WINNIPEG -- The Edmonton Eskimos are facing their most important game of the season tonight.
That's not to say there won't be games down the road that are more important.
But in this season to date, the Green and Gold are about to deal with the most critical 60 minutes of the year when they battle the hometown Winnipeg Blue Bombers this evening at Canad Inns Stadium (6 p.m. MT, TSN, CHED).
An Edmonton loss tonight would mean a two-game losing streak and three defeats in the last four games.
That is not the way the Esks would want to roll into the final portion of the regular season.
To put this in further perspective, consider the difference between a win and a loss tonight.
A victory puts Edmonton in a three-way tie with Calgary and Saskatchewan for first place in the West Division at 16 points.
A loss would put the Esks at 7-6 and tied with B.C. - pending the outcome of the Lions game this weekend.
It's possible Edmonton could be in last in the West Division by Sunday morning.
If that's the case, confidence goes through the floor for Eskimo players - regardless of what they might say publicly.
There are always games and plays during a season that are looked back on and given extra meaning when the campaign is over.
This tilt in Winnipeg could be one of those games, for a positive turnaround or when the team hit the rocks.
There is a quiet confidence within the Eskimos camp this week. A 40-4 loss in Montreal last Sunday hasn't sent the team into panic mode.
But make no mistake: tonight's game is a major test for the Edmonton coaching staff and the leaders on this team.
The coaches didn't have a proper game plan to beat Montreal last weekend.
In a very short week - just four days in Edmonton - have the coaches put together the right game plan for tonight?
How good has the advance scouting on Winnipeg been?
Edmonton hasn't played this team in 13 months.
The full-time advance scout last year - Bill Macdermott - is gone.
On the player side of the equation, have the leaders really delivered the message that this team has to be better?
"There wasn't a lot that had to be said," said Edmonton receiver Kamau Peterson.
"Nobody is accustomed to getting beat (like that).
"Everybody's pride was hurt by that. What we needed to say, we did say."
Middle linebacker Agustin Barrenechea has been impressed by the team's preparation for this game.
"I would say this has been one of our better practice weeks," he remarked.
"The bar has been set. We made it known what is required of us as players and let's get the W. It's black and white."
The Bombers enter this contest riding a two-game winning streak.
After starting the regular season at 1-6, Winnipeg is playing its best football of the year.
Quarterback Kevin Glenn is red hot and calling his own plays for the Bombers.
"I think (Glenn) is one of the main reasons why we are playing so much better as a team," said Winnipeg head coach Doug Berry, who is thrilled with his club's balanced attack of run and pass plays.
One team is finally rolling.
And the other team is teetering.
The storylines are set.
Kickoff is next.