Bombers are favourites

KIRK PENTON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:27 AM ET

The team that three months ago couldn't beat itself in an intrasquad game will no doubt be the favourite in its first playoff game.

Go figure.

There are actually several reasons why the Winnipeg Blue Bombers should get the favourite designation from the odds makers leading up to Saturday's East Division semi-final against the Edmonton Eskimos.

It would also mean the Bombers wouldn't be able to assume the underdog role, although you know they're going to try.

"It's a home game, they're coming out here, and we owe them," defensive end Gavin Walls said. "So no pressure on us. If anything, the pressure's on them."

Regardless of which side gets to use the us-against-the-world mantra, here are four reasons for Bomber fans to believe that there is more than one game left on their favourite team's schedule:

1. ALL CROSSED UP

This will be the fifth cross-over playoff game since the rule was instituted in 1996, and the visiting team (it's been the fourth-place finisher in the West each time) has never won.

In fact, all four home team victories have been by 10 points or more.

Only once, however, has the visiting team had a better record than the hosts, which will be the case on Saturday with Edmonton sporting a 10-8 mark compared to Winnipeg's 8-10.

2. FEELIN' FINE

The unknown injury status of two defensive starters notwithstanding, the Bombers appear to be the healthiest they've been in a long time as they enter the CFL playoffs.

Head coach Doug Berry said yesterday there was nothing new with the status of linebacker Ike Charlton (ankle) and safety Ian Logan (toe), which, according to the coach's words on Saturday, means they should be good to go against the Esks.

Berry, however, said they won't know for sure about the duo until the team returns to the practice field tomorrow.

The five starters who rested minor ailments in Saturday's win over Hamilton -- Kelly Malveaux, Anthony Malbrough, Jason Armstead, Terrence Edwards and Joe Smith -- are all expected back as well.

3. THUNDER AND LIGHTNING

It's hard to imagine Winnipeg's running game being so much better with Fred Reid and Smith than it was with Charles Roberts, but it's true.

The Bombers, as a team, had one 100-yard rushing game before trading Roberts to B.C. for Smith in early September, but they've had seven in nine games since.

Only Toronto and Hamilton were worse than Edmonton against the run this season.

4. HOT AND COLD?

The Bombers finished their season with a 6-2 record, although some will point out that four of those wins came against East Division punching bags Toronto and Hamilton.

The Eskimos, meanwhile, dropped four of their last six regular-season contests.

Berry had faith in his players throughout the rough patches, and he feels that played a huge role in how well they're playing right now.

"When you have a belief that they can get it done, it's easy to transcend that belief to them," he said. "If I'm showing that I believe in them, sooner or later they'll all rally around each other, come together and get this thing going.

"We've been able to accomplish that, and I feel really good that we're at where we're at right now."

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UNFRIENDLY WELCOME

There have been four crossover games since the rule was instituted in 1996, and the West has gone to the East each time. The East team, however, has yet to lose:

Year Winner

2005 Saskatchewan (9-9) at Montreal (10-8)

Montreal, 30-14

2003 B.C. (11-7) at Toronto (9-9)

Toronto, 28-7

2002 Saskatchewan (8-10) at Toronto (8-10)

Toronto, 24-14

1997 B.C. (8-10) at Montreal (13-5)

Montreal, 45-35


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