughts of playing in IG Field.
Alouettes East Finals Reading:
CFL Eastern Final: Montreal Alouettes (12-7) at Toronto Argonauts (16-2) Preview
Jeshrun Antwi of the Montreal Alouettes Interview Ahead of CFL East Division Finals
Reflecting on the CFL East Semi-Finals Montreal 27, Hamilton 12: Observations, Expanded Defensive Player Stats
Lions West Finals Reading:
CFL Western Final: BC Lions (13-6) at Winnipeg Blue Bombers (14-4) Preview
Tibo Debaillie of the BC Lions Interview Ahead of CFL West Division Finals Against Winnipeg
Reflecting on the CFL West Semi-Finals BC 41, Calgary 30: Observations, Expanded Defensive Player Stats:
CFL Eastern Semi-Final Preview: Montreal Alouettes (11-7) vs Hamilton Tiger-Cats (8-10)
Reggie Stubblefield of the Alouettes Interview Ahead of CFL East Division Semi-Finals Against Hamilton
CFL Western Semi-Final: Preview BC Lions (12-6) vs Calgary Stampeders (6-12)
Tibo Debaillie of the BC Lions Interview Ahead of CFL West Division Semi-Finals Against Calgary
Montreal Alouettes Week 21 Extended Report
Mike Mitchell’s Final Power Rankings
Predicting the Rest of the CFL Season
CFL 2nd Period All-Star Team (Weeks 8-14)
CFL Midseason All-Star Team, Awards
First Period CFL and Divisional All-Stars
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Date/Location: Saturday, November 11 /IG Field, Winnipeg, MB
Kickoff Time: 6:30 PM ET, 3:30 PM PT
Channel: TSN (Canada), CFL+ (USA, International)
Spread: BC +4.5 (-110), Winnipeg -4.5 (-110)
Moneyline: BC +170, Winnipeg -200
Over/Under: 50.5 (Over +100, Under -120)
BC Lions (13-6): The BC Lions saw another strong performance in the passing game in the Western Semi-Finals as Vernon Adams Jr. threw for over 400 yards and 2 touchdowns and also rushed for 3 touchdowns. The Lions also saw a lot of success in their pass rush on defense as they were frequently able to pressure pressure on Jake Maier.
BC Lions’ defensive tackle reflected on what he thought were the best elements of the BC Lions’ game in their Western Semi-Final win over Calgary.
“I think, like, we got off to a rocky start on defense. They scored pretty quickly, but everybody just stayed calm, and, we had a good couple of good stops. You know. And then the offense started scoring as well, and if our offense gets rolling, it’s pretty hard to stop them, so it was just overall, it was just a really good team.” Debaillie explained.
“When we kept our heads cool, and, we didn’t make the moment bigger than it was, and it worked out at the end, and I’m happy that we have the opportunity now to play for to be in the Grey Cup tomorrow.”
Winnipeg Blue Bombers (14-4): The Winnipeg Blue Bombers have finished in first place in the West for the third straight year in a row. Winnipeg has scored the most points over the season at 594 placing them 9 points ahead of BC’s 495 and 3 points ahead of Toronto who has scored 591. Winnipeg has also allowed the fewest points in the CFL at 377 which is 62 points ahead of BC. Winnipeg allowed the lowest total passing yards per game at 229.4 and the third-lowest pass yards per attempt at 7.8. Winnipeg has also allowed the fewest passing touchdowns on the season at 12.
The Blue bombers will be without star receiver Dalton Schoen for this matchup.
Lions Keys to the Game
Vernon Adams Jr. is coming off of an impressive performance in which he completed 28 of his 39 passes for 413 yards and 2 touchdowns. Keon Hatcher had a monster game catching 9 passes for 195 yards and a touchdown. Jevon Cottoy caught 6 passes for 63 yards.
It was a game in which Vernon Adams Jr. was throwing darts into tight windows and roping passes over defenders. If he continues to play at that level it will give his team a very good chance to win.
Get Some Momentum in the Running Game
Taquan Mizzel rushed 11 times for 28 yards in the win over Calgary to advance to the Western Final. His longest run was an 8-yard gain outside to the left in the 2nd quarter and he picked up 6 yards up the middle on the following play. Calgary saw strong performances in the game in the run-stopping department as Cameron Judge and Adarius Taylor both had 2 run stops. BC seemed to struggle in getting holes created up the middle against Calgary and will need more success on the ground in the Western Final.
Stop Brady Oliveira
Brady Oliveira has rushed for by far the most rush attempts this season and has 260 rushes. In many games, Winnipeg has had a 4th quarter lead and gives the ball to Brady over and over bludgeoning their opponents into defeat. Winnipeg is a very difficult team to make a comeback against because of their ability to close out games on the ground making this a key area.
Pressure on Zach Collaros
The BC Lions shocked the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in Winnipeg in week 3 winning 30-6. Winnipeg’s offense struggled to get anything going in that game and enlarge part it came from the pressure BC was able to put on Zach Collaros. In that game Mathieu Betts had 3 sacks and 6 total pressures, Woody Baron had 4 pressures, and there was an overall high rate of quickly putting pressure on Collaros. BC will also need a strong game from their secondary. In week 3 cornerback Garry Peters broke up 2 passes in the end zone helping to keep Winnipeg’s score limited.
Blue Bombers Keys to Victory
Jackson Jeffcoat and Willie Jefferson have been a two-headed monster as Winnipeg’s 2 starting defensive ends for several years. Willie Jefferson has been a monster in generating pressure on the quarterback over the years and has likely been the most effective defensive lineman at batting down passes at the line over the last 4 seasons. This year Jefferson leads the league in knockdowns at 13. Jackson Jeffcoat has been an effective run-stopper in addition to his pass-rushing duties.
If Winnipeg can effectively put pressure on Vernon Adams Jr. in a way that contains him and limits his ability to extend the play they could potentially shut down the biggest area of success for the Lions this season.
A Strong Game From the Defensive Secondary
The BC Lions’ passing offense has been very dangerous for much of the season and has demonstrated a strong ability to put points on the board very quickly. Vernon Adams Jr led the CFL in passing yards with over 500 yards more than 2nd place and is fresh off a 400-yard performance. Defending against the pass is vital when playing the BC Lions. Demerio Houston has shown excellent timing jumping the route this season and leads the league in interceptions with 7. Evan Holm and Deatrick Nichols are tied for 2nd in passes defended in the league with 12.
Focused First Quarter From Collaros
At times Zach Collaros has been somewhat of a slow starter in the playoffs when coming off of a bye. Collaros has been excellent in key moments in the playoffs but has not always With how explosive BC’s offense can be at times Winnipeg cannot afford to waste offensive possessions starting slowly. Despite all of Collaros’ success in the playoffs he has thrown for under 200 yards in 4 of his 7 playoff games as a Blue Bomber and has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns over that span having 6 touchdowns and 7 interceptions.
Brady Oliveira has been the bellcow runningback of the CFL this season rushing 260 times for 1,534 yards (5.9 average) and 9 touchdowns. He also has 38 receptions for 482 yards. If Brady can continue to run the way he has much of the season Winnipeg will be able to control the pace and style of the football game.
Lions to Watch
QB Vernon Adams Jr.
Vernon Adams Jr. led the league in passing yards by over 500 this season. He completed 333 of his 488 passes (68.2%) for 4,769 yards with 31 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. He also rushed 48 times for 324 yards (6.8 average) and a rushing touchdown.
RB Taquan Mizzell
Taquan Mizzell rushed 11 times last week for 28 yards and caught 5 passes for 54 yards, 51 of which were YAC. Over the regular season, Mizzell rushed 157 times for 773 yards (4.9 average) and 3 touchdowns.
WR Keon Hatcher
Hatcher is coming off a huge game against Calgary catching 0 passes for 195 yards and a touchdown.
WR Jevon Cottoy
Cottoy has been a bulldozer for the Lions often picking up lots of YAC. Last week he had the 2nd most receiving yards for the Lions as he caught 6 passes for 63 yards and a touchdown.
WR Alexander Hollins
Hollins caught 78 passes this season for 1,173 yards and 9 touchdowns. He had the 4th most receiving yards in the league.
DE Mathieu Betts
Mathieu Betts set a single-season record for most sacks by a Canadian in a season at 18. In the playoff win against Calgary by my count, Mathieu Betts remarkably had 8 QB hurries.
DT David Menard
Menard had a sack last week, a QB hurry, and a QB hit.
LB Josh Woods
Woods is coming off a great game against Calgary that saw him lead the Lions in tackles with 11. He had 2 QB hurries, a run stop, 4 stops against the pass, assisted with another stop against the pass, and bored up a pass.
HB TJ Lee
Last week Lee had 5 tackles, a QB hurry, and broke up a pass in the 4th quarter.
CB Garry Peters
Peters had a remarkable season in which he was the most targetted defensive back yet did not allow a touchdown his way. According to Pro Football Focus, he forced 12 incompletions and had the 2nd highest coverage grade among cornerbacks. Last week Peters had an interception, a stop against the pass as well as an assisted stop, and broke up a pass.
Blue Bombers to Watch
QB Zach Collaros
Collaros was the CFL’s MOP in 2021 and 2022. This season he completed 69% of his passes for 4,252 yards and averaged the 2nd most yards per attempt at 10.1. Collaros had 33 touchdowns and 15 interceptions on the season and had the highest QBR among starting quarterbacks at 112.8.
RB Brady Oliveira
Oliveira led the CFL in rushing yards rushing 260 times for 1,534 yards and 9 touchdowns.
WR Kenny Lawler
Lawler had 50 receptions for 901 yards and 6 touchdowns over 12 games.
WR Drew Wolitarsky
Wolitarsky had 47 receptions for 668 yards and 6 touchdowns. When the Bombers have needed him he has been reliable.
WR Nic Demski
Demski is listed as a game-time decision although that has at times been misdirection from the Bombers based on how often players are listed as questionable for them who end up playing. Demski had 67 receptions for 1,006 yards and 6 touchdowns this season.
DE Willie Jefferson
Willie Jefferson has at times been described as the CFL’s most impactful defensive player and was once again named to the CFL’s West Division All-Star Team for the 6th straight season. Jefferson finished the season with 11 sacks, 21 tackles, 3 forced fumbles, and 13 passes defended.
DE Jackson Jeffcoat
Jeffcoat has been a highly effective defensive end in the CFL for years. In 12 games he has amassed 22 tackles, 8 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, and 3 passes defended this season.
HB Evan Holm
Holm had 64 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 interceptions and was tied for first in passes defended among defensive backs at 12.
HB Deatrick Nichols
Nichols finished the season with 37 tackles, a forced fumble, and 12 passes defended.
CB Demerio Houston
Houston led the CFL in interceptions with 7 this season and also had 50 tackles, 4 passes defended, and a touchdown.
I am sticking to the prediction I made at the end of September when I predicted BC to win this game by a score of 27-24 on a Sean White game-winning field goal. I believe Vernon Adams Jr. to be very underrated in his ability to escape the pass rush.
I believe Zach Collaros for Winnipeg to not be as great of a performer in the playoffs as he is in the regular season and suspect the cold has a bigger effect on him than what is largely assumed. Over the 7 playoff games Collaros has played as a Blue Bomber, he has thrown for under 200 yards in 4 of those games and has more interceptions than touchdowns over that span with 6 touchdowns and 7 interceptions.
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