The Toronto Argonauts will be back home at BMO Field playing football for the first time in 665 days. 21 months ago, on October 26th, 2019, the Argos hosted and defeated Ottawa. On Saturday afternoon, the new-look Boatmen return and face their week 2 opponent, the defending Grey Cup champion Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
It’s a Deja-Blue scenario for the Double Blue as they attempt to avenge last week’s 20-7 defeat at the hands of the Blue Bombers. The game will air Saturday afternoon in Canada on TSN and ESPN2 at 4 pm ET.
BetRegal, the CFL’s sponsored sportsbook, has Winnipeg as 3.5 point road favorites over Toronto. The over/under is 45.5 points. The line was as high as six for the Bombers earlier this week. So there has been some movement towards the Argos in recent days.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers (2-0) @ Toronto Argonauts (1-1) Week 3 Preview
It might be the first time that Toronto Argonauts head coach Ryan Dinwiddie has coached his team at home. But it’s not the first time he has faced the Winnipeg Blue Bombers two weeks in a row.
As a matter of fact, back when Dinwiddie was the Stampeders QB coach in 2019. Calgary played Winnipeg three times in four weeks. In Weeks 19 and 20, splitting the back-to-back contests and then two weeks later in the Western Semi-Final playoff game, which the Stamps lost to the Bombers 35-14.
Saturday will be the fifth time in his last seven games of coaching that Ryan Dinwiddie’s offence has squared off against Richie Hall’s Winnipeg defence. In the battle of familiar foes, Hall has had the upper hand in their most recent outings. This time, Dinwiddie turns to former Stamps quarterback Nick Arbuckle, who will be making his first start for the Toronto Argonauts.
Mike O’Shea has the best team in the CFL and after the first two weeks of the season. It’s clear that the Bombers’ have lived up to their reputation. The team has always been well-coached and fundamentally sound, but there are hints that their passing game led by a red-hot Zach Collaros is ready to take the next step forward. Collaros is off to a great start even without two of his best weapons in Andrew Harris and Darvin Adams. The once upon a time, Toronto Argonaut is experiencing a late-career resurgence. And he has found the right home in Winnipeg. Collaros scorched his former team last week, completing 80 percent of his passes for 292 yards and two scores.
Last week’s game between the Argos and Bombers was considered a litmus test for Toronto. The general consensus after the game was that the Argonauts stood up well against the champs on the road. Many supporters of the Boatmen saw it as a moral victory for the franchise. But moral victories don’t get you into contention for the playoffs. The shortened CFL season has created a greater sense of urgency for each game, and winning at home is important for the teams who want to be genuine contenders.
Toronto Argonauts Week 3 Depth Chart/Injury Report
LT Dejon Allen (Knee) and C Philip Blake (Shoulder) will play and remain in the starting lineup. OT Terry Poole is active for the first time this season.
DT Kony Ealy is out with an elbow injury. He has been placed on the team’s six game injured list. Ealy will be replaced by CFL rookie and another former XFL player in Dewayne Hendrix.
DB Arjen Colquhoun is back but Treston Decoud and Jamal Peters will remain as starters at CB.
American RB DJ Foster has been called up to replace AJ Ouellette, who will miss this game with a chest injury.
Kurleigh Gittens Jr. will replace Juwan Brescasin at WR. Brescasin is expected to miss at least three games. Cam Phillips remains on the Argos practice roster.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers Week 3 Depth Chart/Injury Report
RB Brady Olivera will once again make the start. Andrew Harris practiced this week in limited fashion but is still probably a week away from making his 2021 regular season debut.
The big news is at wide receiver. Deep threat Darvin Adams is back after missing the first two games for Winnipeg. However, Nic Demski is out with a hip injury.
Former Argos DB Alden Darby will not be playing this week against his former team. Darby is working his way back from injury and is now on the Bombers practice roster.
The Argonauts Offence Versus The Bombers Defence
A week ago against Winnipeg, Toronto had 123 yards rushing but only completed 51 percent of their passes for 166 yards. Richie Hall’s young defensive secondary led by CFL rookie sensation Deatrick Nichols stymied and slowed down the Argos high-profile receiving corps.
The Blue Bombers have only given up two touchdowns in the early season. Toronto’s offence has gone through long stretches of futility in both games they have played. So Ryan Dinwiddie is turning over the keys of his offence to Nick Arbuckle in the hopes that the offensive attack can show some consistency and sustain drives throughout an entire game.
Arbuckle brings more mobility to the Argos attack, and his experience running run-pass option plays could bring an added dimension to Toronto’s game plan. The RPO is something the team utilized significantly in the first two weeks, even with McLeod Bethel-Thompson. But Arbuckle brings a third layer to the zone read attack with his ability to run with the ball himself.
Reports from Winnipeg this week are that they were not satisfied with their defensive performance from a week ago. The Bombers have a chip on their shoulder after losing the line of scrimmage in the ground game against Toronto. Despite putting pressure on the Argos passers in week two, Winnipeg’s elite pass rush only got home once with a late-game sack in desperation time by Jackson Jeffcoat. All-World DE Willie Jefferson was limited to one tackle. The odds of that happening two games in a row for the CFL’s best defensive players is not very likely.
This is the first big test for Ryan Dinwiddie and his offensive staff. Work off the film they saw a week ago, adjust and devise a game plan that works in the rematch. Last week, the Argos had way too many physical and mental miscues. Can they get up off the mat after being knocked down several times by a superior opponent? We are going to find out Saturday afternoon.
The Argonauts Defence Versus The Bombers Offence
Last week, it didn’t reflect this on the scoreboard, but the Argos defence fought the Bombers offence to a draw in round one of this matchup. The Boatmen shut down the Bombers’ ground attack, holding them to 53 yards, using some creative blitzing and play calling by defensive coordinator Glen Young.
However, the Argos challenged Winnipeg’s passing game to beat them, and the Bombers ultimately did. Completing 80 percent of their passes and, more importantly, hitting two big plays into the end zone for scores that were counters to Toronto stacking the box to stop the run.
The Argos defensive staff picked their poison and rather than die a slow death at the hands of Winnipeg’s running game. They decided to take their chances against a potential quick death.
Bombers offensive coordinator Buck Pierce has made a nice transition to calling plays after years of being a top assistant on Winnipeg’s staff. He’s been working without the offense’s best player in Andrew Harris and his best deep threat in Darvin Adams. The aforementioned Adams returns this week for the Bombers. Expect Winnipeg go challenge Toronto deep if they over commit to the run.
Buck Pierce has done a great job utilizing the unique skillsets of his players like Kenny Lawler. But also, what he has done well is create a system that suits Zach Collaros’ skillset as a scrambler and improviser.
Toronto’s pass rush has to figure out a way to get home with their pass rush. Charleston Hughes has zero sacks after leading the CFL in sacks with 16 in 2019. If the Argos defence allows Collaros to buy time in the pocket, Toronto will get burned again on the back end of their defence because they are committing an extra defender near the line of scrimmage to stop the run.
The Argos-Bombers Special Teams Matchup
Toronto’s special teams have been lackluster to start the season. A combination of missed assignments and penalties by Mark Nelson’s unit has hurt Toronto in weeks one and two. On the flip side, Winnipeg is always great on special teams, coached by Paul Boudreau; they rarely ever beat themselves.
There are hidden yards in football games that either swing or halt the momentum in a game. The Bombers capitalize on this area every single game they play. They don’t miss kicks, and the team springs one or two good returns in-game that flip the field in their favor. Last week, Charles Nelson had a 32-yard punt return late in the game that helped Winnipeg keep the tide in their favor. A close game favors Winnipeg because their special teams are reliable.
There are a few factors that favor Toronto in this game. Firstly, they are playing at home. Secondly, the team has had an added day of rest. And lastly, conventional wisdom tells you that it is tough to beat a team two weeks in a row.
The problem with those factors is that the team attempting to beat Toronto twice in a row is the best team in the league.
The truth is that, upon further review, The Bombers beat the Boatmen last week, despite not playing their best. Winnipeg failed to stop the run or run the football well. They lost at the line of scrimmage. Something that rarely happens with them. Especially because the Blue Bombers have arguably the CFL’s best offensive line and pass rush.
Toronto was fortunate to still be in the game late against Winnipeg in week two. And the truth is that they shouldn’t have been. Considering how poorly the Argos offence played. The Boatmen’s defence for the second week in a row kept their team in the game. Toronto came away from the game, feeling ok with how things went, all things considered. After all, they could’ve been blown out.
This week’s attitude on Winnipeg’s side is that they walked away not satisfied with how they played. That’s not the kind of mindset that you want to see coming from a team that just beat you. Toronto wants to be a prime-time team again, and there would be no better way to do it than by beating the champs at home in front of your fans. But the Argos are not ready for primetime yet.