TORONTO -- In his 17 seasons as a Blue Bomber, placekicker Troy Westwood has played a part in a number of dramatic CFL games.
But today's first-place showdown versus the Argonauts is a first of sorts.
"This essentially is a playoff game," Westwood said yesterday. "I can't remember being in a regular-season game that's meant more to us as a team than this."
Win this afternoon and Winnipeg is guaranteed to host the Eastern Final. Lose and the Bombers will likely have to earn their way back to Toronto for the final -- the same place they lost last year's semifinal.
"You can't possibly place enough emphasis on how important it would be for the road to the Grey Cup in the Eastern division to come through Winnipeg," Westwood said. "It's a much different scenario than coming through Toronto for whomever happens to get to the Eastern Final. I've played in a number of Eastern Finals in Winnipeg and it's a huge advantage for us to play in Winnipeg in the middle of November."
And both sides are well aware of what is exactly at stake.
"This is as real as it gets," said Argo defensive end Jonathan Brown. "This is for first place, this is for a bye week. It's a lot rolled into one."
It even has an added importance for the Bombers.
"It's not the playoffs but it can have that type of effect and that type of atmosphere," said Winnipeg quarterback Kevin Glenn. "There is football after this game but we're looking at this game like being a stamp on the season and for games to come. We win this game, we put ourselves in a position to get that first-round bye and to win the East."
But losing, even with all those injuries, would be a downer.
"We've been in first place all year long and I don't want to be negative but, to lose it at the end would be terrible," Bombers defensive end Tom Canada said earlier this week. "It's a huge game for us. We've been practising hard all week. I'm excited for it. We all are."