REGINA -- The Winnipeg Blue Bombers are about to find out just how good they are, and they're going to do it against a team they always want to be better than.
The re-tooled Bombers, coming off a disappointing 7-11 season, kick off their 2005 CFL season against the arch-rival Saskatchewan Roughriders today at Taylor Field (9 p.m., TSN/CJOB).
"It's a very important time for the organization," said Bombers placekicker Troy Westwood, who was keeping his anti-Saskatchewan barbs to himself yesterday on a chilly Regina day. "As it's been said over and over again, we need to come together very quickly and produce very quickly.
"And even though maybe national expectations for us aren't very high, they're always high in the organization, so we have to come out immediately and be successful, or else the change will continue throughout the organization."
The Roughriders, who lost the West Division final in overtime last season, may just be the springboard that the rebuilding Bombers need.
Winnipeg has won seven straight regular-season games against Saskatchewan, including three in 2004.
That statistic wasn't lost on Roughriders head coach Danny Barrett, who may have unknowingly -- or perhaps knowingly -- added even more static to the rivalry when he broached the subject.
"I try not to dwell too much in the past, but in this case I did have to," Barrett said. "You talk about a team that won four games last year, if I'm not mistaken. Four? Five? Seven? Whatever.
"But three were against us, and they didn't make the playoffs. So it goes to show you that for whatever reason they're gonna be ready to play."
The Roughriders have 21 of 24 starters back from last season, while the Bombers counter with 14 returnees.
Roughriders defensive end Daved Benefield, who played with the Bombers in 2002 and 2003, feels that a revolving door isn't the answer.
"There's the old adage that you can just drag a guy in off the list and toss him in," Benefield said. "That's not good. You can't do that. You shouldn't be able to do it.
"So we're hoping that continuity wins out over just bringing people in and three games later they're done, and you bring another guy in."
Hmmm. Sounds familiar.
One of Saskatchewan's "newcomers" is quarterback Nealon Greene, who is back in the fold after missing all but one quarter last season with a broken leg.
Like Winnipeg starter Kevin Glenn, who has three quality quarterbacks in Tee Martin, Russ Michna and Spergon Wynn pushing him, Greene has more than his fair share of critics, including many in his own team's fan base.
"I'm pretty sure (I can quiet my detractors)," Greene said. "I'm just confident in that, and I'm confident the guys in the locker-room still have confidence in me knowing I can get the job done."
Glenn, who spent his first three seasons with the Roughriders, had a very average pre-season, so the questions about his ability to lead a CFL team are getting louder.
The decibel level of criticism will be comparable to a jackhammer -- at a rock concert -- if he struggles tonight.
"Last year we saw him perform as an efficient quarterback," Bombers head coach Jim Daley said in defence of Glenn. "... What we saw this year coming back to camp is his comfort zone as a quarterback and leader is very evident.
"... One of our strengths is going to be quarterback, and that's very encouraging."
To hear Daley talk yesterday, a Winnipeg win tonight would go way beyond encouraging.
"Every win is a big win," Daley said. "Wins against your arch-rival, and especially when that arch-rival is as established and as top-level a team as Saskatchewan, those are even bigger."