The matchup for this Sunday’s 110th Grey Cup is set.
While it might not be exactly what most expected with Montreal’s stunning upset of the Toronto Argonauts at BMO Field in the Eastern Final, there is no questioning the worthiness of these two clubs based on their journey to the final game of the season.
The stage is set, let’s talk advantages as the micro matchups begin to take shape.
Zach Collaros has made his mark already as he gets set to start his fourth consecutive Grey Cup, a feat never before accomplished in the long and storied quarterback history of the CFL. Records and legacy aside, the fact remains that Collaros has more experience, more big game experience, and better surrounding pieces to help him excel on Sunday.
Cody Fajardo has found a way and continues to push through walls I have doubted he could this season. He is the perfect symbolic leader of a team who is consistently told that they cant or they won’t. While his team has a great chance to pull another monumental upset in back-to-back weeks, if they do it I doubt it will come from Fajardo dragging his team to championship glory with a highly productive stat line. The good news for Montreal is they’ve already found ways to win without that.
Brady Oliveira has been special this season and appears ready, based on his 70-yard solo drive Sunday against BC, to put the throttle down and solidify 2023 as one of the best seasons by a back of any nationality in quite some time.
William Stanback and Jeshrun Antwi have to play a key role for Montreal to stay in this one, but Brady, and the line supporting him, is the pick.
This is much closer with the possibility of Dalton Schoen being out, if he remains on the sidelines as he was forced to do last week, but the versatility of Nic Demski is the overriding factor for me. He feels as though he can fill the roster spot of two or three players at once and Rasheed Bailey has grown increasingly comfortable as a release valve for Collaros outside the numbers.
Meanwhile, Austin Mack will have to do much more than one or two shot plays in the Grey Cup for Montreal to keep it close. I expect Winnipeg to blanket him with rolled over coverage and extra eyes, but he still needs close to 10 targets for Montreal to maximize what they currently have in the passing attack.
Stanley Bryant and Jermarcus Hardrick are older, but are undeniably playing at a high level once again this year ever since the Mathieu Betts wake up call in Week 3. Chris Kolankowski easily could have been the West All-Star nominee at centre while Geoff Gray continues to progress into exactly the blocker Winnipeg was hoping he’d be when drafting the local product and Patrick Neufeld remains one of the games very best.
It’s a solid line, that is well coached and they know exactly what they need to do in order to close the deal Sunday. I like pieces on the Montreal line, but the sum of the parts for Winnipeg is overwhelming.
The Shawn Lemon experience in Montreal has been nothing short of wonderful and first round pick Lwal Uguak from TCU has become a knockdown king for the Alouettes since becoming a first time starter.
That being said, the Bombers have a ridiculous amount of championship experience flying off the edge in Jackson Jeffcoat and Willie Jefferson while Ricky Walker, Jake Thomas and Cameron Lawson continue to get solid interior push play after play.
With Adam Bighill injured my *slight* upper hand here goes to the Als. Reggie Stubblefield is everywhere as a rookie standout at cover linebacker while the flexibility of Avery Williams, Darnell Sankey, and Tyrice Beverette create blitz packages for Noel Thorpe that Richie Hall just can’t match.
For Montreal to win the Grey Cup, Sankey will have to look like the best player on the field with a little help from his undersized but speedy linebacking partners flanking each side.
I really like Demerio Houston and Brandon Alexander has long been one of the CFL’s best free safeties. Evan Holm as emerged this year as a really good ball-playing defender on vertical shots from opposing quarterbacks and Deatrick Nichols seems to always be around the football as any great boundary halfback is, but Montreal has too much length in Kabion Ento and Marc-Antoine Dequoy.
Add in the veteran on-field leadership of Ciante Evans and the consistently great man-to-man coverage of Dionte Ruffin on the outside, and the Alouettes starting group gets my respect.
David Coté has a small advantage in kickoffs and Joseph Zema has been outstanding for Montreal punting all season, but this comes down to field goals where Sergio Castillo is one of three kickers hitting above 90% while Cote is a lowly 75% in what could simply be the difference Sunday.
Janarion Grant is one of the CFL’s most elite return men and has been for a few years now, but this is about a single game, and potentially a single return that will change the entire dynamic of the 110th Grey Cup.
James Letcher Jr. has momentum, a nose for the end zone, and appears too fresh to realize how ridiculous the last two months of 2023 he’s had.
That’s a Dangerous combination if there ever was one for Bombers’ coverage teams.