As some of you are aware, this weekend marks the end of the CFL season, with the play for the Grey Cup. Close to a 100-year tradition in Canada (this is year 96), this is the pinnacle for fans of Canadian Football.
This year has the Calgary Stampeders (class of the league with a 14-5 record) against the Montreal Alouettes (12-7). They both finished first in their respective divisions, and each won their lone playoff game to get to this game.
Montreal (by virtue of a rotating venue) is playing for the Grey Cup in front of their hometown crowd of 65,000 strong.
Breaking down the game is really simple: Montreal and Calgary had the two best offences this year, so a typical CFL game of 41-39 would be the conventional wisdom. The winner will be the team who has the ball last, kicking a field goal with no time on the clock.
This is how it will break down when Calgary has the ball
Calgary will continue with what they have done all year by running a shortened offence, not taking huge gambles with the football, and allowing Henry Burris to manage the football.
He has grown this year into a Quarterback who is responsible with the ball, and will now throw it away or tuck and run rather than trying to force something that isn’t there.
Credit that turn around to Quarterback Guru John Hufnagel, who has turned Hank from the ranks of gifted but…to a Most Outstanding Player nominee in the CFL.
Also, Calgary will try to get Joffrey Reynolds and Demetris Summers the ball to take some of the pressure off of Henry from the likes of Anwar Stewart. Calgary will do as much as they can to keep the ball for as long as they can, keeping Anthony Calvillo on the bench.
The difference will be Montreal’s ability to force Calgary into second and long, and make Henry make the tough throws to a sure-handed group of receivers led by Ken Yon Rambo. If Montreal cannot keep Calgary’s offence off the field, it will be a long day.
When Montreal has the ball
All the hype this year has gone to Anthony Calvillo. After a serious illness to his wife to end last season, people were beginning to wonder if the end of the line was here for AC. Well 43 TDs with only 13 interceptions was a resounding reminder that AC is still as cool as they come.
If you ask the players in Montreal though, much of the credit this year belongs to Avon Coburne. Averaging 79 yards per game rushing and 51 receiving, he does it all for the Montreal offence.
They will continue to give him the ball as much as they possibly can, and will try to stretch the Calgary defense that lives on man coverage, and timely pressure.
Again, Calgary’s ability to force the issue, and not allow Montreal to do what they want to do will be the real difference. If Montreal can get Avon the ball in space and get him 25 touches, it will be a long day for Calgary.
This really is a toss-up. Calgary showed last week to have a good return game, with Montreal’s coming in all that much better. The key will be limiting the long returns, and hoping they can win the field position game.
Montreal's return game is the more consistent here with Calgary’s being more work-man like, not breaking the big play, but providing decent field position. Edge: Montreal
The kicking game is where Calgary has an ever-so-slight edge over Montreal. Having Sandro DeAngelis kicking field goals for them is a true gift. Lining up, there is never a question of if. Damon Duval is no slouch here, and so it is a slight edge Calgary.
Calgary has proven week in and week out to be able to bend a little on defense and not give up the big play in the first half. At half time, they make the necessary adjustments and are lights out.
Chris Jones has mastered the half time adjustment aspect of defensive coordinator, and that will be the difference in the game. Expect Calgary to be trailing at half by about three, and make the necessary adjustments at the half to win by four points, 28-24.