The Hamilton Tiger-Cats host the Winnipeg Blue Bombers at Tim Hortons Field on Saturday afternoon. The Bombers enter the game as point favourites.
A lot is being made of the last time these two teams met in Hamilton, a game that occurred nearly one year to the day that this season’s matchup will take place. Last September, with the Ticats struggling and the Bombers rolling, these two teams met up in what was thought to be one of the biggest mismatches of the season. The Tabbies ended up stomping the life out of the Blue and Gold, defeating Winnipeg by a score of 48-31. At the time, it was the largest margin of defeat the Bombers had suffered in the Zach Collaros era.
Fast forward a year, and these two teams are in similar circumstances. The Tiger-Cats remain a mystery despite being two-thirds of the way through the season. They look good one week, as they did against the B.C. Lions and Ottawa Redblacks, and then awful the next, like they were against the Toronto Argonauts on Labour Day.
The demise of the Bombers was greatly exaggerated as they have rolled off six wins in their last seven games, with their lone defeat coming in overtime on Labour Day to the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Winnipeg has already clinched a playoff berth and look well on their way to capturing the West Division regular season crown for a third consecutive season.
The Ticats have their hands full with a potent Winnipeg offence. The Bombers have the league’s top offence, sitting second in points per game and first in yards per game. They also have the league’s second-best passing attack and top rushing attack. It is that last area where they could have a lot of success this week, as the Tiger-Cats have the seventh-ranked rush defence, giving up almost 126 yards per game on the ground. If you can find any Brady Oliveira rushing prop totals, hit the over regardless of the number.
Winnipeg doesn’t only rely on a flashy offence, they also have one of the league’s top defences. The Bombers are second in points per game allowed, first in yards allowed, second in sacks and first in turnovers created.
The Tabbies have become a little more competent offensively since Scott Milanovich took over playing-calling duties in August. Running back James Butler has become more of a focal point, recording two 100-yard outings in the four games Milanovich has been in charge. So too has receiver Tim White, whose season has been revitalized with the change at offensive coordinator. In the four games since Milanovich took over, White has caught 29 passes for 448 yards and three touchdowns. He also has three 100-plus-yard outings after recording just one in the season’s first eight games.
Tim Hortons Field has not exactly been kind to the home side this season. The Ticats have lost five of six games played in what is supposed to be their friendly confines, with all five losses coming by double digits and their lone victory coming over the 3-9 Ottawa Redblacks by a score of 21-13.
While a lot of people will point to last season as proof that anything can happen, it is impossible to trust this Tiger-Cats team against a good opponent. Of their five wins this year, just one has come against a team that currently has a winning record. While a letdown game is always possible for a Bombers side that won 51-6 last weekend, Winnipeg is too good to let another winnable game slip away. Give me the road team to cover the spread and win outright.
With Hamilton’s renewed competency on the offensive side of the ball and Winnipeg’s continued excellence in that area, I expect there to be a fair bit of scoring. These two teams combined for 73 points when they met in Week 1 and I see no reason why they can’t light the scoresheet up again. Give me the over on total points.
Spread: Blue Bombers -6.5 (-110)
Moneyline: Blue Bombers (-278)
Total points: Over 47.5 (-110)