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CFL Preview - Toronto (1-2) at Winnipeg (1-2)



From The Sports Network

By Gregg Xenakes, CFL Editor

DATE & TIME: Friday, July 19, 8:00 p.m. (et).

GAME NOTES: The Toronto Argonauts try to get back on track this Friday night when they contend against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers at Investors Group Field.

Toronto, the reigning Grey Cup Champion, started the 2013 campaign well enough with a 39-34 triumph over Hamilton at home, but since then the squad has dropped two straight versus British Columbia and Saskatchewan.

Both the Argos and Blue Bombers are just 1-2 on the young season, the same being the case for the other two teams in the Eastern Conference (Hamilton and Montreal), so there's still plenty of time before need arises to push the panic button. However, the team that drops this matchup will be a step behind and might have to re-evaluate their approach.

Winnipeg's road to this point began with a 38-33 defeat at the hands of Montreal at home, but the team bounced back with a 19-11 triumph over the Alouettes a week later to even the slate. Unfortunately, the Bombers responded by bowing to Hamilton in a 25-20 final this past weekend.

Against the Tiger-Cats, Winnipeg was held scoreless in both the first and third quarters, while at the same time giving up points in every period, en route to their second five-point setback of the season.

Quarterback Buck Pierce seemed to be under constant pressure, hitting just 15- of-26 passes for 186 yards, while being sacked six times. Running back Chad Simpson tried to fill in the gaps with his game-high 116 yards and two majors on just 11 carries, while Justin Goltz took one of his three carries seven yards into the end zone in the second period for the visitors.

While the offense struggled for the Bombers, the entire unit hurt itself with a staggering 19 penalties for a loss of 161 yards. The 19 miscues were more than half the team's total through three games (36 in all) and with an average of more than 100 yards lost per outing, Winnipeg is making the task of playing football far more difficult than it should be.

In addition to putting themselves in a hole due to far too many flags, the offensive line for the Bombers has been rather weak to this point as well, giving up 14 sacks which is the most in the league heading into Week 4 action.

By comparison, Toronto has permitted just six sacks, second-fewest in the CFL behind the four given up by a perfect 3-0 Saskatchewan squad.

Speaking of the Roughriders, they were the latest team to send Toronto to the loss column, courtesy of a 39-28 final last week. The Argos actually scored the first points of the meeting and led 11-7 after 15 minutes of action, but the hosts were then limited to only three points over the course of the second and third frames before making things interesting with a couple of majors in the fourth.

Ricky Ray tried to keep Toronto competitive by hitting 27-of-37 passes for 334 yards and two touchdowns, but he was sacked three times and backup Zach Collaros was taken down twice behind the line of scrimmage as well.

The versatile Chad Owens accounted for eight receptions for 85 yards, five kickoff returns for another 102 yards, but just 19 yards on four punt returns.

Owens leads the league with 28 catches for 291 yards, but he has yet to make it into the end zone. The Hawaii product is also first in combined yards with 640, but is keenly aware that he has a huge target on his back these days and cannot do it all by himself.

Although he doesn't get nearly the level of attention as Owens, Andre Durie did raise his visibility last week as he caught seven balls for 100 yards and a touchdown, adding a 22-yard run on his lone carry out of the backfield as he was named the CFL's Canadian of the Week.

The Toronto defense has started out rather flat based on the first three games of the season, allowing a total of 35 and 31 points in the first and second quarters, respectively. However, the Argos have been able to straighten themselves out following the break, giving up a total of just 31 points in the second half thus far.

Unfortunately, the bottom line is that the Argos are last in the league in points allowed (32.3 ppg), the only team to be giving up an average of more than 30 ppg right now.

Toronto won two of the three regular-season meetings in 2012 between the squads, taking a 25-22 decision in Week 4 and a 29-10 final 10 weeks later. However, Winnipeg did respond on Oct. 19 with a 44-32 triumph at home.

Dating back to 1961 and taking into consideration only regular-season matchups, the Argos hold a narrow 53-51-2 advantage over Winnipeg, thanks to victories in four of the last five encounters.

These clubs have two more regular-season meetings on the schedule for 2013, although they don't take place until later this fall. The next engagement is slated for Oct. 19 again in Winnipeg, while just five days later the squads meet up at Rogers Centre.

If the Argonauts can figure out how to put together four strong quarters this week and can get enough pressure on Pierce, the visitors might be ready to break out of their mini slump.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Toronto 27, Winnipeg 24

07/17 10:31:27 ET