Rick Zamperin: All signs pointing to a Tiger-Cats' Grey Cup victory

I know that Thursday night will bring us the first Canadian Football League game in more than 600 days, and I know that the last 16 months or so have been a roller coaster ride for CFL players and coaches.

But I also know this. The Hamilton Tiger-Cats are destined to win the Grey Cup at home this season.

Think about it for a second.

Hamilton has not won the league’s holy grail since 1999, when the price of gasoline was below 60 cents a litre, and the city last hosted the CFL’s championship game 25 years ago.

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Now add in the fact that the Ticats are the odds on favourite to win the whole thing and you have to ask yourself: are the stars throughout the entire universe aligned for a Grey Cup parade in Hamilton this December, or what?

You can accuse me of jumping the gun, and your accusation would be 100 per cent accurate, but all the signs are pointing to a dream-come-true season in Steeltown.

Listen, a lot of good things and lucky bounces have to happen for any team to win the Grey Cup and the club that is considered the best on paper (Hamilton arguably holds that distinction in 2021) doesn’t always end up popping champagne at the end of the season.

Staying healthy, as always, is a major factor for any championship calibre team.

The Cats enter Thursday night’s opening game against Winnipeg with a handful of injuries, including receivers Bralon Addison and DeVier Posey, who start the season on the six-game injured list.

There is one additional checkmark in Hamilton’s column when considering which team is destined to win it all this season and that is the motivation factor.

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After getting blown out by the Blue Bombers in the 107th Grey Cup in 2019, you can’t help but think that has been stewing in the minds of every Ticat involved in that game, even though Hamilton’s players and coaches have said they have “turned the page.”

That’s probably true, but every step of the way in 2021, the Tiger-Cats — fairly or unfairly — will be compared to the record-breaking 15-3 team from a couple of years ago and the question will be asked about whether they can finally climb to the CFL’s summit.

The stars may be aligned for a magical year, but it will be Hamilton’s stars on the gridiron who will determine their ultimate fate.

Here is where I envision each team finishing in the East and West Divisions in 2021.

East Division

1-Hamilton Tiger-Cats: Much of Hamilton’s talented core from 2019 is back, including the coaching staff, led by reigning coach of the year Orlondo Steinauer. The Ticats are very good in all three phases of the game and will be motivated to win their first Grey Cup in more than two decades on home soil.

2-Toronto Argonauts: One look at Toronto’s roster and you will notice that there are a lot of very good players wearing double blue in 2021. Can all these new guys come together quickly and will rookie head coach Ryan Dinwiddie be capable of making the right decisions in crunch time?

3-Montreal Alouettes: Much of Montreal’s success this season will relay on the shoulders of quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. If he can repeat his breakout performance of 2019 this year the Alouettes could meet Toronto in the East Division Semifinal in November.

4-Ottawa Redblacks: Paul LaPolice is the new head coach in Ottawa but the talent pool in the nation’s capital doesn’t stack up with some of the heavy hitters in the CFL. So 2021 will be a year for growth, and some pain, for the Redblacks.

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West Division

1-Calgary Stampeders: A well coached team with a superstar quarterback and a long tradition of winning — what’s not to like about Calgary? The Stampeders have lost some talented players but they always seem to find a gem, or two, in the rough.

2-Winnipeg Blue Bombers: Perhaps the most balanced team in the west, the defending champions will only go as far as a healthy Zach Collaros can take them. If Winnipeg’s star QB and future Hall of Fame running back Andrew Harris spend a considerable amount of time on the injured list, the CFL will most definitely crown a new champion in 2021.

3-Edmonton Elks: With quarterback Trevor Harris having a bevy of lethal targets at his disposal, Edmonton’s offence will be fun to watch this year. Rookie head coach Jaime Elizondo is hoping the Elks’ defence can prevent the opposition from lighting up the scoreboard as well.

4-Saskatchewan Roughriders: The Riders have enough talent to finish first in the west, but a spate of injuries this offseason have changed the dynamic of the team, including the offensive line. A smart man once told me that a team’s offence is only as good as the o-line and QB Cody Fajardo is praying that his big boys keep him upright more often than not.

5-B.C. Lions: QB Michael Reilly (the man formerly known as Mike Reilly) is looking for a bounce back year after spending much of the 2019 season practically running for his life. With an improved offensive line, the Lions should win their fair share of games this season, but not enough to get into the playoffs.

Rick Zamperin is the assistant program, news and senior sports director at Global News Radio 900 CHML.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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