The new-look Toronto Argonauts kicked off their 2021 season with a road victory over the Calgary Stampeders. In week 2, The Argos take their new act back on the road against the defending Grey Gup Champion Winnipeg Blue Bombers. The game will air on Friday Night in Canada on TSN and ESPN Plus at 8:30 pm ET.
BetRegal, the CFL’s sponsored sportsbook, has the Winnipeg Blue Bombers as 8 point favorites at home. The Toronto Argonauts are the biggest underdogs of the week. The over/under for the game is currently 45.5 points.
The last time, the Argonauts and Bombers played each other. Toronto rallied from a 20-0 deficit at home to beat Winnipeg in the closing seconds 28-27. Their last meeting at IG Field in July of 2019 saw Winnipeg bombard Toronto 48-21.
Toronto Argonauts-Winnipeg Blue Bombers Overview
For the second week in a row, the Toronto Argonauts face a top-tier CFL franchise on the road in the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Both teams enter week two coming off impressive victories to start the season. But each franchise is entering the new season from different spectrums.
Toronto drew the short end of the straw regarding schedule-making—facing Calgary on the road and the reigning CFL champs in successive weeks. On top of that, the Boatmen play in Winnipeg on a short week, while the Blue Bombers get an extra day of rest after last Thursday’s victory over the Tiger-Cats.
Before the new season started, You could have very easily projected the Boatmen to go 0-3 in this stretch and not batted an eye. Because despite all the positive changes that the Argos have made. Playing two straight games on the road in six days to start your season is exceptionally challenging. Furthermore, playing the CFL’s best team two weeks in a row is a difficult way to continue your new campaign. Regardless of outcomes, this stretch is a litmus test in determining how good the Toronto Argonauts can be in the 2021 season.
In week one, the Argos showed a lot of character after shooting themselves in the foot several times with gift-wrapped errors to the Stamps. The rogues’ gallery included a fumble into the end zone after an 81-yard pass play, two missed field goals and a blown assignment that led to a blocked punt on their side of the field. Despite all of this, the team overcame adversity and rallied late with clutch plays from its most significant new additions like Eric Rogers and Charleston Hughes. The big-time players made big-time plays when their team needed them the most.
It took a long time for the Bombers to get back to the top of the CFL mountain. The franchise currently resides there thanks to the leadership it has up top. The pairing of Winnipeg GM Kyle Walters and HC Mike O’Shea has paid long-term dividends. It didn’t happen overnight for the Bombers tandem, but since 2016, Winnipeg has had four consecutive double-digit win seasons. And their hard work finally paid off in 2019, when the Blue Bombers franchise won a Grey Cup championship for the first time since 1990.
In a predominate passing league, the Bombers duo of O’Shea and Walters have built their team towards playing power football in the trenches and excellent special teams. It’s no surprise, considering the background of O’Shea and Walters as players and coaches.
Mike O’Shea is Argonauts’ royalty. The Ontario native is one of the greatest Argos players of all time. O’Shea, as the player, was well-beloved for his smarts, toughness, and leadership. And his Blue Bomber teams resemble their coach. They are fundamentally sound and don’t beat themselves. The CFL Hall Of Famer and All-Time Argos team player has built a team in his image.
The image that Winnipeg has cultivated, thanks to Walters and O’Shea, is one of consistency. The 2019 CFL season for the Blue Bombers served the adage that the cream always rises to the top. It’s a destination that the Argonauts want to get back to in the future.
Toronto Argonauts-Winnipeg Blue Bombers Injury Report
The most significant absence from Toronto’s roster is standout DT Drake Nevis. The former stout run defender for the champion Winnipeg Blue Bombers is nursing a hip injury and has yet to make his debut on the field for the Boatmen. Nevis is needed in a game like this against run-hungry Winnipeg. Without Nevis, Shawn Oakman and Kony Ealy will continue to handle the middle in his absence.
American newcomer DE Shane Ray is on the injured list and will miss some time moving forward due to a finger injury. Also missing from the Argos defensive lineup is DE Cordarro Law, who is also on the team’s six-game injury list. Newcomer Eli Harold will be getting his first start in the CFL at defensive end opposite Charleston Hughes against Winnipeg.
The Argonauts have a couple of significant injuries to their secondary heading into this game. Starting defensive back Arjen Colquhoun will miss his second game in a row with a hamstring injury. Robertson Daniel is also out due to a head injury. In their places will be week one starter and CFL newcomer Treston Decoud and defensive back Jamal Peters. Decoud had a strong debut in Calgary and held up well, but these injuries could test the teams overall depth on the back end of its defense on Friday night.
Argos Interior offensive linemen Philip Blake is battling a shoulder injury, but the veteran will give it a go and head into battle on Friday banged up. A potential setback would test Toronto’s depth on the interior of their offensive line. In week one, rookie Peter Nicastro and Blake worked on the inside at centre and guard. OT Terry Poole is still not ready to go, and Dejon Allen will get another start on the blindside. He draws Willie Jefferson in week two after struggling against Shawn Lemon in week one.
The Blue Bombers injury report raises some eyebrows with the number of significant Winnipeg players listed.
Winnipeg head coach Mike O’Shea is not a fan of the “transparent” injury reports that have debuted for the CFL this season. And the media that follows the team has had an incredible amount of difficulty getting the coach to elaborate on a player’s availability. Reporters walk on eggshells while asking “Osh” for injury specifics.
Superstar tailback Andrew Harris will miss his second straight game. Deep threat Darvin Adams missed week one due to a shoulder injury and will not play again in week two. The Bombers offence will also be missing WR Janorion Grant. Veteran OL Pat Nuefeld has a shoulder injury and has practiced in a limited fashion, but he will suit up.
On defence, what’s alarming is the number of significant players in the Bombers front seven listed on the injury report. All-world defensive linemen Willie Jefferson has an ankle and head injury. The latter typically keeps players out of play, especially if they are not practicing a day or two before a game. But Jefferson is playing regardless.
DT Steven Richardson’s foot injury will keep him out of action. Jackson Jeffcoat will start opposite Jefferson despite having a hip injury. Kyrie Wilson (hip flexor) is one of Winnipeg’s best off-ball linebackers and will miss his second straight game.
A familiar face for Argonauts fans, Alden Darby, who the team recently traded to the Bombers for OT Terry Poole, will not be playing his former team in week two, as he is currently on Winnipeg’s injured list. Perhaps week three in Toronto could produce a different result.
Toronto Argonauts Week 2 Preview
The Argonauts Offence Versus Winnipeg’s Defence
Winnipeg has won 12 of their last 13 home games. Their best winning home stretch since 1993-1994. The Bombers have a decided advantage at home, on defense, partly because of their amazing fans. Winnipeg’s elite pass rush combined with defensive coordinator Richie Hall’s play-calling style and the crowd noise serve as complex challenges for opposing offenses to overcome in that environment. Once Winnipeg captures the momentum in games, it is difficult for their opponents to climb back. The Blue Bombers’ offensive attack is also a great ally because they grind out the clock and keep their defensive unit with fresh legs for the 4th quarter.
A week ago, the Bombers defence held Hamilton’s offence to only six points. The Tiger-Cats offensive attack went into a lull after starting quickly. A lot of that can be attributed to the Bombers coaching and defensive adjustments. Some would attribute the results to Winnipeg’s staff having Hamilton’s number. After all, the Bombers’ defence did hold the high-powered Tiger-Cats offensive attack to only 12 points in the 2019 Grey Cup. But regardless of how you look at it, Winnipeg has a winning formula for success at home. No matter the opponent.
All week long leading into this game, Argonauts head coach Ryan Dinwiddie has talked about establishing a more balanced attack. Toronto only rushed the football ten times in week one. Opposing teams try to avoid getting into second and long situations against Winnipeg’s elite pass rush. The Bombers play a bend but don’t break style on defence, they don’t give up big plays, and they like to test an opposing team’s patience.
For the Argos offensive attack to succeed against the Blue Bombers, McLeod Bethel-Thompson will need to exercise the same patience he has shown in recent outings against Richie Hall’s defensive unit. In two meetings against Winnipeg in 2019, MBT threw for over 700 yards and six touchdowns. The Bombers have a young secondary with several inexperienced CFL players like Deatrick Nichols, Deanundre Alford, and Josh Miller. So a veteran like Bethel-Thompson will look to exploit that element.
On paper, the Argos elite receiving corps of Eric Rogers, DeVaris Daniels, Juwan Brescasin, and Ricky Collins Jr. have a clear advantage going up against some of the Bombers unproven players in their secondary. But it will all come down to whether or not Toronto can win in the trenches and keep Bethel-Thompson’s pocket clean. One of the biggest mismatches on paper is Willie Jefferson against CFL rookie Dejon Allen. A typical Jefferson-like performance could spell trouble for the Argos chances on Friday night.
The Bombers defence has big-time players like linebacker Adam Bighill, who are fundamentally sound and don’t make mistakes. Toronto’s offence will need to play that way to have a chance to win this game.
The Argos Defence Versus The Bombers Offence
Winnipeg has the best offensive line in the CFL. But also arguably the best blocking scheme and coaching in the league. Marty Costello, who has been with the Bombers for five seasons, four as the club’s offensive line coach, does not get enough credit for the work that he has done with his group in the trenches. The Bombers play smash-mouth football and wear defenses down in games with their style.
There’s no doubt that talent helps, and Winnipeg has the best tackle tandem in the CFL with Stanley Bryant and Jermarcus Hardrick. You can point to these two players specifically because Winnipeg has been transformed from a downtrodden franchise into a consistent winner. Thanks to Bryant and Hardrick being tone setters and the life force of their team. The Blue Bombers’ current run of success is directly tied to their arrivals and the start of this tandem in 2016.
Toronto has elite talent on their defensive line like Charleston Hughes and company, but Winnipeg has the horses up front to keep the Boatmen’s pass rush at bay.
An area where the Argos defence will be tested on Friday is their interior. The Argonauts are still missing former Bomber standout Drake Nevis. And a week ago, Calgary rushed for over a hundred yards on the ground. And with all due respect to the Stamps, the Blue Bombers offensive line is levels above Calgary’s and arguably every other team in the CFL.
The Boatmen’s run defence which showed leaks in its ship last week will be tested mightily by Winnipeg’s offensive line. Week one sensation RB Brady Olivera showed that he has the chops to be an elite runner in the CFL, and the team did not miss a beat without mega star tailback Andrew Harris. All thanks to their stellar offensive system.
When it comes to slowing down the Winnipeg offensive attack, newly minted Argos defensive coordinator Glen Young will need to be at the top of his game. The former Blue Bombers linebacker and defensive line coach may have spent some time aiding his new team’s offence in preparation for Winnipeg’s defence run by Richie Hall. But Young will need to put his knowledge of the Bombers offence to use effectively on Friday night. Some creativity might be needed to get the Bombers out of their comfort zone.
Quarterback Zach Collaros is one of the most underrated players in the CFL. Combining his creativity and mobility, along with the Bombers offensive line, is a recipe for disaster for opposing defenses. Rattling Collaros is no simple task. He has thrown only one interception in his last 127 pass attempts. The Bombers don’t beat themselves. And when teams over-commit to stop their elite ground attack, Collaros makes them pay.
Winnipeg doesn’t have the flashiest group of receivers in the CFL, but they are all versatile and bring different skill sets that give opposing teams trouble. Defenses can never sleep on SB Nic Demski. He is the ultimate team player who serves several roles for the Bombers offensive attack as a runner, receiver, and blocker. Kenny Lawler is an emerging player who had a breakout rookie season in 2019. He has the size at 6’3 to be a factor in any area of the field but particularly in the red zone. Lawler, like his counterpart Drew Wolitarsky, are excellent blockers in the run game. They do the dirty work in the pass and run game.
The Argos corners, Treston Decoud and Jamal Peters, two players who were not projected to be starters in training camp, will be tested by Winnipeg’s underrated passing attack.
The Argonauts’ elite linebacking corps of Henoc Muamba, Cameron Judge, Dexter McCoil, the debuting Vontae Diggs, and Sam backer Chris Edwards are the keys to Toronto’s defence in week 2. They need to fill lanes in the run game, put pressure on Collaros, and keep him from improvising and creating big plays.
The Argos special teams versus the Bombers special teams
Teams lose games to Winnipeg all the time in this area. And last week, the Toronto Argonauts special teams nearly gift-wrapped a victory to Calgary. Two missed field goals, a fumbled punt return, and blown assignments led to a blocked punt and a near block on the game-winning field goal. The on-field rust for Mark Nelson’s special teams unit showed in week one.
For Toronto to have a chance to compete and win this game. They can’t afford any mental mistakes against Winnipeg. The Bombers’ have the most fundamentally sound special teams units in the entire CFL. And that’s no surprise considering their head coach and their top-flight special teams’ coordinator Paul Boudreau.
Winnipeg has the best coverage units, they returned four kicks for touchdowns in 2019, and they were the least penalized special teams unit in the CFL. For added measure, they also blocked three kicks. This unit not only doesn’t beat itself but is often the determining factor in winning or changing games.
Argonauts-Blue Bombers Prediction
This is an impossible spot for Toronto. The Argonauts’ are still trying to find themselves and establish their new identity. They got off to a good start last week, but the Blue Bombers already know who they are, and playing them at home is a challenging task even for established CFL teams.
The short work week coupled with the delay to start preparations because of travel issues has put Toronto behind the 8-ball in their efforts to pull off another unlikely road upset. Toronto will need their primetime players like Eric Rogers and Charleston Hughes to make prime-time plays again to have a chance in this game. Staying competitive against the champs on their home field could be a positive sign that the Boatmen are ready for primetime regardless of the outcome.
The team that is the best in the CFL at delivering knockout blows delivers the first in round one of this two-week two-round fight.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers 27 Toronto Argonauts 18
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