This Grey Cup Week will undoubtedly be a celebration of all-things Tiger-Cats, especially since the cast of out-of-towners from across the country won’t be anywhere near as big as it is in non-pandemic times.
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With the home team in the championship game that Hamilton has waited a quarter century to host, the black and gold is sure to drown out the blue and gold around town.
The stage is set for the 108th Grey Cup.
Next Sunday, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats will host the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in a championship showdown.
The Tiger-Cats opened the season as the consensus Grey Cup favourite at +450 and could be found at that exact price as the third choice to win it all heading into Sunday’s victory over the Toronto Argonauts in the Eastern Final.
But in pure football terms, this Grey Cup game is all about the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, the best and most consistent CFL team we’ve seen in a very long time. These may not be the Swaggerville Blue Bombers of a decade ago, but they should have plenty of confidence as they roll into Steeltown as prohibitive favourites.
The Blue Bombers beat Hamilton 33-12 in the 107th CFL Grey Cup game in November of 2019, then opened this season at home with a 19-6 win over the Tiger-Cats that set the tone for their year. They’ve never really looked back, with an early loss at Toronto the only blemish on an otherwise perfect season when it comes to games that mattered.
The Bombers come to the Grey Cup on a 15-1 run in such contests, dating back to the final week of the regular season in 2019.
Just like in 2019, the backbone of this team is its defence. These Bombers are statistically one of the best defensive teams we’ve ever seen, allowing just six points during all fourth quarters through the first 12 weeks of the pandemic-shortened 2021 regular season.
In ends Willie Jefferson and Jackson Jeffcoat, along with middle linebacker Adam Bighill, the Bombers have three of the league’s biggest stars on defence, surrounded by a talented supporting cast of playmakers.
On offence, the Bombers led the league in scoring, despite the fact there wasn’t always a need to score during the second halves of their games this season.
Quarterback Zach Collaros is expected to be named the league’s Most Outstanding Player on Friday night, an unlikely distinction for a player whose career once seemed in jeopardy because he couldn’t stay healthy. The trade Winnipeg made to acquire him from the Argos for a conditional draft pick in October 2019 has paid off far beyond what anyone could have imagined.
And while Andrew Harris may not be the full-season force he once was at age 34, he proved during the Western Final that for one game there still may not be a better running back in the league.