The Winnipeg Blue Bombers now control their own playoff picture -- thanks to the Saskatchewan Roughriders, no less.
Winnipeg's prairie rivals ravaged the Edmonton Eskimos 40-16 in Regina yesterday afternoon. Saskatchewan improved to 9-8 and moved six points ahead of 6-10 Winnipeg. But the Eskies dropped to 8-9 and are just four points up on Winnipeg with one game left -- against the Bombers in Edmonton next Sunday.
"It just clarified things in terms of, 'Win two and we're in,'" said Winnipeg head coach Jim Daley.
It's the Bombers new mantra: "Win two and we're in."
"And we don't even have to wait for help (from another CFL team)," Daley added. "It puts it right back into our hands again. And I hope they (Eskimos) got beaten up real good."
Winnipeg needs to beat the Eskimos in Edmonton's last game of the season, then defeat the Calgary Stampeders at home the following weekend. The Bombers would then be tied with Edmonton in the CFL West at 8-10 but Winnipeg would get the nod by virtue of winning the season series versus the Eskimos 2-1.
The Bombers suddenly became much more optimistic than they were after dropping a 20-13 decision to Hamilton just before their bye week.
"To go into Week 18 and, after all the things we went through this year, still be able to control our own playoff destiny, well, what else could you ask for?" Daley said just before starting to watch a videotape of the Saskatchewan-Edmonton contest last night. "It's back in our control again. Win two and we're in."
Of course, the Bombers would be eliminated from playoff contention should they lose to Edmonton. A tie would also end Winnipeg's hopes.
A win over the Eskimos would also set up an intriguing matchup at Canad Inns Stadium on Oct. 29. On that day, the Stampeders, who are somewhat revitalized under ex-Winnipeg quarterback Khari Jones, pay the Bombers a visit.
BACK AT IT: The Bombers return to practice this morning after enjoying an entire week off to start preparing for their final run at a post-season appearance. However, defensive end Elfrid Payton had been given permission to miss today's practice because he had returned home "for family matters," Daley said. His Gretna, La., home had been damaged by water as a result of the recent hurricanes in nearby Florida. Payton is slated to be back this afternoon.
PARTING SEA: He only completed 14 passes but some Calgary media types were already comparing Jones to Moses after he led them to an upset victory over the Toronto Argonauts on the weekend. But the Stampeders do believe they have reason for optimism.
"You could see the change in team confidence with him in there," Calgary head coach/GM Matt Dunigan told Calgary reporters. "We all know what he's capable of doing."