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CFL Preview - Hamilton (2-4) at Winnipeg (1-5)



From The Sports Network

By Gregg Xenakes, CFL Editor

DATE & TIME: Friday, August 16, 8:00 p.m. (et).

GAME NOTES: Losing football has become unacceptable in Winnipeg, so much so that the Blue Bombers are taking the field on Friday night at home against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats after making a series of changes off the field.

Last week the Bombers, who are all alone in last place in the Eastern Division standings with just a single win in six opportunities, fired general manager Joe Mack and also announced that Garth Buchko will no longer serve as CEO and will be replaced by Wade Miller. Unfortunately, as is often the case with administration taking too much of the blame for poor performances, the changes were made in hopes of shaking up a crumbling club.

Winnipeg's lone win on the campaign came during the second week against Montreal on the road, 19-11. Initially the victory was thought to be something the squad could build on, but now that the Alouettes are a disappointing 2-4 after six games, the victory holds less weight.

Since that favorable decision on July 4, the Bombers have dropped four straight outings, the latest coming on August 5 by a score of 27-20 at British Columbia. Winnipeg trailed by just a single point at the break, 17-16, but came out in the second half and scored just one and three points in the third and fourth quarters, respectively.

Justin Goltz got the start at quarterback for the Bombers, but he converted 13-of-28 passing for just 112 yards, was picked off once and sacked two times in the setback. Goltz did score a major on the ground in the first half however, as did Chad Simpson, who finished with 83 rushing yards on 19 carries.

In an effort to kick the Winnipeg offense into gear, head coach Tim Burke announced the appointment of Marcel Bellefeuille to the team's offensive coaching staff on Monday. The timing of the move is somewhat ironic, given that Bellefeuille's last job on the sidelines in the CFL was as the head coach for Hamilton between 2009-11.

One of the first orders of business for Burke and Bellefeuille was to announce that they had decided on yet another starting quarterback, installing Max Hall under center. Hall, a product of BYU and a one-time member of the Arizona Cardinals in the NFL, has yet to attempt a pass this season for the Blue Bombers.

As for the Tiger-Cats, the weakest team in the league in terms of scoring defense (31.2 ppg) and second-to-last in offense (21.5 ppg), they've got just two wins to their credit this season. However, a 2-4 start to the 2013 campaign is good enough for a tie for second place in the division standings with Montreal.

The most recent of those triumphs came during Week 6 action against Edmonton on the road in a narrow 30-29 final. The Cats led by double digits in the fourth quarter of the meeting but almost let it slip away in the final seconds. Luckily a 45-yard field goal attempt by Grant Shaw missed the mark.

Henry Burris converted all but six of his 26 pass attempts against the Eskimos, compiling 293 yards and two touchdowns, while also tossing an interception and being sacked three times. Greg Ellingson made just three catches in the meeting, but two of those went for majors, giving the wideout three TDs in the last two games.

Forcing Edmonton to use a total of three quarterbacks, the Ticats seemed to have the contest well in hand, but 12 penalties for 138 yards kept the other team in it.

Hamilton is now the third-most penalized team in the league with 63 infractions, yet the yardage lost (554) is four more than any other squad after six games.

Also working against the Tiger-Cats is a secondary which has allowed the most passing touchdowns on the season with 15, while the players closest to the line of scrimmage have also struggled, logging only 11 sacks which is tied for the fewest in the league. By comparison, Winnipeg is first in sacks with 24.

Another major issue for the Cats is that they've had to endure constant pressure in the backfield on offense, resulting in a league-high 29 sacks allowed. Even though Burris has taken the brunt of that, he still leads the CFL with 1,803 passing yards. As a team, Hamilton is first in the league in passing yards (1,842), while the Bombers are second from the bottom in that category with just 1,321 yards.

These two teams clashed during Week 3 action, with Hamilton taking a 25-20 home decision. In that contest, Burris survived seven sacks as he threw for 362 yards and two touchdowns for the victory, while Buck Pierce connected on just 15-of-26 passing for 186 yards and was taken down behind the line of scrimmage six times.

In addition to giving up 438 yards of total offense to the Ticats, Winnipeg torpedoed itself by committing a ridiculous 19 penalties for a loss of 161 yards.

Despite the win, their second in a row over Winnipeg, the Cats still trail in the all-time series by a count of 59-47, taking into consideration only regular-season meetings since 1961.

Neither one of these teams is living up to expectations, but it is clear that Winnipeg is at least trying to shake things up with changes in the front office and on the sidelines. Putting Hall in the cross hairs might not be the best option right now, but it really is a last resort for Winnipeg.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Hamilton 28, Winnipeg 24

08/14 10:34:55 ET

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