October 15, 2019

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Opinion

Chalk this loss up in win column

Bombers better off finishing fourth in West Division

John Woods / The Canadian Press</p><p>Edmonton Eskimos' JC Sherritt strips the ball from the hands of Winnipeg Blue Bombers' Weston Dressler during the first half of CFL action in Winnipeg Friday.</p>

John Woods / The Canadian Press

Edmonton Eskimos' JC Sherritt strips the ball from the hands of Winnipeg Blue Bombers' Weston Dressler during the first half of CFL action in Winnipeg Friday.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 30/9/2016 (1109 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Two things: no one ever said this was going to be easy and if it was going to be easy, this wouldn’t be the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

In retrospect, the first sign the Bombers were headed for trouble Friday night actually came Friday morning when the CFL tweeted the Bombers were in a position to clinch a playoff berth this weekend with a win Friday night over the Edmonton Eskimos, combined with a Toronto Argonauts loss to the Montreal Alouettes Sunday

The idea the Bombers — yes, the Bombers — could clinch a playoff berth in Week 15 was one of those things you hear sometimes that automatically triggers the synapse in the back of your brain that sifts information and concludes, “Hmmmm, that sounds too good to be true.”

By day’s end, it emerged the reason it sounded too good to be true the Bombers could clinch their first playoff berth since 2011 — and with more than a month remaining in the season — was because it was too good to be true.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 30/9/2016 (1109 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Two things: no one ever said this was going to be easy and if it was going to be easy, this wouldn’t be the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

In retrospect, the first sign the Bombers were headed for trouble Friday night actually came Friday morning when the CFL tweeted the Bombers were in a position to clinch a playoff berth this weekend with a win Friday night over the Edmonton Eskimos, combined with a Toronto Argonauts loss to the Montreal Alouettes Sunday

The idea the Bombers — yes, the Bombers — could clinch a playoff berth in Week 15 was one of those things you hear sometimes that automatically triggers the synapse in the back of your brain that sifts information and concludes, "Hmmmm, that sounds too good to be true."

By day’s end, it emerged the reason it sounded too good to be true the Bombers could clinch their first playoff berth since 2011 — and with more than a month remaining in the season — was because it was too good to be true.

A Blue Bombers team that was, quite literally, unbeatable for the best part of two months lost its second game in a row, falling 40-26 to the Eskimos.

The Bombers’ loss rendered whatever the Argos do this weekend immaterial and a return to the CFL playoffs for the longest suffering fan base in the league will now have to wait at least another week.

You know what? That’s not actually the worst thing. Indeed, you can make a case the best thing that can happen to the Bombers right now is exactly what is happening — piling a few losses on to all those wins the team amassed during a 7-0 run.

I understand that must sound really weird — the Bombers, yes the Bombers, have been winning too much. But walk with me here for a minute.

Regardless of Winnipeg’s losses over the past two weeks, it seems safe to say it is no longer so much a matter of if the Bombers will clinch a playoff berth this season, but when.

And if you begin there — there is going to be post-season football in these parts for the first time in five years — then it’s worth looking at the various playoff scenarios that could result.

Because all playoff football is not created equal in the CFL in 2016 in a season in which one division — the West — is a powerhouse and the other division — the East — is a joke. The only team in the East right now that even has a winning record is the Ottawa Redblacks — and, even then, just barely at 6-5-1.

How tilted are the two divisions this season? Well, the Bombers’ record this season tells you all you need to know — Winnipeg is 5-1 against the East this year, but just 3-5 versus the West.

Put it all together and the team that finishes fourth in the CFL West Division will almost certainly earn a cross-over playoff berth this season — and in the process will probably also become the instant favourite to win the East.

All of which is to say the team that finishes fourth in the West Division this year will have a lot better chance of playing in the Grey Cup than the team that finishes third, or maybe even second, in the West.

Plus, ask yourself this: would you rather face the Calgary Stampeders in the West Division final or would you rather face the Calgary Stampeders in the Grey Cup?

I’m standing in that second line, along with every GM in the CFL.

With Friday night’s loss, the Bombers are now just two points ahead of the Eskimos for third in the West, with Edmonton also now holding any season-ending tiebreaker because the Eskimos have won the season series between the two teams.

The Bombers have Edmonton, in other words, right where they want them — within striking distance of the third spot the Bombers hold.

Ask yourself another question: at season’s end, would you rather be playing the B.C. Lions at BC Place in the West Division semifinal or would you rather be playing in the East Division semifinal against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats or Toronto Argonauts, both of whom the Bombers have already beaten twice each this year?

No one is saying a season-ending swoon is the way you want to head into the playoffs. And that’s particularly true of a Bombers team that looks very fragile at the moment.

That seven-game Winnipeg winning streak probably was a little too good to be true, but this club also needs to arrest this two-game losing streak. pronto, before a minor concern becomes a raging panic.

But when the dust settles on this CFL season, the only game that really matters is the one that will be played on the final Sunday of November. And this year, the easier road to the Grey Cup travels east.

Losing sucks, except when it doesn’t.

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @PaulWiecek

Paul Wiecek

Paul Wiecek
Reporter (retired)

Paul Wiecek was born and raised in Winnipeg’s North End and delivered the Free Press -- 53 papers, Machray Avenue, between Main and Salter Streets -- long before he was first hired as a Free Press reporter in 1989.

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