VANCOUVER -- Just when you thought there was no real motivation left for the Blue Bombers as they play out the string, one just came along.
Winnipeg can still finish as the best of the worst in the CFL if it can manage to finish the season ahead of both Ottawa and Hamilton.
The 5-11 Bombers were two points behind Ottawa and four up on Hamilton before last night's encounter between the two eastern sides.
A victory over the B.C. Lions here tonight could clinch at least eighth place overall and keep pace with Ottawa. The Bombers have already dealt their first-round draft pick to the Leos so there is no sense gassing the rest of the games just to choose first overall for that draft pick. In fact, finishing seventh would give B.C. a lower-round draft choice.
Finishing the best of the worst would at least save some face and provide Winnipeg fans with more reason to hope for next season when the Grey Cup comes to town.
But beating the first-place Lions in their own lair will be no easy task tonight.
Here's a closer look at tonight's encounter:
KEEP AN EYE ON
No. 42 Neil McKinlay
Winnipeg's promising young Canuck gets his first start at middle linebacker against a team with a scrambling QB and a strong insider rusher (Antonio Warren). Sure, this is an experiment but a good showing could earn him future starting status.
Winnipeg slotback Milt Stegall caught four passes for 234 yards and four touchdowns against B.C. Yes, we know it was only two weeks ago but it's worth repeating in a season where highlights have been few and far between.
KICKOFF: 9 p.m.; TV/RADIO TSN/CJOB; THE LINE: B.C. is favoured by 11 points; ALL-TIME SERIES: Winnipeg leads 78-61 with two ties.
Winnipeg lashed the Lions 44-23 at Canad Inns Stadium on Oct. 10 of this year.
Both B.C.'s Ryan Thelwell (901 yards) and Jason Clermont (968) are approaching 1,000-yard season receiving. The last time two non-import receivers recorded 1,000-yard years in the same season was when Montreal's Ben Cahoon and Jock Climie turned the trick in 2000.
THE FINAL SAY
"I'm guaranteeing us a win also so, it's 50-50. They can guarantee a win and we can guarantee one as well. We'll come out and play our hardest no matter what and we'll see what happens at the end of (today)."
-- Winnipeg rookie defensive end Gavin Walls responding to some Lions guaranteeing victory for B.C. tonight.