Week 21 in the CFL begins on Friday with a clash between the BC Lions and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
This is Winnipeg's final tune-up before they host the Western Division final on November 13 while BC will host the Western Semi-Final on November 6. There is one intriguing storyline in this somewhat meaningless game with Lions superstar quarterback Nathan Rourke expected to start for the first time in more than two months.
Is that enough for me to sway my pick in this matchup? Find out below with my best free CFL picks and predictions for Lions vs. Blue Bombers.
Lions vs Blue Bombers best odds
Lions vs Blue Bombers picks and predictions
This will be a weird week to handicap in the CFL with every playoff spot already set in stone. The Lions are guaranteed a home playoff date with the Stamps next weekend while the Bombers have been locked into first place since stomping the Elks in Week 18.
They actually played against the Lions the following week and with the top seed already wrapped up, they sat several players including Most Outstanding Player favorite Zach Collaros and three starters on their offensive line. They lost that game 40-32 but got a solid performance from young backup QB Dru Brown while their defense held the Lions to just 138 passing yards.
Despite that being an important game for the Lions, they barely won at home with T.J. Lee scoring on a 102-yard interception return when the Bombers were on the goal line and poised to tie it up. Now, they have little to play for and will likely be more concerned about keeping players healthy for next weekend.
Although Rourke will play for the first time since undergoing foot surgery, he'll likely have some rust since he hasn't taken a snap since Week 11. I also expect a fairly conservative approach from Lions head coach Rick Campbell who has said that he'll only play the first quarter.
As for the Bombers, I expect them to play most of their starters. Since they're coming off a bye and sat key players in Week 19, they won't run the risk of those guys getting rusty by not getting any game time for more than a month.
In addition, wide receivers Greg Ellingson and Drew Wolitarsky are back at practice after missing significant time with injuries, and Winnipeg head coach Mike O'Shea will want them to get back to game speed before throwing them into a playoff contest.
The @Wpg_BlueBombers offensive session opens with Zach Collaros at QB. Ellingson and Wolitarsky in, Demski here but not wearing helmet. Eric Lofton at LT.— Ed Tait (@EdTaitWFC) October 24, 2022
Collaros and studs like Stanley Bryant, Jermacus Hardrick, Jackson Jeffcoat, and Deatrick Nichols might not play the entire game but they should start. That has me backing the Bombers on the first-half spread.
My best bet: Blue Bombers first half -2 (-114 at BetRegal)
Lions vs Blue Bombers spread analysis
The Bombers are coming off a bye after losing that meaningless Week 19 showdown. Prior to that, they crushed the Elks 48-11 to give them a league-best 14 victories.
The Bombers have won the last two Grey Cups with essentially the same squad and they are currently +125 faves to three-peat. This is a very strong team on both sides of the ball and they lead the league in both touchdowns scored (60) and touchdowns allowed (31).
The Lions have the league's second-best record at 12-5. The Leos lead the CFL in net offense (390.7 yards per game) and are tied with the Bombers for second in net defense (330.1 ypg allowed), but have seriously regressed in both areas since losing Rourke.
Rourke will likely not be able to make a huge impact on the game in just a single quarter of work and even when he was healthy in Week 5, the Lions were slaughtered by the Bombers at BC Place, losing 43-22.
Despite how these teams stack up against each other at their best, depth and who they choose to rest or play will likely be the biggest factor on Friday.
Lions vs Blue Bombers Over/Under analysis
Collaros leads a Winnipeg attack that has averaged 32.8 points per game since Week 5. Even with Collaros and three starting offensive linemen sitting out in Week 19 (and starting RB Brady Oliveira barely playing), Winnipeg still rolled up 399 yards vs. BC.
Meanwhile, the Bombers' defense holds foes to a league-low 21.2 ppg and always seems to be tougher at IG Field in front of their home fans. That said, their defense still hasn't been quite as dominant as it was in the last two seasons.
Winnipeg's stop unit is tied for last in the league with 34 sacks and has allowed the second-most average yards on first down (6.9), but has done a terrific job of tightening up in its own end and coming up with big plays when needed.
Vernon Adams Jr. has been solid at QB for the Leos but their offense has been a lot less explosive without Rourke, and it will be interesting to see how good Rourke looks in that opening quarter. Whoever is throwing the ball will benefit from the return of speedy wideout Lucky Whitehead.
Lions vs Blue Bombers game info
|Location:||Investors Group Field, Winnipeg, MB|
|Date:||Friday, October 28, 2022|
|Kickoff:||8:30 p.m. ET|
Lions vs Blue Bombers key injuries
Lions: Bryan Burnham WR (Out), Steven Richardson DT (Out).
Blue Bombers: Greg Ellingson WR (Questionable), Drew Wolitarsky WR (Questionable), Nic Demski WR (Out), Stanley Bryant LT (Questionable), Jermacus Hardrick RT (Questionable), Jackson Jeffcoat DE (Questionable), Nick Taylor DB (Out), Malcolm Thompson DB (Out), Malik Clements LB (Questionable), Demerio Houston DB (Out), Kyrie Wilson LB (Out).
Find our latest CFL injury reports.