All week we have talked ourselves into how Winnipeg can win the 107th Grey Cup, but the cold, hard truth is this: the Bombers won’t.
The Hamilton Tiger-Cats are going to emerge victorious in Sunday’s battle at McMahon Stadium in Calgary and here are five reasons why.
1. The Killer Bs
Hamilton boasts the league’s No. 1 and 4 receivers in yardage, the No. 1 and 4 receivers in catches and the No. 1 and 6 receivers in touchdowns between 2019 CFL MOP Brandon Banks and his running mate Bralon Addison.
Hamilton’s diminutive dynamic duo combined for 16 games with 100 or more yards and at least one of them found the end zone in all but six games they played this year — the last time coming in a Week 11 contest against the B.C. Lions. Banks himself is on a seven-game touchdown streak, the last time he didn’t hit pay dirt was in the Labour Day Classic. The Killer Bs find the end zone with regularity.
In two games against the Bombers this year, Addison and Banks have combined for 21 catches, 269 yards and two touchdowns. The Bombers did have some success corralling these guys, as one of Addison’s worst games came against Winnipeg (three catches for 18 yards) and Banks only had 48 yards on six catches in their first meeting. But the second time these two teams met, Banks put up 113 yards and Addison had 90.
In last week’s East Final, the Bs were buzzing, as both put up 100-or-more yards and Banks found the end zone on a spectacular catch that is one of the highlights of the year in Hamilton’s convincing 36-16 win over Edmonton.
It also seems as if Banks is on a mission to erase the memory of his heartbreaking Grey Cup defeat in 2014. Using that 2014 failure as motivation to get it right this time, given what he has done all year, I am not about to doubt him.
2. Dane-y Dimes
Any questions about Dane Evans were erased over the second half of the season. He is probably playing the best of any quarterback over the last half of the season, averaging 374 passing yards per game since Labour Day. He has led the Ticats to six straights wins (Evans didn’t play in the regular season finale against the Toronto Argonauts) since losing by one to the Calgary Stampeders, the Ticats only loss since August.
Evans’ lowest passing yardage output since Labour Day was 277 yards in a 30-point rout of Edmonton in Week 17; he has just four games under 300 yards passing in his 12 starts this year.
Dane-y Dimes is on a heater right now and there is no reason to think the Bombers — who he torched for 359 yards and three touchdowns in a 33-13 beatdown in September — will stop him now.
3. Total defence
Hamilton has one of the most ferocious pass rushes in the CFL — they didn’t finish third in the league with 54 sacks for nothing — but they also have a ballhawking secondary, finishing third in interceptions and third in total turnovers. Plus one of the best trios of linebackers in the CFL, with Simoni Lawrence leading the way.
You look at the Ticats’ starting 12 on defence and you have a hard time finding a weak link.
Maybe you say Julian Howsare on the line, but he had six sacks and has been solid since replacing Adrian Tracy who suffered a season-ending triceps injury. He just isn’t the household name that Ted Laurent, Dylan Wynn and Ja’Gared Davis are, yet.
Maybe it is Justin Tuggle, but he finished seventh in the league in tackles and has really stepped up over the last third of the season.
Maybe you say Cariel Brooks, but he was an East Division all-star a year ago and his level of play didn’t drop off in 2019. Delvin Breaux might not be the same player he was five years ago, but he is still a presence on the corner that teams have to be aware of at all times.
The Ticats boast the league’s top defence for a reason, and it is going to be very difficult for the Bombers to find matchups in this game that they can exploit.
4. 21 Savage
Simoni Lawrence was the only Tiger-Cat player not to win their respective individual award on Thursday night and he is going to want to take that out on the Bombers.
Simmy HOV was the best linebacker in the CFL in 2019 and the most impactful player on that side of the field. His 98 tackles led the way, despite only playing in 15 games (two missed due to suspension, one due to resting in the final week of the season). He led the league in defensive plays made and, much like Brandon Banks, has a sour taste in his mouth from his two previous Grey Cup appearances.
Lawrence is always motivated to be the best, but added motivation of finally reaching the mountain top and his likely belief that he was snubbed from being named the league’s top defensive player, will make him an unstoppable force in the Grey Cup.
5. The Tabbies are just better
The Bombers aren’t a bad team; bad teams don’t finish with 11-7 records, even if that was only good for third in the West Division. They just aren’t as good as the Ticats.
That is not an insult to the Bombers; no one has been anywhere near as good as the Ticats this year.
Hamilton finished the season scoring more points and allowing fewer than any other team in the league. They have allowed 30 or more points just twice this year and have held teams under 20 points 12 times, including the playoffs.
Winnipeg had next to no success scoring against the Ticats, never topping the 16-point mark in either of their games and combined for just 29 points in the two games these two teams played.
In a one-game championship anything can happen — see the 2016 and 2017 Grey Cups… or the 2001 Grey Cup… or Super Bowl XLII or… you get the point — but in scenarios like this the better team wins more times than not, and that team is the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.