The top two teams in the West Division meet in a rematch of last year’s West Final in what could be – should be – another Canadian Football League classic.
The Blue Bombers won two of three vs. the Lions this year, including the last two meetings, and the regular season matchups offered a bit of everything, with the Lions mauling the Blue Bombers in Winnipeg in June, before the home side did the same in August in another battle at IG Field. The two rivals then served up a spectacular contest in an overtime thriller won by the Blue Bombers in Vancouver in October.
The winner advances to the 110th Grey Cup in Hamilton on November 19thagainst the East Division rep. The defending champion Toronto Argonauts host the Montreal Alouettes in the East Division Final earlier on Saturday, with a 2 p.m. CST kickoff.
Kickoff: Saturday, 5:30 p.m. CST; IG Field, Winnipeg
The forecast: Sunny during the day with a high of 1C. Temperature at kickoff should be around -1C with winds from the south at 20 km/h gusting to 30 km/h.
TV: TSN 1/3; RDS
U.S. and international live streaming: https://www.cfl.ca/plus
Radio: 680 CJOB
Last meeting: The Blue Bombers knocked off the Lions 34-26 in an overtime thriller back on October 6th at B.C. Place in Vancouver.
Streaks: Winnipeg: 4W; B.C.: 1W.
Home/road records: The Blue Bombers were 8-1 at IG Field this year, while the Lions were 6-3 on the road. Winnipeg has not lost a division final at home in 29 years, winning in 2022, 2021, 2011 and 2001. The last division final loss at home came at Canad Inns Stadium in 1994, a 14-12 loss to the Baltimore Stallions. For more on what home field advantage means to the Blue Bombers, click here.
Odds: The Blue Blue Bombers are favoured by 4.5 points. For more betting information, click here.
- Winnipeg will Zach Collaros is 73-40 in his career as a starter, including 12-4 this year. He has a lifetime record of 11-3 vs. the Lions.
- B.C. lines up Vernon Adams, Jr. behind centre and he is 32-19 in his career – 11-5 in his starts this year – including 3-2 all-time vs. the Blue Bombers.
Winnipeg: Mike O’Shea has a career won-lost record of 96-62 and has guided his team to a 29-7 record over the last two regular seasons. O’Shea’s 96 wins as Blue Bombers head coach now ranks him second all-time in franchise history behind only Bud Grant (102). His clubs are 15-7 all-time vs. B.C.
B.C.: Rick Campbell has a career won-lost-tied record of 73-83-3, including a 7-13 mark vs. Winnipeg.
Blue Bomber Roster Notes
The Blue Bombers have made 10 roster adjustments for the West Final from the lineup that took to the field in the regular-season finale win over Calgary – a game in which 10 starters were rested as the club had already secured first place.
Coming on: LBs Adam Bighill, Kyrie Wilson and Malik Clements, DEs Willie Jefferson and Jackson Jeffcoat, DT Ricky Walker, dime back Redha Kramdi, safety Brandon Alexander, Rec Nic Demski and OL Stanley Bryant.
Off are: DBs Winston Rose, Jake Kelly, Tyrique McGhee and Souleymane Karamoko; DE Celestin Haba and TyJuan Garbutt, DTs Tanner Schmekel and Miles Fox, OL Drew Richmond and WR Ravi Alston.
NOTE: Demski, along with Rasheed Bailey and Greg McCrae are all listed as ‘GTD’ – game-time decision.
The changes also don’t include receiver Dalton Schoen, who remains on the one-game injured list. He’s joined on that list by Alston, Fox, Garbutt, Haba, Karamoko, Kelly, McGhee, Murphy, Richmond, Rose and Schmekel. LB Jared Beeksma, dime Alden Darby, Jr. and FB Mike Miller are all on the six-game injured list.
Blue Bomber Spotlight: DE Jackson Jeffcoat
It’s playoff time here in River City and that means one thing: Jackson Jeffcoat is about to somehow find that extra oomph in his game. Consider this: in seven playoff games dating back to the 2019 run to the Grey Cup, the Blue Bombers defensive end has 14 tackles, five sacks, three tackles for a loss, three forced fumbles, and one pass knockdown.
What’s the old saying about big time players making big time plays in big time games?
“It’s the pressure that comes from if you lose, you go home,” said Jackson in a chat with bluebombers.com. “And none of us want to go home. That’s the biggest thing – making sure that attention to detail is taken to the next level because these games are do or die, so we’ve got to play our best game. Also, it’s towards the end of the year and you’ve got all your rust off, you’ve really got to hone in and play your best game.”
Scouting the Lions
B.C. rolls out some powerful weaponry on offence, with Adams, Jr. playing catch with a talented receiving corps which features two 1K men in Keon Hatcher (1,226) and Alexander Hollins (1,173), a 6-5, 230-pound beast in Jevon Cottoy (807), an under-rated Justin McInnis (690), the dynamic Dominique Rhymes (535 yards in 10 games) and familiar face Lucky Whitehead (728) who dressed but did not start in the West Semi-final. Adams, Jr., led the CFL with 4,769 yards and finished second to Collaros in TD passes with 31.
The Lions don’t rely on the run game in the traditional manner – they finished last in the CFL with an average of 77.3 yards, with Taquan Mizzell pacing them with 773 yards – but are dangerous on those off-script plays when Adams, Jr. runs. He finished with 324 yards rushing, fourth among QBs behind Ottawa’s Dustin Crum (741), Tre Ford of Edmonton (622) and Cody Fajardo of Montreal (341).
B.C.’s defence ranks fourth in offensive points allowed (22.7) and second to Winnipeg in opponent net yardage (328.8). Their season defensively has been a bit all over the map. In their 6-1 start the Lions posted two shutouts over Edmonton and allowed an average of 15.7 points per game. In their final 11 regular season games they went 6-5 and surrendered an average of 28.7 points per game.
Defensive end Mathieu Betts is a monster off the edge, posting a league-best 18 sacks while Woody Baron chipped in with eight and Sione Teuhema – who missed last week’s game while serving a suspension – added seven. Their secondary is stacked with vets and is led by Garry Peters, T.J. Lee, and Marcus Sayles.
The Lions special teams crew is led by kicker Sean Whyte, who had a remarkable season by connecting on 94.3 percent of his field goals (50 of 53) while Terry Williams is a dangerous return man who led the CFL in kickoff return yards at (1,315)
- Winnipeg QBs Zach Collaros, Dru Brown and Dakota Prukop combined to break the CFL’s all-time record for highest team passer rating at 116.2 That total included a TD:interception differential of 44:15, a 69.0 completion percentage and 4,816 passing yards.
- The West Final features 11 CFL All-Stars, six from Winnipeg and five from the Lions. The Blue Bombers All-Star crew: RB Brady Oliveira, guard Pat Neufeld, tackle Jermarcus Hardrick, receiver Dalton Schoen, defensive end Willie Jefferson and cornerback Demerio Houston. And from the Lions: DE Mathieu Betts, receiver Keon Hatcher, defensive backs Garry Peters and T.J. Lee and placekicker Sean Whyte.
- The Lions’ Adams, Jr. set a new club record last week for passing yards in a game with 413, breaking Roy Dewalt’s old mark of 375, set in 1983.
- The Blue Bombers out-rushed their opponents 13 times in 2023 and went 12-1 in those games. They were 2-3 in the other games.
“I love it. I think we earned the right to play in the cold. That’s the biggest thing. And for me, I enjoy playing in cold weather. Always have, since I was a kid in Buffalo. When it cools down, we heat up – that’s how we want to be.” – Jackson Jeffcoat.