TORONTO — –
Don’t let anyone fool you with talk that all games have equal meaning and there should be no extra importance placed on a late-season matchup between the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Toronto Argonauts.
“It’s a big game,” Argos quarterback Ricky Ray said. “You try not to think about that. You try to just go out and play hard but we all know what’s at stake, especially for us and what we’re trying to do in this division.”
The 7-9 Argos can claim first place in the East Division with wins over the Bombers Saturday at home and in B.C. on Nov. 4.
The 11-4 Bombers have plenty at stake as well. They can clinch second place in the West Division with a win and have a chance to host a playoff game for the first time since 2011.
You’ll often hear people around the Bombers say they don’t think about the standings and “Everybody is 0-0 when the games start.”
But clinching a home playoff game is crucial, especially with the way injuries are mounting for the Bombers. They could conceivably rest some key players, who are already banged up, in the final two weeks of the season.
This is the week they begin life without star dime back Moe Leggett and deep threat receiver Darvin Adams. Both were injured — Leggett is definitely out of the season and Adams might be — in last week’s win over the B.C. Lions, joining impact players Jamaal Westerman and Timothy Flanders on the sidelines.
While everyone in the CFL believes in the next-man-up philosophy, the Argos know the Bombers are not as good without Leggett and Adams.
“Losing a guy like Leggett is tough because he’s hard to replace,” Argos star receiver S.J. Green said. “He’s like the general on that defence. I’m sure they’ll have a plan for that but if we can exploit something, I’m sure we will.”
Defensive back Kevin Fogg will replace Leggett at dime back (strong-side linebacker), and will also handle kickoff and punt returns with Ryan Lankford taking a seat.
Ray isn’t expecting much of a drop-off.
“Leggett is one of their better players on defence and makes a lot of plays, interceptions and that sort of stuff,” Ray said. “But they play well as a unit. They’re boundary guys get a lot of interceptions and up front they give you a lot of different looks, a lot of zone blitzes, bringing guys and trying to put pressure on you and still not giving you one on one matchups in the secondary.
“They are a tough defence to play against.”
The Bombers are getting a number of re-inforcements at receiver and should be stronger than they were last week after Adams went down. Veteran slotback Weston Dressler returns to the lineup after missing three weeks, while Chris Givens, who has 60 games of NFL experience, makes his first CFL start at slotback.
Canadian Julian Feoli-Gudino and import L’Damian Washington, who both started at slotback last week, will be the wideouts on Saturday and Washington will take on the role of deep threat. Only slotback Clarence Denmark will be in the same spot as he was last week.
“We don’t really think about their injuries and they probably don’t either,” Argos coach Marc Trestman said. “They’ve got a great quarterback in Matt Nichols and a great runner in Andrew Harris. They’re down a little bit in their perimeter but they have receivers we have a lot of respect for. Weston Dressler had a heck of a game against us last time. He had 100 yards against us, so we’re all well aware of him.”
On area where both teams expect a key battle on Saturday is along the lines. The Argos lead the CFL in sacks with 47 and defensive end Victor Butler leads the league with 9.
Nichols has taken some big hits lately — and is still wearing a modified glove on his throwing hand after tearing the nail on his ring finger two weeks ago — so the Bombers offensive line is going to need a big afternoon.
“We really respect their offensive line,” Trestman said. “They’re big, they’re strong, they maul people, they’re very effective in what they do. The games always start at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball and that will be a great matchup.”
There should be opportunities for the Bombers defensive line as well, particularly ends Jackson Jeffcoat and Tristan Okpalaugo, as the Argos have allowed the most sacks in the league this season (38).
Trestman said it’s about teams playing their best football at a critical point in the season, with the post-season just a few weeks away.
“We have a great challenge,” he said. “(Bombers coach Mike O’Shea) as done a fantastic job with the team and they’re on an ascending curve as a football team.
“They play really well in all three phases and it will be a great test for us to see where we are.”
Published at Fri, 20 Oct 2017 14:28:08 -0400