Lots on the line for desperate Bombers Friday

55 Yard Line

Winnipeg's a team in crisis following last week's blown Banjo Bowl, where the Bombers' blunders gave Saskatchewan an improbable 25-24 win, but they still have chances to turn this season at least partially around. A key one comes Friday night, where they're in Calgary to take on the Stampeders (9 p.m. Eastern). Victory in this game would be crucial to maintaining the Bombers' extremely-slim playoff hopes, but there's more at stake than just keeping that likely-illusory goal alive for the moment. Even if this team can't quite pull off the miraculous string of events that would be required for them to make the postseason, they still have plenty to play for. Beginning a turnaround with a game in Calgary's a tough task, as Winnipeg hasn't won there since 2002, but this team's going to have to start showing something sooner rather than later if they want to have any hope for the future.

A 2-8 record is certainly concerning enough on its own, but what's perhaps even more troubling is just how disastrous the team has been en route to that mark. Through 10 games, the Bombers have scored just 200 points (20 per game, by far the lowest in the CFL; next-worst is Edmonton, with a per-game mark of 23.8 that's impressive by comparison) while conceding 321 (32.1 per game, second-worst behind Hamilton). That adds up to being outscored by more than 12 points per game, almost two full touchdowns.  They've scored the least touchdowns (15), put up the least yards of net offence (3203, 320.3 yards per game), gained the least yards per pass (7.1) and allowed the second-most net yards (3989, 398.9 per game). This team's generally been a complete train wreck, and even in games where they've played reasonably well, such as last week's Banjo Bowl, they've still found ways to lose. There's very little to be happy about for Bombers' fans, and that's why the team needs to start making something happen on the field.

An unexpected recovery and a trip to the playoffs would certainly be tremendous for Winnipeg, and it's still theoretically possible (essentially, they'd need to play very well and have Hamilton, Edmonton and Saskatchewan all collapse), but that seems like a highly unrealistic goal for a team that's been this bad. However, that doesn't mean they should check out of this season and start waiting for next year; far from it. The Bombers' performance in their remaining games is going to dramatically affect a number of issues, from if general manager Joe Mack is retained to who's their starting quarterback and starting running back come next season to which veterans are kept around and which ones are sent on their way.

There's past precedent for late-season turnarounds affecting the following seasons, too; after a disastrous start to 2010, Edmonton didn't instantly make the playoffs after hiring general manager Eric Tillman midseason, but the Eskimos finished strong, came within a win of a playoff berth and set the stage for their impressive 11-7 2011 campaign. Closer to home for Bombers' fans, Winnipeg's 4-14 2010 campaign may have been a disaster in the standings, but their performance statistically was a lot better than it looked, and that paved the way for their remarkable 2011 run to the Grey Cup. Wins would be great, but the most important thing this team requires is solid play that will allow them to evaluate their players and staff and build towards next season. We'll see if they can deliver any of that Friday night in Calgary.

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