The Winnipeg Blue Bombers open their 2018 season with a home game against the Edmonton Eskimos Thursday. Winnipeg is building off a 12-6 campaign in 2017 that ended in a playoff loss against these same Eskies, so this is a perfect opportunity to measure each team’s off-season success.
In 2017, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers averaged 30.8 points per game, marking a third-straight season of improvement, but defense was a major problem. The Blue gave up 29.5 PPG in divisional games and big plays were a killer. At home the Bombers allowed 29-26-28 points to divisional foes before losing 39-32 to Edmonton in the opening round of the playoffs.
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ 12-6 SU record in 2017 was their best in more than a decade
Winnipeg’s most recent playoff win was in 2011 and they are 0-3 SU since. To stop the bleeding on D, LB Adam Bighill was signed in May. Bighill made his mark the BC Lions where he recorded 579 tackles in 99 games, including 2015 where he led the league with 117.
Bighill has ‘big’ game experience with the Lions and along with Anthony Gaitor, Chandler Fenner and Craig Roh, the Bombers are sure to benefit from the veteran presence both on the field and in the locker room.
WINNIPEG BLUE BOMBERS, OFFENSIVE ID
The Bombers signed Nic Demski to a free agent contract this off-season as Demski returns from an injury shortened season in 2017. Demski will work with the receiving corps and in the returns game, which is an integral part of the punt fest that takes places north of the border.
RB Kienan LaFrance and Adarius Bowman also return home, Bowman coming off seven strong seasons in Edmonton. LaFrance will provide depth behind Andrew Harris who is coming off a sensational 1,000-yard rushing year where he led the league.
The new look offense will lineup alongside rookie QB Chris Streveler on Thursday at IGF. Streveler takes over for Matt Nichols (knee), who was injured a week ago in training camp. It’s forced a home dog line of +7 for the Bombers and we are also seeing pressure on the total (O/U 50), down from an opening post of 53.
After Edmonton the Winnipeg Blue Bombers will take to the road for two starts at Montreal and Hamilton. HC Mike O’Shea insists his team is taking things on a week-to-week basis and while that might be true, the Bombers can’t afford to let Nichols’ injury sideswipe them too far off course. In 2017, Winnipeg was 2-2 out of the gate before a five-game win streak from Week’s 6-10 put them in contention.
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Back-to-back home and home’s against the Lions and Argos in Week’s 4-7 could serve as the team’s make or break point in 2018. Each team was beatable last year but the Bombers went 2-3. Current Grey Cup odds feature the Winnipeg Blue Bombers at +700, just ahead of Toronto (+700), Saskatchewan (+800) and BC (+1200). Winnipeg needs to find a way to battle through the early injury to Nichols and reach the Banjo Bowl at .500 or better. From there, they can control their own destiny with three of their final five games at home.
Hitting 12 wins this year might be a stretch but with Calgary (+200) and Edmonton (+430) ruling the West, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers can’t afford to miss by much.