How the West will be won?

IAN BUSBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:38 AM ET

After getting through a tough stretch, the Calgary Stampeders need to take advantage of the next six weaks ... er ... weeks.

On the first day of training camp, Stamps coach John Hufnagel told his team they would need to fight past an opening month that included a two-game road trip and two long breaks between outings.

Now that they are 3-1, including knocking off the unbeaten Saskatchewan Roughriders last week, the Stamps are facing a schedule that gets much easier, at least on paper.

They host the 2-2 Winnipeg Blue Bombers Saturday at McMahon Stadium, then play either the 1-3 B.C. Lions or the 0-4 Edmonton Eskimos the next five outings.

Already in first place in the West Division, the Stamps could virtually secure a playoff position by completing a seven-game win streak.

"Right now, it's all about getting yourself in pole position for that second-half rush," said Stampeders quarterback Henry Burris. "Everybody's jockeying for first place, so if there are any setbacks in the second half of the season, you're still in good position.

"Right now, it's all about winning all the games that you can, especially against the West."

The Stampeders still haven't played their best football for an entire 60 minutes.

Against the Riders Saturday night at McMahon Stadium, the teams were tied 7-7 heading into halftime before the Stamps defence created some timely turnovers and took control.

In the previous three weeks, there were plenty of negatives to pick at with the offence, especially, suffering through dropped balls and interceptions.

Now the team is set to welcome receiver Ken-Yon Rambo back for the meeting with the Bombers while, at the same time, showing some prowess on offence.

Quarterback Henry Burris recovered nicely from two early interceptions against the Riders to throw four TDs in a 40-20 victory.

Now that the Stamps have taken care of the Riders (who they next face Sept. 17 in Regina), the two other teams in the West Division are searching for answers.

The Eskimos have put their football operations staff on notice that embarrassing losses such as Saturday's in Winnipeg won't be tolerated.

The Lions are in better shape, but not by much. With Casey Printers hobbled by a quad injury, they still have questions at the pivotal position, although Travis Lulay had a decent performance until throwing a late interception for a touchdown in a loss to the Argos.

Right now, the Stamps are focusing on the Bombers as they start the week's preparations Tuesday.

"I think Winnipeg's 2-2 -- that's our next opponent," said Hufnagel. "That's all I'm talking about. They're coming off a big win. They're a very talented football team.

"The season's young. We have three wins in our pocket -- we're fighting for a lot more."

The Stamps can at least hang their hats on the fact they haven't lost to the Bombers at home since 2004.

The difference in not hosting the West final last year was the matter of one point in the standings, so collecting some against lesser competition will be key.

It also helps they passed the first test against the Riders or Montreal Alouettes -- the two teams they didn't beat in 2009.

"There was a reason Montreal and Saskatchewan were both in the Grey Cup," Burris said. "But that was last year. We're such a different team. It's a different season -- we don't focus on last year.

"We're focused on making sure we're getting better each and every game."


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