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CFL Preview - Winnipeg (4-11) at Toronto (7-8)



From The Sports Network

By Gregg Xenakes, CFL Editor

DATE & TIME: Friday, October 19, 7:00 p.m. (et).

GAME NOTES: With the weakest record in the league after 15 games, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers have certainly seen better days and the end might be coming near as the team prepares to take on the Toronto Argonauts on Friday night at Rogers Centre.

With a mere four wins in 15 attempts, the Blue Bombers are all alone in last place in the East Division, and yet there is still a slim chance that, if everything breaks the right way, that the team could slip into the postseason, but the odds of that happening are astronomical. The bottom line here is that Winnipeg has to win out and then get some help from either Edmonton, Toronto or Hamilton, or a combination of the three, in order to extend what has been an otherwise disastrous campaign.

Last week, the Bombers could have given themselves better odds, but the team suffered a 32-21 loss versus Calgary instead, marking their second setback in the last three outings.

In that game Winnipeg registered more yards than the Stampeders (438-381), but what kept the Bombers from remaining competitive was quarterback Joey Elliott and his four interceptions. The signal-caller converted 22-of-33 passes for 284 yards but was unable to get one into the end zone. After the game Elliott tried to accept all of the blame for the team's downfall, but his teammates refused to leave him high and dry when the walls came tumbling down on the Purdue product who has been forced into action this season following injuries to both Buck Pierce and Alex Brink.

Chad Simpson tried to keep hope alive for the Bombers against Calgary as he scored twice and raced for 84 yards on 14 rushing attempts, but the mistakes in the passing game were simply too great to overcome. Chris Matthews (seven catches, 116 yards and one TD) and Terrence Edwards (nine catches, 143 yards) tried to give Elliott plenty of scoring opportunities, but the team still played like they were two steps behind.

As for the Argonauts, they're sitting in second place in the East Division with a record of 7-8, but the team has been heading in the wrong direction in recent weeks with two straight losses and defeats in four of the last five games. On Sunday, the team was taken out by Montreal at home in a 24-12 final, which means Toronto has been outscored 60-22 in the last two outings.

Toronto actually led a slow-starting Alouettes group after 15 minutes of play, 2-0, but after that the Argos managed just 10 more points and simply gave up too much field position to a Montreal group that leaned heavily on their kicker to supply scoring opportunities.

Quarterback Jarious Jackson hit on half of his 40 pass attempts for 239 yards and a score, a 24-yard effort to Andre Durie in the second quarter, but at the same time Jackson was also sacked five times and one of his late pass attempts in the fourth frame was intercepted and returned for a touchdown by Montreal's Shea Emry.

Toronto, which was held to just 261 yards of total offense, ran the ball a mere six times for 22 yards. Chad Owens, who has already eclipsed the 3,000 yards mark in combined yards for the third season in a row, was again limited in his output by Montreal and now has averaged just 119 yards over the last three weeks after averaging a massive 243 yards over the first 12 outings of 2012. At this stage Owens, who has a league-leading 3,271 combined yards, needs to average at least 190 yards per game over the last three in order to surpass Mike Clemons who holds the single-season record with 3,840 yards set in 1997.

While all of the hits during a long season may finally be catching up with Owens, a guy like Chris Matthews is at least giving his team something positive to build upon as he is now third in the league in receiving yards with 1,090, landing in the end zone seven times on 71 catches. Matthews is the first true rookie in club history to reach 1,000 yards in his first campaign and could conceivably set a new CFL rookie record which currently stands at 1,530 yards by Matt Clark back in 1991, but the youngster will need to get his hands on the ball a lot more in these final three games to make it happen.

Toronto owns a 53-50-2 advantage in the all-time, regular-season series dating back to 1945, thanks in part to four straight victories over the Blue Bombers. The most recent of those triumphs came just a few weeks ago in Winnipeg when the Argos delivered a 29-10 triumph.

It will be tough for Elliott to bounce back from such a rough performance last week, but as long as his teammates can keep him from coming under fire again and having opportunities wasted, expect to see the Bombers put up a strong fight on the road.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Winnipeg 27, Toronto 23

10/17 11:43:16 ET

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