It wouldn’t be a marquee CFL matchup without a little trash talk.
When the B.C. Lions host the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Saturday evening in Vancouver, the much-anticipated battle of undefeated teams could have massive implications for the 2022 season.
Right now, the Lions, led by star Canadian quarterback Nathan Rourke, look like the best team in the CFL, but they can’t claim front-runner status until they topple Winnipeg. It hasn’t always been pretty, but the two-time defending Grey Cup champions have yet to lose and will always receive the benefit of the doubt.
Most are expecting a tight matchup, but not Lions’ defensive back Marcus Sayles. Speaking to Ted Wyman of the Winnipeg Sun on Friday, the former Bomber revealed a fairly low opinion of his Week 5 opponents’ offence.
“Right now they look like they’re a little vanilla,” Sayles said. “They’ve been skating away by little points, so we feel like we can beat them pretty bad.”
That’s a rather harsh assessment of the league’s reigning dynasty, but it isn’t entirely inaccurate. Winnipeg entered this week ranked seventh in offensive scoring with an average of 18.8 points and eighth in net offence with 307.8 yards per game. Their once trademark run game has been rendered completely ineffective since the departure of Andrew Harris and the passing game has yet to recover from losing the likes of Kenny Lawler and Darvin Adams.
“Collaros is out there making plays — like he does because he’s a great player — but he’s been running around, scrambling to make some plays,” Sayles said, pegging the Bombers quarterback as their lone remaining weapon.
“As long as we play top-down defence, don’t give up explosion plays and let our D-line eat, we feel like we’ll have just as much success as all these other teams.”
If the Winnipeg offence is truly as bad as Sayles claims, it should be easy pickings for a star-studded Lions’ defence that has allowed the fewest yards per game with 243.7 and the second fewest points with an average of 16.3.
Their only rival in terms of dominance has been the Bombers, who have allowed an average of just 15.8 points per game with one more contest under their belt. Star defensive end Willie Jefferson could offer no critiques of his own for a juiced up Lions’ offence that is lapping the league in every category, but did warn his former 2019 Grey Cup teammate Sayles not to get cocky.
“He called our offence vanilla … now he needs to go out there and make a play against our vanilla offence,” Jefferson told the Winnipeg media. “If our offence can go out there and put up points, then our vanilla offence put up points against your amazing defence.”
“He came out and said what he had to do and now he has to make his plays and do what he needs to do and not let our vanilla offence score.”
The trash talk between elite defenders adds a little extra spiciness to what was already a much-watch football game. In the end, the player who is proven right will get to celebrate with the title of early CFL front-runner.