2022-08-01 13:00:44

I’m not breaking news when I say the Winnipeg Blue Bombers are the best team in the CFL. After Saturday’s 35-28 win in Calgary, the Bombers are 8-0 and also happen to be the two-time defending Grey Cup champions. Until proven otherwise, Winnipeg remains at the top of the mountain.

And therein lies the challenge: who’s going to be the team to knock the Bombers off their perch? Only a few teams have done it since Zach Collaros took over at quarterback late in 2019, and no group has gotten the job done in the playoffs. Each passing week the motivation for opposing teams gets larger.

“Do I want to beat them because they’re undefeated, yes,” said Stampeders quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell following Saturday’s loss. “Do I want to beat them because they are the two-time defending Grey Cup Champions? Yes. You don’t win the Grey Cup right now. Y’all can crown them all right now if you want, but they aren’t going to be Grey Cup Champions today.”

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Those aren’t inflammatory comments from Mitchell either. He was beyond complimentary of Winnipeg, who has beat Calgary twice in the last three weeks. Instead, Mitchell is simply voicing the sentiments of all six teams who have lost to the Blue Bombers this season. The goal is to be the best team at the end of the season and knocking off Winnipeg is a part of that process.

So who has the best chance of doing that? Which West Division team poses the toughest challenge for the Bombers as we approach the second half of the season? Well, it’s still a little early to answer that question definitively, but we can at least start to handicap the field.

The Stamps have an interesting case to make. Both their recent losses to Winnipeg have been tight, back and forth affairs that have gone right down to the wire.

Week 6 saw Calgary come inches from potentially pushing things to overtime, while the Bombers didn’t take their final lead until the late stages of Saturday’s most recent showdown. The Stampeders have one more regular season shot at the champs when they visit IG Field in Week 12.

Then there’s the BC Lions, who now sit second in the West Division at 5-1. The Lions were humbled by Winnipeg in a Week 4 showdown when both teams were still undefeated. But BC has responded by posting back-to-back wins in different fashions; they grinded out a win over Hamilton before an impressive second half propelled them by Saskatchewan 32-17 on Friday night.

The Lions and Bombers don’t play again until a pair of games in October: Week 19 in Vancouver and Week 21 back in Winnipeg to help wrap the regular season. Those games may not end up being “playoff previews”, but they could serve as valuable tune-up opportunities for BC ahead of a potential West Division Final matchup.

And don’t completely write off Saskatchewan or Edmonton either. The Riders don’t get their first shot until September, but let’s not forget they’ve had their last two seasons ended by Winnipeg and still have eyes on a West Division playoff spot. And, despite a 24-10 final score, the Elks hung tough against the Bombers in a Week 7 loss. With another regular season game on the schedule, and with the crossover very much in play, Edmonton also has at least one more shot.

While there’s still plenty of football to play in 2022, it looks like the West’s path to the Grey Cup runs through Winnipeg once again. Spoken or unspoken, gearing up to beat the Bombers when it matters most is going to be a huge motivating factor for everyone heading down the stretch. And, if it plays out that way, I’m sure Hamilton would like another shot, too…

A long time coming

 

You couldn’t help but feel good for the Ottawa REDBLACKS as they picked up their first win of the season. After so many gut punch setbacks en route to an 0-6 start, it was nice to see Ottawa get rewarded for a solid effort in a 23-13 win over Toronto on Sunday night.

Honestly, the REDBLACKS probably deserved a better record prior to their first win. Other than a 28-13 loss to the Riders in Week 4, all their losses had had come by seven points or less and a few slipped away from them in agonizing fashion. Their 0-6 mark made it hard for many to focus on some of Ottawa’s impressive steps forward in year two under head coach Paul LaPolice.

Newcomer Jaelon Acklin has been at the top of that list since making his REDBLACKS debut this season, so it was fitting to see him lead the way in their first win. Acklin had another monster game against Toronto, racking up 144 receiving yards and a touchdown in the win. He’s up to 687 receiving yards in seven appearances, which continues to lead the league, and now has a pair of touchdown catches to go along with his productivity.

And perhaps the biggest positive with Ottawa’s situation is their playoff outlook after picking up their first win. At 1-7, and even with a crossover likely in the picture, the REDBLACKS don’t have to squint to see a path to the postseason.

Directly ahead of the REDBLACKS in the East Division standings are Hamilton and Montreal, both sitting at 2-5. The Tiger-Cats look like they might finally be hitting their stride with a pair of wins in their last three games, but they’re by no means out of reach.

Interestingly, Ottawa plays Hamilton twice to close out the season: on the road in Week 20 and back at home in Week 21. The path to overtaking the Alouettes is a little clearer, in fact, as the REDBLACKS play them three more times between now and the end of the season.

With the crossover in play, the Riders and Elks find themselves in the playoff hunt in both divisions right now, which makes the East Division picture murky at best. As such, it’s tough to handicap the way the situation plays out as we enter August. But that’s not bad news for Ottawa.

An 0-6 start to the season was frustrating, but a wide-open playoff picture means the REDBLACKS have everything to play for in the final three months of the season.

#Steinbergs #MMQB #Sizing #competition #CFLca

Source by [graycupnews.com]

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