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Saskatchewan Roughriders vs. Montreal Alouettes – a position-by-position breakdown of the 98th Grey Cup

Colin Buchinski
Contributor

The Saskatchewan Roughriders and Montreal Alouettes are back in the Grey Cup. The 98th edition in Edmonton this Sunday, 5 p.m., TSN,, CKRM, features a rematch of last year’s epic tilt that saw the Rider Nation lose an absolute heartbreaker on a last-second Damon Duval field goal. It was one of the most entertaining Grey Cups in years and a great showcase of the league’s talent.

The Riders come back into this year’s Grey Cup hoping for redemption. After losing four in a row late in the season, the Riders appear to be back on their game. They know they have a great shot in this game.

Standing in their way is CFL legend Anthony Calvillo and Canadian star receiver Ben Cahoon. The Alouettes are seeking a Grey Cup repeat. They would be the first team to do it since Doug Flutie’s Toronto Argonauts accomplished that feat in 1996 and 1997.

The winner of this game will have to be strong on both sides of the ball. The conditions likely won’t be as cold as the West final and that will eliminate a lot of the mistakes we saw in Calgary. Here is a position-by-position breakdown of each team:

Quarterbacks

Saskatchewan’s Darian Durant has led his team to their second Grey Cup appearance in two years with him at the helm. He has shown the ability to put points on the board and sustain drives when his team needs it the most. This year, Durant led the CFL in passing yards with 5,542 yards. Recently, he has struggled early in games. Durant will need to change this if the Riders want to win in Edmonton. Alouettes pivot Calvillo is a legend. This year, he led the CFL with a 108.1 QB rating and is the East nominee for most outstanding player. Calvillo holds a large resume of playoff appearances and success, including a huge comeback victory in last year’s Grey Cup.

Edge: Alouettes

Running backs

This season, Rider running back Wes Cates was a fantastic finisher, leading the league with 15 rushing touchdowns and breaking the 1,000-yard mark. Alouette running back Avon Cobourne rushed for six touchdowns and 954 yards this season. In the last two weeks, Cates has looked like a different running back. He has stepped it up in the playoffs for the Riders in recent years and been a big part of their playoff success. He should play a big factor in the game on Sunday.

Edge: Riders

Receivers

This season, Riders receivers Andy Fantuz and Weston Dressler both broke the 1,000-yard mark. Regina native Chris Getzlaf also came very close with 946 yards. The late-season addition of Cary Koch to the lineup has added an additional deep threat. The Alouettes also boast great receivers in S.J. Green, Ben Cahoon, Jamel Richardson and Kerry Watkins. We could see a lot of yards through the air with two great receiving cores.

Edge: Tie

Offensive Line

Riders Guard Gene Makowsky and centre Jeremy O’Day were selected as West all-stars this year. Their starting offensive line also includes imports Dan Goodspeed and Joel Bell at tackle and Chris Best/Marc Parenteau at guard. In Montreal, both tackle Josh Bourke and guard Scott Flory were voted East all-stars on an offensive line that allowed only 34 sacks. Both team’s offensive lines have played well as of late and protecting the quarterback will play a huge factor in Sunday’s game.

Edge: Tie

Defensive Line

This year, the loss of John Chick and Stevie Baggs really made the Riders defensive line take a hit. The team never really replaced these two, though Jerrell Freeman had seven sacks from the linebacker position. This year, John Bowman had 12 sacks on a stellar Montreal defensive line.  Anwar Stewart has also played well for the Alouettes.

Edge: Alouettes

Linebackers

Barrin Simpson has played stellar this year for the Green and White, leading the league in defensive tackles with 105. The Riders’ other linebackers include Freeman, Tad Kornegay, Byron Bullock and veteran Mike McCullough. Against Calgary, Freeman was all over the place. He pounced on a fumble in the Riders end zone, which would have changed the game’s outcome completely. The Alouettes have one of the league’s best linebackers in Chip Cox and a steady threat in Shea Emery.

Edge: Tie

Defensive backs

Rider safety James Patrick led the CFL with nine interceptions and is one of the league’s most exciting players. Omarr Morgan, Leron Mitchell, and Lance Frazier also lead the Riders secondary. On the Alouettes, De’Audre Dix, Mark Estelle, and former University of Regina Ram Paul Woldu are the leaders. The Alouettes defensive backs are a group that has been known to take a lot of penalties. They will need to remain disciplined on Sunday if they want to contribute to another Alouette victory. Tare some injury oroblems surrounding Montreal’s defensive backfield. Notably, safety Matthieu Proulx will miss the Grey Cup due to injury.

Edge: Riders

Special Teams

There is not much to explain here, other than the Riders have had horrid special teams all year long. Ryan Grice-Mullen nearly lost the Riders the game fumbling in his own end zone in the last minutes of the West final. In Montreal, Tim Maypray has had a great rookie season which included a kick return touchdown against the Riders earlier this year.

Edge: Alouettes

Intangibles

On Sunday in Edmonton, the stadium will be filled with green jerseys and winter coats. The Riders will certainly have homefield advantage and this will play a big factor in the game’s outcome. Montreal is also not used to playing in such cold weather, while the Riders faced extreme conditions last week.

Edge: Riders

Prediction: Saskatchewan 28, Montreal 17


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