When the Hamilton Tiger-Cats started the 2022 season with four straight losses, blown leads, and a sea of turnovers that seemed to be endless, the majority of people outside of the franchise were in panic mode. But head coach Orlondo Steinauer, his assistant coaches, and his players preached the importance of staying focused on the process.
Up to that point the Tiger-Cats had not faced any teams from the East division and while they struggled to perform they were slowly improving. The perseverance has paid off for the Tiger-Cats as they have won 2 out of 3 games in the last three weeks, and find themselves undefeated against the East division. Also, they were not the only team from the East struggling and this combination has allowed the Tiger-Cats to find themselves in an interesting position during the 2nd game of a six-game stretch against East division opponents.
During that six-game stretch, the Tiger-Cats will play their nearby rival the Toronto Argonauts four times. The Argonauts have the best collection of talent in the East division, but like the Tiger-Cats, they have been inconsistent at times and have missed some opportunities. This has set up a Week 9 showdown for a share of first place in the East division standings.
The team that wins this game will be the team that can be consistent, limit their mistakes, avoid turnovers, and successfully scores touchdowns in the red zone. The starting quarterbacks in this game, Tiger-Cats Dane Evans and Argonauts McLeod Bethel-Thompson have both shown the ability to lead their offensive units successfully. But both have also shown the ability to make poor decisions when under pressure.
Toronto has been one of the top running teams in the CFL with Andrew Harris pounding on defensive units, but recently backup quarterback Matt Shiltz has given the Tiger-Cats running game new life. Let’s take a look at what the Tiger-Cats need to do to win this game and move into a tie for 1st place with our 5 Growling Questions.
Growling Question #1
Can the Tiger-Cats defence apply pressure to Argonauts QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson by producing 4 or more quarterback sacks?
For most of the 2022 season, the Tiger-Cats defence has struggled to pressure quarterbacks consistently. This lack of pressure has put the Tiger-Cats defensive secondary in a difficult position. Last week the Tiger-Cats pass rush literally and figuratively ‘turned a corner and was able to register five quarterback sacks against Trevor Harris of the Montreal Alouettes.
The result was that the Tiger-Cats defence as a whole played with more confidence and was able to shut the Alouettes down on several red zone possessions. Toronto’s Bethel-Thompson tends to play well when he is comfortable, but when under pressure his decision-making is questionable. Hamilton’s defence needs to force him to perform under maximum pressure.
Growling Question #2
Will the Tiger-Cats defensive front be able to hold Argonauts Andrew Harris to less than 4.0 yards/carry?
The Argonaut’s running game has been a stabilizing factor for their offence. In times when things are chaotic for Toronto, Harris gives them the ability to slow the game down and get things back under control. So far this season Harris has 97 carries for 494 yards which gives him an average of 4.4 yards/carry.
The Tiger-Cats need to be able to eliminate and reduce this stabilizing factor and they need to find a way to hold Harris to less than 4.0 yards/carry. At this point in the season, the Hamilton defence has been one of the best against the run game, so this is would be an important time for the defence to play their best game. They will have to do so with injury issues at linebacker.
Growling Question #3
Can the Tiger-Cats offensive line protect Dane Evans and Matt Shiltz by giving up 2 or fewer quarterback sacks?
The offensive line for the Tiger-Cats has been a weak point since 2021, but it does look like the offensive line situation is getting better. Last week the Tiger-Cats did not allow any quarterback sacks against the Alouette’s defence. This was a combination of an effective run game, a less than stellar pass rush, and the quarterbacks of the Tiger-Cats getting the ball out of their hand to playmakers.
Hamilton’s offence needs to keep producing in these areas if they intend of having a chance to win the East division. When protected the Tiger-Cats offence has shown the ability to not turn the ball over nearly as much, and score touchdowns in the red zone. The Tiger-Cats need to continue growth in these areas to defeat the Argonauts.
Growling Question #4
Can the Tiger-Cats produce 3 or more touchdowns?
When the Tiger-Cats win games it is because they can produce touchdowns, especially in red zone situations. In the games where they have had to settle for field goals, the Tiger-Cats have lost. It is clear that if the Tiger-Cats want to win they need to find a way to manufacture touchdowns.
That will be more challenging this week as the Tiger-Cats are dealing with several injuries to their wide receivers. The Tiger-Cats did acquire Mike Jones this week to fill in for an injured Tyler Ternowski. It may take a defensive touchdown or a special teams touchdown for this Tiger-Cats to meet this mark.
Growling Question #5
Will the Tiger-Cats be able to break through and win the +/- turnover battle?
So far this season, the Tiger-Cats have failed to win the turnover battle. It games that they have lost the turnover battle that has led to Hamilton losing the game. During their wins, they have been able to break even and tie the turnover battle.
This week would be great and produce more takeaways than turnovers. Bold Prediction: If they can take care of business by protecting the ball, and finding ways to take the ball away from the Argonauts then they will win this game. Can the Tiger-Cats take the next step in their development and win the turnover battle?
This Saturday, August 6th at 7 pm EDT, the race for the top of the East division rises to a new level. The Tiger-Cats and Argonauts are heated rivals. Many of the former stars of the Tiger-Cats now play for the Argonauts. Hamilton has its opportunity to show that they truly are the best team in the East division.
Will they play their best game of the year? Or will they crack under pressure like the Tiger-Cats have done so many times before? We will find out this Saturday at 7 pm at BMO Field.
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