1. The Buck stops here
If this 2-9 team has any designs remaining on somehow fighting their way back into playoff contention, it's going to have to begin with QB Buck Pierce playing effectively and staying healthy.
The Bombers offence hasn't been particularly effective for years, including during last year's run to the Grey Cup game. But with Pierce on the sidelines the last eight weeks, it has been nothing short of awful. With no offensive touchdown in three games, the good news for Pierce is that almost any offence he musters against Hamilton tonight will be an improvement on what backups Joey Elliott and Alex Brink mustered in his absence.
Plus -- and this could be just as big -- Pierce actually cares how this team performs and promised at his pre-game news conference on Thursday that he will both lead by example and by what sounded like force, if it becomes necessary. "I will get in their face if I see something that is detrimental to the club or the organization. Most definitely," said Pierce.
"... Guys need to grow up and guys need to understand there are repercussions as well."
2. Crowded house
THE Bombers are 2-9 for the season, which is awful. But they're 2-3 at home, which is something you can build on.
Over 26,000 fans -- probably 27,000 and change when they're all counted up -- will be on hand at a chilly Canad Inns Stadium tonight in what can only be described as a shining monument to the never-ending patience and unwavering loyalty of this city's football fans.
That kind of crowd in this kind of season will go one of two ways tonight. If the game is close and the Bombers are competing, a fan base dying for something to cheer about in 2012 will be in their fullest roar. But if things go bad and the Bombers fail to show up -- as they have failed to do in two of their last three games -- then boos won't be the only thing raining down on the field from the stands.
3. Stopping Chris Williams
BOMBERS head coach Tim Burke joked his team might consider "poison" as one way to stop Hamilton's Williams, whose 900 receiving yards this season is only the second-best thing he has done.
Williams already has five punt returns and a ridiculous 119-yard missed field goal return for touchdowns this season, a CFL record, and there's still seven games to go including tonight's.
4. The season series
AFTER owning the season series against Hamilton 4-0 last year -- including the Winnipeg win in the East final -- the Bombers have a chance tonight to win the season series over Hamilton again this year.
A win over Hamilton Aug. 16 was one of just two Winnipeg victories this season and another win tonight would mean Winnipeg would win a tie-breaker scenario between the two teams regardless of who wins the final game between the two next month.
While playoffs seem a far-off dream around these parts right now, the fact is Winnipeg would move within two points of third-place Hamilton with a win over their East Division opponent tonight.
THE Bombers won the turnover battle an eye-popping 6-0 the last time these two teams faced each other -- and Winnipeg still only won by a touchdown at 32-25.
It's hard to imagine Hamilton repeating that dreadful performance, especially the three fumbles by QB Henry Burris alone. But with so many things working against the Bombers this season, it seems safe to say that giving the Ticats a few extra advantages in the form of Winnipeg turnovers would be highly inadvisable tonight.