WINNIPEG BLUE BOMBERS (11-8)
at BRITISH COLUMBIA LIONS (12-7)
Grey Cup Championship Game – Vancouver, BC
Kickoff: Sunday, 6:30 p.m. EDT
Line: British Columbia -7, Total: 50.5
The B.C. Lions picked the right year to return to the Grey Cup, as they’ll play Winnipeg in their home stadium on Sunday evening.
The Bombers took both regular-season games between the teams, SU and ATS, during part of B.C.’s miserable 1-6 start to the year. But since losing to Winnipeg at home, 30-17 back on August 13, the Lions have been on fire, going 11-1 SU and 10-2 ATS. Fueled by an outstanding defense, they’ve won their past three games by nine points or more, including last week’s 40-23 dismantling of Edmonton. But the Bombers have a very good defense of their own, including an athletic secondary that will give B.C. problems. Winnipeg has been beaten by more than seven just once in their past nine games. They should be able to at least keep this one close, if not pull off the upset. WINNIPEG is the pick.
The FoxSheets have a couple of four-star trends supporting the Bombers:
Play Against - Home favorites of 3.5 to 10 points (BRITISH COLUMBIA) - off a home win over a division rival, with a winning record on the season. (34-7 since 1996.) (82.9%, +26.3 units. Rating = 4*).
Head coach Paul LaPolice is 12-1 ATS (92.3%, +10.9 Units) as an underdog of 3.5 to 9.5 points as the coach of WINNIPEG. The average score was WINNIPEG 22.8, OPPONENT 23.1 - (Rating = 4*).
Lions QB Travis Lulay has emerged as a star this season, finishing second in the CFL in passing yards during the regular season (4,815). He threw for 293 yards and two scores in last week’s West Division final victory over Edmonton. He also rushed for 391 yards and three touchdowns during the regular season, and went for 63 rushing yards and a TD in last week’s victory. It was the Lions’ second straight game with 160-plus rushing yards, and they’re averaging 7.9 yards per rush in those outings.
The rushing game could play a key role against a Winnipeg defense that, during the regular season, gave up the fewest yards per game (301.1) and fewest completions (320), while leading the CFL in interceptions (25) and sacks (55). That defensive unit overpowered Hamilton in the East division finals, allowing just 153 passing yards and 39 on the ground in a 19-3 victory. Their pass rush will be in an epic battle with a B.C. offensive line that allowed a league-low 29 sacks during the regular season.
On the offensive side of the ball for Winnipeg, RB Chris Garrett has been a revelation. Released earlier this season, the former third-stringer stepped into the starting lineup when Fred Reid and Carl Volny went down with season-ending injuries. Since then, Garrett has been arguably the best runner in the CFL, going for 766 yards on a 6.3 YPC average and 5 TD over seven starts. That included a 190-yard performance in last week’s win over Hamilton.
The question mark with Winnipeg will be QB Buck Pierce and the passing game. Pierce, who had a series of injuries over the course of the season, is still limping with a nagging knee injury. He threw 18 interceptions during the regular season and had the highest INT rate among quarterbacks who threw more than 300 passes. B.C.’s defense allowed the fewest points during the regular season (21.4) and forced four turnovers in their West Division final win.