Season in balance

Bombers slotback Milt Stegall is still optimistic about his team making the playoffs. (Sun...

Bombers slotback Milt Stegall is still optimistic about his team making the playoffs. (Sun Media/Jason Halstead)

JIM BENDER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:04 AM ET

First, there are must-win games, then there are MUST-WIN games.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers will play their most important match of the current CFL campaign when they take on the Argonauts in Toronto tonight.

The Bombers are tied with Hamilton for last place in the East at 2-8 and challenge the second-place Argos (4-6) at the Rogers Centre -- with all sorts of drama on both sides leading up to the contest.

The Argos fired their head coach, Rich Stubler, and replaced him with Don Matthews, the winningest mentor in CFL history.

The Bombers acquired middle linebacker Zeke Moreno from Hamilton, then dealt with the illness of defensive end Tom Canada.

Now, the Bombers need to catch Toronto if they have any sniff at the playoffs.

"All the other ones (before tonight) were considered must-game, must-game, must-game but, as the East continued to struggle, there wasn't as much emphasis," Bomber linebacker Cam Hall said on the eve of tonight's battle. "Now, the reality is, with eight games remaining, we have to get this one because, if we get it, that puts us right in the game with seven games left. Also, it will give us a chance to be in a tie-breaker with them.

"Ultimately, if we lose it, we'll be down three games and won't have a chance for a tie-breaker, which will actually put them four games up with only seven games left. So realistically, if you do the math, it wouldn't look very pretty. So, this is essentially THE must-win game of the season right here."

The Argos have already beaten Winnipeg twice this season with a fourth match to be played in Winnipeg.

"We still believe, we're still optimistic," insisted Bomber slotback Milt Stegall. "Mathematically, we're still right there. Toronto is two games ahead of us and Hamilton is right there with us. Can we catch (first-place) Montreal? I don't know about that. But we still have a chance to get second. That's what's going to be needed to make the playoffs. I don't think third place is going to do it right now.

"We're going to have to get that second place and this next game is important. Is it a must win? It's not a must-win, but we must win. We're right there."

However, it seems like just about every week, the Bomber opponent has made a major change and this week, Matthews has returned to the Argo helm for the third time in his illustrious-but-controversial career.

"All I can do in the short term is make the players more accountable and let them know they're accountable to me," Matthews told Toronto reporters earlier this week. "I don't have a clear picture of this football club and I have to catch up.

"But if you talk to the players I've coached, they expect to win because I exude that attitude. A lot of times, my teams have been called cocky because they expect to win but, to be successful, you first have to believe you can be successful."

And that attitude is catching on already.

"I don't think a swagger is something that was expected of us," said veteran Toronto linebacker Michael O'Shea. "In very short order, he is working that into our fabric."

Meanwhile, the Bombers are hoping to work winning ways back into their own fabric.

"Every game's a must game the way this works," said Bomber defensive end Gavin Walls. "We dug ourselves a hole, now we've got to climb out of it and make a statement. It couldn't come at a better time if we get the win this week."


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