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CFL Preview - Winnipeg (2-8) at Edmonton (1-9)



From The Sports Network

By Gregg Xenakes, CFL Editor

DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 14, 6:30 p.m. (et).

GAME NOTES: A pair of last place teams get together on Saturday evening at Commonwealth Stadium, as the Edmonton Eskimos host the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in a crossover divisional clash.

Edmonton, the only team in the league still winless at home (0-5), has bowed in all six matchups against other squads from the West Division, so perhaps this weekend the Eskimos will take advantage of the situation. A distant fourth in the standings with just a single victory in 10 opportunities this season, Edmonton has dropped eight consecutive outings since registering a 30-20 win over Hamilton back on July 7.

Most recently, the Esks were pitted against Calgary on Sept. 6 and suffered a 22-12 setback at home, the second time in a span of just four days that the two teams battled. Quarterback Mike Reilly tried to keep hope alive for Edmonton last week, but while converting 16-of-26 passes for 194 yards, the signal caller was also sacked seven times. The only major of the meeting came on a one-yard run by John White in the second quarter.

As for the Blue Bombers, they've been only slightly better than Edmonton to this point in the campaign, winning a grand total of two games.

Last in the East Division with just four points, four behind Montreal after 10 games, the Bombers were also riding a lengthy losing streak heading into Week 11 action, yet somehow the team caught lightning in a bottle and slipped by Saskatchewan at home, 25-13.

Just like Reilly, quarterback Justin Goltz was also under a lot of pressure in the pocket for the Bombers, converting a total of just eight pass attempts for 129 yards and an interception. Along the way Goltz was also sacked seven times by the Roughriders.

Winnipeg didn't earn a single first down through the first 30 minutes of action last Sunday versus Saskatchewan, yet the team remained in contention thanks to Will Ford who returned a kickoff 98 yards for a score in the first quarter. For his efforts. Ford was named the CFL Special Teams Player of the Week.

Perhaps sensing that the season was already lost, despite the upset win, Winnipeg made a bold move on Monday, trading away former starter Buck Pierce to the BC Lions in exchange for Canadian receiver Akeem Foster. Winnipeg's acting GM, Kyle Walters, explained the move as an effort to bolster the team's receiving corps after having trouble keeping key performers healthy.

Trading key skills players in the CFL is nothing new, but doing so in the middle of a season might be seen as a bit unorthodox. Pierce, who actually began his career with the Lions out of New Mexico State, is someone who has never really set the league on fire with his passing and too often exposed himself to vicious hits outside of the pocket, which in turn made it tough to keep him healthy from week to week.

Now with Pierce gone, the active quarterbacks on the Winnipeg roster includes Goltz, Max Hall and Jason Boltus.

When you consider the Bombers have the worst passing attack in the league after 10 games, producing a woeful five aerial TDs against 15 interceptions, perhaps trying to wipe the slate clean and play for the future was the only way to go.

While the quarterback position in Winnipeg continues to be a fluid situation, Reilly still has the tag of starter for Edmonton, even though he has a quarterback efficiency rating of 91.2 based on his 60.5 percent accuracy and having thrown a league-high 10 interceptions.

Although he has caught a total of just four passes the last two games, after combining for 14 grabs, 283 yards and three touchdowns in the matchups against Toronto and Saskatchewan in the middle of August, Fred Stamps remains not only the primary target for Reilly and the passing attack, but the leading receiver in the league overall with 765 yards and seven majors stemming from his 40 catches.

Edmonton, which owns a 92-80-3 advantage in the all-time series between the clubs, dating back to 1938 and taking into account only regular-season meetings, will travel to Winnipeg six days after this encounter to complete the home-and-home series.

Winnipeg's willingness to let go of Pierce can be seen in a number of ways, perhaps most obviously being a message to all Bombers players that anyone and everyone is expendable. Hopefully the message gets through and Winnipeg can land in the win column in back-to-back weeks for the first time this season.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Winnipeg 28, Edmonton 20

09/11 11:03:17 ET

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