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Toronto Argonauts-Hamilton Tiger-Cats Thanksgiving Game Preview/Prediction

McLeod Bethel-Thompson will be back, making his third start in a row at QB on Monday. It’s a double dose of games for the Toronto Argonauts in Week 10, as the Double Blue head to Hamilton on Thanksgiving day to take on their lifelong rivals, the Tiger-Cats. With first place in the East division hanging in the balance.

Toronto and Hamilton split the first two games in September. As the Ti-Cats took the Labour Day Classic at home, besting the Boatmen 32-19. The Argos returned the favor in the Six, topping the Tiger-Cats 17-16 in the LDC rematch.

The winner of this holiday clash in the Hammer on Monday afternoon between Toronto and Hamilton could ultimately determine which one of these teams wins the East. The Argos currently have a one-game lead, but a win by the Cats will swing the odds and the head-to-head tie-breaker back in their favor.

Toronto Argonauts (5-3) @ Hamilton Tiger-Cats (4-4) Week 10 Preview

Toronto is coming off a 35-16 home victory this past Wednesday against Ottawa. Hamilton is trying to bounce back from a tough 23-20 overtime loss to Montreal in Week 9.

BetRegal, the CFL’s sponsored sportsbook, has the Hamilton Tiger-Cats as 4.5 point favorites on Monday afternoon. The over/under is 44 points. The game will air on TSN and ESPN+.

Hamilton has dominated their head-to-head meetings with Toronto in recent years. Particularly at Tim Horton’s Field. The last time the Argos beat the Ti-Cats in Hamilton was September 30th of 2017. Hamilton has won their last four regular-season meetings at home versus Toronto.

Toronto Argonauts @ Hamilton Tiger-Cats Week 10 Depth Charts

The big news for Toronto is that they are sticking with McLeod Bethel-Thompson on the pivot. Nick Arbuckle, who practiced in full, will be active as MBT’s backup.

Offensive Starters RB John White, G Dariusz Bladek, and WR Eric Rogers will miss their second game in a row. RB DJ Foster will once again carry the load in the running game. AJ Ouellette is up from the practice roster to back him up. Toronto will continue to ride Chandler Worthy and Damion Jeanpiere at SB. Shane Richards will start again at the right guard spot in place of Bladek.

Bladek, Rogers, and White are three of Toronto’s best blockers at their respective positions. They are missed in the rushing and passing attack.

On defence, Shane Ray, who returned to the lineup last Wednesday, has been placed on the one-game injured list with a leg injury. DT Drake Nevis (back) will sit out Monday’s game after returning to the lineup and playing limited snaps last week. Nevis reaggravated his hip injury and has been placed on the team’s six-game injured list. Argos DT Fabian Foote is back off the suspended list and will immediately start inside next to Shawn Oakman.

DL Kony Ealy is back off the six-game injured list and will start at DE opposite Cordarro Law. LS Jake Reinhart is out for six games; the Argos signed Maxime Latour off the Redblacks practice roster to assume long-snapping duties.

Listed below is the Argonauts‘ latest practice rosters and injured list.

The big news for Monday’s game is that two of Hamilton’s most dynamic playmakers are out. WR Brandon Banks and DB/KR Frankie Williams will both miss Thanksgiving against Toronto. David Ungerer III and practice roster call-up Marcus Green will look to replace Williams on returns.

RT Chris Van Zeyl, one of the better linemen in the CFL, will be active for the Ti-Cats and starting at right tackle.

WR Bralon Addison, who missed the team’s first seven games, practiced in a limited fashion this week but is healthy and raring to go. The Argos didn’t see Addison the last two times these teams played.

Toronto Argonauts-Hamilton Tiger-Cats Matchups

Toronto’s Offense Versus Hamilton’s Defense

Offensively, the Argos are in the middle of the pack or lower in nearly every offensive category. 5th overall in yards per game. Toronto has been very inconsistent moving the football from week to week and often from quarter to quarter. Part of that has to do with injuries and starting two different quarterbacks. But the team hasn’t found its groove yet.

Very quietly, the Tiger-Cats defense has had a great season. They are ranked second in the league against the pass. Second in the league in scoring defense behind only Winnipeg. Tops in lowest completion percentage against and #1 in opposing offense’s first down percentage. Hamilton’s defense has also stacked up respectably against the run. They allow the third-fewest yards per rush in the CFL, and they are tied for third in the league in rush yards allowed per game.

Hamilton’s defense, in particular, gave Toronto’s offense some severe problems in their first two meetings this year. The Ti-Cats forced five turnovers in the two outings. Toronto’s offense particularly struggled in their last trip to the Hammer on Labour Day. Hamilton led 25-4 after three quarters before Toronto mounted two late scoring drives in garbage time.

In the first two games, Ti-Cats Defensive Coordinator Mark Washington has had Ryan Dinwiddie and his staff’s number. Even in Toronto’s 17-16 victory in the LDC rematch, in which the potential game-tying extra point by Michael Domagala banged off the crossbars. Toronto’s offense fell asleep in the second half of the game, scoring only three points.

Toronto is hoping that the third time against Hamilton’s D this season is a charm. McLeod Bethel-Thompson is getting the opportunity to lead Toronto to victory in what has been a winless land for the Boatmen in recent times. In that environment, the Argos need to play disciplined football and capitalize on their scoring opportunities on the road. You can’t beat Hamilton at Tim Horton’s if you are busy beating yourself.

The Argos wore an A on their helmet last Wednesday to honour their legendary 1991, championship team. On Monday, they have to bring their A-game on offense if they want to have a chance to win.

Toronto’s Defense Versus Hamilton’s Offense

It’s been a strange season thus far for both the Hamilton offense and Toronto’s defense.

The Argos were one of the league’s better defensive units under Glen Young before his departure. Before their spectacular highlight-driven performance against Ottawa. Toronto had struggled in recent weeks. “Defensive Consultant” Chris Jones and his defense are coming off of their best outing last Wednesday. Was it a product of being at home against Ottawa and a neophyte quarterback in Caleb Evans? Or are the Argonauts ready to get back to playing elite football defensively?

Before the start of the season, very few CFL teams looked as explosive as the Ti-Cats on paper on paper. Hamilton boasts two #1 quarterbacks and MOP contenders in Jeremiah Masoli and Dane Evans. And arguably the league’s best-receiving duo in Bralon Addison and Brandon ‘Speedy B’ Banks. The latter is out for this game.

It’s been Hamilton’s offense that has held the Ti-Cats back, and it’s the main reason why they are 4-4. The Tiger-Cats have scored the third-fewest points in the CFL. They are last in the league in yards per game behind Ottawa. Last in pass yards per game (198.3), last in touchdown passes (7), and Hamilton’s offensive line has given up the most sacks in the league. 27 through eight games. The rushing attack isn’t that much better—6th in the league overall.

Hamilton in 2021 hasn’t been the same dangerous offense they were back in 2019. Jeremiah Masoli had a miserable start to the season and then got injured. Dane Evans got hurt, and then David Watford took over for a spell. Masoli is back at the helm and played better in his return to the lineup last week. Bralon Addison missed the team’s first seven games, and Speedy B hasn’t been himself this season.

Toronto’s defense must ensure that Hamilton’s offense doesn’t get back to their old ways on Thanksgiving. The key will be pressuring Hamilton upfront and disrupting their passing attack. The Ti-Cats have Chris Van Zeyl back, but their offensive line has struggled mightily all season long. Against Montreal, they allowed four sacks and countless pressures.

Toronto-Hamilton Special Teams Matchup

This is an area where the Ti-Cats have always outclassed the Argos in the past. In the LDC, it was the explosive Frankie Williams who once again broke the Boatmen’s back with a game-changing return. But in the rematch, Toronto did a much better job against Williams, and ironically enough, it was Hamilton’s special teams that cost them the game on an extra point miss near the end of regulation. Luckily for Toronto, Frankie Williams is not playing this game but David Ungerer is a fully capable returner, and Ti-Cats ST coach Jeff Reinebold is one of the league’s best at getting the most of his players.

The last time Toronto played in Hamilton. The Argos special teams had a staggering seven penalties. Mark Nelson’s group has to play much more disciplined than that in this showing. Toronto’s special teams have improved over the course of the year, but they have continuously had mental breakdowns. The Argos can’t afford to do that on Thanksgiving.

Argos-Tiger Cats Prediction

In many ways, these two teams have mirrored each other all season. Hamilton and Toronto have both had up and down seasons. The Ti-Cats and Argos both know that they need to be better than they have been if they want to win their division and have a chance to get to the Grey Cup ultimately.

A victory by Toronto in Hamilton will signal a changing of the guard in the East. While a Tiger-Cats triumph on Thanksgiving will embody the old cliche of how the more things change, the more they stay the same.

This is a tough spot for Toronto. Playing a well-rested Hamilton team in their house on only four days rest. The Double Blue winning this game will feel and act as a double victory because of what it will mean in the standings and psychologically for Toronto. As great of an outcome as that would be for Toronto. I don’t see it happening.

Save for a Week 1 rally in Calgary. The Argos have not been good on the road. And the last place for Toronto to be at less than a hundred percent is at Tim Horton’s. A house of horrors for the Boatmen in recent years. Toronto will fail to put the nail in Hamilton’s coffin on Monday at the Hammer.

Final Prediction: Hamilton Tiger-Cats 22 Toronto Argonauts 19

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Mike Mitchell Reporter
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