One last game, and it’s the biggest one of the year.
The Canadian Football League’s 2018 season comes to a close Sunday night in Edmonton when the Calgary Stampeders and Ottawa Redblacks meet in the 106th Grey Cup.
The championship final pits the best team in the west versus the best squad in the east.
This marks the third consecutive year that the Stamps will play in the CFL title game and they are hoping the third time is a charm after crushing losses to the Redblacks in 2016 and the Toronto Argonauts last year.
After re-entering the league in 2014, Ottawa is making its third Grey Cup appearance in four years and is looking to become just the fourth CFL team to have a better than .500 record in the championship game. Toronto, Edmonton and B.C. are the others.
The Stampeders are under more pressure to win on Sunday because they don’t want to lose three straight Grey Cup games, something that hasn’t been done since the Montreal Alouettes dropped the 1954, 1955 and 1956 title games. Winnipeg also lost in three consecutive Grey Cups from 1945 to ’47.
While we’re on the topic, the Regina Roughriders hold the record of losing five consecutive CFL finals, from 1928 to 1932. The Riders also lost in 1934.
The Stamps win if: Quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell and his receivers get into an early rhythm and control the clock. Not only will moving the chains eventually lead to points but it will also keep Ottawa’s offence off the field and keep the Stampeders’ defence fresh.
The Redblacks win if: QB Trevor Harris plays anywhere close to what he showed in the Eastern Final against Hamilton when he threw for a CFL playoff record six touchdowns. Scoring 30 points might be good enough to win on Sunday.
Winning the turnover battle is going to be huge, as always, but it may be more important for the Redblacks because Calgary scored the third most points off turnovers (140) during the regular season. Ottawa had just 78 points off turnovers this season, third from the bottom.
Getting to the QB is another big key in this game. The Stamps allowed the fewest sacks in 2018 (27, tied with Saskatchewan) and finished in a five-way tie for the most sacks (45) this year. Ottawa was eighth and seventh, respectively, in those two categories.
I subscribe to the theory that defence wins championships, and the Calgary defence will rise to the occasion and lead the Stampeders to a 30-26 victory over Ottawa.