QB Matt Nichols and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers will come up a mighty challenge tomorrow night as they welcome the Ticats into their territory at Investors Group Field.
In his 2016 quarterbacking debut last week, Matt Nichols threw for 304 yards and a TD, which led the Bombers to a 30-23 victory over a formidable foe, the Edmonton Eskimos, defending Grey Cup-champion. The only problem this week is that Nichols won’t have two top receivers when the Bombers who are 2-4, will host the Hamilton Tiger-Cats at 3-2, tomorrow night.
Both Darvin Adams and Weston Dressler got injuries in the win over the Eskimos and so won’t play. Adams got an upper-body injury that might sideline him for possibly six weeks. Dressler has a leg injury that is undefined. Until the injury, Adams had 10 catches for 121 yards and a TD versus the Eskimos. Teammate Dressler had recorded six receptions for 111 yards. Winnipeg will also be without receiver Ryan Smith who suffered a lower body injury earlier this season.
The Tiger-Cats will be coming in trying to build on back-to-back wins, and have had some rest from their bye week. Jeremiah Masoli right now is completing 73.3 percent of his passes for 1,532 yards, eight touchdowns and five interceptions. Masoli is hot! If you think he only has 11 touchdown passes in his career. Luke Tasker and Andy Fantuz together have combined for more than 700 receiving yards and four touchdowns. Even Chad Owens has 27 receptions. Hamilton is shooting on all cylinders. Their ground game is averaging 55.4 yards per game, and C.J. Gable has been leading the way with 222 yards and one touchdown. On the defensive side, the Ticats are allowing 22.8 points and 343.8 yards per game. In defence, Simoni Lawrence is heading up the Tiger-Cats with 23 tackles. And to add to that support, John Chick has four sacks and Emanuel Davis has four pass deflections.
On the other side of things, it’s not looking so bright for Winnipeg who will desperately want a win after a rough 2-4 start to the season. Their stats are not as good as Hamilton’s but also not as bad. Drew Willy is completing 71.7 percent of his passes for 1,473 yards, five touchdowns and four interceptions. He’s had two touchdowns in his last three games. Darvin Adams and Weston Dressler both have combined for more than 800 receiving yards and four touchdowns. Andrew Harris has 30 receptions to boot. The Blue Bombers ground game is averaging 73.2 yards per game which is better than their opponent’s, with Harris leading the pack with 333 yards and one touchdown. Defensively, Winnipeg is allowing more points at 26.3 per, and giving up 440.5 yards per game. Ian Wild who leads the Blue Bombers with 42 tackles, and Jamaal Westerman, who has three sacks will have to tighten up their game, alongside Maurice Leggett who has shown promise with two interceptions.
So their depleted receiving corps will remain something to overcome a Winnipeg squad that’s 0-3 at home. Rory Kohlert who has four catches, 40 yards, was the team’s leading receiver against Edmonton after Adams and Dressler, so he’ll have to pick up his game and take advantage of the opportunit to get more playtime.
Since Winnipeg did show it could run the ball versus the Eskimos with Harris getting 127 yards rushing on 22 carries, which is a 5.8-yard average, including a single touchdown. It means they have potential to make a move offensively. The club re-signed veteran receiver Clarence Denmark, who played five seasons with the Bombers before being released in the off-season, is now getting anothet chance. Denmark has initially signed with the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the off-season but was released during training camp, so was free to come back.
Hamilton knows how to play on the road since they are 3-0 this year and are coming off an impressive 37-31 road win in Edmonton on June 23. Quarterback Jeremiah Masoli completed a CFL-record 23 straight passes en route to finishing 31-of-38 passing for 391 yards and three TDs which brought back the Ticats from the dead, overcoming a 25-point deficit.
Winnipeg has beaten Hamilton before, 28-24 at Tim Hortons Field just recently as July 7. Masoli was 29-of-39 passing for 367 yards with two TDs in that game and got intercepted twice, so the Bombers might want to follow that gameplan again.
Hamilton has also beaten Winnipeg though in eight of their last 10 meetings, don’t forget that they have had an extra week to warm-up for this game. On the other hand, the Blue Bombers are still waiting to get their week off. So far this season, the underdogs have owned the CFL, so many might think Winnipeg has a chance, but we will bet that the Tiger-Cats will win the game in the details since they are better on the road and have had more rest.