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CFL Preview - Hamilton (4-7) at Winnipeg (2-9)

From The Sports Network

By Gregg Xenakes, CFL Editor

DATE & TIME: Friday, September 21, 8:00 p.m. (et).

GAME NOTES: The two weakest teams in the CFL get together on Friday night at Canad Inns Stadium, as the slumping Winnipeg Blue Bombers tangle with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

Since the beginning of August, the two clubs have combined for a mere two victories in 12 opportunities. However, one of those wins came last Saturday as the Tiger-Cats halted a five-game slide with a 51-8 thrashing of Edmonton at home. With the win, Hamilton is now 4-7 on the season overall, ahead of only Winnipeg (2-9) in the East Division standings.

Hamilton fell behind by an 8-0 score in the first quarter of that meeting but then dialed up the pressure on both sides of the ball by outscoring the Eskimos 51-0 the rest of the way. The hosts churned out 571 yards of total offense, thanks in large part to quarterback Henry Burris who converted 23- of-33 passes for 418 yards and three touchdowns, offsetting a couple of interceptions and two sacks.

Chris Williams was responsible for eight catches, leading to 125 yards and a score for the 'Cats, while running back Avon Cobourne made a huge splash by posting a game-high 121 yards and a major on 18 carries for Hamilton as well. Williams continues to be a thrill to watch as he leads the league in touchdowns with a total of 12, six on receptions and another six on returns, the latter total setting a new single-season CFL record.

Over on the other side, the Blue Bombers have had some close calls this season, but last week was not one of them as the team folded against Calgary on the road, 44-3. The team has now won just once in the last six outings and has been outscored in the last three contests by a combined 121-27.

The team used a total of three quarterbacks versus the Stamps, starting with Joey Elliott, then Alex Brink and finally Justin Goltz. the trio combining to convert just 12-of-25 through the air for a mere 90 yards and one interception. On the ground, the squad accounted for 101 yards, 86 coming from Chad Simpson.

The Bombers certainly didn't help themselves by being flagged for 10 penalties, amounting to a loss of 92 yards.

Watching the Bombers fumble around at the quarterback position is something that has been going on all season long as they are the only team in the league that is completing passes at less than 60 percent (.565). Winnipeg has a mere eight aerial touchdowns, just a fraction of the 27 that Burris has at the moment to lead the entire league. It also doesn't help that this rag-tag group of signal-callers has tossed a league-high 12 interceptions.

With the offense suffering all season long, the defense has needed to make some plays for the Bombers and that simply hasn't happened. In fact, Winnipeg has allowed more points than any team in the league (365), which averages out to a hefty 33.2 ppg.

If there is anything encouraging for the Blue Bombers heading into Week 13 it is knowing that Hamilton's defense can be exploited as well. The Tiger-Cats are permitting 31.5 ppg, second-most behind Winnipeg, and it could have easily been higher if not for Edmonton's total ineptitude last week.

Then again, there are times when Hamilton has given up a significant number of points and is still able to remain competitive thanks to a league-high scoring average of 31.6 ppg. Burris gets much of the credit, now that he is second in the league in total passing yards (3,364) and he has the best efficiency rating (106.6) of any regular starter in the CFL to this point in the campaign.

Having kicker Luca Congi to lean on is certainly another advantage for the Tiger-Cats, his 104 points placing him second in the league in that department.

As far as the all-time, regular-season series is concerned, the Bombers own a 58-45 edge dating back to the 1950 campaign. Even though Winnipeg has struggled in 2012, the team won the first meeting back in the middle of August by a score of 32-25 at home, which means the squad has taken four straight from Hamilton.

The squads are set to clash once more during the regular season in Hamilton on Oct. 27.

Unless something unforeseen happens to Burris and the Hamilton offense begins to sputter, this is a meeting that the visitors should have well in hand, especially since there is a measure of revenge involved.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Hamilton 37, Winnipeg 25

09/19 11:13:11 ET

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