Five storylines to ponder heading into tonight's Montreal-Winnipeg matchup at Investors Group Field:
1. Taming Brandon Whitaker
The Montreal running back -- and third-leading rusher in the CFL this season -- has traditionally feasted on the Bombers defence, putting up more than a couple monster games over the years on the Blue and Gold.
And you've got to figure Whitaker will once again figure prominently in the Montreal offence tonight given the Als running game is about all that's been working on offence this season for a Montreal team that is dead last in the CFL in almost every passing category, including yards, average yards, completion percentage, first downs, TDs, etc.
The wrinkle of course -- and why this is the most compelling storyline coming into tonight -- is the Winnipeg defence has also been terrible against the run lately, giving up 186 rushing yards and 174 rushing yards in losses to Saskatchewan and Toronto the last two weeks, respectively.
Only expansion Ottawa has given up more yards rushing than Winnipeg coming into this week, suggesting that if Montreal (1-6) is going to find a path to its second victory of the year tonight, it's almost certainly going to have to come along the ground.
2. Taming the turnovers
The Bombers are tied with Montreal with the second-worst turnover ratio in the CFL (minus-7) and are just one turnover better than dead-last Toronto (minus-8).
Which of those things don't belong together?
Well, when you consider Montreal has a regular-season record of 1-6 and Toronto is 3-5, it would seem safe to say the Bombers should consider themselves very fortunate to have a 5-3 record in a season in which they have turned the ball over so many times more than their opponents.
The seven interceptions Drew Willy has thrown already this season are more than any other QB in the CFL with the exception of B.C.'s Kevin Glenn, who's had an eye-popping 11 picks but has settled down nicely after a terrible start in which he threw six interceptions in just the first two weeks.
3. The Bombers O-line vs. the Montreal front-seven
The Bombers O-line is once again everyone's favourite whipping boy in town -- and it's not surprising given the league-leading 28 sacks they've given up and the league-worst running game the Bombers own.
The problems are more complex than just the O-line -- "Offensive linemen never get the love we deserve," said tackle Glenn January with a laugh Thursday -- but no one disagrees the Bombers hogs need to be better.
And that's particularly true tonight against a vicious Montreal front-seven that sacked QB Drew Willy foue times in Week 3 and had the Bombers pivot running for his life all night long.
4. The scary backdrop to tonight
The Bombers have a two-game losing streak on the go coming into tonight and after this week face a Saskatchewan team in back-to-back weeks that has owned the Bombers in recent years.
The Bombers haven't won in Regina on Labour Day Weekend since 2004 and are just 2-11 in the last 13 meetings between the two clubs, which includes yet another Winnipeg loss to the Riders earlier this month.
Put it all together and a loss to the Alouettes tonight could put Winnipeg in a tailspin from which it might be difficult to recover any time soon.
5. Taking advantage of the home-field advantage
The Bombers have lost their last two in a row at home and have won more games on the road this season despite loud and partisan home crowds that head coach Mike O'Shea estimates have forced opposing offences to take at least five penalties this season for things like time-count and procedure infractions.
It's great the Bombers are 3-1 on the road this year. But it'd be a lot better for them -- and their long-suffering fans -- if they could pair it with a winning record at home.
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