LIVE STREAM PPV: CFL Playoffs – Edmonton Eskimos @Winnipeg Blue Bombers Sunday Nov. 12 4:30p EDT (10:30p CEST)

By Chris O’Leary
WINNIPEG — Matt Nichols danced around in the pocket, threw passes to his teammates and brought a sense of calm to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers just in time for the Western Semi-Final.

It was a low intensity walkthrough practice, but the Bombers quarterback showed no signs of stiffness in his left leg, two weeks after leaving a game against BC with a calf injury. His status was murky all week, as coach Mike O’Shea wouldn’t name Nichols the starting QB for Sunday’s playoff tilt with the Edmonton Eskimos. The confirmation came on Saturday morning, when Nichols’ name sat atop the depth chart.

“I feel really good,” Nichols said. “I moved around a lot (in practice) and I’m fully prepared to go in and lead this football team. I’m excited to get out there in front of our home crowd. We’ve been preparing for this all season as a team and I think we’re ready for the moment.”


“He’s ready to go. As expected. All three quarterbacks are getting reps and we talked about it all year. Despite who you see handling the ball, all three are getting the reps, minus the ball handling. Whether or not (Nichols) was handling the ball much in practice this week he was getting those reps.”

Nichols’ former Esks teammate, Mike Reilly, said he wanted to get a fully healthy Nichols on the field on Sunday.

“There’s nobody on our team that doesn’t want Matt to play,” he said. “We want him to play and be healthy. This is the playoffs and you’re going against the five best teams in the league and you want their best on the field.”

While the week looked like a back-and-forth on his status, Nichols said the team knew the entire time he’d get the start.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers QB Matt Nichols was superb in Bombers win over Eskimos in August Photo: Jason Halstead


“I’m good to go, for sure. I’ve played a lot of football the last couple of years, played a lot of football this year and missing a couple reps here and there is not the biggest thing in the world to me. I’ve put in tons of extra time since I’ve been here, aside from yesterday when I was at the hospital for a few hours. I’ve been in here every day from basically 5 a.m. to 6 p.m., putting in a ton of extra work and getting ready for this game.”

Nichols’ wife, Ali, gave birth to their second daughter, Parker, on Friday morning.

The Bombers are still a team that’s missing some key players — linebacker Mo Leggett and receiver Darvin Adams being the two most prominent — at the most important time of the year, but Nichols’ confirmation as starter provides some much-needed heat to a chilly playoff game.

O’Shea’s Bombers confident in ‘next man up’

Bombers running back Andrew Harris speaking about Nichols:

“I’ve said this since he came here and started, he’s that guy. “He’s fiery as a competitor, he’s fearless and he’ll do whatever it takes to be ready to play, and play well. His preparation is the best I’ve seen. How he gets ready. Like he said, he’s here in the morning and he’s one for he last guys guys to leave. His prep separates him and that toughness gives him the extra edge. I’m not surprised he’s going to play for this game and he’s going to play well and help us to win a football game.”

Harris, the West nominee for Most Outstanding Canadian, will play a big part in any Bombers success on Sunday as well. He’s shredded the Eskimos throughout his eight-year career and was key to the Bombers going 2-0 against Edmonton this season.

With the Bombers’ hole-punching offensive line meeting the Esks’ pressure-hungry defensive line, the talk of Saturday’s availability, once Nichols’ status was taken care of, turned to a clash between two of the league’s best units battling in the trenches.

“I’m excited. I can’t wait,” Harris said. “That’s what you live for and again it’s a cold game, there’s a little less traction and those trenches, there are heated battles in there. We’ve got lots of respect for them. (Edmonton defensive tackle) Almondo Sewell is the best d-lineman I’ve ever played against. Lots of respect for him and for our guys. They’re ready for the challenge and that’s exactly it. It’s going to be smashmouth football in there and I know the guys are ready for it.”

Winnipeg Blue Bombers fans celebrate a TD with RB Aaron Harris during second quarter CFL action between the Bombers and the Edmonton Eskimos in Winnipeg on Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017. (CFL PHOTO – Jason Halstead)

Sewell, who predicted earlier in the week that his team would come into Winnipeg and win, acknowledged Harris’ dominance.

“Since 2012 when I first got up here and he was in BC, I remember I hit him,” Sewell said. “I gave him everything I had on one hit and I bounced right off of him. I said, ‘This guy’s real,’ and he’s always been that guy. You see that on tape, guys taking shots at him and he just doesn’t go down. You’ve got to get multiple guys around him. One guy can’t just believe he’s going to take him down. Next thing you know he’s going to slip right off of him and there he goes.”

After a cold week in Winnipeg, the temperature is expected to climb up to minus-four Celsius around the 4:30 p.m. ET kickoff.

By the numbers:

0 — Points allowed by the Eskimos in the first quarter of each of their final three games of the regular season.

4 — Games in which the Eskimos did not allow a single sack in 2017.

5 — Edmonton’s league-leading winning streak going into the post-season.

6-0 — Winnipeg’s record when leading after the first 15 minutes of games in 2017.

23 — Wins for the Bombers over the last two seasons — two more than the previous four seasons combined (21-51, .292).

71 — League-low pressures allowed by Winnipeg’s O-line in 2017. The Bomber defense, meanwhile, ranked third, with 116, for a plus-45 edge.

AFI, Yare Media and the CFL

American Football International is collaborating with Yare Media and the Canadian Football League to present 2017 CFL games live. This is more than a livestream. This is a stream of the top flight TSN network television broadcast.

If you can’t watch it live, each game is available for viewing through the remainder of the season.

LIVE STREAM PPV: CFL Playoffs – Edmonton Eskimos @Winnipeg Blue Bombers Sunday Nov. 12 4:30p EDT (10:30p CEST)

Today's CFL is more than just our great game of football. It's fans sharing their excitement for what they see on the field, and what they experience off it. Stay up to date on all the non-stop action at