Five things to keep an eye on when the Bombers go after their first win of the season against the Eskimos:
1. Home, Sweet Home
OK, so it's not Investors Group Field.
And it's not the record the Bombers wanted at this point of the season, thanks in part to a four-game road trip of their own doing to start the year, but this motley crew are finally playing in Canad Inns Stadium again.
Home is a feel-good place they say will help turn fortunes around, but that only happens with a good start from the opening kickoff -- something the Bombers haven't been close to doing this year.
"Just 'cause now you're at home, it doesn't mean it's going to be easy," Bombers head coach Paul LaPolice said. "We're going to have to play our most complete game of the year to get the win."
Winnipeg has scored just six points in the first quarter and 29 points in the first 30 minutes of games, both CFL lows. These slow beginnings have killed Winnipeg, forcing a team with problems on offence to play catch-up the rest of the way. If the Bombers get off to another slow start tonight, home, sweet home will turn sour faster than you can say "Joey Elliott."
2. Construction Issues
Winnipeg is among the CFL bottom feeders in most offensive categories. The attack is especially pungent when throwing the ball, with a 49 per cent completion rate serving as the foundation for the popgun offence.
Last week against Toronto, the Bombers played right into the Argos' hands and saw their quarterback (Alex Brink) throw deep ball after deep ball in hopes of finding a connection. The lack of execution killed Winnipeg.
Brink took the blame for the vertical overload and promises he'll be a little more discreet when testing his arm.
With that assurance, expect two things from the Bombers: 1. More run. 2. More throws underneath.
Big plays are exciting, true. A long touchdown drive wouldn't be so bad, though.
3. QB Contrast
Just for fun, let's take a look at the starters tonight:
Winnipeg's Alex Brink: 34-of-82 for 438 yards, with two touchdown passes and four interceptions. He's completing just 41.5 per cent of his throws and has just a 19.4 efficiency rating in second-down situations.
Edmonton's Steven Jyles: 56-of-98 for 749 yards, with one touchdown pass against three picks. The former Bomber is completing 57 per cent of his throws. Jyles is a lot more efficient on second downs (71.6 rating) than Brink, but he won't be mistaken for guys named Burris, Calvillo, Ray and Durant.
What does all this mean? Look for punters Mike Renaud and Burke Dales to throw on their helmets when a first-down play yields little or no results.
4. Taking Advantage
Get ready for some really bad numbers, Bomber fans...
Winnipeg has a league-worst 15 turnovers (seven of those by interception). Edmonton is near the top of the CFL leaderboard with 11 takeaways, including seven against the Bombers in Week 3. Winnipeg has managed to take the ball away 10 times through four games, but here's where the figures start to smell for the Blue and Gold:
The Bombers have scored just nine points off their 10 takeaways. Opponents have hung a whopping 56 points on them following turnovers, the most in the league.
The last time Winnipeg faced Edmonton, the Eskimos forced seven takeaways and scored 25 points off the turnovers. The Bombers' five takeaways translated into a paltry three points.
5. Hugh Charles
The last time versus Winnipeg, the Edmonton back had 14 carries for 51 yards and three catches for 145 yards, with one touchdown. When he had a chance, he took advantage. Last week against B.C., Charles rushed for a career-high 118 yards and had three more catches for 61 yards.
Edmonton is just as offensively challenged as Winnipeg, with bright spots few and far between. If anyone is going to lead the charge for the men in the dark-green helmets, it's Charles.
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Stopping Edmonton's D-line
WINNIPEG'S offence (not just the offensive line -- running backs and receivers blow assignments, too) has surrendered 14 sacks through four games.
Compare that figure to Edmonton's CFL-best 12 sacks, plus the fact the Eskimos hammered Bombers quarterbacks four times two weeks ago, and one gets the sense this could be a tough assignment for Winnipeg.
It's not all doom and gloom for the Blue.
First, Eskimos defensive-end terror Marcus Howard won't play due to injury. Secondly, against strong defensive fronts, the Bombers have had success keeping their QBs upright when they go to max protection, keeping six or seven bodies at the line of scrimmage to block. The Eskimos' pass rush noticeably slowed last game when this was done, and Winnipeg was able to take advantage of the zone coverage in the secondary from time to time.