LIVESTREAM PPV: CFL – Winnipeg Blue Bombers @Edmonton Eskimos, Sept. 29, 5p (7p ET, 1a CET)

EDMONTON — Two teams racing neck-and-neck in the West Division playoff race collide in Edmonton on Saturday night, as the Eskimos host the Winnipeg Blue Bombers at Commonwealth Stadium.

Four points separate four teams from second-place Saskatchewan to last-place Winnipeg, lending the West Division a true ‘wild west’ feel this season, and Saturday’s contest is nothing short of a critical one.

Mike O’Shea’s Bombers snapped a four-game losing streak last with a 31-14 win over Montreal last weekend; Matt Nichols completed over 70 per cent of his passes for 256 yards and did not throw an interception, Andrew Harris looked dynamic prior to leaving with an injury and Kenbrell Thompkinselectrified the crowd with some big catches.

Jason Maas’s Eskimos, on the other hand, were the second-best on the field in a 28-15 defeat to the REDBLACKS in the nation’s capital last week. Edmonton struggled for offensive consistency and fell to 2-5 away from home; the Esks will be happy to return to the friendly confines of Commonwealth, where they own a 5-1 record.

Despite playing the last-place Alouettes, there is no doubt last week’s victory was an important step in the right direction for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

“You see all the results from the last couple weeks, and you go ‘okay, we’re right back in the thick of it’,” Winnipeg head coach Mike O’Shea told BlueBombers.com. “We all understand a win here would certainly help our cause and could affect how playoff standings play out. But there’s more football to be played, (and) our players always approach the game professionally.”

Fresh off his best performance in a number of weeks, Bombers pivot Matt Nichols knows the history between his current team and Edmonton, where he spent six seasons (2010-15).

“The last couple years, it’s been battles with them. I think that it’s been a lot of back and forth, we’ve gotten them a couple times, they’ve gotten us a couple times,” said Nichols. “Lot of good football games played between these two teams. It’s going to be another one of those games that comes down to which team plays a cleaner game, and does not make the mistakes that cost you a game.”

Ultimately, Winnipeg is a team that feels its best football has yet to be played — and that frustrates its players, given their perceived talent versus record.

“We definitely haven’t peaked yet and that’s frustrating when you lose and encouraging when you win,” said star running back Andrew Harris. “That’s the biggest thing. We’ve got to be able to find a way to win no matter what’s going on.”

Winnipeg will roll out essentially the same roster as last week, with two depth changes; Johnny Augustine and Frederic Plesius draw into the lineup, while Robert Priester and Shayne Gauthier hitting the practice roster and injured list respectively.

 

The Edmonton Eskimos need to find wins, yes.

But more important to Mike Reilly, Jason Maas and the rest of the organization is a return to good football; nobody was happy with the team’s performance in Ottawa last week, and most would agree their record is indicative of the season they have had.

“We’re still streaky, we’ve had weeks where we play good football, followed by not good, followed by great,” Reilly told Esks.com. “We want to play this weekend like we know we’re capable of. It shows up on film — when we win games, it’s because we’re executing well, playing disciplined football and not turning the ball over. Taking advantage of the other team’s mistakes.”

The importance of Saturday’s contest cannot be understated; it’s the nature of the CFL that once the toques come on, the intensity ratchets up a few notches.

“It’s a big game for both teams. That’s what you expect when the weather starts to turn, you put the toques on, you really want to come out and take advantage of the opportunity,” continued Reilly. “Being in the West, playing a division opponent, playing at home we always want to defend our turf and set ourselves up well should it come down to a tight race.”

Edmonton has a tradition of playing good football in the month of October, and Head Coach Jason Maas believes there’s something unique in the team’s culture that helps them step up.

“We definitely look forward to this time of the year,” said Maas. “It’s where championships are built and made. Guys grit their teeth, enjoy the weather. We’ve learned a lot of lessons, and it’s time for the stretch run — we’ve been good at that here.

“All the challenges you face from an entire year: Through the first 13 games you play up through September, you have all those lessons to be learned,” continued Maas. “There’s a confidence that comes year after year, when you’ve been good in October.”


By The Numbers:

– Win for Edmonton in its last four outings; after beginning the season 6-3 — and looking like they had an outside shot at challenging Calgary — the Esks have slumped back into the fight for a playoff spot.

10.6 – Career points-per-game for Winnipeg kicker Justin Medlock, who ranks second all-time in the category to only Mark McLoughlin (10.7 PPG).

100 – Average receiving yards per game for Edmonton’s Duke Williams (1,300 overall); Edmonton’s all-time single-season receiving record belongs to Brian Kelly, who hauled in 1,812 yards during the 1983 season.

106.6 – Efficiency rating for Bombers QB Matt Nichols against Edmonton, his best mark against any CFL team and significantly better than his overall career efficiency of 92.0. Nichols has thrown seven touchdowns against one interception versus the Esks, and owns a 3-2 record against his former team.

It’s no secret that neither the Bombers nor Eskimos have been playing their best football in the last month, and both have subsequently suffered the consequences in the standings.

Winnipeg finds itself in a dogfight with BC for the nearly-guaranteed crossover playoff spot, while Edmonton has been passed clean by Saskatchewan and is in danger of falling into a three-horse race with the Bombers and Lions.

Of those three squads, the Lions — on a three-game winning streak — are clearly the hottest, and Saturday night’s two combatants will be desperate to gain some momentum.

Mike Reilly and co. were effectively shut down in last week’s loss at Ottawa, while Matt Nichols and the Bombers rediscovered a bit of their mojo in a home win over Montreal.

The West Division playoff race is heating up, and Saturday’s contest will go a long way towards shaping who fights for what.

– With files from BlueBombers.com/Esks.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 – Winnipeg Blue Bombers @Edmonton Eskimos, Sept. 29, 5p (7p ET, 1a CET))

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