The Canadian Football season finishes this Sunday as the Hamilton Tiger-Cats take on the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the 107th Grey Cup at the McMahon Stadium in Calgary. Looking for value in the Grey Cup odds? Read on to inform your predictions.
Understanding Canadian football
Canadian football shares much common ground with its American counterpart. The aim in both is to continue possessions or drives by gaining at least ten yards in a set of downs, and to ultimately carry or catch the ball in the end zone to score the maximum points.
However, there are also significant differences across the two sports. Canadian football teams have twelve players on the field instead of eleven, with the extra player utilised in the back field on offence.
It is also played on a wider and longer pitch with huge, 20-yard deep scoring end zones, while scoring allows for single points via unreturned punts to the end zone and missed field goals.
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The Canadian Football League (CFL) permits three downs rather than four to achieve at least ten yards. This partly compensates for the extra difficulty faced by the defence, who have a larger pitch area to protect compared to NFL teams.
Perhaps the most significant difference is that receivers can be in motion in any direction prior to the snap, enabling a player to time their run to cross the line of scrimmage just after the snap.
This leads to more elaborate and inventive route running than can be achieved in the arguably more static NFL, although it can also leave the passer more exposed if the backfield commits totally to route running.
2019 CFL Grey Cup: Key stats to remember
Despite these differences, scoring totals and margins of victory only vary slightly between the CFL and NFL.
Total points per game (ppg) are higher, but only by an average of approximately seven points. The 2019 CFL season had a median of 49 total ppg spread over the regular and post season, with a low of 23 and a high of 85.
Margins of victory in the CFL still maintain a bias towards multiples of seven or three points, but the effect is diluted compared to the NFL by the slightly more diverse scoring opportunities.
Seven points was the most common margin of victory in 2019, occurring in 9.5% of matches, closely followed by three points and one point in 8% each. A quarter of games were blowouts (featuring a winning margin of 20 points or more), but nearly 60% were decided by a margin of ten points or fewer.
Hamilton Tiger-Cats vs. Winnipeg Blue Bombers: Where is the value?
Neither the Tiger-Cats nor the Blue Bombers have lifted the Grey Cup this century and are suffering droughts in the competition dating back to 1999 and 1990 respectively.
Winnipeg’s 11-7 regular season record was only the third best in the West Division and owed much to a strong early season showing. They’ve had to contend with injuries at the quarterback position but have finally settled on Zach Collaros.
The larger spaces in a Canadian football field, and one fewer down permitted in a sequence, is conducive to the aerial approach.
Collaros spent four seasons at Hamilton from 2014 to 2017, but has barely featured this year following an injury sustained during the first snap of the season whilst playing for Saskatchewan against Hamilton.
He was then traded twice during the season, still without making an appearance, until he became Winnipeg’s choice for quarterback in October. Their preparation for the most influential position on the team has been far from ideal.
Hamilton also had to deal with a change at quarterback during the regular season, but it did not disrupt their form as they finished with the league’s best record of 15-3.
They’ve been led by second year quarterback Dane Evans since week seven of the regular season. Evans has had much longer to accustom himself with his team-mates than Collaros, as reflected when he led the Tiger-Cats to wins in their final six games.
The Tiger-Cats’ regular season record of 15 wins does slightly flatter them and their Pythagorean suggests they should only have managed 13.5. Despite this, they are still the superior team, as highlighted if we examine the rate at which they scored and allowed points across the whole campaign based on the strength of their opponents.
They faced teams who allowed an average of nearly 26 ppg but scored an average of nearly 31 ppg, an over-performance compared to the average of around five ppg. They also matched that over-performance on the defensive front.
Winnipeg, as befits a playoff team, also performed impressively on both sides of the ball, albeit to a lesser degree. They scored three ppg more compared to opponent-adjusted averages on offence and conceded three fewer ppg defensively.
On this basis, Hamilton would be expected to win by around four points at a neutral venue.
Grey Cup predictions: The importance of passing
Similarly to how passing is pre-eminent in the NFL, it has also proven a stronger indicator of success in the CFL than an ability to run the ball well. The larger spaces in a Canadian football field, and one fewer down permitted in a sequence, is conducive to the aerial approach often being the most successful route to the end zone.
Once again, Hamilton have the edge in passing efficiency. The Tiger-Cats performed considerably above the league average in passing efficiency once we allow for the quality of the passing defences they have faced.
The same cannot be said for Winnipeg, who are relying on an experienced veteran passer but one who is relatively untried within their system.
Hamilton also boasts an above-average pass defence, compared to Winnipeg’s average defensive passing unit.
Winnipeg do have an edge in their ground game, but often it is aerial dominance that proves decisive in this league.
Who will win the 2019 CFL Grey Cup?
Hamilton swept their two-game series with Winnipeg in 2019, covering the spread on both occasions and winning by an average of 14 points in matches which featured 46 and 38 total points.
The early line moves favour a win for Hamilton, and raw scoring rates suggest a four-point advantage for them. The offensive and defensive matchups also favour the Tiger-Cats aerially, which could push the winning margin higher.
Hamilton by six is the section, in what has historically been a team contest where the total has gone under the quote.
Make sure to get the best 2019 CFL Grey Cup odds with Pinnacle.