The Winnipeg Blue Bombers look to take their first step toward another Grey Cup appearance when they host the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in Friday's season opener for both teams.
The Blue Bombers defeated the Tiger-Cats on the CFL's grandest stage in 2019 and 2021 before falling to the Toronto Argonauts in the Grey Cup last November.
Winnipeg posted a 15-3 overall record and an 8-1 mark at home in 2022 due in large part to Zach Collaros, who captured the CFL's Most Outstanding Player award for the second straight year. He led the league in touchdown passes (37) and was second in passing yards (career-best 4,183).
Collaros has terrific chemistry with Dalton Schoen, while prize free agent Kenny Lawler also will aid in the aerial offense -- although he will serve a suspension and is unavailable to play for the next three to four weeks.
"It's always great when you enjoy coming to work, so it's always nice seeing familiar faces," Collaros said recently.
"I've said it for a long time, I really think continuity matters in this league and we certainly have that. That's not something you can just rest your laurels on, so to speak, but it is nice having guys back."
While Winnipeg has set the bar high, Hamilton is hopeful as well following a season in which it finished with an 8-10 record and an Eastern Division semifinal loss to the Montreal Alouettes.
So, what's causing the excitement for the Tiger-Cats? Well, it likely stems from the arrival of former Calgary Stampeders quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell.
A two-time Grey Cup champion and Grey Cup MVP, Mitchell has dealt with injuries recently and was relegated to backup duties last season. Mitchell, 33, feels he has more in the tank, however.
Hamilton added former Winnipeg defensive tackle Casey Sayles to last season's top-ranked rush defense. He had six sacks and two forced fumbles last season.
Tiger-Cats coach Orlondo Steinauer told reporters that he isn't so much worried about the Blue Bombers as he is his own team.
"Have they historically started fast and done well, yes," Steinauer said of Winnipeg. "It wouldn't matter who our opponent was. We're going to find out a lot about ourselves in this game."
--Field Level Media