Fans need a reason to buy into next season

JIM BENDER -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 11:39 AM ET

OK, so the Winnipeg Blue Bombers are no longer in the CFL playoff picture. Big surprise. But that means they will get a jump start on next season when Winnipeg plays host to the Grey Cup.

Both defensive back Anthony Malbrough and linebacker Joe Tuipala will make their debuts when the Bombers play the reigning Grey Cup champion Toronto Argonauts this afternoon. And we suspect that it will not be long before we see the likes of the recently-arrived receiver Michael Coleman and defensive back Ike Charlton, even if Winnipeg head coach Jim Daley claims nothing has changed since the Bombers have been mathematically eliminated. And this will likely be one of the last looks at others in Blue and Gold.

The most important aspect of the remaining 2005 season is for the Bombers to show hope for the immediate future, some sort of indication that they will be a playoff contender by this time next season -- enough to sell more season tickets at least.

While that already started with last week's victory over the B.C. Lions, the Bombers need to continue that today by measuring themselves against the guys with Grey Cup rings on their fingers.

Here's a closer look at today's encounter:

KEEP AN EYE ON

Winnipeg MLB Joe Tuipala, No. 52

The Bombers want to see what the former Jacksonville Jaguar can do and if he has the ability to become their starting middle linebacker, which could spell the end of Ryland Wickman's tenure at the position. Tuipala has a reputation for delivering bone-rattling hits, but the knock on him in the NFL was his speed.

REMEMBER WHEN?

Bombers RB Charles Roberts had a career-high 30 carries and 154 rushing yards when the Bombers dumped the Argos 44-34 at Canad Inns Stadium last September? The Bombers trailed 20-3 in the second quarter, but Keith Stokes' 108-yard kickoff-return touchdown just before halftime gave Winnipeg momentum, and it out-scored Toronto 24-7 in the second half. Argos QB Damon Allen didn't play due to injury.

KICKOFF

3 p.m. at Canad Inns Stadium.

TV/RADIO

TSN (local blackout in effect)/CJOB.

THE LINE

Toronto is favoured by 3 1/2 points.

ALL-TIME SERIES

The Bombers lead 41-39 since 1961. There have been two ties.

LAST MEETING

Argos QB Damon Allen completed an impressive 20 of 24 passes for 317 yards and a touchdown before leaving with an ankle injury, and the Bomber defence couldn't tackle a dummy in Toronto's 34-27 win on Aug. 1 at Rogers Centre.

QUIRKY FACT

The last time Argos FB Sean Millington played the Bombers (on Sept. 27, 2002, as a member of the B.C. Lions) he had five yards on seven carries for a 0.7-yard average, but he scored on a one-yard touchdown run.

THE FINAL SAY

"We still have some unfinished business from our last meeting with Toronto. We lost by seven points (34-27) and we gave them the ball four or five times. We didn't execute and got some huge penalties that put us back. You want to measure yourself up against the best and until someone knocks them off the top, Toronto's there."

-- Winnipeg guard Mike Abou-Mechrek


Videos

Photos