Life is back to normal for Drew Willy and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
The Bombers had to play two games within a five-day span last week, with predictable results. Winnipeg dropped a 23-17 home decision to the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Aug. 7, then suffered a 38-21 setback in Toronto on Aug. 12.
The two losses dropped Winnipeg (5-3) into a tie for last place with B.C. (5-3) in the West Division. Edmonton and Calgary are first with identical 6-1 records, followed by Saskatchewan (5-2).
Not only should the Bombers be well rested, but they host the Montreal Alouettes (1-6) on Friday night. West teams have dominated their Eastern brethren, amassing an amazing 20-3 head-to-head record.
Now, it was close last week. Toronto beat Winnipeg while Edmonton, Calgary and Saskatchewan went to the wire before emerging victorious over their Eastern rivals.
The Argos, playing their second game in five nights, briefly led B.C. in the second half before dropping a 33-17 decision.
Willy, who has twice rallied Winnipeg to stirring, last-minute wins this season, didn’t enjoy such magic last week. He threw for 303 yards and a TD versus Saskatchewan but also had three interceptions.
Then against Toronto, Willy had two TD passes and completed 22-of-31 attempts – but for only 183 yards. The two losses fully exposed the Winnipeg defence’s Achilles heel.
But points have been a problem for a Montreal offence averaging a league-low 15.8 a game. The Alouettes, losers of five straight, are also last in passing yards (179 a game).
Until Montreal gets more production from its quarterbacks, the offensive struggles will continue.
Toronto Argonauts at Edmonton Eskimos
Slowly but surely, Toronto’s walking wounded are returning. Veteran receiver Jason Barnes was back in the lineup for Sunday night’s 33-17 home loss to B.C. after recovering from a knee injury and slotback Chad Owens (foot) could be back soon.
That would indeed be good news for Toronto (3-5) which, despite being without many of its top offensive stars, has still managed to fashion a four-point lead atop the East Division standings.
Offensively, quarterback Mike Reilly can beat a defence with his arm or legs and has the CFL’s leading receiver in Adarius Bowman, who is filling the void left by injured star Fred Stamps.
Toronto quarterback Ricky Ray makes another return to Edmonton, this time as the CFL’s passing leader (2,165 yards) but threw two interceptions against B.C, one which was returned for a TD. Not only do the Eskimos boast a defence allowing just 16.4 points a game, but their offence also leads the league in time of possession – almost 32 minutes a game.
Calgary Stampeders at Ottawa RedBlacks
Just what Ottawa (1-6) needs to hear. Running back Jon Cornish, the CFL’s outstanding player and leading rusher last year, plans to return to Calgary’s lineup after being out since the first game of the season with concussion symptoms.
While that’s good news for the Stampeders (6-1), it’s unfortunate for veteran Hugh Charles. He ran for 102 yards in a 30-20 road win over Hamilton on Saturday in his Calgary debut.
Ottawa is allowing 121 yards rushing and 28.4 points a game – both league highs – but dropped a heart-breaking 10-8 loss to Edmonton on a late field goal.
Saskatchewan Roughriders at B.C. Lions
The game of the week featuring two top defences.
John Chick anchors a Riders unit leading the league in sacks (29) and third in points allowed (19.3).
While Chick – deservedly – has garnered much of the attention with the Riders (5-2), Jerome Messam was dominant against Montreal with 126 second-half yards. The burly running back has 194 yards rushing on 32 carries, a solid 6.1-yard average.
The Riders are a run-first offence but they’re ranked second-last through the air (206.1 yards a game). It could get interesting if Saskatchewan falls behind and must throw against B.C.