Grey Cup: Argos can spoil Stamps' quest for redemption

Most signs point to Calgary avenging last year's upset loss to Ottawa by beating Toronto in Sunday's Grey Cup game. But don't count out Ricky Ray and the Argos.

Toronto hopes to deal Calgary another upset loss in CFL title game

Toronto Argonauts' quarterback Ricky Ray throws the ball as a Calgary Stampeders closes in during first half CFL football action in Calgary, Saturday, Aug. 26, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

At first glance, it seems there is no possible way the Calgary Stampeders lose the 105th Grey Cup game to the Toronto Argonauts.

Most of the analysis of the matchup would have you believe Calgary (13-4-1, 1-0 playoffs) would have to throw a shoe, slip on a prairie patty or get lost on the way to Ottawa's Lansdowne Park for Toronto (9-9, 1-0) to win the CFL title game on Sunday night.

You can see that.

  • In their two meetings this season, Calgary outscored the Argos 64-31, rolling up 815 total yards and causing tremendous problems on kick returns.
  • The Stamps' defenders held legendary QB Ricky Ray to well under 300 yards passing both times — 139 in Week 7 when they chased him out of the game with an injury, and 220 in Week 10. Ray was over 300 on 13 other occasions in what was his second-best season of a 13-year career.
  • A ferocious Calgary front seven (now back to healthy here in November) held the Argos to 18 yards rushing at Toronto, completely dominating from beginning to end.
Kickers, rookies, quarterbacks and more—here's how the Toronto Argonauts and Calgary Stampeders match up ahead of the 105th Grey Cup. 0:48

Calgary dominated Toronto over eight quarters of mostly one-sided play, so Sunday's game shouldn't be close. It should be the Stamps by a long way.

But let's look closer.

In last year's Grey Cup, we picked the Ottawa Redblacks to upset heavily favoured Calgary because they were the only team to play the Stamps evenly during the regular season. This year, one might argue that the Argonaut unit Calgary dominated is not the same group they'll see on Sunday.


  • The Argos were struggling at 4-7 after that second loss to Calgary, unable to present a running attack to take pressure off Ray and give him a chance to run the "six shorties and a POW" approach coach Marc Trestman has always featured. Since then, they are 6-2, beating Saskatchewan, Edmonton, Winnipeg and B.C. along the way.
  • This run came after runner James Wilder Jr. was inserted full time into the attack. His half-season efforts earned the former Florida State star top rookie honours in the East, while the club went from no ground game to 120 an outing on average.
  • Ray has a fully healthy receiving corps now. It's built not just around veterans such as S.J. Green (1,462 yards) but also youngsters such as Armanti Edwards (962), DeVier Posey (744), and Anthony Coombs, the latter coming into himself now that he's injury free.
  • Calgary has the best defence in Ottawa, but Toronto was No. 3. Either can shut down the other side all night if it has to.  

Is it a stretch to say the Argos can win? Certainly. But is a Toronto victory possible? Absolutely. 

With quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell, left, and running back Jerome Messam, Calgary can attack by air or by land. (Larry MacDougal/Canadian Press)

Stamps against the world

Is it a stretch to say the Argos can win? Certainly. But is a Toronto victory possible? Absolutely. 

We must mention that Stamps RB Jerome Messam had a great game in the West final (115 total yards) and his QB Bo Mitchell (not having his best season) seemed back on his game, working with those excellent receivers, including a flying Kamar Jorden. 

We take a look back at some of the most stand out moments in Grey Cup history. 2:35

Also, Calgary is plus-23 on Toronto when comparing the teams' turnover margins. And the Stamps have the superb Roy Finch running back kicks, he of the 376 total return yards against the Double Blue special teams. If this happens again, all bets (don't bet on football, it's stupid) are off. 

However, there seems to be some negative energy around the Stallions this week, and it makes me wonder what space these guys are in.

Messam was mad at the media on Sunday, apparently because we were mean to him this year over a performance below his normal excellent level. Local press said he seemed fine on Monday, but there's a scent of unneeded motivation there.

Mitchell, who is the most combative and unafraid leader in the league, was talking about how the team is now "us against the world." Really? The Stampeders are playing that game? They're heavy favourites, for gosh sakes — the point spread is over a touchdown.

Could the thought they've only had one decent outing in six weeks be haunting the Stallions' thoughts? Do they believe messing this one up after last year's upset would be the end of their football worlds? Are they already tired of those questions about why Bo wasn't left in the game in overtime a year ago with the ball on the one and the game on the line? 

Focusing on redemption, rather than on their strengths, may sidetrack the Stamps.

On the other sideline, Argos coach Marc Trestman united the Toronto dressing room in his first season with the team.

He wasn't trying to boil the ocean in just six months but, ahead of schedule, he's taken a team that went 5-13 a year ago to within one victory of a championship.

Can they win? As my CBC colleague Devin Heroux is known to say, totally. 

The pick: Toronto


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.