Sometimes you wake up in the morning and you just have to feel sorry for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Really. I’m serious. I’ve dealt with the players and they’re all decent people. They deserve better.
But at some point everything in the franchise just broke down and it will be interesting to see how the Board of Directors, another group of very good people, fixes all the problems.
The Bombers have not won a Grey Cup championship since 1990 and there is no reason to believe that they will win this year. It’s been a long time for one franchise in an eight-team league to go without winning a championship, but the Bombers have managed to go to five Grey Cup games since 1990 and win none of them. It’s almost hard to imagine.
So far this year, the Bombers are 2-9 and they pretty much have to run the table to make the playoffs. In fact, if the Bombers go 7-0 down the stretch (don’t laugh), Saskatchewan and/or Edmonton would have to go 5-2 to win the crossover position and that wouldn’t be an easy task for either of those teams (in other words, neither of them are very good).
GM Joe Mack should never have fired Paul LaPolice as head coach, but he did and so that’s done. Now, it’s time to move forward.
This week, new head coach Tim Burke, a guy who has gone 0-3 and been outscored 121-27 in his first three games at the helm, says there is a possibility that the Bombers could bring in a load of new players next week. But that’s next week. This week, it’s the status quo with the addition of Buck Pierce will at quarterback when the Bombers meet the 4-7 Hamilton Tiger-Cats at Canad Inns Stadium on Friday night.
The Winnipeg-Hamilton match-up will be the first game of Week 13 in the CFL. It kicks-off Friday night at 7 on TSN. Hamilton is favored by four points. On Saturday, 8-3 B.C. is at 5-6 Edmonton at 9 p.m. British Columbia is favored by 4 ½ points. On Sunday it’s a doubleheader: 6-5 Toronto is at 7-4 Montreal at Noon. Montreal is favored by 5 points. And then 7-4 Calgary is at 5-6 Saskatchewan at 3 p.m. Calgary is favored by two points. All games are on TSN.
If the Bombers can win this one, and keep Buck vertical, there is no telling what might happen. Really. I’m serious. And yes, I am a Pollyanna, but the CFL is a strange animal and a couple of wins could the Bombers right back in the middle of the playoff hunt.
Hamilton 4-7 at Winnipeg 2-9, Friday 7:00 p.m., Sept. 21: On the bright side, the Bombers are 2-3 at home and 0-6 on the road so because they’re at Canad Inns Stadium this week, there is definitely a chance they can beat a team they already beat once at home this season. Amazingly, the Bombers beat Hamilton 32-25 in Week 8 and with a win on Friday, the Bombers will wrap up the season series. That means finishing ahead of Hamilton is no longer out of the question. And once the Bombers track down Hamilton, they can start thinking about chasing down the crossover team (again, don’t laugh), a team that now leads the Bombers by six points. This week, Buck Pierce returns to quarterback for the first time since Week 3 and it will be imperative that the Bombers offensive line keeps him vertical. The Bombers lost 44-3 last week, but that game was on the road. Although the Ticats lost in August at Canad Inns Stadium — because their quarterback Henry Burris fumbled three times (once going into the end zone) — they have since played much better football and are coming off a 51-8 win at home against the Edmonton Eskimos. In that game Burris threw for 418 yards and three touchdowns. This won’t be easy for Winnipeg. The Ticats are favored by four points. I like Hamilton to win but not to cover.
B.C. 8-3 at Edmonton 5-6, Saturday 9:00 p.m., Sept. 22: As the B.C. Lions record suggests, the defending Grey Cup champions are the best team in Canadian football. However, the last time these two teams met, back in Week 4, Joe Burnett picked off a Travis Lulay pass and returned it 106 yards for the eventual winning touchdown in a 27-14 Edmonton romp at B.C. Place Stadium. Since then, the Lions have built the best defense in the CFL while the Eskimos have lost three-straight. While two of those losses were very close, last minute losses to archrival Calgary, last week’s loss was a 51-8 shellacking at the hands of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. On the up side, the Eskimos get to play at home this week and we’ll find out if their offense can do enough to overcome the best defense in the Canadian game. Meanwhile, Lulay will try to continue a streak of 22 straight games with a touchdown pass. Last week, he threw for 390 yards and two touchdowns in a 28-23 win over Toronto in Vancouver. B.C. is favored by 4 ½ points and they will win and cover.
Toronto 6-5 at Montreal 7-4, Sunday 12 Noon, Sept. 23: Percival Molson Stadium is never a great spot for the Argos to claim a victory. However, the Alouettes are 5-1 at home and their one defeat came at the hands of these same Argos, 23-20, back in Week 5. This is a battle for first in the East so all hands will be on deck. For Montreal, it’s all about the quarterback. Anthony Calvillo leads the CFL in passing yards with 3,396. He also has 22 touchdown passes against only seven interceptions and right now, is in a battle with B.C.’s Travis Lulay for CFL MVP. The Argos were cruising along until they went into B.C. last weekend and lost 28-23 to the Lions. The Als, meanwhile, are coming off a 28-17 home win over Saskatchewan. Like Calvillo, Ray is having a good season. He completes 68.3 per cent of his passes, but is fourth in the league in TD passes with only 12. He is, without fear of argument, the finest QB in the CFL between the 30s. Montreal is favored by five points and unless Ray can find the end zone a few times, the Als will win and cover.
Calgary 7-4 at Saskatchewan 5-6, Sunday 3:00 p.m., Sept. 23: Both teams need a win this Sunday afternoon. The Riders are battling to stay out of the Western Division cellar and, at least, continue to lead the crossover race while the Stamps are now in a fight for first place in the West and that opening-round playoff bye. The Stamps are also four points up on Edmonton and Saskatchewan and they desperately want to stay there. For Calgary, it’s all about the league’s inconsistent quarterback, Kevin Glenn. If Glenn can use Jon Cornish and Nik Lewis to get the job done as he did last week in a 44-3 home win over Winnipeg. For Saskatchewan, it’s a matter of Darian Durant playing as well as he can. As Durant goes, so go the Riders. Trouble is, Saskatchewan will have more trouble on defense than on offense. Calgary leads the West with an average of 28.4 points per game. The Riders have to find a way to shut down the high-powered Calgary offense and it’s obvious that you do that by pressuring Glenn who has always had a penchant for turning over the ball. This is a big game as the Stamps try to extend their winning streak to five games. Calgary is favored by two points and the Stamps should win and cover.