Neither the Tiger-Cats nor the Blue Bombers have lifted the Grey Cup this century and are suffering droughts in the competition dating back to 1999 and 1990 respectively.Winnipeg’s 11-7 regular season record was only the third best in the West Division and owed much to a strong early season showing. They’ve had to contend with injuries at the quarterback position but have finally settled on Zach Collaros.
The larger spaces in a Canadian football field, and one fewer down permitted in a sequence, is conducive to the aerial approach.
Collaros spent four seasons at Hamilton from 2014 to 2017, but has barely featured this year following an injury sustained during the first snap of the season whilst playing for Saskatchewan against Hamilton.He was then traded twice during the season, still without making an appearance, until he became Winnipeg’s choice for quarterback in October. Their preparation for the most influential position on the team has been far from ideal.Hamilton also had to deal with a change at quarterback during the regular season, but it did not disrupt their form as they finished with the league’s best record of 15-3.
They’ve been led by second year quarterback Dane Evans since week seven of the regular season. Evans has had much longer to accustom himself with his team-mates than Collaros, as reflected when he led the Tiger-Cats to wins in their final six games.The Tiger-Cats’ regular season record of 15 wins does slightly flatter them and their Pythagorean suggests they should only have managed 13.5. Despite this, they are still the superior team, as highlighted if we examine the rate at which they scored and allowed points across the whole campaign based on the strength of their opponents.
They faced teams who allowed an average of nearly 26 ppg but scored an UFA average of nearly 31 ppg, an over-performance compared to the average of around five ppg. They also matched that over-performance on the defensive front.Winnipeg, as befits a playoff team, also performed impressively on both sides of the ball, albeit to a lesser degree. They scored three ppg more compared to opponent-adjusted averages on offence and conceded three fewer ppg defensively.On this basis, Hamilton would be expected to win by around four points at a neutral venue.
Similarly to how passing is pre-eminent in the NFL, it has also proven a stronger indicator of success in the CFL than an ability to run the ball well. The larger spaces in a Canadian football field, and one fewer down permitted in a sequence, is conducive to the aerial approach often being the most successful route to the end zone.Once again, Hamilton have the edge in passing efficiency. The Tiger-Cats performed considerably above the league average in passing efficiency once we allow for the quality of the passing defences they have faced.The same cannot be said for Winnipeg, who are relying on an experienced veteran passer but one who is relatively untried within their system.Hamilton also boasts an above-average pass defence, compared to Winnipeg’s average defensive passing unit.Winnipeg do have an edge in their ground game, but often it is aerial dominance that proves decisive in this league.