Toronto Argonauts returner Dominique Dorsey breaks free of a tackle from Winnipeg Blue Bombers Fred Reid during CFL action on Sept. 23, 2007. Dorsey, who ran for a 97-yard touchdown on this play, could be a factor should Sunday's East final turn into a battle of field positioning. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)
CFL East Division final preview
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers are seeking redemption - and a berth in the Grey Cup - when they meet the Toronto Argonauts, the team that stole first place from under their feet, in Sunday's East Division final (CBC, 1 p.m. ET). The Argos, who won two of three meetings against their prairie opponents this season, want to keep their seven-game winning streak alive and earn the right to play for the CFL championship in front of their hometown fans. One thing is for certain: when the league's top two defences face each other, there won't be room for error. CFL on CBC analyst Khari Jones breaks down the big game.
Last Updated Fri., Nov. 16, 2007
Jones: I think this is an offence that, despite the yardage they put up in the air, is still lead by [running back] Charles Roberts. They need Roberts and the running game to be going strong to have success, especially this point in the season. [Quarterback] Kevin Glenn definitely looked better than he has in a few weeks, the last game they played. They got back to the quick-hitting passes they were accustomed to and he was making quick decisions and getting the ball out of his hands. That was something that worked for them throughout the beginning of the year. Winnipeg's offensive line is also playing good football - that is where it all begins for them. They are not allowing Kevin to get hit too often and are opening up some big holes for Charles, especially late in the game. The Bombers are a more balanced offence than they were in the beginning of the year and that bodes well for them in the playoffs.
Impact player: I would have to go with [wide receiver] Derick Armstrong. I think he can be the difference maker for them. He poses such a tough matchup for most cornerbacks because he is big and strong and can move well. He should get some good matchups against the cornerbacks of Toronto and if he does, he can really have a big impact on this game.
Jones: It starts with Michael Bishop, he is really the catalyst of that offence - it normally is the quarterback - but even more so because when he is on, the Argos are the scariest team you can find. With Bishop and [wide receiver] Arland Bruce leading the way in the receiving corps, they are tough to beat. If Bishop plays well and can make his reads and get the ball to where he wants, the Argos will have the edge, regardless of who is running the football. Toronto had three capable running backs in [Robert] Edwards and [John] Avery and even Troy Davis, whichever way they decide to go. The Argos have people that can run the ball and do it well enough, but that is not the team's bread and butter. They are a passing team, and it all comes down to how Bishop is seeing the field and if he is locating the ball where he wants it. When he is, they are tough to beat. When he is not, they end up finding a way to win, but it is usually not because of their offensive prowess.
Impact player: Michael Bishop would be the guy for me for sure, with a small shout out to Arland Bruce. He got healthy at the end of the season and that is going to help out that team a lot, just to have him playing at full-speed.
Jones: [Linebacker] Barrin Simpson is definitely the leader of this unit - he leads the team in tackles, he came up with some big goal-line stands last game. He is the one that makes that team go, along with [defensive tackle] Doug Brown. The two ends are good also, with [Tom] Canada and [Gavin] Walls. But really, they rely on that strength in the middle to put pressure on the quarterback. I thought they did a very good job of putting pressure on [Montreal quarterback] Marcus Brady [in the East semifinal]. That is their modus operandi - putting pressure on the quarterback and playing a lot of man-to-man defence, especially with [defensive back] Juran Bolden back in the lineup and [safety] Kyries Hebert creeping in from the back. They have a tough defence and I think it's even tougher now with Doug Brown and Juran Bolden back. They do not mind getting in your face and challenging you.
Impact player: I'm picking Juran Bolden. He can really help the Bombers shut down Toronto's passing game. Maybe he can get an interception like he did last week - that would go a big way. That is one of the places where Winnipeg was lacking: they did an adequate job in the defensive backfield, but did not create a lot of turnovers. I think Juran can give them get the turnovers they need.
Jones: Toronto is the best in the league and for good reason. They are the smartest defence: if you don't have your game right, if you show tendencies, they will pick up on it and adjust faster than any other team the league. I think [defensive co-ordinator Rich Stubler] really allows those guys to think out there on the field. He gives them enough rope to play. There aren't many weaknesses. Their linebackers are the leaders and get a lot of tackles every game. The defensive line is great with [end] Jonathan Brown and the kissing bandit, Adriano Belli, in the middle. And the defensive backs with [Byron] Parker and [Jordan] Younger and Orlondo Steinauer in the middle. I feel this is the area where the Argos have made the biggest improvement. All of those guys read quarterbacks well, they jump to the ball and they're not afraid to make big plays.
Impact player: I'm going to say Adriano Belli. He'll be in charge of stopping things up the middle with putting pressure on Kevin Glenn and allowing all those other guys do what they do best. If Winnipeg gets the running game going - and that's their hope for this game - then Belli will be one of the main guys in charge of stopping that.
Winnipeg special teams
Jones: Winnipeg has improved from where it was at the beginning of the season, that's for sure. Troy Westwood keeps on going. Westwood, who you could have definitely called a weakness during the season, and the kicking game in general could now be a big strength of this team. Yards are going to matter, especially in a game with two pretty good defences. It might come down to field positioning. It seems like he's in a good place right now after kicking the game-winning field goal last game and he could go a long way to helping this team out. And the addition of Keith Stokes has pumped up their return game as well. He's somebody exciting, he looks like he's hungry again and as long as he can stay away form the fumble here and there, the return game should be a big plus for Winnipeg.
Impact player: Troy Westwood. He might be in a position to make or break this team, especially in a game like this. If he's on his game, he can greatly affect the outcome.
Toronto special teams
Jones: This is a very good group and I'm especially impressed with their punt and kickoff return teams. They go for blocks, they generate points with returner Dominique Dorsey. They make things happen. I think special teams were the reason the Argos won the last game against Winnipeg with the big blocked punt and forcing a fumble on the punt return. Toronto has always had that reputation as a strong special teams group, ever since [coach Michael] Pinball [Clemons] was there and they're right on track this year also.
Impact player: Dorsey. If he breaks a long one, which he's capable of, that could hurt the Blue Bombers.
What are the keys to victory for the Blue Bombers?
Jones: One, they need to generate turnovers. Two, is get Charles Roberts going. I think the rest of the offence will go wherever Roberts goes. The Blue Bombers also need to keep the momentum in their favour, especially since Toronto is playing at home.
What are the keys to victory for the Argonauts?
Jones: Defensively, they've got to keep doing what they've been doing, which is limiting the opposing team's points and they should be fine. And offensively, they need to get Bishop and the passing game going consistently. They had a tendency to be a little inconsistent at the end of the year and couldn't get long drives going. We saw them pull it together in last game against Saskatchewan, so if they continue on that note and can get those 10, 11, 12-play drives together, even if it ends in a field goal, and can keep Winnipeg's offence on the sidelines, then I think they have a good chance of winning.
Jones: I'm anticipating a close game. It's up to Winnipeg to keep the crowd out of it. The Argos have a decent advantage coming in, but I think Winnipeg has the talent to win the game. I really think it's going to come to do the wire though. Toronto will come to play - we've seen that over the last 10 games of the season. They want it. As long as Winnipeg brings their 'A' game, this will be a fun one to watch.
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