It’s no secret the odds of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers cruising down Portage and Main this year with the Grey Cup are low.
But according to the CFL simulator, they might be even lower than you think. Earlier this week, the CFL used their model (which takes into account a team’s record, recent results, margin of victories, remaining opponents, etc.) to calculate all six playoff team’s probability of victory in each post-season game. It then simulates the playoff bracket 10,000 times before spitting out odds for each squad.
If you make your way down to the bottom of the list, you’ll find the Bombers with the worst odds of making it to the Grey Cup game. The simulator estimates they have a 4.71 per cent chance.
In the words of Jim Carrey’s character, Lloyd Christmas, in the movie Dumb and Dumber, "So you’re saying there’s a chance?"
On paper, it might not seem like there’s much of one. The Bombers need to win two games on the road, starting with a victory on Sunday against the Calgary Stampeders at McMahon Stadium, which is a place that hasn’t been kind to the Blue and Gold for many years. Since 2002, the Bombers sport a dreadful 2-17 record in Calgary.
But if the Bombers flip the script and find success in Alberta, the road doesn’t get any easier as they’ll meet the top team in the West Division, the Saskatchewan Roughriders, at Mosaic Stadium the following week. The Bombers are 0-2 in Regina this season.
Regardless of the fact the Bombers are up against stiff competition, it’s never easy to win on the road in this league. Just look at Winnipeg’s road loss to the lowly Toronto Argonauts in August, or the time the Bombers blew a 24-point lead against the Montreal Alouettes at Molson Stadium on Sept. 21.
While these odds and discouraging stats may make it seem like the Grim Reaper will make the Blue Bombers’ 2019 campaign his next victim, the team disagrees.
"We’ve proven the CFL simulator wrong plenty of times this year. We’ve proven some of the analysts wrong when they did their picks and stuff like that this year," defensive lineman Willie Jefferson said after practice on Friday. "But, it’s going to come down to us. Coach (Mike) O’Shea said it at the end of (practice) today when we broke down that it doesn’t really matter what anybody says about us outside of this huddle or this facility. We’re ready to play Bomber football and that’s what we’re gonna do."
Quarterback Zach Collaros is the newest guy in the locker room. He joined the Bombers in early October via a trade with the Argos when the Bombers were on a three-game slide. He did, however, make sure the team ended the regular season on a high note as he led the Bombers to a thrilling 29-28 home win over Calgary two weeks ago. Collaros, an eight-year CFL veteran, senses this is still a confident group even though they finished as the No. 3 seed in the West.
"I think we’re a confident bunch," Collaros told the media after Friday’s closed practice. "I don’t think you make it to this point and have the record these guys have had this season and the previous season without being a confident group. That confidence comes from preparation. They take that stuff very seriously, the players, the coaches. We feel prepared and it’s gonna be exciting."
Back in July, when the Bombers were 5-0, no one was talking about them being underdogs, but that’s exactly where they find themselves today. According to Jefferson, that’s OK.
"I feel like we’re most definitely underdogs. But we’re ready," Jefferson said.
"We had the opportunity to be the front dog, to be the top runner and stuff like that. Things didn’t go the way we wanted them to go coming down to the end of the season. But we’re ready to play football. We’re ready to go out there and give it all we got. If it has to be two road games to get to the Grey Cup, we’re ready to do that."
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The citizens of Calgary got to enjoy a nice 10 C day on Friday, but their November heat wave will not continue into the weekend. When the Stampeders and Bombers kick off on Sunday afternoon, it’s expected to be around -13 C with 10 km-h winds.
But it shouldn’t feel like anything new to the Bombers as they haven’t exactly been practising in a tropical paradise this week at home.
"It’s good to practise in whatever element you’re gonna play in," Collaros said. "That’s why if it’s raining you practise with wet footballs and all that type of thing. I think it can help for sure."
After all, it is the CFL. Jefferson said at Friday’s practice they were reminding the rookies that playing in the cold is the name of the game in the CFL.
"We were just saying this is the Canadian Football League and there’s only one team with a dome. Guys that have been in the league were telling them this is what the league is made for," said Jefferson, the West Division nominee for Most Outstanding Defensive Player.
"It’s made to be played outside, not to be played indoors. Getting down to the end of the season, getting down to the playoffs and the Grey Cup, you automatically know it’s going to be cold. You automatically know there will be snow on the ground and it will be a tough game."
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Friday’s practice was closed to the media, so it’s unknown if quarterback Chris Streveler participated. Streveler was a full participant on Wednesday but on Thursday he was a spectator. Regardless of Streveler’s status, the Bombers are feeling confident in Collaros, who happens to be 3-0 in his last three starts against the Stampeders.
"He comes in and he wins a game after one week of practise and that’s impressive stuff," Bombers linebacker Adam Bighill said. "We know those are the kind of things Zach can do, based on his experience in this league.
"It was great to see what he could do coming off one week of practise and we’re looking forward to a great game on Sunday."
Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of.