All about the bye

JIM BENDER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:23 AM ET

The hosts are determined to establish their turf as an intimidating place as possible.

After all, Winnipeg should be hosting its first CFL playoff game at Canad Inns Stadium since 2003 while the Hamilton Tiger-Cats are desperate to hang on to the last threads of playoff hopes when they take on the Blue Bombers today (6 p.m.).

"This is about getting a W, in a nutshell, and moving closer to first place," Bomber linebacker Barrin Simpson said yesterday. "It's all about that first-round bye. We've got a great opportunity to do that."

Finishing first would give the Bombers the bye and assure a home playoff date.

"This is the time when you start situating yourself for a playoff spot," said Bomber slotback Milt Stegall. "You get that bye game, that home playoff game for the East or West final, your chances of going to the Grey Cup are pretty good.

"We control our own destiny. Hopefully we keep controlling it."

Going hand in hand with that is intimidation. The Bombers are 4-1 at home this season and have won the last three.

"We've got four home games left," said veteran cornerback Juran Bolden. "Nobody wants to come to Winnipeg right now. They don't want to be here 'cause it's cold. You're acclimated to the weather when you're here."

Then there's the fans, with a record five straight sellouts heading into this match.

ATOP THE EAST

Although they lost to Toronto last week, the Bombers are still atop the East with a 7-4-1 record, three points up on Montreal and five ahead of the Argos. The Ticats, who beat Calgary last week, are 2-10.

"They're coming off a win so they've got a a little more excitement to them," said Winnipeg quarterback Kevin Glenn. "Hamilton's got a good defence. We've never taken them lightly. We've never underestimated them. They're finding their identity now and they're doing some good things."

Hamilton has yet to be mathematically eliminated from post-season play.

"We're not giving up," said Ticats linebacker Zeke Moreno. "Our goal is to make the playoffs ... We're still striving for that and our next step to get there is to take care of the Blue Bombers."

The 'Cats have beaten the Bombers once this season.

Hamilton running back Jesse Lumsden still believes they can make the playoffs.

"That's the CFL, you're never out until you're out. So we've got to go out and win every game ... We've got to come ready to play and ready to beat whomever shows up. It doesn't matter if they're in first place or last place."

The Tabbies have yet to win a road game and will likely be forced to start backup quarterback Richie Williams tonight.

"Every game's tough to win, especially in our situation where we haven't won a lot," said Hamilton head coach Charlie Taaffe. "Every game's a challenge. They don't have any glaring weaknesses at all. They've upgraded some of their defensive areas that they had concerns with, and they're a very good football team. That's why they're atop the East.

"I know they had the disappointing loss last week. They probably lost two points they probably felt like they would come out of Toronto with, and I expect they'll be a hungry team."


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