LIVESTREAM PPV: Grey Cup – Calgary Stampeders v. Ottawa REDBLACKS, Sunday, November 25, 4p (6p EST, 12 midnight CEST)

EDMONTON — Grey Cup week is nothing new to most Calgary Stampeders veteran players in Edmonton this week. For defensive back Brandon Smith, though, this one feels different.

The Stamps will take on the Ottawa REDBLACKS in the 106th Grey Cup on Sunday at The Brick Field at Commonwealth Stadium. For the third year in a row they’re the betting favourite, but after losing back-to-back Grey Cups, the Stampeders aren’t taking anything for granted.

“In the past two years we came into this game over-confident because our record showed much better than our opponent’s,” said Smith. “This year we’re not letting that get involved. Having those losses at the end of the year humbled ourselves to get back to the drawing board and understand that every week you can be beaten, so we have to reload and focus on the task at hand, let the past be the past and focus on this game.”

Smith, 34, will play in his sixth Grey Cup on Sunday, leading all Stampeders players dating back to 1994. Quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell will start his fourth championship game and play in his fifth. For middle linebacker Alex Singleton, just 24 years old, this will be his third.

Both Ottawa and Calgary have reached the big stage in three of their last four seasons.

“We’ve been here,” said Singleton. “It’s not a new experience for us, and I don’t think it is for Ottawa either. We’re not new to this. We’re here for one reason. This is all we want, to be here and to win this game in between the lines.”

For the Stamps, coming off a 22-14 win over Winnipeg in the Western Final on the strength of a three-touchdown performance bEric Rogers, injuries at receiver have been the big topic this season. There will be more wrinkles heading into Sunday.

Markeith Ambles has gone on the injured list after injuring his foot, while DaVaris Daniels and Bakari Grantare on the 46-man roster for Sunday’s game. The Stamps have taken it slow with Daniels, who’s returning from an injured collarbone suffered in a game on Sept. 15 vs. the Ticats, but the third-year receiver appears to be ready to go.

“He’s a big-time player,” said Head Coach Dave Dickenson. “He’s had some of his biggest games in the [Grey Cup]. He’s a trustworthy guy. He’s been pushing hard. I feel health-wise he’s past the hurdles, he’s shown he can do it. Now it’s just a matter of who’s the best lineup for our team. “This is what I’ve been striving for, this is what I’ve been working so hard to get back to,” said Daniels. “To have it come full circle like this in the biggest game of the year is everything to me.”

Grant is also expected to suit up and start in his fourth Grey Cup. He’s 0-3 up to this point, including a loss to Ottawa two years ago when he played for the Stamps. Grant provided some much-needed insurance for the Calgary receiving corps late in the season, suiting up for the team’s season finale vs. BC.

He wasn’t sure if he’d get to play this week, but while seated at the podium following Saturday’s final walkthrough, Grant showed his appreciation to be able to get in the lineup.

“I know guys who played 10-plus years and never got to a Grey Cup,” he said. “To get to the game, and to be away from the game after you lose, you get to appreciate the experience win or loss. But my fingers are empty, so I’d like to take one home.”

National receiver Juwan Brescacin missed much of last week’s win over Winnipeg but is expected to be a full go for Sunday’s contest.

With all the injuries, Mitchell became the first quarterback in CFL history to throw for 5,000-plus yards without the help of a 1,000-yard receiver. The unfortunate circumstances have tested the Calgary Stampeders, but all season they persevered, winning 13 games and another West Division title.

After another devastating injury to running back Romar Morris, which Dickenson speculated could be to the Achilles, the Stamps continue to rally around their adversity.

“There’s been a lot of injuries and a lot of changes, but things that have brought us together,” said Mitchell, who was named Most Outstanding Player for the second time in his career Thursday night. “For the Stampeders, we’ve gotten tight-knit as a group. We’re competing for each other,” he added. “We’ve lost a lot of brothers out there that don’t get to play this game that would love to be in this game. We want to do it for them.”

Terry Williams will take the spot of the injured Morris at running back, backing up Don Jackson and handling return duties. Meanwhile, there’s a chance that one of Grant or Daniels will be one of the Stampeders’ two scratches before the game.

On defence, there will be no major changes to the unit that shut down the Bombers in the Western Final, holding Matt Nichols to just 156 passing yards on 15-of-32 passing.

While players from both Ottawa and Caglary will remind you it’s been ages since the last time these two teams played — the Stamps swept the season series with a 24-14 win in Week 3 followed by a 27-3 win in Week 5 — the history between these teams is noteworthy.

The Stamps owned REDBLACKS quarterback Trevor Harris this season, holding him to 4.5 yards per attempt, no touchdowns and three interceptions in the two contests. Calgary owns a 7-1 edge in sacks against Ottawa this year (including a three-sack game from Micah Johnson) and a turnover differential of 10-3.

Lately, though, the REDBLACKS have been a much different team. They buckled down and won the East Division with an 11-7 record, turning aside Hamilton in the Eastern Final with relative ease. Dating back seven starts, including last week’s playoff record six-touchdown performance, Harris has completed 78.6 per cent of his passes and thrown 17 touchdown passes against just two interceptions, averaging a stellar 9.9 yards per attempt.

“He’s playing great football,” said Ottawa receiver Diontae Spencer. “It’s just one more game that we can go out there and rally behind him. Trevor’s been doing a great job and it’s a testament to the O-line and him getting the ball to our playmakers.”

“We’re a completely different team now,” added REDBLACKS rookie receiver RJ Harris, who ranked fourth on the team with 697 receiving yards. “The whole dynamic of our offence and our team has completely changed. Credit goes to Calgary, they’re a great team, great defence. They fly to the ball. But we’ve come a long way since then.”

The REDBLACKS’ high-octane offence has been arguably the CFL’s best over the last two months. Their up-tempo pace allows them to run the most plays in the league (61.2 per game), while three 1,000-yard receivers in Greg Ellingson, Spencer and Brad Sinopoli create balance and unpredictability.

Opposing offences also can’t forget about the run game, with William Powell finishing second in the league with a career-high 1,362 yards.

“We try to come from all angles, show a lot of different looks, formations,” said Sinopoli. “That’s just the way the offence is set up and we benefit when we’re going fast and when different guys get the ball in their hands.”

While the REDBLACKS’ offensive prowess comes as little surprise, their defence has been a big part of their success. Hired in the off-season to lead a more aggressive defence, Noel Thorpe’s unit ranks third in the league in takeaways (41) and third in turnover differential (+9).

Stopping Bo Levi Mitchell, who throws the ball down field more than any other quarterback in the CFL, will be a challenge. The Stamps’ offence leads the league with 43 completions of 30-plus yards, and will no doubt test the REDBLACKS’ secondary.

“He knows how to rally his team no matter the deficit,” said defensive back Jonathan Rose. “If they’re winning, he knows how to finish. If they’re losing, he knows how to come back and finish with a win. It’s a winner’s mentality. We have to find out how to knock him, try to deny him vertically. I know he likes the deep ball, and when he checks down, be physical. We feel we can distract him a little bit.”

Thorpe’s zone blitz defence has caused Mitchell some problems in the past, though the Stamps’ quarterback is 6-0-2 in head-to-head play against Trevor Harris in their careers.

The REDBLACKS head into the Grey Cup relatively unscathed, injury-wise. Rose will start at corner as he appeals the one-game suspension handed to him earlier in the week after an on-field incident in the Eastern Final. Defensive back Sherrod Baltimore will also start despite missing practice time on Friday.

By the Numbers: 

5 – Grey Cup starts for Stamps defensive back Brandon Smith. He’ll make his sixth on Sunday, tying him for sixth in Grey Cup starts since 1994.

7 – Straight games with a sack (and nine of the last 10) for Calgary defensive tackle Micah Johnson. He had a three-sack game vs. Ottawa earlier this season, finishing with 14 on the year.

14 – Grey Cups, of the last 18, were decided in the last three minutes, including nine of the last 11.

18 – Catches in two Grey Cups for DaVaris Daniels. Daniels is back on the roster for Sunday’s game but it’s unknown whether he’ll play.

61.2 – Offensive plays per game for the REDBLACKS in 2018, by far the most in the CFL.

78.6 – Per cent completion rate for Travor Harris in his last seven starts. He has 17 touchdowns and two interceptions over that span.

366 – Passing yards per game for Bo Levi Mitchell in three Grey Cup starts.

AFI, Yare Media and the CFL

American Football International is collaborating with Yare Media and the Canadian Football League to present 2018 CFL games live. This is more than a livestream. This is a stream of the top flight TSN network television broadcast.

LIVE STREAM PPV:  Grey Cup – Calgary Stampeders v. Ottawa REDBLACKS, Sunday, November 25, 4p (6p EST, 12 midnight CEST)

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