For the first time since 1986 the “Battle of the QEW” is what will decide who wears the CFL's Eastern crown.
The Toronto Argonauts (11-7) look for an opportunity to repeat as CFL champions when they host the surging Hamilton Tiger-Cats (10-8) on Sunday. (TSN, Noon et/9am pt).
Over the season Rogers Centre hasn't been quite the advantage for the Boatmen, as they only boast a 4-5 record at home.
The Ticats have had the Argos' number, winning two of the three matchups between the clubs, which included a home-and-home sweep late in the season (33-19 in Toronto and 24-18 at Alumni Stadium in Guelph).
The Argos play their first game of their postseason without their leading rusher Chad Kackert, who won last year's Grey Cup MVP. Kackert, who only played eight games as he battled numerous injuries this season, will miss the game with a fractured ankle suffered in practice. His absence leaves the spotlight on quarterback Ricky Ray.
Ray, who has yet to lose a playoff game as an Argo, is the 2013 Eastern Division nominee for Most Outstanding Player. He made the most of his limited appearances, putting up 2,878 yards, 21 touchdowns with only two interceptions and setting the CFL completion percentage record, by completing 77.2 per cent of his pass attempts in only 10 games played, having missed eight due to injury.
Aside from the absence of Kackert, the Argos have a bevy of toys for Ray to utilize, including a pair of sub-six footers at the slot (say that five times quickly if you can) Andre Durie and Chad Owens, last season's CFL Most Outstanding Player. Ray also has the dazzling Dontrelle Inman and John Chiles making plays on the outside at receiver.
The Argos' defence has often been their strength but at other times their Achilles' heel; they will certainly have their work cut out for them.
The rotating quarterback carousel between Henry Burris and Dan LeFevour with a pinch of Jeremiah Masoli has worked for the Ticats as of late. Burris especially has been on the money against the Argos. In his three duels he threw for a combined 985 of his CFL-leading 4,925 yards, along with six TDs and only two picks.
The Ticats look to exploit an Argos defence that is susceptible to damage on the ground. Running back C.J. Gable has rumbled through with a total of 325 all-purpose yards in three contests against the Argos. LeFevour looked to be a secret weapon unleashed against the Montreal Alouettes in the Eastern Semi-Final gaining 61 yards including the go-ahead score with a two-yard plunge into the end zone.
Samuel Giguere, Andy Fantuz and Bakari Grant have been a physical and efficient group of receivers, all having snatched at least five catches against the Als' defence in the Eastern Semi-Final.
So who is going to win the Eastern Final and gain not only a chance at the Grey Cup, but bragging rights in what could be another classic in the history of these two teams?
As always, it's Your! Call.