Game Day: Blue Bombers at Lions

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Winnipeg Blue Bombers (6-1, 1st West) vs. BC Lions (4-3, 3rd West)

Friday, 9 p.m. CT;

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TV: TSN1 / 3/4/5, Radio: 680 CJOB;

Line: Blue bombers by 1.5;

Weather forecast: 13C, cloudy sky.

STATISTICS PACK

Bomber lions

24.7 (3rd) Points for 25.7 (2nd)

14.0 (1st) Authorized points 19.6 (3rd)

254.4 (6th) The passing meters 293.4 (1st)

96.0 (4th) The sites are rushing 66.6 (9th)

336.0 (7th) Infringement of net yards 343.3 (5th)

338.9 (4th) Net yards allowed 358.4 (7th)

FIVE THINGS TO LOOK FOR

BIG GAME OR BIG PROBLEM?

“Go big or go home” seems to be the Lions mantra. Throw the ball ? Forget that noise; not when you have the CFL pass guard under center. But the Lions’ penchant for big chunks or footage has one flaw: staying on the pitch. Their second average down is 8.3 yards to go; their conversion rate is 42 percent (7th); their TOP is 28:40 (8th). But for all that, British Columbia is averaging 23.7 offensive points, the second-highest in the CFL.

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DO NOT PRESS THINGS

If Winnipeg has a weakness, it’s the run defense. The Bombers ‘lone loss saw the Argos’ DJ Foster hitting them for 101 yards and a touchdown in 10 carries. Winnipeg is averaging 106.5 rushing yards, the second-worst in the league, while its 5.7 YPC is the highest. But the Blues will be bolstered by the return of racing executioner Steven Richardson to the defensive line, helping to improve those numbers.

RETURN MACHINES

They don’t give, but they take back. BC and Winnipeg forced more turnovers than any other team (20 and 22, respectively), while spitting the fewest (BC: 8, Wpg: 7). The Bombers have had fewer turnovers than any of their opponents this year, tying a club record. The secondary peddler from British Columbia leads the interception standings (11) just ahead of Winnipeg (10), while the Big Impact Bombers have the most forced fumbles (8).

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FAMILY FACES

The CFL is a small company, but there are faces known on both sides. Running back Andrew Harris was a star with British Columbia before moving to Winnipeg and continuing to shine. British Columbia’s Lucky Whitehead faces off against his former team, one that he says hasn’t done much to try and keep his services in 2020, a sentiment Bombers linebacker Adam Bighill shared when Columbia Briton deemed him too expensive to sign again in 2016.

FOURTH TRIMESTER

It’s not how you start, it’s how you end – and the Bombers finished their opponents in the fourth quarter. Winnipeg outscored their opponents 58-6 in the last Q. Their six points allowed is now by far the lowest average on record. Their 0.86 points against the 1969 Calgary Stampeders averaged 1.75 points.

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THE KEY MATCHUP

QB Zach Collaros vs. QB Michael Reilly

Collaros is on track for a career year, even with the season shortened by the pandemic. He has 1,731 yards and 10 touchdowns. But that’s not enough to lead the league. It comes down to Reilly, whose efficiency has been off the charts: 1,860 yards, 10 touchdowns and one interception. Reilly’s 117.8 QB efficiency, 9.4 passing yards and 74.2 completion percentage lead the league. The Lions hub currently has the fourth highest score of all time and the third highest completion percentage in history. Collaros has his work cut out for him if he hopes to be the Bombers’ first quarterback to win the title since Kevin Glenn (2007). Drew Willy was the closest when he finished third in 2014.

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REMARKABLE

Winnipeg’s Ali Mourtada missed all three field goal attempts (28, 44, 51) in his CFL debut last week. The Bombers have only managed one of their last seven attempts, and only 8 of 16 overall in 2021. The last team to average only 50 percent of their kicks was Toronto – in 1985 (17 out of 34). It is also the lowest percentage in Winnipeg in 1977 (43%). … The Lions set an unhappy history last week against the Roughriders. After quarterback Cody Fajardo gave Saskatchewan the lead with two seconds left, Whitehead missed the ball on the kickoff return and Damon Webb returned it for 44 yards for a touchdown. Only two seconds have elapsed on the clock, making it the two fastest touchdowns in CFL history. … Bryan Burnham of British Columbia had four catches last week to extend his streak in a row with at least one in 89 games. He has a catch in every one of his career regular season games. … After allowing three straight touchdowns in their opener against Saskatchewan, the Lions allowed just four touchdowns in the 94 discs that followed. But two of them were also in the hands of the Riders.

PREDICTION: Bombers 28, BC 24

These two teams are remarkably similar in terms of stats and defensive styles. Both teams bow their opponents’ heads to nibble on yards, then catch them with an uppercut in the form of a turnover. But the Bombers have shown they can make the plays when they need to. The Lions weren’t able to, especially defending practices in the final three minutes.

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