At one time or another, we’ve all wished that 2020 never happened. With the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Winnipeg Blue Bombers set to clash in a Grey Cup rematch straight out 2019, now you can pretend it didn’t.
This time around, the roles are reversed, as Winnipeg’s win in 2019 means Hamilton now boasts the longest active Grey Cup drought at 20 seasons and 21 years. They’ll have a chance to rectify that scenario in front of a sold out crowd in their home stadium, but they’ll have to beat back the powerhouse Bombers to do it.
No longer the plucky third-seed underdog, Winnipeg followed up their historic Grey Cup win by transforming into to undisputed best team in the CFL, much as Hamilton was in 2019. Their 11-3 record came as a result of an explosive offence led by newly-crowned Most Outstanding Player Zach Collaros and Ticat killer Andrew Harris, while a defence chaired by Most Outstanding Defensive Player Adam Bighill nearly put up historic numbers in the fourth quarter.
Contrast that with a Ticats team that has struggled to find consistent footing and will be rolling with a new quarterback, after Dane Evans replaced starter Jeremiah Masoli under centre in the East Final. Evans drew the start the last time these two teams met on Grey Cup Sunday as well, an bone-rattling experience he’s unlikely to forget any time soon.
The 3Down pickers have pondered whether history will repeat itself and have reached some startling conclusions. Here are their predictions for the game, as well as who takes home MVP hardware.
Sunday, December 12
Hamilton Tiger-Cats vs. Winnipeg Blue Bombers, 6 p.m. EST
Betting Line: Bombers -3.0
DUNK: It’s the end of an era for the Ticats. Hamilton is at home in the Grey Cup. Both of those things point to the Tiger-Cats but the Blue Bombers seem like too much to handle, especially along the lines and with Andrew Harris punishing people. BOMBERS
HODGE: A sloppy West Final performance has helped Winnipeg refocus ahead of what could be their biggest test of the season. Homefield will help buoy the Ticats, but the loss of Ted Laurent in the middle is hard to overcome. If Andrew Harris takes this game over, Winnipeg will repeat as Grey Cup champions. BOMBERS
ABBOTT: Winnipeg has been head and shoulders better than the rest of the CFL all season and they look like the best team here by every metric that is supposed to matter. I say supposed to, because Grey Cup upsets seem to have become something of a routine occurrence the last few years. I picked Hamilton in preseason and with a home crowd behind them, it still seems too special not to happen. TICATS
BALLANTINE: Winnipeg is the best team in the league, top to bottom. Hamilton is at home and looking to end the league’s longest Grey Cup drought. When these situations were reversed in 2019, the underdog got it done. Look for a stingy Hamilton run defence to bottle up Harris and deliver a championship. TICATS
FILOSO: The home crowd will help… keep it within a few touchdowns. Winnipeg has been the best team in the CFL since 2019 and although they haven’t been their sharpest in recent weeks, Andrew Harris runs wild versus a front seven missing Ted Laurent. BOMBERS
GASSON: I’ve firmly believed for a while that the Bombers would blow it at some point. We’ve seen the best team in the CFL lose in these situations far too often. I still think it could happen, but I feel like the Bombers got away with one already. Last week’s West Final was the one where it should have gotten away from them, but they survived. Back-to-back they go. BOMBERS
HUDSON: I picked Hamilton before the season to win the Grey Cup because I’m a sucker for second chances for a QB and team that lost in their prior attempt. However, unless Collaros matches his worst game of the season from a week ago and Evans and his OL repeat their best, that’s not happening. BOMBERS
LUDWIG: I’m not sure exactly where to put the odds – 70/30, 60/40, somewhere in there – but I’m riding with the favourite. Winnipeg has crushed it all year; no reason to pick against them now. BOMBERS
MCGUIRE: Winnipeg has the superior defence and offence. Hamilton has the superior special teams and home field advantage. Winnipeg had plenty of rust to knock off last week and they got through it. Ticats are a great story and good on the Hammer for embracing a Grey Cup week it seemed for awhile nobody wanted. In the end, the Blue Bombers are too loaded, too primed and too healthy to blow this. It probably won’t even be close. BOMBERS
SMITH: I can give you all the reasons why I think one of these teams will win. I can use my head and analyze the data and come to a conclusion. But I was born in Hamilton, I have spent most of my life in Hamilton, and I will probably live here until the day I die. I have felt what this city has felt like the last week. There is a buzz. Fans are ready. So this is a heart pick more than anything else. In front of a raucous home crowd, 22 years of pain gets washed away. The Hamilton Tiger-Cats will finally win the Grey Cup. TICATS
BOMBERS — 7
TICATS — 3
Most Valuable Player
DUNK: Zach Collaros — The veteran QB wants to win badly against the team who traded him away and deemed his high level playing days over.
HODGE: Kenny Lawler — He’s taken over games at times this season and I think he can take over this one.
ABBOTT: Dane Evans — If he comes anywhere close to East Final perfection, Evans gets the nod.
BALLANTINE: Ja’Gared Davis — Whether it’s shutting down Harris or dragging down Collaros, Davis is making an impact.
FILOSO: Willie Jefferson — Willie dominates and for the first time since 2007, a defensive player is named MVP.
GASSON: Adam Bighill — Feels like a year for someone on defence. The Most Outstanding Defensive Player makes some plays and takes home more hardware.
HUDSON: Rasheed Bailey — The winning QB is the easy pick, but I’ll go off the board.
LUDWIG: Deatrick Nichols — Defensive backs don’t get enough love for good coverage when it doesn’t draw attention. Nichols might be the one to make the very visible good play on the big stage.
MCGUIRE: Willie Jefferson — He was robbed in 2019 and the voters will hopefully see the error in their ways this time around.
SMITH: Dane Evans — The QB secures his bag for 2022 and beyond in Hamilton with a masterful performance against the league’s best defence.
Most Valuable Canadian
DUNK: Andrew Harris — It’s the easy pick but the right one.
HODGE: Andrew Harris — He becomes the first repeat winner of this award since Dave Sapunjis.
ABBOTT: Stavros Katsantonis — My head says Tunde Adeleke, but my heart wants a game-changing turnover from the rookie to fill me with 2015 Vanier Cup nostalgia.
BALLANTINE: Chris Van Zeyl — Voters finally see the light and give it to a big man up front for shutting down Jefferson and Jeffcoat.
FILOSO: Andrew Harris — Another big day results more hardware for his trophy shelf.
GASSON: Andrew Harris — He probably wins either way.
HUDSON: Andrew Harris — The candidates will be underwhelming and Harris gets default pick from the media.
LUDWIG: Drew Wolitarsky — Andrew Harris is the easy pick. This is the spicy pick.
MCGUIRE: Nic Demski — Still kicking himself for volleying that pass to Ed Gainey in the West Final, Demski will make up for it in the Grey Cup.
SMITH: Tunde Adeleke — Andrew Harris could win it even if the Bombers lose, but I think the former Carleton Raven is going to make a play that shifts things in the Ticats’ direction.
Records to date