Winnipeg Blue Bombers: Looking to Win Down the Stretch to Clinch a Playoff Berth

Dorian McLeanContributor IIIAugust 28, 2011

All appears to be well in the city of Winnipeg and with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, who after Friday night’s win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, are seeing their best record since 1984 at 7-1.

They’re atop the entire league, two games ahead of the second-place Montreal Alouettes in the East, and will go back-to-back with the Saskatchewan Roughriders for the famous Labour Day Classic and Banjo Bowl.

Both games will be critical as the Bombers look to pad their standings before heading down the stretch, which features six of their last 10 games against Eastern opponents.

Saskatchewan is currently sitting in last place in the entire league with a 1-7 record, which cost both Head Coach Greg Marshall and Offensive Coordinator Doug Berry their jobs.

That, however, does not mean that the Bombers will simply roll into Regina next Sunday and the Roughriders will just roll over.

The last time Winnipeg defeated Saskatchewan on the road was 2004. The Bombers won the Banjo Bowl that same year. Since then, Saskatchewan has outscored Winnipeg 145-81, winning the last five contests at home and eight of the last ten regular season meetings.

Momentum has slowly shifted towards Winnipeg’s favour, however, as they were able to keep the Roughriders to just two points and never past the twenty-yard line in last year’s Banjo Bowl. The play of the team this season could see the same results.

I fully expect a split between the two meetings as both houses are tough to play in and will require a lot of determination from the visiting teams.

Moving forward, the Bombers will play a highly-anticipated game against divisional rival Montreal Alouettes. The Bombers are currently 7-1 and have beaten some very good teams, records aside.

Many people want to see how they stack up against the two-time defending Grey Cup champions who, although have struggled through some games, are still very dangerous and unpredictable.

When the offensive line gives Anthony Calvillo all day to find receivers, he can make you pay. Jamel Richardson has been nothing but money for Calvillo, and when that option has been unavailable, S.J. Green has shown time and again he is capable of making plays.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, opposing teams must defend against the run, which features running back Brandon Whitaker, who currently leads the league with 614 rushing yards.

Winnipeg currently leads the league in pass defense while Montreal is in sixth at just under 300 yards allowed a game. On the run however, Montreal leads with 72 yards allowed per game, and with the limited holes open for Fred Reid, it could prove costly on the quick yards.

Winnipeg will play Montreal three times, with the final two games at home in what should be a loud atmosphere.

Looking past Montreal, the Bombers will play one of their final two games against the Toronto Argonauts. Winnipeg currently leads the series at two games and with a win, would clinch the series much like they did against Hamilton.

Heading into Toronto should be similar to past games, as Winnipeg has won four of the past six contests on the road, including a comeback from a 17-3 deficit this season.

Quarterback Cleo Lemon has continued to improve his game and with each snap looks more like the starting quarterback Toronto has waited for him to be.

Defensively, the team is still very good, but has shown holes that the Winnipeg offense has taken advantage of in the past.

Following the Bombers' win Friday night against Hamilton that clinched the season series, the third game of the season will simply be for bragging rights if the Bombers can get a win and the season sweep. Not since 2008 has Winnipeg won all the games against Hamilton.

Finishing up the last stretch before what the team hopes will be its first playoff game since 2008, Winnipeg will play its final game against Edmonton this season (which the Bombers won the first meeting), while finishing up the series with both Montreal and Toronto.

Finally, Winnipeg will take to McMahon Stadium and play the Calgary Stampeders, who won the first matchup by one point off a missed field goal by Justin Palardy.

Sitting at 7-1 and looking down the stretch, winning five of the next 10 will leave the team at a 12-6 record, which it has not reached since 2002.