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



From The Sports Network

By Gregg Xenakes, CFL Editor

DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 29, 7:00 p.m. (et).

GAME NOTES: The Winnipeg Blue Bombers try yet again to record back-to-back wins for the first time this season as they contend against the Toronto Argonauts on Saturday night at Canad Inns Stadium.

Victories have been few and far between for the Bombers this season, the team generating a total of just three in the campaign after they appeared in the Grey Cup against British Columbia. The team managed to snap a four-game slide last week by tripping up the Hamilton Tiger-Cats at home in a 34-12 final, but still Winnipeg is in last place in the East Division with just six points.

As for the Argonauts, they were finally handed consecutive setbacks last week when, after bowing to BC by a score of 28-23 on Sept. 15, lost at Montreal on Sunday in a 31-10 final. Despite the defeats, Toronto is still in second place in the division behind the aforementioned Alouettes, although there's a bigger story looming for the club at the moment.

Against the Als, Toronto starting quarterback Ricky Ray completed 3-of-4 passes for 30 yards before going down with what has been described as an MCL sprain to his knee. Backup signal-caller Jarious Jackson stepped in and hit 15-of-31 passes for 198 yards, was intercepted once and sacked twice in the losing cause.

On Tuesday, first-year head coach Scott Milanovich announced that Jackson would be the one earning the start against the Blue Bombers due to the injury suffered by Ray. Now in his eighth year in the league, Jackson has been used rather sparingly in the past, responsible for 7,230 passing yards, but has managed to throw 51 TDs thanks to a three-year stretch between 2007-2009 when, with the BC Lions, he tossed 47 scores.

The only viable option at the moment for the Argonauts, Jackson does have the luxury of having a number of top-notch offensive performers at his disposal in running back Chad Kackert and all-everything Chad Owens. Kackert is currently ninth in the league in rushing with 449 yards and has stepped into the end zone five times, not to mention catching 20 passes for an additional 188 yards for Toronto.

In the case of Owens, the Argos have one of the most electric players in the league. After playing a serviceable role with Montreal in 2009, Owens was traded to the Argos has been unstoppable ever since, in every way imaginable. Already with a pair of seasons of at least 3,000 combined yards under his belt, the Hawaii product needs just 85 more yards to reach that lofty plateau yet again.

To put the exploits of Owens into perspective, his closest competition in terms of combined yards is nearly 1,000 yards behind after 12 games. Already the only player in league history to produce back-to-back seasons with at least 3,000 yard Owens, barring any unforeseen issues, will probably make it three in a row this weekend. With six games still to play in the regular season and Toronto needing every advantage it can get, the chances of Owens breaking the all-time record of 3,840 yards set by Michael Clemons of Toronto back in 1997 is absolutely within reach.

While the postseason is still very much a reality for the Argos, the same cannot be said for Winnipeg, but at least the Blue Bombers can build on some positive play that they displayed last week in the 22-point win over Hamilton.

Controlling the ball for more than 37 minutes while the 'Cats were mired with 17 penalties for 135 yards, the Bombers rolled up 450 yards of total offense, thanks in large part to Buck Pierce who was making his return to the field after an injury had him on the sidelines for the majority of the campaign.

Pierce finished the outing 21-of-31 for 288 yards and one touchdown, all while surviving four sacks. Chad Simpson tried to make the return of Pierce as painless as possible as he ran for 134 yards on 19 carries and also caught four balls for another 58 yards while being named the CFL Offensive Player of the Week.

Refusing to go unnoticed, the defense for the Argos also played well, so much so that linebacker Henoc Muamba, with his five tackles, one sack and one forced fumble, was named the league's Canadian Player of the Week.

Pierce has a lot of catching up to do, having watched from the sidelines while the Winnipeg passing attack has placed last in the league with just 2,940 yards and nine touchdowns. What's worse, the group has tossed 12 interceptions which has led to a dismal 74.4 efficiency rating in a league where the pass is king and everything else is a distant second if that.

Toronto, which is set to host the next meeting between these two clubs in the middle of October, won the last encounter back on July 18 by a score of 25-22 at home in Rogers Centre. The victory was the third in a row for the team in the series, which means the Argos now hold a 52-5-2 advantage in the all-time, regular-season relationship dating back to the 1945 campaign.

Pierce will probably need some more time to settle into a comfort zone in the pocket, so if Toronto is smart it will bring the heat early and often this weekend.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Toronto 27, Winnipeg 18

09/26 11:19:35 ET


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