Winnipeg – When the Winnipeg Blue Bombers line up to play their final home game of the 2016 CFL regular season Saturday afternoon at Investors Group Field, head coach Mike O’Shea knows what he wants from his club. And it’s nothing fancy.
“You need to be playing good, clean tough football, not be making mistakes, play mentally tough football. The further you go the more magnified those mistakes get because the top teams generally play cleaner football and in order to beat them you have to play that kind of football also” said O’Shea. And O’Shea said he has cautioned his team, which has already clinched a playoff spot, about getting ahead of itself. “Ottawa this weekend is what we have to be thinking about. How do you manage the other part, knowing you are in the playoffs. It’s this time of year, it’s playoff football, no matter where we’re at the race to be seeded is still ongoing and it may come down to that last game of the season.”
In terms of playing clean football, the Bombers have done that as well as anybody in the CFL this year, with the possible exception of Calgary. Bombers lead the league with a plus-31 in the turnover category. They have forced the most turnovers, 54, and have committed the 2nd fewest at 23(Calgary has 22). Penalties have been an issue lately for the Bombers. They have been flagged 36 times in the last three games while their opponents have only taken 21 penalties. Still, the Bombers have an advantage over Ottawa in that Winnipeg is tied for third in the penalty department with 153 while the RedBlacks lead the CFL in penalties with 168. Also, unlike the Bombers, Ottawa has had a dismal year in the turnover department, sitting at minus 12. RedBlacks have lost a league leading 18 fumbles.
The game will make the return of receiver Darvin Adams to the Blue Bomber lineup. He was among the league leaders with 36 catches for 503 yards when he broke his collarbone in the 6th game. Also returning from a long injury absence is veteran offensive lineman Pat Neufeld. Neufeld has missed the last 11 games with a leg injury, he will replace injured Sukh Chung at right guard. And defensive back Bruce Johnson returns after sitting out a 2-game suspension for violating the CFL’s drug policy. He will alternate playing time with rookie Kevin Fogg.
RedBlacks lost defensive end Aaron Whiteside, offensive tackle Jake Silas and receiver Juron Criner to injury in their last game. Replacements will be Mike Moore, Tommie Draheim and 5’6″ Jamill Smith.
Ottawa brings a 7-8-1 record into the game. RedBlacks will finish first in the East if they sweep this season ending series with Winnipeg. A split might be enough, depending on what Hamilton does. Same situation for the Bombers. If they win the back to back with Ottawa, they will finish second. But, a Winnipeg win Saturday afternoon combined with a B.C. loss in Saskatchewan SAturday night would also wrap up second place for the Bombers.
It’s on 680-CJOB starting with a 2-hour pre-game show at 1.