Trench warfare

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:51 AM ET

What's the key to the Edmonton Eskimos winning the East Division semifinal against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers?

It's right in front of the Green and Gold's offensive line.

Granted, the Bombers' running game will play a factor in which side wins the cross-over playoff game.

But the most important battle at Winnipeg's Canad Inns Stadium (11 a.m. MT, TSN, CHED) will be in the trench between Edmonton's O-line and the Bombers' D-line.

The unit that wins that key struggle will likely lead its team to victory on the scoreboard.

"The key is going to be whether or not Ricky (Ray) gets time to throw because teams don't really play us man to man anymore (in the secondary)," said Edmonton receiver Kamau Peterson.

"The last half of the season teams are zoning us up (in the defensive backfield).

"Winnipeg will be no different. So, the key to beating a zone is having time for Ricky to see what is in front of him.

"It is a cliche to say the battle has to be won up front -- but it really is true.

"Ultimately, that is where it all starts. If he stays on his feet, I like our chances. If (Ray) is ducking bullets, it is going to be tough."

Edmonton and Winnipeg split their two-game regular-season series, with each team winning at home.

When the Esks lost in Manitoba, the Bombers had two sacks and Edmonton had a measly 35 rushing yards.

One week later on Oct. 4, Edmonton won with 100 rushing yards and limited Winnipeg to one sack.

An effective running game can really help an offensive line keep the opposing rush away from the quarterback.

"We've got to run the ball," said Edmonton offensive tackle Calvin Armstrong on what area the Esks need to improve on when facing the Bombers.

Winnipeg recorded 42 sacks in the regular-season, third-highest in the league.

"They are really talented. Their inside two or three are really strong and their ends are real athletic," said Armstrong on the Bombers' front four, anchored by Doug Brown.

"It is a good challenge for us. It is going to be fun."

Winnipeg's Gavin Walls finished tied for third in the CFL with 10 sacks, with Brown adding six.

But if the Esks' offensive line can handle the front-four pressure, the Winnipeg secondary has proven to be vulnerable.

Winnipeg ranks in the bottom third of the league in the four key defensive backfield statistical categories, including giving up an average of 304 passing yards per contest.

The Esks have the league's top-rated passing offence with an average of 335 yards per game.


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