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No time for despair, Bomber fans

Fourth in West and crossover still in the cards

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With four games remaining against teams the Bombers have already beat — such as the B.C. Lions  and Hamilton Tiger-Cats (above) — a crossover to the East is a very real option to back-door their way into the Grey Cup.

NATHAN DENETTE / THE CANADIAN PRESS Enlarge Image

With four games remaining against teams the Bombers have already beat — such as the B.C. Lions and Hamilton Tiger-Cats (above) — a crossover to the East is a very real option to back-door their way into the Grey Cup.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers are a .500 football team. Maybe a little better and maybe a little worse. The question is, can Mike O'Shea push this group far enough to make them a post-season qualifier or will they finish just outside of the picture?

Much like when the Blue Bombers broke out to a 5-1 record it was premature to consider them an elite team, now is too early to give up on the same group.

The Bombers have lost three of four and slipped to 6-4 on the season and now face the daunting task of hosting the Saskatchewan Roughriders this Sunday. The same Riders who have beaten the Bombers twice in the last three weeks.

So waking up in Winnipeg on Monday and staring at a football team with a 6-5 record is entirely possible but not worth getting in a sweat over.

This season's Bombers were never going to be a lock for the post-season. It was always going to be a 50-50 proposition. Maybe at 5-1 some of us got a little ahead of ourselves. Now that the team is dropping back to earth, maybe some of us are getting a little itchy. Relax.

The collar is going to get tighter and tighter and this team's fate won't be decided until the bitter end. Save the froth for November. Those gales will tell the story of your Bombers.

They're not that good. They're not that bad. But they're in the hunt and if they can beat the trend once or twice, these Bombers might just turn into a story long remembered. Grey Cup champs? Nope. But they might sneak into the big game through the back door and for the people still picking at the scabs of the last few seasons that would be a welcome salve.

If the Bombers can somehow finish fourth in the West and earn a crossover playoff berth it would be no longshot to see them reach the Grey Cup as the East Division's representative.

Fourth in the West would send the Bombers on the road for an East Division semifinal, to be pitted against the likes of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Toronto Argonauts or Montreal Alouettes, and then on to the East Division Final against the best of the aforementioned group.

Winning on the road twice in the post-season is difficult but if there isn't a major turnaround for one of the teams in the East, fourth in the West might just be the ticket to the easiest route to the Grey Cup.

There's a battle brewing between the Bombers and the B.C. Lions for this route and the clubs meet each other twice more this season. Note the Lions are the one team in the West and with a better than .500 record the Bombers have been able to beat this season.

The devil is in the details, they say, and delving a little deeper into the Bombers' record spells out what we can expect from them the rest of the way.

Five of Winnipeg's six wins have come against teams with a sub-.500 mark. All four of their losses have come against teams with a better than .500 record. The Bombers beat the league's worst teams and lose to its best. Where does that leave them? Right in the middle.

Now, being on top is always best. But this year, the middle might not be such a drastic situation.

Sunday, with some injuries and a superior Riders team coming into town, is setting up as a loss. But not a defining loss. The Bombers have lots of track ahead of them and opportunities on the schedule to make more of this season than anyone should realistically expect.

There are more losses to come. So what?

Keep beating the dregs in the East and tame the Lions. That's the only formula the Bombers and their fans need worry about.

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @garylawless

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 5, 2014 C3

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About Gary Lawless

Gary Lawless is the Free Press sports columnist and co-host of the Hustler and Lawless show on TSN 1290 Winnipeg and www.winnipegfreepress.com
Lawless began covering sports as a rookie reporter at The Chronicle-Journal in Thunder Bay after graduating from journalism school at Durham College in Ontario.
After a Grey Cup winning stint with the Toronto Argonauts in the communications department, Lawless returned to Thunder Bay as sports editor.
In 1999 he joined the Free Press and after working on the night sports desk moved back into the field where he covered pro hockey, baseball and football beats prior to being named columnist.

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