HELLO FROM WINNIPEG!!!
Rod, Carm Carteri, and I arrived at the 103rd Grey Cup Celebration yesterday afternoon in order to do our 1st of 3 Sportscage Grey Cup Editions live from TSNs Radio Row.
I talked to a lot of you out there in Ridernation, in the days leading up to this week, and as you will remember I have been slightly less than enthused! Like many of you, the dismal Rider season put a real damper on the 2015 CFL season. When one mixes that with the fact that this year’s festivities are in Winter-Peg, I just wasn’t feeling very Grey Cuppish!
Well Ridernation (and our other ProPerspective.ca viewers out there)…I’m happy to say that I’ve switched my tune since pulling into town on Wednesday, and now that the rest of the CFL fan base is beginning to trickle in, I’m starting to get excited. Thank goodness that I remembered there’s so much more to this league than just the Saskatchewan Roughriders and I made a promise to myself this morning that if I’m not hosting Riderville anymore, I’m going to get out and really experience what the rest of this league has to offer! I’m probably going to get into some significant trouble doing so, but hey, go hard or go home!
This morning I went to the media breakfast with the Eastern Conference Champion Ottawa RedBlacks. For those of you who do not know what that is, it’s simply a way for the media to get in front of the entire team and get to interview anyone in the RedBlacks organization. They also did a lunch with the Western Conference Champion Edmonton Eskimos, but I had another commitment and was unable to make that.
It was great seeing old friends! Part of the reason my spirits are significantly higher now than prior to making the trek to Winnipeg is that I put myself back into the shoes of a player who gets to experience this process for the 1st or 5th time. It’s always part of those memorable moments that one gets to look back on when they’re no longer playing the game. I had a chance catch up with Hank briefly between media scrums, talked at length with my buddy Keith Sholo about what he’s been up to, and was able to have a nice COACHING discussion with Travis Moore, who was one of our leaders when I first got to Regina out of Michigan State. I even ran into Montreal Alouette Great Brian Chiu who you could tell felt right at home in another Grey Cup, and is enjoying coaching just as much as he enjoyed playing.
I’ll continue to update you on all my adventures here at the 103rdGrey Cup celebration, but WE STILL HAVE WORK TO DO!!!
I’ve thought long and hard about who I’m going to pick to win this year’s Earl Grey Trophy. I know that Edmonton may have handled the RedBlacks in the regular season, but that was ages ago, and the Ottawa team that stands before us now is considerably better in all three phases of the game.
So after going back and forth deliberating who we’re going to pick in 2015’s final edition of our CFL Pick-Em Column, here’s who we’ve taken to win the 103rd Grey Cup Championship…
OTTAWA vs. EDMONTON
Despite everyone around here leaning towards Edmonton in a convincing fashion, I'm not so sure that people are giving Ottawa the respect they deserve. The feeling and discussion around here is that the RedBlacks are such a "cool story" and that everyone is pulling for them as the underdog. Even on "radio row" here in Winnipeg, experts and analysts only speak on the incredible journey that the organization has gone through, and don't really spotlight the overall talent of the team unless they're talking about Smiling Hanks amazing year.
HOLD ON A SECOND FOLKS! This RedBlack team is for real, and despite the early season results against the Edmonton Eskimos, the Ottawa team that touched down here in Winter-Peg on Tuesday is FAR BETTER than the organization that the Esks saw awhile back.
Ottawa matches up well in all phases of the game. In the trenches, Edmonton's Offensive Line is big, nasty, and plays fast; but on the flipside, the RedBlacks defensive line is very aggressive, athletic and DEEP. That's a battle that could go either way. Don't forget that Ottawa also schemes quite a few pressure looks and blitzes into their game plan which forces the oppositions Oline to re-adjust the way they want to attack a defensive front. As Arash Madani brought this up on our show today (Sportscage on 620 CKRM), Edmonton isn't the only team that plays aggressive and likes to send extra rushers.
There isn't much difference in either teams secondary units either. Both teams have solid man-capable defenders that are sound tacklers in space. Where Calgary seemed to struggle last week in the Western Conference finals, the RedBlacks are going to be more than willing to play man schemes and run with Edmonton's talented receiving core. Again...that match-up looks to be a wash as well.
Those are just two examples of how well these teams compare on film. We could sit here and analyze the positions until we're blue in the face and the majority of them will come out even. We are talking about the two best teams in the league after all.
Here is where the game may shift...
Championships are won in the 4th quarter. Save for the drubbing that Saskatchewan put on Hamilton in 2013, Grey Cup games are the ultimate tests in endurance. I'll talk about all the highs and lows that a player may go through in our Grey Cup Primer, but these games usually come down to one or two defining plays. One or two moments, whether good or bad; there's going to be one or two plays on Sunday that tip the scales in the favour of the eventual winner. That's why Championship games are so good to watch. It's a battle on attrition. A chess match. Eventually someone is going misstep, and in turn, that misstep is going to be jumped on and turned into a potentially game defining moment. That's Championship football.
During my career I was privileged enough to be able to compete in 3 Grey Cup games and be a part of the winning side once. In all 3 of those games, I can remember one or two distinct plays that decided the outcomes of those games. There's no way to predict when or where they are going to happen, or even why.
I can't for the life of me figure out how some are pointing to an EASY Edmonton win. These teams seem to close when they're at the top of their games, and really that's what we want as onlookers. Nobody wants to watch a Grey Cup game that is decided in the first half. People don't come to these celebrations from all corners of the country just to see a blow-out.
We're going to go with Ottawa here. I might change my mind later in the week, and if I do, I'll stop in and change it up, however right now, I feel like Ottawa has it in them to win. I'm not buying into the storylines, and I'm not buying into the fact that they're all the rage right now. I just have a good feeling about what they've got going on over there in that locker room. Take a look at their roster after you read this. There are A LOT of Grey Cup winners on this team, plus a bunch of guys who have been there before. Throw out the stats, throw out the schemes, throw out the records. There's going to be one or two moments that define this game.
Right now I feel like Ottawa has what it takes to capitalize on whatever, or however, that moment comes about.
Pick: The Ottawa RedBlacks.