It's only early September, but the Winnipeg Blue Bombers are in dire need of a victory.
The Bombers host the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Sunday to cap their home-and-home Labour Day series. The Riders rallied for a 35-30 win on Monday.
That victory was a crucial one for the Riders (7-2), who moved into a second-place tie with the Edmonton Eskimos (7-2) in the ultracompetitive West Division, two points ahead of Winnipeg (6-4). It also gave Saskatchewan the season series with the Bombers, an important advantage as the defending Grey Cup champions will earn the higher position if the two teams end the season tied.
The Bombers desperately need to win the rematch to not only stay within striking distance of Saskatchewan, Edmonton and the front-running Calgary Stampeders (league-best 8-1) but also remain ahead of fifth-place B.C. (5-4). Keeping the Lions at bay is crucial given it's looking more and more like the fourth-place finisher in the West will post a better record than the third-place East squad and thus make the crossover come playoff time.
On Monday, Saskatchewan rushed for 160 yards against the Bombers. Anthony Allen ran for two touchdowns, while Jerome Messam had a team-high 64 yards on just six carries as the Riders earned their 10th straight Labour Day win over the Bombers.
Slotback Weston Dressler made his 2014 regular-season debut with Saskatchewan after being released by the NFL's Kansas City Chiefs. Dressler had three catches for 28 yards.
Winnipeg will also have to do a better job of pass protection as the Roughriders defence recorded four sacks. Nic Grigsby (557 yards) ran for 68 yards and a TD on 15 carries while Willy also rushed for a touchdown.
Willy finished 15-of-23 passing for 171 yards and an interception while also losing a fumble. Troy Stoudermire was again a bright spot on special teams with a 64-yard punt return TD.
Saskatchewan won the first meeting 23-17 at Investors Group Field on Aug. 7.
B.C. Lions at Ottawa RedBlacks
West Division teams are a whopping 23-3 versus their East Division rivals this season, a trend that's difficult to overlook here especially with the Lions coming off the bye. Also, Ottawa (1-8) is 0-6 against Western clubs. Quarterback Travis Lulay will make his first start of the season and lead a solid Lions offence against a RedBlacks defence allowing a league-high 27.9 points a game. The home side counters with an offence that's averaging a league-low 15.1 points a game.
Calgary Stampeders at Edmonton Eskimos
The Battle of Alberta switches to Commonwealth Stadium with Calgary looking for the sweep following Monday's 28-13 home victory. Running back Jon Cornish, the CFL's outstanding player last year, rushed for 163 yards and a TD on 17 carries. Calgary ran for 205 total yards in its 10th-straight win over Edmonton, while quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell completed 18 of 29 passes for 252 yards and a TD. Adarius Bowman had eight catches for 123 yards – both game-highs – but accounted for most of Edmonton's offence as Matt Nichols finished 18-of-30 passing for 203 yards. Incumbent Mike Reilly (thumb) missed the game and it's unclear if he'll play in the rematch. Both of Edmonton's losses this year have been to Calgary, which has captured the season series. The Eskimos must win to keep a potential first-place finish within their grasp while the Stampeders can further establish themselves as the league's top team by completing the sweep.
Hamilton Tiger-Cats at Montreal Alouettes
A key East Division clash as Hamilton (2-6) and Montreal (2-7) are tied for second, two points behind first-place Toronto (3-7), which is idle. Both teams are coming off wins as the Alouettes dispatched Ottawa 20-10 and the Ticats downed the Argos 13-12 on Monday in the first-ever game at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton. Jonathan Crompton won his debut as Montreal's starter, completing 15 of 25 passes for 245 yards with an interception. But he got plenty of help from receiver Duron Carter (five catches, 127 yards), running back Brandon Whitaker (100 yards rushing) and a stout defence as Montreal snapped a six-game losing streak. Defence was indeed the name of the game for Hamilton, which led Toronto to just 146 net offensive yards. The good news for the Ticats is quarterback Zach Collaros completed 27 of 38 passes for 317 yards and a TD in his first game since suffering a concussion July 4 versus Edmonton. A healthy Collaros gives Hamilton the edge.
Last week: 3-1
Record so far: 24-13