After 14 regular season games and two rounds of playoff action, CFL bettors will get their last chance to cash in Sunday on the 108th Grey Cup from Hamilton, Ontario.
The Hamilton Tiger-Cats will host the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in a rematch of the 107th Grey Cup, in a contest that should be highly entertaining though challenging to handicap.
Let’s take an in-depth look at some of the major sports betting storylines heading into the championship game.
Grey Cup matchup
Winnipeg Blue Bombers @ Hamilton Tiger-Cats (+3.5, O/U 44.5)
Season head-to-head record: Blue Bombers won series 1-0 (19-6 win in Week 1).
The Bombers unveiled their 2019 championship banner with the dejected Tiger-Cats looking on from the sidelines prior to their Week 1 matchup, and Winnipeg preceded to dominate them, 19-6, in front of the home crowd. It was the second straight devastating loss for Hamilton, which lost 33-12 when the teams met in the 107th Grey Cup in 2019 (2020 season was canceled due to the pandemic).
Now, the Ticats will try to end the league’s longest current championship drought by claiming their first Grey Cup title since 1999. Both of these teams have disappointing all-time records in the final. Winnipeg is 11-14 (.440 win percentage), while Hamilton is just 8-13 (.381) in the Grey Cup.
Why Winnipeg can win
The Blue Bombers stumbled to a 21-17 win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the Western final last weekend and were lucky to come away with the win after turning the ball over six times. That’s right, this team is so good, it can turn the ball over six times and still somehow emerge victorious. It’s hard to imagine Winnipeg being so irresponsible with the ball again in the Grey Cup, and the weather in Hamilton (see section below) will be much more pleasant than last week’s slippery and frigid field in Winnipeg.
Halfback Andrew Harris put everyone’s concerns to rest about his wonky knee, which had kept him out of action since mid-October. He returned last week to pulverize Saskatchewan’s defensive line with 23 carries for 136 rushing yards and a touchdown. The Bombers will need another big game from him against Hamilton’s No.1-ranked rush defense.
The main reason for Winnipeg’s success this season has been the outstanding play from both its offensive and defensive lines. Winnipeg amassed five sacks against Saskatchewan last week and is just as efficient at preventing sacks, holding opponents to a league-low 16 all year. The Bombers boast a defense that’s allowed a CFL-best 13.4 points per game, which resulted in the team playing under the oddsmakers’ point total in nine of its 14 regular season games this year.
Who has the upper hand on paper ahead of the 108th #GreyCup?
— CFL (@CFL) December 7, 2021
Why Hamilton can win
This team is riding some serious momentum after its come-from-behind 27-19 victory over the Toronto Argonauts last weekend to win the East. Toronto built a 12-0 lead at the half, which easily could’ve been 28-0 had it not been for Hamilton’s exceptional defense in the red zone. Quarterback Dane Evans shifted the tide in Hamilton’s favor with an outstanding defensive effort late in the second quarter, stripping the ball away from an Argos player after a turnover.
Evans, who took over at quarterback for the struggling Jeremiah Masoli in the second quarter, never looked back, completing all 16 of his pass attempts for 249 yards and a touchdown. Both of Hamilton’s quarterbacks have missed time due to injury this year, but it looks like Evans, and his hot hand, will get the nod in the Grey Cup.
“Do I have to do everything around here?” – Dane Evans (@daneevans9), probably
— 3DownNation (@3DownNation) December 5, 2021
There were still plenty of tickets available for the Grey Cup prior to last Sunday’s conference final games, but the event quickly sold out once the Tiger-Cats solidified their spot in the game. Hamiltonians will be out in full support of the team, but it’s important to note the Grey Cup crowd is usually very diversified. Fans of all the Canadian football teams make the annual pilgrimage to the predetermined site for the Grey Cup and enjoy the weeklong festivities leading up to the big game.
Handicapping advice from a Canadian pro
“No, I wouldn’t say I handicap a championship game any differently,” a Canadian professional sports handicapper, Sean Murphy, told US Bets. “I will give a little more consideration to a team that might have a bigger chip on its shoulder, so in this particular case, even though the Ticats have home field advantage, I think they do have a bit of an us-against-the-world mentality, given everyone has seemingly been ready to hand the Grey Cup over to the Blue Bombers for weeks or months now, almost as if the playoffs are simply a formality.
“Winnipeg has been the class of the league this season without question, but as we saw in Sunday’s West Final, it is by no means invincible. If the Saskatchewan Roughriders had made a couple more plays, they could’ve just as easily pulled off the upset. As far as the home field edge goes, I’m not sure it means quite as much when it comes to a championship game, as the lead-up is completely different to a normal week, and obviously the visiting team is given a substantial allocation of tickets, so plenty of support in the stands,” Murphy added. “If anything, the home side might deal with more distractions during Grey Cup week.”
Betting stats of the week
Tiger-Cats are 4-0 ATS in their last four home games, while the Blue Bombers are 0-4 ATS in their last four contests overall.
— CFL (@CFL) December 6, 2021
Line move to watch
Ontario’s PROLINE + opened the game Winnipeg -1.5 on Tuesday with an adjusted moneyline of -132, and then quickly shifted the line to Bombers -3.5 by Wednesday morning. The British Columbia Lottery Corporation’s PlayNow opened the championship game at Winnipeg -3.5.
The weather is expected to be quite pleasant Sunday evening in Hamilton, considering the time of year. The forecast calls for temperatures near zero degrees Celsius with light winds out of the west. Weather, at this point, shouldn’t be a factor.
Pick of the week
These two defenses are outstanding, so I’ll be taking under the total of 44.5. The under is 6-1 in Hamilton’s last seven games as an underdog and it’s also 5-1 in Winnipeg’s last six playoff games.
Photo: Sergei Belski/USA TODAY