The Winnipeg Blue Bombers try to book their third-consecutive trip to the Grey Cup as they host the BC Lions in the Western Final on Sunday.
The Bombers rolled through the regular season, and oddsmakers expect them to continue their dominance with CFL betting lines opening with them as 4.5-point home favorites. However, the Lions beat the odds last week and have been an offensive juggernaut with superstar quarterback Nathan Rourke at the helm.
Can they pull off the upset again? I let you know with my best free CFL picks and predictions for Lions vs. Blue Bombers on November 13.
Lions vs Blue Bombers best odds
Lions vs Blue Bombers picks and predictions
National running back Brady Oliveira has emerged as Winnipeg's top ball carrier after the offseason departure of Andrew Harris. Oliveira had just 62 carries for 196 rushing yards (3.16 yards per carry) through the first six games of the year but then averaged 72.3 rushing yards per game on 5.65 ypc over the next 10 contests.
He didn't get the ball much in the final two games of the season with Winnipeg having already clinched first place, but he should get plenty of carries against the Lions.
The 225-pound sledgehammer is a powerful back that can handle a heavy workload, and he'll likely get it on Sunday on a freezing day with highs of minus-6 (21 degrees Fahrenheit). He's an ideal cold-weather back and will benefit from running behind a powerful offensive line against a Lions defense that has struggled to stop the run at times this season.
The Blue Bombers are a team built for cold weather with their powerful running game, efficient passing, physical defense, and tendency to win the turnover battle.
On the other hand, the Lions are a team that likes to attack vertically and is used to playing in warmer weather, with their home games taking place inside a stadium with a retractable roof.
They could struggle on the road at IG Field, which is always a tough venue to play in. I'm backing the Bombers on the spread and also taking the Over 64.5 on Oliveira's rushing yards.
My best bet: Blue Bombers -4 (-110 at bet365)
Brady Oliveira Over 64.5 rushing yards (-110 at FanDuel)
Lions vs Blue Bombers spread analysis
My biggest concern when betting on the Bombers in this spot is that they haven't played a meaningful game in more than a month. We saw them look a bit rusty in the Western Final last year in a similar situation against the Riders, where they uncharacteristically turned the ball over five times but still managed to grind out a 21-17 victory.
Winnipeg is two wins away from establishing a dynasty after winning the last two Grey Cups. They finished the regular season with a league-best 15-3 record and an average scoring margin of plus-9.3 points per game.
The Bombers faced off against the Lions in their final two games of the regular season, but there isn't much to take away from those contests since Winnipeg didn't have anything to play for. They did start most of their top players in their season finale, and although they weren't on the field long, we saw enough to know that MOP candidate Zach Collaros can shred the Bombers through the air.
Collaros also picked apart the Leos in Week 5 when he threw for 288 yards and three scores in a 43-22 Bombers victory. That's an important game to consider when handicapping this contest since BC had a healthy Nathan Rourke and still fell behind 24-0 at home.
Rourke had been the best QB in the league through the first half of the season before suffering a foot injury. He led the team to an 8-1 straight up and 7-2 against the spread mark before hitting the IR.
He looked like his old self in the West Division semifinal last week, completing 22 of 30 passes for 321 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The Lions did a very good job of both running the ball and bottling up Calgary's vaunted ground game in that contest, and they'll need to do the same on Sunday if they want to pull off the upset.
Another factor to consider when betting on this game is special teams. Winnipeg has one of the league's most explosive returners in Janarion Grant. Not only has the Leos' return game been ineffective, but their kick coverage units have been among the worst in the league.
Lions vs Blue Bombers Over/Under analysis
Statistically, the Lions had an above-average defense on the season... however their numbers were a bit inflated by the first half of the season when they built early leads against weak opposition, forcing them to become one-dimensional. Despite a talented secondary, they simply weren't good enough to slow down Winnipeg or Calgary through the air during the regular season.
That won't be the case against a balanced Bombers attack that led the league in second-down conversion rate and was second in scoring with 29.9 ppg. Winnipeg was also more willing to attack downfield than in past seasons. Collaros led the CFL with an average passing depth of 12.6 yards, 1.3 yards more than second-place Taylor Cornelius, who was far less accurate.
The Bombers were also very tough on defense, where they allowed a league-low 20.6 ppg. However, they are a bit banged up in the secondary, and their pass rush has been ineffective. That could be exploited by Rourke, who missed half the season and still completed 78.7% of his passes for 3,349 yards while leading the league with a pass efficiency rating of 123.6.
That said, the sub-zero temperatures on Sunday might neutralize both explosive aerial attacks. The Bombers are 13-5 to the Under in their previous 18 home contests, and the Under has also cashed in five of the last six playoff games at IG Field.
Lions vs Blue Bombers trend to know
The Lions are 0-4 ATS in their last four games at IG Field. Find more CFL betting trends for Lions vs. Blue Bombers.
Lions vs Blue Bombers game info
|Location:||IG Field, Winnipeg, MB|
|Date:||Sunday, November 13, 2022|
|Kickoff:||4:30 p.m. ET|
Lions vs Blue Bombers key injuries
Lions: Lucky Whitehead WR (Questionable), James Butler RB (Questionable), T.J Lee DB (Questionable), Joel Figueroa LT (Questionable).
Blue Bombers: Nic Demski WR (Probable), Dalton Schoen (Probable), Rasheed Bailey (Probable), Jackson Jeffcoat DE (Questionable), Demerio Houston DB (Questionable), Malcolm Thompson DB (Doubtful), Nick Taylor (Out).
Find our latest CFL injury reports.