Amazingly, considering how many devastating lows this Winnipeg season has had, the Blue Bombers aren't quite out of the playoffs yet. Even at 4-10, there's still hope. Those hopes are hanging by a thin thread, though, and their Damoclean impending doom's going to become a lot more imminent if they can't pull out a victory Saturday against the Calgary Stampeders (1 p.m. Eastern, TSN/ESPN3). Of course, this game matters for 8-6 Calgary too, and it could prove to be pivotal in the Stampeders' battle for playoff seeding, so this is anything but an assured win for Winnipeg. Whether they can pull out a win here may play a key role in determining if they make the playoffs, though.
Oddly enough, the Bombers' quarterback prospects for once perhaps seem better thanks to an injury. Buck Pierce still isn't ready to return from his concussion, but the Bombers said they would be starting him if he was healthy. That's a little curious, considering that Joey Elliott turned in a dominant performance last week against Montreal and was chosen both as our offensive star of the week and as the league's Gibson's Finest Offensive Player of the Week. Sure, over the larger sample size of their careers, Pierce has been the more effective quarterback, and occasional brilliance from Elliott has sometimes been followed with disastrous showings. The 26-year-old Elliott is still adjusting to the CFL game, though, and Monday's game showed a lot of progress. Pulling him after that before he threw a pass would have been a curious move, especially considering Pierce's durability issues. That doesn't mean Elliott's necessarily going to succeed Saturday, but it's not hard to make a case that he deserves a shot.
On balance, Calgary should be favoured here. Heading into this week, the Stampeders were second in the league in points per game (28.4) and net offensive yards per contest (383.7), and they were third in offensive yards allowed per game (340.3) and points allowed per game (23.5). They also beat Winnipeg 44-3 last month. Meanwhile, the Bombers were at the bottom in many key statistical categories, including points scored (a league-low 19.6), net yards of offence per game (324.5) and yards allowed per opposing pass (9.7). Still, the Bombers will have the crowd on their side, and they're a respectable 3-4 at home (compared to their 1-6 road record). The Stampeders are also just 3-4 on the road this year, and this will be their final game at Canad Inns Stadium, which carries plenty of memories (some of which aren't so positive). Don't write Winnipeg off here, as there are plenty of factors that could help them out. Saturday's game is not going to be an easy one for the Bombers to win, but they'll certainly be desperate for victory if they want to keep the playoff hopes alive a little longer, and desperation has a habit of producing interesting results.
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