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CFL Preview - Toronto (9-6) at Winnipeg (3-12)

From The Sports Network

By Gregg Xenakes, CFL Editor

DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 19, 3:30 p.m. (et).

GAME NOTES: The Toronto Argonauts try to bring an end to an untimely two-game losing streak this weekend, as they clash with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Saturday afternoon at Investors Group Field.

Prior to back-to-back defeats at the hands of Hamilton, the Argos had taken control of the East Division with four straight victories and continue to sit atop the standings by two points over the Tiger-Cats, but the team needs to get back into the win column in order to control their postseason destiny.

According to the most recent Grey Cup Playoff scenarios, a Toronto win or a Montreal loss would clinch a home playoff game for the Argos so they must take advantage of the fact that they are going up against one of two teams in the league, Edmonton being the other, that has a record of just 3-12 after 16 weeks of action.

On Canadian Thanksgiving, the Argos were thankful for the return of their starting quarterback as Ricky Ray came back from an injury, but his presence wasn't enough of a spark to keep Toronto from bowing in a 24-18 final on the road.

Ray did play the entire game, which was certainly a good sign, converting 26- of-34 passes for 303 yards and two touchdowns, while being picked off once and sacked two times. Ray completed seven passes to Chad Owens, another key offensive figure who has missed significant time with an injury, leading to 68 yards.

One of the most explosive players in league history, Owens got knocked off track during his quest to produce another 3,000-yard campaign and still he doesn't seem to be fully operational. In fact Owens, who returned a pair of punts for just 23 yards, only handled one kickoff for 15 yards.

One major problem for the Argos on Monday was the fact that the defense was pushed to the limit, giving up 545 yards to the Tiger-Cats while spending more than 37 minutes on the field.

Like Toronto, the Bombers were also involved in the holiday festivities, the only difference being that Winnipeg managed to come out on top in a 34-27 final versus Montreal on the road. Winnipeg appeared destined for the win with a 10-0 lead right out of the gate, but the squad had to battle right through to the end to snap what had become a four-game slide.

Quarterback Max Hall had his struggles, but still managed to convert 16-of-27 passes for 223 yards and two touchdowns. The signal caller hooked up with Clarence Denmark five times for a game-high 102 yards and a major. Backup quarterback Jason Boltus stepped in for five running plays, generating just a single net yard, but on one of those attempts he managed to cross the goal line to give the Bombers a lift.

Running back Will Ford also scored on a one-yard run as he logged a game-high 93 yards on just 13 carries, thanks in large part to a 69-yard scamper.

Even though Ford made an impression, the fact remains that the Blue Bombers don't have much of a running attack to speak of this season. The team is averaging just 91.4 ypg on the ground, second-lowest in the league, and that's just one of the reasons why they are last in scoring (20.9 ppg) with three games remaining in the regular season.

Unfortunately, Winnipeg is getting it from both ends on the scoreboard, failing to score enough points and giving up the most (32.4 ppg) at this juncture. Turnovers have played a significant role in how poorly the Bombers have performed, currently last in the CFL with a minus-21 turnover margin. At the other end of the spectrum are the Argos who are a plus-15, second only to Calgary which is at plus-18.

As far as the all-time series between the clubs is concerned, Toronto is clinging to a 54-51-2 advantage in regular-season matchups dating back to 1961. The Argos won the most recent meeting back in the middle of July, 35-19, which means the squad has taken five of six and eight of the last 11 encounters overall.

In that last clash, Ray completed all but one of his 20 pass attempts, leading to 286 yards and two touchdowns before exiting with an injury. The quarterback also led the team in rushing oddly enough with 24 yards on just two carries, one of those ending up in the end zone.

As for the Bombers, they used both Goltz and Buck Pierce under center, the duo combining to hit on 23-of-29 passes for 309 yards, but they failed to get a single toss across the goal line.

Just for good measure, the CFL schedule also has the squads facing off against each other once more a mere five days from now at Rogers Centre.

While Winnipeg might have an edge in that no one thinks they can be a factor down the stretch, the Bombers don't do themselves any favors by having won only once in seven tries at home. Then again, if Ray isn't comfortable in the pocket for Toronto then almost anything is possible.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Toronto 30, Winnipeg 24

10/16 10:48:29 ET

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