The odds makers have the Montreal Alouettes as heavy underdogs coming into the Grey Cup against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. However, the Alouettes have shown themselves to be underestimated all season since beginning the year in last on CFL.ca’s initial power rankings to their upset victory over Toronto last week. Winnipeg aims for their third Grey Cup in only four seasons.
Interviews ahead of the Grey Cup:
Winnipeg Blue Bombers: K Sergio Castillo, DE Willie Jefferson, QB Dakota Prukop, RB Brady Oliveira
Montreal Alouettes: LB Tyrice Beverette, LB Reggie Stubblefield, DT Mustafa Johnson, K David Côté, DE Shawn Lemon, CB Kabion Ento
Date/Location: Saturday, November 19 /Tim Hortons Field, Hamilton, ON
Kickoff Time: 6:00 PM ET, 3:00 PM PT
Channel: TSN (Canada), CFL+ (USA, International)
Spread: Montreal +8.5 (-110), Winnipeg -8.5 (-110)
Moneyline: Montreal +310, Winnipeg -400
Over/Under: 50.5 (Over -110, Under -110)
Keys to The Game
Winnipeg Head Coach Mike O’Shea regarding avoiding complacency in their 4th Grey Cup in a row against a team that’s outperformed expectations in Montreal:
“They’re a smart, large core of veteran players regarding that. And then if you just put on the film, put on Montreal’s film, and watch everything they’ve done in the last 6 or 7 games. I don’t think that’s going to be an issue.” Mike O’Shea said.
Quick Proggessions From Fajardo
Montreal’s starting receivers for this game are a very talented and underrated group including Austin Mack, Tyler Snead, Tyson Philpot, Cole Spieker, and Jake Harty. Fajardo needs tot get the ball out to them quickly. Fajardo will also need to demonstrate a proficient level of eluding the pass rush as he did in the 2019 Western Final playing for Saskatchewan against Winnipeg. Ultimately in 2019 Winnipeg’s pass rush was to strong to be overcome but Fajardo demonstrated a strong ability to make plays in the face of the pass rush.
Winnipeg’s Passing Game vs. Montreal’s Pass Coverage
Zach Collaros is the first quarterback to start in four straight Grey Cups which in itself would lead one to assume that his victory is a probability. However, he has also thrown for under 200 yards in each of his last 3 playoff games. While Winnipeg’s passing game is difficult to limit, it is not impossible. Winnipeg may be without star wide receiver, Dalton Schoen, who is a game-time decision and has not played since week 18. Winnipeg still has plenty of talented receivers such as Kenny Lawler who led the league in receiving yards in 2021. Rasheed Bailey has demonstrated his ability to make big plays on many occasions. Drew Wolitarsky is another reliable receiver who has often found much success in the end zone playing with Collaros.
Montreal’s defense has allowed the fewest passing yards per attempt over the regular season and the 2nd fewest in passing yards and passing touchdowns. Through the 2 playoff games, Montreal has allowed 396 passing yards and only allowed 1 touchdown while generating 6 interceptions. Last week Montreal had 2 pick-6s against Toronto.
“We try to understand that, you know, past success doesn’t determine future success.” Montreal rookie cornerback Kabion Ento said regarding playing against Zach Collaros. “So, I mean, I didn’t know his previous yards before that, and that’s not something I try to worry about. We try to focus on what we have and, like I said, being assignment-sound and just making sure that we’re doing our job. And, I mean, if we feel like we do that, we’re gonna have good chances. So, we can’t worry about the past.” Full Kabion Ento Interview
Montreal’s linebacker Reggie Stubblefield spoke on if he took any encouragement from the fact that Collaros has had less than 200 yards in each of his last 3 playoff games.
“I mean, I don’t care about that because sometimes stats don’t really tell the whole story about things. Maybe he had 200 passing yards because it was rainy that day or it was snowy. I don’t really know too much about it. So I know, at the end of the day, I just know we gotta play our brand of football tomorrow just to make sure we have our cleats in the grass, and we’re ready for success.” Full Reggie Stubblefield Interview.
Winnipeg’s Ground Game
Winnipeg’s running back, Brady Oliveira, led the league by over 500 yards rushing. Last week he had 96 yards rushing on his first 11 carries, but then BC found a way to limit him after that holding him to 13 yards on his last 10 carries.
“You know, I look it like this. You know, whatever it takes to win, right. Whether that is me getting, you know, a bunch of touches or minimal touches and lots of yards or minimal yards. Whatever it takes to win, right. And I think, you know, I did my part with the team to help us, you know, win the game.” Brady Oliveira, spoke of in doing whatever it takes to win.
“And, you know, I think BC did a great job of just game plan right coming in the second half and, you know, loading the box up. And it’s tough, I mean, it’s tough to run against the loaded box. But with that being said, I mean, pick your poison.”
“You wanna try and stop me and load the box? Well, we got the best receiving core in this entire league, and we got the best quarterback in this league that will take shots, and we’ll beat you over top. So you gotta you gotta stop me. Great. We have the receivers to get the job done or stop the receivers, and then we’ll punch you and run you.”
Montreal linebacker Tyrice Beverette spoke on preparing to play against Winnipeg’s ground game.
“I mean, you know, just like we did last week, you know. Just follow what the game plan is. You know, our coaches do a great job of analyzing what the other team does, their weaknesses, and their strengths. And, you know we trust in them and they, and they put us in the right position. So just like last week, if we come out and play our game. We know what we have in this room. We know the type of plays we have in this room, and we’re very confident.” Full Tyrice Beverette Interview.
Montreal’s Run Stopping
Montreal possesses talented players in this area such as defensive tackle Mustafa Johnson who is an excellent run-stopper and was an East Division All-Star. Mustafa Johnson spoke on his thoughts of what BC showed in their efforts to stop Brady Oliveira last week.
“Well, they definitely showed us how stopping him can affect their style of play, affect their game, they showed us a few things on what’s going to work, what’s not going to work in stopping the run game. Obviously, we have our own philosophy of what we’re going to do to affect the run game. We’re gonna take some pointers but at the end of the day. I trust in our coach to have some things dialed up to get us right.” Johnson said. Full Mustafa Johnson interview.
Montreal also has a proficient linebacker group in Reggie Stubblefield, Tyrice Beverette, Darnell Sankey, and Avery Williams.
Montreal’s Pass Rush
In addition to good run containment from the Montreal linebacking group, Montreal has also had creative usage of their linebackers in the pass rush from defensive coordinator Noel Thorpe.
Montreal’s defensive end Shawn Lemon spoke on the approach to playing Zach Collaros regarding putting pressure on him while limiting his ability to extend plays by rolling out of the pocket.
“Just play fast. Just play fast. They’re a veteran group that has a very good O-line. Zach Collaros is a very good quarterback. Just gonna come out and play fast and, you know, play like we did last week.” Full Shawn Lemon Interview.
Winnipeg Quarterback Dakota Prukop spoke on his thoughts of Montreal’s usage of linebackers in blitz packages.
“Yeah it’s great. Again, Thorpe. You know, you always know you’re gonna get some real unique and Cool box play from him with the way he uses his linebackers, and he has a lot of versatile guys, which allows him to do a lot of different things.” Prukop said. “You know, we have in our offensive line room and their ability to make in game adjustments Just gives us a lot of confidence in the quarterback room that, you know, we know that they’re gonna throw some unique things at us, and we’ll make our Our adjustments will be alright.” Full Dakota Prukop Interview.
Winnipeg’s Pass Rush, Montreal’s Pass Protection
Last week Winnipeg had 9 sacks which tied a CFL playoff record and was the most in 31 years. Montreal on the other hand allowed 7 sacks against Toronto. Montreal will need a tremendously strong game from their offensive line in order to have a chance to win. They will need big performances in particular from their tackles Nick Callender and Jamar McGloster in limiting Willie Jefferson and Jackson Jeffcoat on the edge.
Winnipeg Defensive End Willie Jefferson spoke on playing against Cody Fajardo and putting pressure on him.
“Just him trying to hold the ball, trying to wait for his receivers to get open. We have the confidence in our DBs to hold those wide receivers. And they’ll cover them and then give us enough time to get to Cody you make him run around. But that’s something that we’re trying to eliminate from him. We’re gonna try to eliminate him with the scrambling and things like that, get to him in the backfield. And hopefully, we can put him on the ground and get the ball out.” Full Willie Jefferson Interview.
Key Element: Montreal’s Run Game
This is a very crucial element. William Stanback and Jeshrun Antwi need to pound the rock successfully and often in order for Montreal to win which is no easy task against Winnipeg. At times in the season, Montreal has struggled to get their offense going, particularly struggling in keeping Cody Fajardo protected when the running game is stifled and abandoned. Winnipeg may be without their star middle linebacker Adam Bighill who is listed as a game-time decision and this could impact Winnipeg’s proficiency in stopping the run.
Willie Jefferson spoke on the importance of stopping the run against Montreal.
“Oh, very important. That’s the first thing that we gotta stop. You know, if we can stop them from running the ball, getting the ball to Stanback and Antwi. Get them to 2nd and long and things like that, then that gives us opportunities for me and Jackson, the other guys on the defensive line to get to Cody and make it hard for him.” Jefferson said.
Kicking in Windy Tim Horton’s Field
Tim Hortons Field can often turn into a wind tunnel and present challenges. Sergio Castillo reflected on the 2021 Grey Cup in which he went 5 for 5 in field goals.
“Definitely, you know, this field brings good memories right, from 21 obviously, from 2017 when I was here. And so you know this field, this city, it has a very warm piece of in- in my heart. So a lot of fun memories. So definitely, you know some confidence, you know that I’ve kicked many times in this stadium. Obviously, you know, it’s a challenge to kick here. You never know with this wind. But just confident in my snapper, my holder. So they’re gonna give me the best operation possible, and I just gotta do my job.” Full Sergio Castillo Interview.
David Côté also spoke on the challenges of kicking at Tim Hortons Field.
“We’ve kicked the whole week, on this field, so we’ve been able to see some different weather every day. So you just need to see how the wind blows a little bit during the game. And, of course, we know it’s gonna be a windy game probably, but at the end of the day, It’s gonna be the same way for both teams, so we’re just gonna fight through it and then give our best.” Full David Côté interview.
This is the hardest game to predict of the entire season. Winnipeg has intangibles in its favor such as being in the Grey Cup for the 4th year in a row. Winnipeg has the motivation of the fact that they can say that they are a dynasty if they win this game. I fully believe Montreal’s pass defense can for the most part succeed against Zach Collaros. They have been outstanding this season and Montreal has good run stoppers as well.
The key factor in my prediction is the fact that Winnipeg had 9 sacks last week while Montreal allowed 7 sacks last week. Winnipeg’s pass rush has been a primary element in many of their victories over the past 4 years and based on what we have seen from both teams this season I think it is going to be a major problem.
One thing I feel sure of is that this will be a great game that is much closer than people are anticipating. I am going to go with my original prediction for this Grey Cup that I made in June of Winnipeg 24, Montreal 17.
BC Lions’ Tibo Debaillie Interview Ahead of West Division Finals
Reflecting on the CFL West Semi-Finals
Alouettes’ Jeshrun Antwi Interview Ahead of East Finals
East Semi-Finals Reflections
Alouettes’ Reggie Stubblefield Interview Ahead of East Semi-Finals
BC Lions’ Tibo Debaillie Ahead of CFL West Semi-Finals
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
@JonathanClink on Twitter
Big Announcement: CFL Unveils Free Live Streaming Platforms
Get Alerts & Stay ConnectedCFL iPhone App
CFL Android App