Here's our last Playoff Preview of the year, an analytical look at the offence, defence and special teams of both teams in Sunday's 103rd Grey Cup (6 p.m. Eastern, TSN/ESPN2/WatchESPN/YouTube outside areas with broadcast deals). Also see our lists of on-field matchups and players to watch, and check out our live chat at 6 Eastern!
Ottawa offence: Five Most Outstanding Players: The Redblacks' offence has been terrific all year, led by 40-year-old highly-motivated quarterback Henry Burris, who won the CFL's top individual award this week. He also has a terrific offensive line that stayed healthy all season and features left tackle SirVincent Rogers, who was named the league's most outstanding lineman. Burris has plenty of targets, too; he has four receivers (Chris Williams, Greg Ellingson, Ernest Jackson and Brad Sinopoli) who topped 1,000 yards this year. That's a big part of why Ottawa led the league in categories such as net yards per game (383.6) and passing yards per game (322.6). The running game was more middle-of-the-pack, and RB William Powell's only been featured for the last part of the season, but Ottawa's passing game is excellent.
Ottawa defence: Five returning defensive ends: The Redblacks' defence was fantastic from a yardage standpoint, especially against the run. They gave up just 297.6 offensive yards per game and 70.8 rushing yards per game, both league-lows. They also allowed just a 61.4 per cent completion rate, second-best in the league.
Ottawa special teams: Two October signings: Special teams might be the biggest concern for Ottawa. The return game really hasn't been great, which is why they went out and brought in Jamill Smith last month, but he hasn't done much spectacular yet either. Meanwhile, midseason pickup Chris Milo has done very well kicking (88.9 per cent successful on field goals this year), but less well in the punting game.
Edmonton offence: Five open tryout finds: The Eskimos have two of the league's top five receivers by yardage this season, Adarius Bowman and Derel Walker (#2 and #5 respectively). They also have a quarterback in Mike Reilly who's been great since returning from injury, leading them to nine straight wins and accounting for. The ground game's a little more iffy, as Akeem Shavers hasn't been used that much, but he does have some potential too. It's the aerial attack that's really shone, though, and that could set up a great duel with Burris and the Ottawa offence.
Edmonton defence: Five remarkable returns: There are plenty of standouts on this Edmonton defence, from linemen Odell Willis and Almondo Sewell to linebackers Dexter McCoil and J.C. Sherritt to cornerbacks Patrick Watkins and John Ojo. It makes for an impressive overall unit that allowed a league-low 16.7 first downs per game this year. However, the defence did struggle a bit against Calgary last week.
Edmonton special teams: Four mid-year kicker pickups: The Eskimos' signing of former Montreal kicker Sean Whyte in September was a great move, as Whyte has been dazzling since. He finished the year with a league-best 92.3 per cent success rate on field goals. Whyte's less stellar as a punter, but has been okay there, and return man Kendial Lawrence was second in the league with 1,797 combined return yards.
Add them up: Ottawa 12, Edmonton 14.
X-factor: Henry Burris: These teams are more even than it may seem from the talk about Edmonton's dominance, as Ottawa's offence and defence were very close to the Eskimos' successes from a yardage perspective. The Redblacks' special teams are a bit weaker, but that isn't necessarily huge. The real key here is how well Burris plays. He's had perhaps the best season of his career at age 40, and he and the Ottawa offence seems like the ideal unit to face Edmonton; Burris' vast experience should help him pick up on the deceptive Eskimos' blitzes that often muddle younger quarterbacks, and the Redblacks have so many top receivers that it's going to be very difficult to cover all of them, especially when also blitzing. Burris has been known to have bad games, though. If he turns in a bad game or a mediocre game, this likely goes the way many expect and produces an Edmonton victory. Everything has to go right for Ottawa, especially for Burris and the offence. If Burris has a great game, though, an upset seems very attainable, particularly if this becomes a higher-scoring, offence-focused game.
Prediction: Ottawa 31, Edmonton 28.
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