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From The Sports Network
By Gregg Xenakes, CFL Editor
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 2, 2 p.m. (et).
GAME NOTES: A painful 2013 season draws to a close for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Saturday afternoon, as the team hosts the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in an Eastern Division showdown at Investors Group Field.
After winning only six games all of last season, the Bombers probably figured it couldn't get much worse, but in fact it did with the team logging a mere three victories through 17 games this time around. Last week, Winnipeg also served as the sacrificial lamb to Toronto as the Argonauts captured the East Division title with a 36-21 triumph.
The Blue Bombers were at the mercy of the Toronto offense last week, more specifically, they just couldn't stop Ricky Ray who ended up throwing for a career-high 505 yards and set a new Argos franchise record for consecutive completions with 21 in a row at Rogers Centre.
Winnipeg, which surrendered close to 600 yards of offense and generated just 337 yards on 75 snaps, didn't do itself any favors with 12 penalties for a loss of 95 yards. Then again, Toronto left plenty of doors open by committing 14 infractions for a loss of 139 yards.
Max Hall, who was taken out of the game late after suffering an injury, converted 17-of-32 passes for 257 yards and two touchdowns and, while he wasn't sacked according to the stats, he was under constant pressure and knocked to the turf a number of times.
Wallace Miles, who caught a five-yard TD pass late in the first quarter from Hall, tallied six receptions for an even 100 yards.
While Winnipeg players will be cleaning out their lockers following this contest, no matter the outcome, Hamilton on the other hand already has a date set with Montreal for Nov. 10 in the playoffs thanks to a second-place finish in the division, courtesy of the 27-24 victory over the aforementioned Alouettes last weekend.
Against Montreal, the Tiger-Cats needed a spark late in the game and were rewarded by Brandon Banks who raced 107 yards with a missed field goal for a touchdown with under four minutes remaining in regulation. Banks, who finished with 210 combined return yards in the outing, was named the CFL Special Teams Player of the Week.
Hamilton registered only 323 yards of total offense, so it was critical that Banks stepped up and made such a huge impact. Quarterback Henry Burris had a mediocre outing as he completed 16-of-23 pass attempts for 163 yards and an interception, while backup signal caller Jeremiah Masoli showed up in the third quarter to deliver a 12-yard TD strike to C.J. Gable.
Masoli also led the 'Cats in rushing with 61 yards on 10 attempts, while Banks generated 47 yards and a TD on only two carries.
Gable, who generated minus-one yard on just two attempts, is actually the best option Hamilton has at running back this season. Currently fourth in the league in rushing, Gable has turned his 130 attempts into 782 yards and crossed the goal line seven times. Just as important, the back has also reeled in 54 passes for close to 600 yards and five more TDs to make himself a dual threat coming out of the backfield.
However, while Gable has been viable producer on the ground, the Ticats are still a team that operate most efficiently when Burris is hitting all his marks. The quarterback has converted 65.6 percent of his pass attempts in 2013 and now needs just 210 yards through the air for another 5,000-yard campaign, but still it is hard to get beyond the fact that he has almost as many interceptions (19) as he does aerial majors (22)
With respect to the all-time, regular-season series between the teams, going back as far as 1961, the Bombers are the ones who own a 59-49 advantage over Hamilton, although the latter won the most recent encounter at home in late August by a score of 37-14. With that decision the Cats delivered on their fourth win in a row versus Winnipeg.
With both teams already knowing their fate beyond the final game of the regular season, Winnipeg has nothing to lose by letting it all hang out this week and at the same time the Tiger-Cats gain nothing by putting key players in harm's way. What that all means is that you can expect the unexpected, perhaps with seldom-used players picking up significant minutes in a meaningless game.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Hamilton 27, Winnipeg 25
10/30 10:51:12 ET