Five things to consider when the Bombers and Lions clash for the second time in eight games:
1. Front and centre
THE numbers present mismatches all over the field and no discrepancy appears larger than in the trench, where the Bombers offensive line wants to avoid a repeat performance of the Week 1 debacle at BC Place.
Who could forget Winnipeg quarterbacks running for their lives as the Lions pass rush strong-armed its way into the backfield in B.C.'s 33-16 win? Four sacks against was the damage, but it felt like a lot more.
No one disputes the Bombers pass protection has come a long way since the Vancouver jailbreak, but the stats are worrisome: Winnipeg has given up a league-high 21 sacks; the Lions lead the CFL in sacks (19).
Not a good bingo for the Blue. That said, left tackle Glenn January feels the Bombers O-line has come a long way.
"More and more, the game plan is resting on our shoulders; we're doing a lot of straight drop-back (protection), which is going to put a lot more pressure on a young offensive line," he said. "I think we've answered the call."
2. Elliott's encore
IT'S unreasonable to assume Joey Elliott can repeat last week's 33-of-43 for 406-yard passing effort. When one considers the visitors haven't allowed a TD in 13 quarters, he probably won't do that again.
B.C.'s defence is a HUGE upgrade over Hamilton's, and the chances of the Lions turning the ball over six times are slight. On top of that, the Lions will have some film on Elliott now -- something that really wasn't out there prior to last week.
Elliott's numbers will probably slide towards the middle ground tonight. The task is much tougher now, and given Winnipeg's current situation -- they're still a team on the brink of a lost season -- the Bombers can't afford a significant drop-off from him.
3. The Lions share
WHAT separates the B.C. offence from the rest of the league is its run game. Rushing for 130 yards per contest, the Leos are averaging 30 yards better than the next best team (Saskatchewan).
Running back Andrew Harris (430 yards) and quarterback Travis Lulay (252) are fifth and ninth respectively in league rushing, and have developed a chemistry. Lulay to Harris on a screen, Lulay to Harris in the flat, Lulay to Harris underneath -- you get the idea. Receivers Geroy Simon, Arland Bruce and Shawn Gore will get their touches, count on that, but the offensive motor on the Left Coast starts in the backfield.
4. Ball hawk committee
AFTER seven games last year, the Bombers pulled down 11 interceptions. This season, they only have four picks.
Injuries have played a part in the low number, true, but that excuse is well past its expiration date. With the return of Brandon Stewart, tonight marks the first time the defence will be at full strength all season. It's time to make some plays.
Bad news: B.C. has turned the ball over seven times (compare that to Winnipeg's league-worst 20); five coming through the air. More bad news: Lulay hasn't thrown a pick in three games. No one said it was going to be easy.
NOT to keep beating a dead horse with a broken record, but it's about starting the game on time.
The Bombers have scored just eight points in the first quarters of games (the league average is 35), a sleepy start that forces them to play from behind.
Tonight's kickoff is scheduled for just after 7 o'clock, everyone.
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