LIVESTREAM: CFL – Ottawa REDBLACKS @Winnipeg Blue Bombers, August 17, 7:30p (8:30p ET, 2:30a Aug. 18 CET)

WINNIPEG — While their records may be identical at 5-3, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Ottawa REDBLACKS have taken vastly different paths to their Week 10 meeting at Investors Group Field this Friday.

After a slow start out of the gate with rookie quarterback Chris Streveler at the controls, the Bombers have surged to three straight victories against eastern opponents and sit tied for second in the West.

Ottawa, meanwhile, has gotten the job done more often than not without looking dominant — 23-point win over the Riders back in Week 2 aside. Two unconvincing wins against Montreal and a late-game collapse against the Argos in Week 8 have left the door open in the East Division.

Thus, as the CFL schedule inches toward the season’s second half and division races heat up, games like Friday’s become ever more important: Winnipeg will see it as a winnable home game against an eastern opponent, while the REDBLACKS will see this as a game they could pick up on their divisional rivals.

There is little doubt that Investors Group Field has been an unwelcoming place for eastern visitors.

Hamilton? 29-23 loss. Toronto? 40-14 beatdown.

The Bombers are 4-1 overall against the East this season, and Head Coach Rick Campbell and his REDBLACKS staff know they are in for a challenge come Friday.

Campbell specifically knows Winnipeg quarterback Matt Nichols well.

“I’ve known Matt a long time — he lives in my old hometown — and he’s a winner,” Campbell told OttawaREDBLACKS.com. “That’s how he was in college too. He’s been in this league a long time now, between his time in Edmonton and Winnipeg.”

Ottawa’s own offence will be looking to build on a strong 587-yard performance in last week’s 24-17 win over Montreal.

“We like to spread the ball around, that way we don’t have any tendencies and cues,” explained quarterback Trevor Harris, who threw for the second-most completions in a single game (44) in CFL history against Montreal. “We do a lot of different things. In-breakers, out-breakers, we push the ball down the field. Screens, draws, pocket movements, we run the ball well. Any time you can do that, it’s tough for a defence.”

The REDBLACKS defence will get a boost with the return of Anthony Cioffi at SAM linebacker; the 23-year-old Rutgers product recorded seven tackles, two sacks and scored a touchdown in his last two outings prior to missing the Montreal game.

Veteran Mike Klassen will slide onto the interior part of the D-line, replacing George Uko who landed the one-game injured list. Klassen has seen his share of snaps in rotation duty this season, recording 16 tackles and a sack in eight games.

Ottawa has had increasingly strong production from rookie receiver R.J. Harris; the New Hampshire alum has had 50 or more receiving yards in each of the team’s last four games, and hauled in his first career touchdown last week against the Alouettes.

On the Winnipeg side of the matchup, Head Coach Mike O’Shea’s team is in the midst of the logjam that is the West Division.

With Ottawa visiting IGF on Friday night, the Bombers defence knows it will have to be sharp against the REDBLACKS’ varied offence.

“Everything really runs through Trevor Harris, he’s executing a high level right now,” league-leading tackler Adam Bighill told BlueBombers.com. “They run the ball really well with (William) Powell, (and) they’re a ball-control offence that for the most part is really good with the ball.”

Safety Taylor Loffler understands the threat posed by Ottawa’s lanky 1-2 receiving punch.

“You’ve got (Greg) Ellingson and (Brad) Sinopoli, two big guys, great route runners and they always know how to find the openings in your defence because one was a quarterback and the other is just a great receiver,” explained Loffler. “It means you have to know where the holes are in your defence, because they’re going to know where they are. You just try to make those windows as small as you can.”

One of the major storylines entering Friday’s contest is the running back battle: Winnipeg’s Andrew Harris leads the league with 720 rush yards, while Ottawa’s William Powell ranks second with 608.

While broadcasters, journalists and Fantasy GMs alike will be fixated on the matchup, Harris insists he’s not interested in the narrative.

“He’s definitely a good player you notice makes plays. He’s a guy that can catch the ball really well, too, and is explosive in the receiving aspect as well,” said Harris. “But when we’re playing head-to-head and against each other, I’m not really focused on what he’s doing.”

The Bombers will make one solitary change to the roster that downed the Ticats last week, as Ryan Lankford enters in place of the six-gamed Weston Dressler.

The 26-year-old Lankford has been biding his time after being relegated to the practice roster this season.

“(Lankford) understands the crappy part of the business and manages to put in great effort all day, every day. That, to me, would be a good definition of what a ‘pro’ is,” explained Coach O’Shea. “He had an amazing training camp, he’s a helluva returner, a very good pro.”

Crunchin’ Numbers:

.500 – Matt Nichols’s record against the REDBLACKS in his last six starts dating back to 2015; he lost three in a row to Henry Burris (2015-16), and has won the three most recent matchups against Brock Jensen (2016), Trevor Harris and Ryan Lindley (2017).

4.8 – Yards per first-down rush for Ottawa, the lowest mark in the CFL. Winnipeg, in contrast, averages a league-best 6.2 yards when running on first down.

5 – Straight games in which Winnipeg has had a 16-point lead; the team record is six, set in Sept.-Nov. 1981.

60 – Receptions in eight games for Ottawa’s Brad Sinopoli, the most in the league by nine. Sinopoli is one of just three players (Allen Pitts, Derrell Mitchell) to reach the 60-reception mark in the first eight games of a season.

Talk about a juicy matchup: The Bombers and REDBLACKS, both 5-3 and fashioning themselves as playoff contenders in their respective divisions, under the lights at Investors Group Field.

The storylines are plentiful.

Andrew Harris versus William Powell in a battle of the league’s two best running backs; the chess match at the line of scrimmage between Winnipeg’s elite O-line and an Ottawa D-line which has the tools but lacked consistency in 2018; Ryan Lankford’s redemption story as he re-enters the lineup.

Trevor Harris and Matt Nichols both continuing their quest to join Bo Levi Mitchell and Mike Reilly in the league’s ‘elite’ quarterback group.

Buckle up.

– With files from OttawaREDBLACKS.com/bluebombers.com.

AFI, Yare Media and the CFL

American Football International is collaborating with Yare Media and the Canadian Football League to present 2018 CFL games live. This is more than a livestream. This is a stream of the top flight TSN network television broadcast.

LIVE STREAM PPV: CFL – Ottawa REDBLACKS @Winnipeg Blue Bombers, August 17, 7:30p (8:30p ET, 2:30a Aug. 18 CET)

 

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