3DownNation’s CFL picks: can Montreal Alouettes upset Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the 110th Grey Cup?

Photo courtesy: Thomas Skrlj/CFL

The 110th Grey Cup is finally almost upon us as the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Montreal Alouettes do battle at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton.

The Blue Bombers are looking to return to championship glory after failing to three-peat in last year’s title game. The Alouettes, meanwhile, are looking to cap a Cinderella run following last year’s upset victory over the Toronto Argonauts in the East Final.

In the race for the 3DownNation picks crown, Santino Filoso and John Hodge have seized control of the straight-up leaderboard, while J.C. Abbott, Joel Gasson, and Josh Smith were eliminated from contention for the top spot last week. Against the spread, Filoso has already clinched the victory, so it might be wise to tail his pick this week.

We’ve also made picks for who could take home the two extra awards this week as the game’s Most Valuable Player and Most Valuable Canadian.

If you think you have the chops to match our experts, try 3DownNation’sbrand new Grey Cup betting contest! It’s free to play with a $50 Amazon gift card up for grabs each game. All residents of Canada and the U.S. are eligible to participate, excluding Quebec.

DUNK: Montreal’s offence must produce more than 200 yards for the birds to have a shot. But if regular season Zach Collaros comes out on Sunday, it might not even be close. Winnipeg’s franchise QB is due to have a game in the playoffs.

Straight-up: BOMBERS. Against the spread: ALS.

HODGE: This is Winnipeg’s game to lose. With all due respect to Montreal, who’ve had a great late-season run, the Blue Bombers are simply more talented, better coached, and more experienced. As long as Winnipeg avoids Toronto-like mistakes, the club should win this game handily, just as they did during the regular season in both of their meetings against the Alouettes. Montreal might cover the spread with a late score, but their offence has been dormant for much of the season.

Straight-up: BOMBERS. Against the spread: BOMBERS.

ABBOTT: Nobody gave Montreal a chance to win last week and they shattered all expectations, but Winnipeg isn’t going to make nearly as many mistakes as Toronto did. Even when Collaros threw three interceptions in Week 12, the Alouettes couldn’t generate enough offence to avoid a 30-point blowout. The upstart Larks will need another nine turnovers to win this game and will only get two, as Cody Fajardo gets exposed in primetime.

Straight-up: BOMBERS. Against the spread: BOMBERS.

BALLANTINE: I’m done looking like Boo Boo the Fool when picking against the Alouettes. Since defensive end Shawn Lemon and middle linebacker Darnell Sankey joined the team mid-season, they’ve beaten just about everybody. They will do so again and no one should be calling it an upset. Defence wins championships and this defence is playing at another level.

Straight-up: ALS. Against the spread: ALS.

FILOSO: After watching them knock off the Argos, I’m quite tempted to pick the Alouettes. What holds me back is that Montreal’s offensive line is porous, to put it politely, and Collaros and company won’t be gifting the Als with nine turnovers. I don’t see it being a blowout win, though.

Straight-up: BOMBERS. Against the spread: ALS.

GASSON: The Bombers are understandably the favourites, but I can’t write off a team that’s won seven in a row and dominated the best team in the league last week. Some of the comments out of Winnipeg this week have given Montreal a legitimate claim to the popular “no one believed in us” cliché. Give me the East Division champs.

Straight-up: ALS. Against the spread: ALS.

GRANT: I’m very comfortable with my ability to assess Winnipeg, but I’ve had a tough time evaluating Montreal all season. If the Alouettes can handle Winnipeg’s double teams and prevent their guards from climbing to the next level in the run game, there’s a path to an Alouettes win. It will require Marc-Antoine Dequoy coming down into the box a lot to disrupt crossers and glance routes off play action and run-pass options. If Winnipeg gets rolling, and I expect them to, I don’t think the Alouettes have the firepower to keep up.

Straight-up: BOMBERS. Against the spread: BOMBERS.

HOSKINS: I understand that the Bombers are the favourite as they’ve gotten to the big game for the fourth season, which is a massive accomplishment. As I said last week, though, there is something about the way Jason Maas has the Alouettes playing as a team. I see this as a defensive battle and it could come down to who holds the ball the longest. I’ll say Montreal finds a way.

Straight-up: ALS. Against the spread: ALS.

KLEIN: Winnipeg checks every box in this matchup. When they have the ball, l I think they have a chance to run it all over Montreal. A.J. Ouellette had 71 yards on 14 carries in the East Final before Toronto decided throwing to the wrong team was the better strategy. I think the Bombers stick with the run and pick up some big chunks to control the game. When Montreal has the ball, this Winnipeg pass rush is just too good. Montreal had real problems on second-and-long against Toronto. This Winnipeg team is just too good on to let this one slip away from them.

Straight-up: BOMBERS. Against the spread: BOMBERS.

MCGUIRE: CFL stats guru Steve Daniel tells me the 1986 Hamilton Tiger-Cats hold the Grey Cup record for quarterback sacks with 13 and no one else has come even close. Winnipeg’s pass-rush just might do it on this Grey Cup Sunday, helping them win a third championship in four years.

Straight-up: BOMBERS. Against the spread: BOMBERS.

SMITH: I’ve spent all week trying to talk myself into taking Montreal to win this game. Their defence has been outstanding in the playoffs, holding both the Ticats and Argos to under 20 points and making Chad Kelly look like Minka Kelly. There are also echoes of 2019 here as well with a high-powered, well-oiled machine going up against a team that’s peaking at the right time. But I just can’t do it. I think this game will be closer than many expect but I like the veteran savvy of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers to get it done and cement themselves as a dynasty.

Straight-up: BOMBERS. Against the spread: ALS.

Totals straight-up: Winnipeg 8, Montreal 3

Total against the spread: Montreal 6, Winnipeg 5

Most Valuable Player

DUNK: QB Zach Collaros. It seems like the easy choice but when you look at his postseason numbers, they are sub par compared to his usual production with Winnipeg. That changes in the 110th Grey Cup. 

HODGE: RB Brady Oliveira, Winnipeg Blue Bombers. In 2019, Andrew Harris became the first Canadian to win Grey MVP since Russ Jackson did so 50 years earlier. Henoc Muamba did it again in 2022. On Sunday, Brady Oliveira will do it yet again. Winnipeg loves to pound the rock and the local product has done it better than anyone this year.

ABBOTT: DL Willie Jefferson, Winnipeg Blue Bombers. He ain’t as good as he once was, but old man Jefferson will keep Cody Fajardo pinned in the pocket long enough to generate one of his classic long-armed interceptions.

BALLANTINE: DL Shawn Lemon, Montreal Alouettes. The veteran pass-rusher continues his “you could have signed me” revenge tour and gets home twice, forcing one fumble.

FILOSO: DL Willie Jefferson, Winnipeg Blue Bombers. The five-time CFL all-star will knock down a pair of passes, notch a handful of sacks, and make a few tackles for loss, resulting in this award going to a defensive player for the first time since 2007.

GASSON: REC Austin Mack, Montreal Alouettes. The Als will probably need a big play for two and Austin Mack feels like the guy to provide them.

GRANT: RB Brady Oliveira, Winnipeg Blue Bombers. If the Winnipeg native has decent numbers and Winnipeg wins, he’ll be given this award. I expect exactly that to happen.

HOSKINS: LB Darnell Sankey, Montreal Alouettes. I predicted the win when he joined the team and he’ll find a way to show everyone how much he contributes to that prediction.

KLEIN: RB Brady Oliveira, Winnipeg Blue Bombers. The bruising back was the tone-setter in the West Final and he’ll carry the Bombers to another title here. By the fourth quarter, it’ll be clear who should win this award.

MCGUIRE: DL Jackson Jeffcoat, Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Often overshadowed by his counterpart Willie Jefferson, it’s finally the Texas product’s turn!

SMITH: RB Brady Oliveira, Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Winnipeg’s ridden the legs of their star running back all year and I see no reason why that would change now. He’ll run for over 100 yards, catch for about 40, and find the end zone at least twice to run away (no pun intended) with the MVP award.

Most Valuable Canadian

DUNK: REC Nic Demski. With Dalton Schoen likely out, No. 10 sees a target increase and steps up in the cup. 

HODGE: RB Brady Oliveira, Winnipeg Blue Bombers. With all due respect to Nic Demski, this feels like an easy choice. The local product won Most Outstanding Canadian on Thursday and he’ll win Most Valuable Canadian on Sunday.

ABBOTT: RB Brady Oliveira, Winnipeg Blue Bombers. After pounding the “running backs don’t matter” drum for a while now, Brady makes a hypocrite of me here.

BALLANTINE: RB Brady Oliveira, Winnipeg Blue Bombers. I‘m not about to discount the reigning Most Outstanding Canadian by suggesting he won’t grab the award in this game as well in a losing effort.

FILOSO: RB Brady Oliveira, Winnipeg Blue Bombers. The ball carrier averaged 6.3 yards per carry against Montreal over two games in the regular season. Another huge day on the ground results in him collecting his second piece of hardware this week.

GASSON: DB Marc-Antoine Dequoy, Montreal Alouettes. The former Carabins star makes his presence felt again, intercepting his way to this award.

GRANT: RB Brady Oliveira, Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Since I have Oliveira winning MVP, there’s no reason to think he won’t double up and win this one as well.

HOSKINS: RB Brady Oliveira, Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Even in a losing effort, Oliveira will continue his reign as the best Canadian on the field.

KLEIN: RB Brady Oliveira, Winnipeg Blue Bombers. In two of the last three Grey Cups, the MVP has also been the game’s Most Valuable Canadian. Oliveira keeps that going.

MCGUIRE: RB Brady Oliveira, Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Uh, duh!

SMITH: RB Brady Oliveira, Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Oliviera will double dip just like Henoc Muamba did last year and Andrew Harris did in 2019.

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Records to date (straight-up)

FILOSO — 58-27
HODGE — 58-27
ABBOTT — 56-29
GASSON — 56-29
SMITH — 55-30
DUNK — 54-31
GRANT — 54-31
KLEIN — 54-31
HOSKINS — 53-32
MCGUIRE — 49-36

Records to date (against the spread)

FILOSO — 52-31-2
GASSON — 49-34-2
ABBOTT — 46-37-2
SMITH — 45-38-2
MCGUIRE — 45-38-2
HODGE — 45-38-2
KLEIN — 44-39-2
BALLANTINE — 44-39-2
GRANT — 44-39-2
DUNK — 43-40-2
HOSKINS — 41-42-2