Blue Bombers (4-1) vs. Eskimos (5-0). Almost undefeated vs. undefeated. Here are five things to keep an eye on:
1. Licking Stamps
Eskimos receiver Fred Stamps is without question the premier pass catcher in the game right now. The numbers -- 578 yards on 30 catches and five touchdowns -- easily support this assertion. So who draws the assignment for the Bombers?
Defensive back Jonathan Hefney, the current CFL defensive player of the week, that's who.
How have the two fared against each other in the past?
Advantage Hefney. The Bombers sparkplug has held Stamps to just nine grabs for 85 yards and zero majors in four games.
2. Reset the run defence
According to the players, the one area of the Winnipeg defence that needs more attention is how they stop the run.
Early on, the Bombers were allowing just 80 yards on the ground per contest (or a 4.5 yard average per carry). After five games, the numbers have gone up to 104 yards a game and 5.4 yards a carry. The reason: Offences are seemingly trying to take advantage of the Bombers' furious pass rush by running the ball right past it.
3. The mutual admiration society
Much has been made of the Bombers and Eskimos, how well the clubs are doing and how this game features the first tete-a-tete between Kavis Reed and Paul LaPolice.
Great friends, great colleagues, etc.
Reed also has an intimate knowledge of the Winnipeg defence, and it says here he may have an advantage Friday night. That may be, but which coach has a better understanding of which coach, and who will successfully use that knowledge against the other?
4. Keep the energy up
Winnipeg took to the field against B.C. on raw emotion after the death of beloved assistant coach Richard Harris. If you were at he stadium, it was a game you won't soon forget.
Ten days after Harris' sudden death, the wound is still present, albeit in a much more evolved form. The time to digest the loss has started and a noticeable peace around the team has settled in -- which could signal a letdown.
Two goals for Winnipeg on this front: The players not only need to summon a similar effort to beat the Eskimos -- this is not the winless Lions, remember -- but also find the conviction to match the physical and mental energy they demonstrated last week.
5. Can Winnipeg finish drives?
Edmonton has put up 153 points -- second in the CFL behind Montreal (159) -- and 29 more than Winnipeg through five games.
Meanwhile, Bombers K Justin Palardy has attempted 20 field goals, which is on pace for a franchise record (65, 1986).
To help keep up with the high-scoring visitors, the Big Blue offence might want to mix in a big score (and not settle for the field goal) once in a while.
Canad Inns Stadium vs. Edmonton QB Ricky Ray
For the second straight week, the Bombers will have a sellout crowd of 29,533. Sounds good.
Those who were at last week's jam-packed affair versus the B.C. Lions recall what a hard time young Lions QB Travis Lulay had with the decibel levels produced by the Blue and Gold supporters late in the game. It was pretty loud.
Enter Ricky Ray, a pass-happy CFL veteran and arguably the league MVP through the first month of the season. Ray is back to his old standout form, meaning the task for the home crowd remains the same this week.