CFL Preview - Winnipeg (0-3) at Toronto (1-2)
From The Sports Network
By Gregg Xenakes, CFL Editor
DATE & TIME: Wednesday, July 18, 7:30 p.m. (et).
GAME NOTES: As if being the lone winless team in the CFL after three weeks of action were not bad enough, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers are back out on the road with a very short week of preparation as they challenge the Toronto Argonauts on Wednesday night at Rogers Centre.
Having failed to climb into the win column thus far, it should come as little surprise that Winnipeg is ranked last in the league with a whopping 116 points allowed. However, perhaps even more painful is the recognition that the team has generated a mere 56 points thus far, fewest in the CFL as well.
A big part of the problem on offense has been the health of quarterbacks Buck Pierce and Alex Brink. Pierce, the starter heading into the 2012 campaign, suffered a foot injury in the lopsided 42-10 setback versus Edmonton last Friday, the third in four straight road dates to kick off the season for the Bombers.
Brink meanwhile, suffered what appeared to be a head injury in the losing effort as well, but all indications are that he will be ready to make the start against Toronto this week as he claims to have no real issues.
Needless to say, Winnipeg has had anything but an easy road in the early going this season, particularly against Edmonton last week as it gave up a season-high 42 points while registering a season-low 10.
Brink and Pierce combined to hit on 11-of-23 pass attempts for 136 yards, each tossing an interception, while third-string signal-caller Joey Elliott stepped in to convert 11-of-18 passes for 193 yards and the only major of the contest for the club in the fourth quarter of a game that had long been decided. While Elliott kept the Bombers from being left high and dry, his performance was still two steps behind getting the squad into the win column.
Late Monday it was determined that Pierce will be out indefinitely with torn ligaments and a torn muscle in his left foot.
Chris Matthews tried to give the visitors something to cheer about last week, as he recorded game highs with seven catches for 171 yards, including a long of 72, but it wasn't nearly enough to even make the final score respectable.
As for the Argonauts, they too came out on the short end of a 36-27 final versus Hamilton over the weekend. The issue with Toronto was that it surrendered 29 points in the first half, and while able to limit the home team to just a single major in the final 30 minutes of action, couldn't close the gap enough to sway the outcome.
Now 1-2 on the season, Toronto was paced by running back Cory Boyd who raced for a game-high 168 yards on 19 carries and scored once. Boyd, who has gained at least 1,100 yards on the ground in both of his first two seasons in the CFL, is now the league leader in rushing after three weeks with 317 yards, averaging a whopping 6.7 yards per attempt.
Quarterback Ricky Ray is still adjusting to his new surroundings and new teammates since being moved from Edmonton during the offseason. The signal- caller, currently second in the league in total passing yards (937), connected on 23-of-38 passes for 232 yards and was intercepted once by Hamilton in the loss last week.
Although his efforts were not enough to earn the Argos their second win of the campaign, Chad Owens continued to show why he is one of the most dangerous players in the league as he generated 112 yards on five kickoff returns, another 89 yards while bringing back punts and also caught four passes for 44 yards. Owens, who has registered at least 3,000 all-purpose yards in each of the last two seasons, is listed third in combined return yards at the moment with 560.
In addition to Owens becoming more of a key contributor for the Edmonton offense, slotback Andre Durie is also off to a fast start with his new quarterback. In the two previous seasons, Durie recorded 54 catches each year for 632 and 665 yards, respectively, and already he is on pace to crush those numbers as long as he and Ray continue to find each other.
Durie now has 23 catches for 266 yards, although he has yet to find the end zone which is also the case for Owens who is fifth in the league with 232 yards on 17 grabs. Then again, Durie and Owens are in good company when it comes to failing to post majors on receptions as the only other player in that category among the top 15 receivers in the league at this stage is British Columbia's Geroy Simon, who in the first game of the season became the league's all-time leader in receiving yards.
While the Bombers deal with the loss of their starting quarterback, Toronto is now about to start life without kicker Noel Prefontaine who landed on the IR with a hip injury. To take his spot, the team signed kicker Swayze Waters, who was a two-year starter at the University of Alabama-Birmingham.
These two teams met a total of four times last season, with Winnipeg capturing the first two encounters during July, and Toronto managing to split the series with victories in September and October, albeit by just a combined total of six points. They are slated to match up again in late September on Winnipeg's home field, and then three weeks later in Toronto as well.
Having to figure out the best approach for the quarterback position will not be easy for the Bombers right now, but at least it keeps Toronto guessing as well when it comes to schemes for the Argos defense. However, the home team still has the better man at that particular position at the moment so lean in favor of the Argonauts this time around.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Toronto 28, Winnipeg 13
07/18 10:52:45 ET