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Toronto Argonauts-Hamilton Tiger-Cats Labour Day Classic Preview/Prediction

The Toronto Argonauts and Hamilton Tiger-Cats are one day away from squaring off in the 50th chapter of the Labour Day Classic. The two long-time rivals will meet four times in the CFL regular season. But the winner of Monday’s game could set the tone for who will win the East this year.

Toronto Argonauts @ Hamilton Tiger-Cats Labour Day Classic Preview

After an impromptu bye week, The Argos (2-1) are traveling to face the (1-2) Tiger-Cats on Monday at 1 pm ET at Tim Horton’s Field. The Labour Day showdown will air on TSN and ESPN+.

BetRegal, the CFL’s sponsored sportsbook, has Hamilton as 2 point favorites at home. The over/under is currently 44.5. The line has remained steady for quite some time, suggesting that the oddsmakers are comfortable with the action that the game has gotten.

Labour Day Series History/Recent Argos-TiCats Meetings

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats lead the all-time LD Classic series over Toronto 35-13-1. The Ti-Cats have won the last six Labour Day games. (2014-2019). The longest winning streak in the series by either rival since this tradition started in 1950. The Argonauts haven’t beaten Hamilton in the LDC game since 2012.

In recent times, Hamilton has dominated Toronto in the regular season, winning all six of their previous meetings in 2018 and 2019.

Hamilton leads the all-time series record over Toronto. In 313 games played between the two long-time rivals. The Tiger-Cats lead the series 167-137, with 9 ties.

Toronto Argonauts Week 5 Depth Chart/Injury Report

  • WR Ricky Collins Jr. is out this week due to COVID. He will be replaced in the starting lineup by Kurleigh Gittens Jr. Also back on the active roster with the Argos is WR/KR Damon Jeanpiere. He is slated to start at slotback. Chandler Worthy, who was also brought back this past week, will not be active for this game.
  • The great news for Toronto is that they will have WR DeVaris Daniels, OL Dariusz Bladek and OL Philip Blake in the starting lineup on Monday. Daniels has received clearance from the team’s medical staff after sufferering a head injury in the Argos last game. Bladek and Blake are out of COVID protocols and are good to go.
  • The Boatmen are dressing only 7 offensive linemen in this game. Rolling with Shane Richards and Dylan Giffen as backups. OT Terry Poole is on the team’s CFL practice roster.
  • Two former Ti-Cats. OL Trevon Tate and WR Cam Phillips are inactive for this week’s game. Both players are on the Argos practice roster.
  • A notable move by Toronto is the placement of DB Arjen Coulqhoun on their practice roster. CFL rookies, Treston Decoud and Jamal Peters remain in the starting lineup.

Hamilton Tiger-Cats Week 5 Depth Chart/Injury Report

  • To no one’s surprise. Dane Evans gets the start again at Quarterback for Hamilton. Jeremiah Masoli has been ruled out with a rib injury and will not be available in an emergency situation. David Watford will back up Evans on the pivot.
  • RB Don Jackson is back after being a healthy scratch for the Ti-Cats last week. He will back up Sean Thomas Erlington at tailback.
  • Two Ti-Cats defensive backs, Ciante Evans and Jumal Rolle, who were limited all week in practice, will be in the lineup for Hamilton’s defence.
  • NT Ted Laurent will also be active for Monday’s contest. Laurent has been battling a knee injury this past week in practice.

The Argos Offense Versus The Tiger-Cats Defense

Argos quarterback Nick Arbuckle is coming off of one of his best games in the CFL. A 310-yard passing day against Winnipeg earned him CFL performer of the week honors in week 3. Toronto will only go as far as their young veteran quarterback takes them.

Although, it’s a small sample size based on only three games played. Going into week 5 of the CFL season. Edmonton and Hamilton have given up the least amount of passing yards per game in the league. The Ti-Cats defense has allowed 209 yards passing per game. However, Hamilton’s defense has only 3 sacks on the year and one interception in three games.

Avoiding mistakes and having time in the pocket will be paramount for Nick Arbuckle and the Argos’ success. But it won’t be easy, playing in Hamilton and dealing with the atmosphere and crowd. Toronto’s last road game in Winnipeg proved quite challenging for the Boatmen, as the offense committed several procedure penalties that killed drives throughout the game. The Ti-Cats defense will be feeding off the energy of their home crowd in this pivotal contest.

Against the run, Hamilton’s defense has given up a league-high 128 yards per game. Opposing teams are averaging 5.6 yards per run against the Ti-Cats. On the flip side, The Toronto Argonauts have rushed for 272 yards in their last two games. The Boatmen’s ground attack is leading the league with 5.9 yards per run. The Argos have implemented a versatile attack utilizing the RPO game and multi-back/power sets. Both John White and CFL rookie RB DJ Foster have separate 100-yard rushing efforts.

The key to this game will be the play of Toronto’s offensive line. Playing the LD classic on the road will be a huge test for them.

The Argonauts Defense Versus The Tiger-Cats Offense

Ti-Cats QB Dane Evans is back in the saddle at quarterback for the Grey Cup runner-ups in 2019. Evans led Hamilton to its first victory of the 2021 season against Montreal by effectively managing the team’s offense. It wasn’t flashy, but Evans was 15/22 for 183 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions. Dane Evans also contributed with 24 yards on the ground. Hamilton’s offense showed great balance and poise with Evans at the controls.

The running game for the Ti-Cats has not been the reason for their early-season struggles on offense. Mainly because Hamilton has played from behind. The team is averaging a healthy 5.2 yards per run. But they are last in the league in rushing attempts with only 47. Last week, the Tiger-Cats passed the ball only 22 times and rushed 20. Nearly a 50-50 split, and it was their best output in the ground game all season.

The Argos have the CFL’s best-run defense statistically. They have given up only 62 yards rushing per game. As crazy as it would’ve seemed to suggest before the season, Toronto would love to force Hamilton to pass the ball and make them one-dimensional. Hamilton’s weakness through three games has been their inability to get their quarterback time to throw down the field.

Sooner or later, the big plays are going to come back for the Ti-Cats passing attack. The Argonauts hope that in Monday’s game, that they don’t finally arrive. Hamilton’s high-powered offense has not lived up to its reputation or its lofty billing to this point of the season.

In the first three games, Hamilton is second to last in passing yards per game at 193.7. Only ahead of Ottawa (191.8). The longest pass play of the season for the Tiger-Cats is 37 yards. They are averaging a league-worst 5.9 yards per pass play.

A big reason for the team’s struggles in the pass-game is Hamilton’s offensive line. The Ti-Cats have given up 13 sacks in 3 games played. Despite shaking up their starting line in week 4, Hamilton allowed 6 sacks to Montreal last week. Playing without CFL standout Chris Van Zeyl (6-game injured list) hasn’t helped matters.

The absence of Bralon Addison has also hindered the Tiger-Cats passing attack. He is currently on the six-game injured list. Opposing defenses have keyed in on Brandon ‘Speedy’ Banks and have bottled him up to only 7 yards per catch on the season with zero touchdowns. Two rookie American receivers were featured in the Hamilton lineup last week and produced excellent efforts. Steven Dunbar and Tim White combined for 9 receptions for 157 yards and a touchdown last week. The CFL rookies will need to continue producing to take pressure off of Banks.

The key to this game will be Toronto’s pass rush. It simply hasn’t gotten home in their first three games. The pass defense is in the middle of the pack in the CFL, allowing 249 yards per game, but the Boatmen have only three sacks on the season. Charleston Hughes has zero, after recording 16 in 2019. If there was ever a game where Hughes would be due for a breakout performance, it’s this one.

The Argos-Tiger-Cats Special Teams Matchup

Toronto is coming off of their best special teams effort back in Week 3 against Winnipeg. But against Hamilton, their coverage units will be greatly challenged by the explosive Frankie Williams.

The 2019 John Agro Special Teams award-winner, Williams had a magnificent game against Montreal last week. Averaging 28 yards per kick return and 20 yards per punt return. Williams had two key returns last week that helped propel Hamilton over the Alouettes. A 49-yard kick return and a 67-yard punt return. Frankie Williams can flip field position in a heartbeat and help change a game’s momentum.

Ti-Cats Special Teams Coordinator Jeff Reinebold is one of the best coaches in the CFL, and his units are fundamentally sound. Mark Nelson and his group will have to repeat the effort they had against Winnipeg’s elite special teams.

One area that could benefit Toronto is the kicking game. The Ti-Cats are on to their second kicker already. Michael Domagala was 2/4 last week on his field-goal attempts. This season, Boris Bede is off to a fantastic start for the Boatmen, booming punts and multiple 50-yard field goals. He will have to continue producing at a high level for the Argos to get the edge in this area.

Final Prediction

This is the ultimate measuring stick game for Toronto and Hamilton. For the Ti-Cats, a victory will reset their season after an 0-2 start and put them right back on top of the East, where they expect to reside. For the Argos, a victory would stamp them as legit contenders and send a message that a new day has arrived in their rivalry with the Tiger-Cats. A rivalry that Hamilton has owned of late.

The lengthy layoff between Week 3 and Week 5, due to Edmonton’s issues with COVID, should’ve benefitted Toronto going into the Mark’s Labour Day Classic. But it’s actually worked against them on several fronts. Firstly, The team’s impromptu bye week halted the Boatmen’s momentum coming off of one of their most meaningful victories in a long time.

Secondly, during this past week, the Argos have had to deal with issues on their practice field at Lamport Stadium, which prompted the team to move its practices to Centennial Park in the middle of the week. Lastly, the team’s practice and prep time was disrupted by COVID issues of their own.

Not counting starting WR DeVaris Daniels, who has been limited all week, waiting for clearance from the Argos medical staff after suffering a head injury in week 3. The Argonauts have also practiced without three other starters on offense in WR Ricky Collins and offensive linemen Philip Blake/Dariusz Bladek. Even though two of these three players have been cleared to play, coming off of COVID protocols, it’s less than ideal circumstances for a team preparing for its most important game.

Hamilton is not as bad as their 1-2 record suggests. And Toronto won’t be as good as they need to be on the road for Monday’s game. Dane Evans has steadied the Tiger-Cats team, and their offense is due for a breakout. Hamilton’s defense and special teams will build momentum off last week’s win and feed off the game’s energy and their home crowd.

The two rivals will meet again at BMO Field on Friday. But on Monday, the Ti-Cats at home will continue their recent Labour Day dominance over the Argos and send a statement that the East is still theirs to win.

Final Score: Hamilton Tiger-Cats 23 Toronto Argonauts 21

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Mike Mitchell Reporter
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