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CFL Preview - Winnipeg (3-13) at Toronto (10-6)



From The Sports Network

By Gregg Xenakes, CFL Editor

DATE & TIME: Thursday, October 24, 7:30 p.m. (et).

GAME NOTES: Meeting for the third time this season and the second time in a span of only five days, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and the Toronto Argonauts tangle on Thursday night at Rogers Centre.

While the teams for the 101st Grey Cup Playoffs have already been identified, there are still some determinations to be made when it comes to order of finish. For Toronto, the team with the best record in the East Division at the moment, a win or a loss by second-place Hamilton versus Montreal would give the Argos first place in the standings for the regular season.

Unfortunately for the Blue Bombers, at this point they can do little more than play the role of spoiler and perhaps delay what might be inevitable anyway. With a mere three wins in 16 opportunities, Winnipeg is all alone in last place in the division, and is tied with Edmonton over in the West for the worst record in the league.

Last week, the Bombers scored just three points in the first half against Toronto and trailed by 20 at the break, which is why their 17-point outburst after intermission simply wasn't enough to keep them from suffering the 26-20 loss at home.

The Blue Bombers wasted what statistically was one of their strongest outings of the season, as they registered 25 first downs and 466 yards of total offense. Quarterback Max Hall threw for a career-high 385 yards, the second- highest total for the club in the last four campaigns. Hall completed 30-of-50 passes, but had just a single major and one interception.

Making a major impression during his CFL debut, Winnipeg receiver Mike Sims- Walker reeled in eight passes for a game-high 137 yards, while Rory Kohlert was the recipient of the lone passing score from Hall. Will Ford scored the other TD on a one-yard run in the third quarter, one of his 13 carries which led to a game-high 75 yards.

For the Bombers, who were flagged for nine penalties amounting to a loss of 99 yards, the setback was the fifth in the last six outings.

Meanwhile the Argonauts, who snapped a two-game slide with the victory last week, were led by Ricky Ray who converted 21-of-35 passes for 246 yards and a score. Backup signal caller Zach Collaros, who carried the load for Toronto while Ray was on the injured list this season, stepped in and tossed a one- yard TD pass to Dontrelle Inman in the second quarter.

During those times when the Toronto offense stalled, kicker Swayze Waters stepped in and knocked through all four of his field goal attempts, finishing with 14 points overall.

Chad Owens, who regained the CFL lead for combined yards (2,072), caught eight passes for 71 yards and tacked on another 50 yards on kickoff returns and 31 yards on punts returns. Even though he missed four games this season, Owens has now generated at least 2,000 combined yards for the fourth year in a row, one of only five players in CFL history to achieve the feat.

While posting victories is always first and foremost in the mind of Owens and the rest of the Argos, there are still some personal marks that the sprite Hawaiian can shoot for over the final two regular-season outings. Should Owens find a way to come up with another 428 yards before the playoffs begin, he'll be the first player ever to post at least 2,500 yards in four straight campaigns.

Giving Owens an opportunity to set even more league standards as the regular season winds down, Ray is perhaps the best quarterback in the league to aid him in reaching those goals. Granted, Owens does a lot of the work on his own when it comes to kick returns and rushing, but Ray's league-leading 123.4 efficiency rating means he consistently makes the right choices in the pocket.

Unfortunately for the Bombers, there's very little to play for aside from pride and trying to prevent Toronto from asserting itself as the top team in the division. Winnipeg has the weakest passing attack in the league this season, sporting a woeful 65.9 efficiency rating, due to the fact that the team has thrown a mere 11 TDs and a staggering 24 interceptions. On a positive note, Hall does have seven of those aerial majors, but at the same time has tossed nine picks so you better believe that Toronto defenders will be aiming to add to the latter total.

As far as the all-time series is concerned, the Argos own a 55-51-2 edge in regular-season meetings dating back to 1961. With the victory last weekend, Toronto has taken two in a row and six of the last seven encounters with the Bombers.

A perfect 9-0 this season when scoring at least 30 points, the Argos are well aware of the threshold that they must meet in order to outpace the competition. While last week Toronto won for the first time in seven games when scoring under 30, you can be sure the team will aiming even higher this time around against Winnipeg with so much on the line.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Toronto 33, Winnipeg 24

10/23 11:05:27 ET

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