There's a palpable sense of desperation hanging around the 2-6 Winnipeg Blue Bombers these days. Yes, the team played one of their best games of the year last week against B.C., but their subsequent firing of head coach Paul LaPolice has led to plenty of criticism from around the league, including from B.C. general manager Wally Buono. General manager Joe Mack is under a lot of pressure, as are new head coach Tim Burke and offensive coordinator Gary Crowton, and sometimes that pressure to win immediately can lead to surprising results. However, things get more interesting when there's a fierce rivalry involved and your opponent is perhaps just as desperate.
That's the case with the Saskatchewan Roughriders, who will be hosting Winnipeg Sunday at 4 p.m. Eastern (TSN/ESPN3). After a strong 3-0 start to the year, the Riders have lost five games in a row and now sit in the West Division basement. Perhaps most concerningly, they've scored 10 and five points in their last two games respectively, and only scored 20 in the game before that. On the year, their offence isn't terrible, featuring in the middle of the pack in most categories (fourth in first downs, fifth in total offence, second in rushing yards per game, fifth in passing yards per game). However, over the last three games, it's been absolutely dismal. That's led to plenty of concern in Riderville, and it should particularly motivate quarterback Darian Durant and offensive coordinator Bob Dyce to perform Sunday. If they don't, the calls for their heads will only intensify.
What about Winnipeg? Well, they face the opposite situation. On the year, they've been absolutely terrible on both offence and defence, allowing the second-most points in the league (30.5 per game) while scoring the fewest (22.0 points per game). A key problem has been the offensive line, which has conceded a league-high 22 sacks and has been unable to establish the run; the Bombers are averaging just 90.0 yards per game on the ground, third-worst in the league. However, both the offensive line and the offence in general have been better over the last few weeks; Justin Sorensen is starting to fit in at centre, while the rest of the line's coming together around him, and quarterback Joey Elliott has put up some excellent numbers under centre. The Bombers have scored 26, 32, and 17 points over the last three games (and that 17 came against B.C.'s dominant defence, breaking their streak of less-than-10-point games), and Elliott's thrown for 406 and 256 yards in his last two starts. Still, despite the Bombers' improvement, there's still plenty of turmoil around this team, and the LaPolice firing shows jobs are definitely on the line. It will be interesting to see if they or the Riders perform better under pressure Sunday.