At long last, the Grey Cup

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At long last, the Grey Cup

Postby Sir Purrcival » Tue Nov 24, 2015 1:18 am

Well as per usual, this season feels like it just got started but in reality it is coming to an end. But before we all have to endure a long, cold off-season, let us enjoy and celebrate the biggest event in professional football in this country, the 103rd Grey Cup.

This years participants have been determined and it is the Ottawa RedBlacks vs the Edmonton Eskimos. Yes, that reads right. No Calgary, no Montreal, no Saskatchewan, no BC nor any other powerhouse team of the last decade. The last time these two teams vied for the Grey Cup, names like JC Watt and Warren Moon were lined up as QB's. It was also an era where the West was constantly more powerful than the east. Ottawa made it to dance from 2nd in the East with a 5-11 record. Yes, you read that right 5-11. In the West that year, the 6-10 Stamps were the worst team in 5th place. It was disparities like this that eventually led to the crossover format so that if one division was particularly bad, better teams from the other division might still have a chance of making the playoffs (it is worth noting here, that despite much greater parity over the last few years, no Eastern team has ever crossed over to the West whereas Western teams have made the crossover 4 times. All lost in the semi-final).

But that was then and this is the present. The game itself has evolved much since 1981. The players are bigger, faster, the balls are a different profile, the equipment is better, the training more rigorous and every field in the league is now artificial turf. What hasn't changed is the desire to host a storied cup that has survived, celebrations, thefts and even a fire. In many ways it is as beat up as some of the players that have fought for it. Yet for all its wear and tear, it is a lovely lady waiting to be held aloft in triumph. So with out further ado....the Grey Cup analysis.

The Ottawa Redblacks

We have already talked about Ottawa in the lead up to the Eastern final but there is a reason the games get played.

At QB we have Henry Burris. The drop off at QB after Burris is huge so basically as Burris goes so does this team. We had a little taste of that in the East final. Burris played a decent game but there were moments where he and his receivers seemed out of sync. Going 17-32 is not terrible but it isn't terrific either. In the end, he got out passed by a QB making his 3rd professional start in the league. You would expect more from the leagues leading passer and against Edmonton he is going to have to be more if they want to have success. The good thing is that in many ways, Edmonton and Hamilton's D are interchangeably skilled so having faced and beating the Cat's 3 times in a row (going back to regular season and in almost as many weeks) has to be good preparation for what the Esks are likely to throw at Burris and co. In the semi, it seemed as though the only real continuity going on the O was Ellingson. You know the Esks are going to have seen that and the Redblacks are going to have find a way to get the ball to some of their other receivers. Depending on the weather in Winnipeg, it may be hard to do this. If weather does play a role, it may hurt the Redblacks more than the Eskimos. When you are a pass first team, having to go away from that takes you out of your comfort zone. We may see Jerimiah Johnson at Rb if conditions are bad. He is more of a power back than Powell and his more straight up the field running style might be valuable if conditions are truly bad. At this writing the forecast is for mild temperatures (if -3 is mild) and favourable conditions.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Redblacks have the unenviable task of trying to contain Mike Reilly. He is much more mobile a QB than Burris and in a game of this magnitude, the "play it cautious to avoid injury" is not in the playbook. Simply put, Reilly will do anything it takes to move the ball including taking on tackles. For their part, the Redblacks are going to have play smart along the Dline and rely largely on their front four for pressure and contain. If they start bringing too many blitzes, it will simply open up the field for Reilly to use his legs to buy time and find open receivers. The Redblacks did a tremendous job taking only 5 penalties for 40 yards in their last game. That is the kind of discipline they will need again because you want to give the Esks as little as possible. It will fall to the secondary to try and contain Edmonton's best receivers, Bowman and Walker. It is probably best described as trying to minimize their effectiveness as you can suspect that they will have some success during the course of the game. Any turnovers that can be generated during this game could turn out to be vital so Ottawa will continue to rely on their DB's to make throwing in their direction a risky adventure.

On special teams, we may see more Chris Williams falling back to receive kicks. His speed may be needed to help establish good field position. Milo was money kicking in a windy situation in the final and in the windy confines of Investors Group Field, he may well need to be money again.

The Edmonton Eskimos

The 2nd most Grey Cup winning team has come back to the Grey Cup. It has been a decade since their last appearance and there have been some tough times during that stretch.

On offense, much like the Redblacks and Henry Burris, so too go the Eskimos with Mike Reilly. BC fans still lament losing Reilly to free agency. He is a players QB. Fearless, athletic and just plain determined. That sometimes has gotten him into trouble injury wise but caution is out the window in this tilt. The Eskimos, like the Redblacks are a more dangerous team passing than they are running. With the #2 and #5 most productive receivers on this team, they are going to be a handful. Keep in mind that Walker, the number 5 man wasn't with this team from the start of the season. Had he played a whole 18, it is quite likely that he would have placed higher on the list than at 5. Reilly is probably at his most dangerous when he uses his legs. He can run out of trouble for yards or just to buy time as he looks down field. It can be very hard on a D to try and handle him. If they defend well on the pass, he will use his legs to hurt you. Try to contain him and he will just buy himself time to find the open man. In the negative temperatures of Winnipeg, this could be a game changer. Sometimes, the fewer hands on the ball, the better. The Esks have a solid running game in Kendal Lawrence and no doubt, they will try to establish some kind of run game but their is little doubt that the game plan will focus on the pass.

On Defense

I said it before the West final but it bears repeating. #1 defense against the pass and #2 defense against the run this season. Chris Jones is a defensive specialist and it shows on the Edmonton Eskimos. They did a good job of handling last years defending Grey Cup champs right up until about half way through the 4th Q. It was about that time, with a commanding lead, that the Esk D seemed to forget that there was still a game to finish. At the end, the deficit was too much for the Stamps to overcome but Jones, never shy with his words, had a few players on the D cringing a little. In terms of the upcoming game, that is going to be talked about quite a bit. You have some certainty that if at some point in the game, the Esks find themselves with a comfortable lead, they won't be taking the rest of the game off. For their part, the challenge of the D will be to get Henry Burris off his game. Succeed in doing that and the game is yours. I am expecting a lot of route jumping in second and short. Last weekend, the Redblacks demonstrated their preference for the passing game, throwing short outs on 2nd and short, several times. I expect to see a lot of arms in the air from lineman and DB's trying to step in front of those kinds of throws. It is a couple of the ways they are going to try and combat the quick releases that Burris tends to exemplify. Despite his age, Burris can also use his legs though not a fleet of foot as Reilly. He can and will run and he is every bit as determined as Reilly, perhaps even more so given this may be his last shot to get back to the dance. Clearly the Esks are going to have to find a way to shut down Ellingson but also keep the other 3 1000 yard receivers that the Redblacks possess covered. None were very prominent the last game but that is irrelevant. The DLine is going to focus on pressure but they also need to keep the penalties down. Something they aren't always so good at. The secondary is going to be under a lot of pressure with the Redblack receivers. They too will need to keep the mitts off. Something you could probably say equally about both teams.

Special Team - Sean Whyte has really solidfied the Esks FG kicking and Shaw is a good punter. On returns, Kendal Lawrence has the most but this is not a team with a threatening return game. They are solid but that is good enough when your offense is kind enough to score enough points in the league to take first overall.

The final analysis

Although this is a neutral site game, I expect that in terms of crowd, the Eskimos are going to enjoy somewhat of a home field advantage. Despite the sparring that goes on between prairie based teams, one can't help think that the crowd of many Winnipegers is going to identify more with their prairie counterparts than with a team from a city that hosts the (gasp) Federal Government. Both teams have solid D's and dangerous offenses. In the end, I am going with Edmonton. The Esks have better ground game options than the Redblacks (mostly because of Reilly). At this time of year, wind and cold can hamper the ability to grip, throw and catch the pigskin. Any impairment of this game is likely to hamper the Redblacks more than the Eskimos. As coaching goes, both teams have Defensive specialist coaches, both have been to and won Grey Cups as assistants but Jones assistant pedigree may go a little deeper owing to his many years with the Alouettes when they were the dominant eastern team for a decade.

In the end, the Esks just present as a slightly more balanced and complete team. They have been together longer, had their HC for a longer period of time and will be playing in conditions more familiar to them than what Ottawa is used to. The X factor in this game is Henry Burris. If he has an outstanding performance, it could turn the tide but Henry hasn't always had the best form in the big games. I think we saw a little of that against Hamilton and I am betting that we see it again in the Grey Cup. A pity if I am correct because clearly Ottawa is the sentimental favourite. After all the years of pain and turmoil that fan base has endured, a cup win for them would be a life changing event whereas an Edmonton win will just be another cup in a long line of cup victories.

My heart says Ottawa, my head says Edmonton. Final Score - Edm 27-Ott 19
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Re: At long last, the Grey Cup

Postby pat » Sun Nov 29, 2015 6:08 pm

Good game so far. Score will probably be higher than you thought.

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Re: At long last, the Grey Cup

Postby Sir Purrcival » Sun Nov 29, 2015 11:04 pm

Only 2 points off the final score. Sometimes you have to be lucky to be good.
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Re: At long last, the Grey Cup

Postby Glenegade » Sun Jul 03, 2016 2:46 pm

I must comment on the reason of the cross over rule you mentioned, it wasn't so much for teams being better in one division than the other, it was because we had a 9 team league, with 4 teams in one division, and 5 in the other. Didn't seem fair that the East teams had a 75% chance of making the playoffs, where the West teams only had a 60% chance.

As far as no East team crossing over, it is more the odds of 5 records vs. 4, for a western team to make it over, the second worst team in their division has to have a better record than second worst team in the East, which is a good maybe, for the Eastern team to pass over, the worst team has to have a better record than the 3rd worst team, much less likely to happen
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