HAMILTON — There is no Grey Cup or even playoff money on the line Monday afternoon, but it’s almost a make-it-or-break-it game for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
Sure, if they beat the Tiger-Cats at Ivor Wynne Stadium, they will move into a second-place tie with Hamilton in the CFL East and could even start thinking about hosting a playoff game.
But should the Bombers lose to the much-improved ’Cats, they’ll fall four points back, lose the season series and desperately try to avoid being eliminated from the playoffs altogether.
“I know it won’t be a death sentence if it doesn’t go our way, but certainly we would like to come out on the positive end of it and not have to worry about those things,” Bomber head coach Mike Kelly said yesterday.
Losing may not be a death sentence, but certainly work on the gallows will start as Edmonton (6-8) is ahead of the 5-8 Bombers in the crossover playoff derby.
“If we lose, I would be highly pissed off and I’m sure everybody else would be,” said Winnipeg defensive back Lenny Walls. “We wouldn’t be out of it but we would definitely put ourselves into a more desperate situation each and every week after that.
“But we have no intention of losing.”
The Bombers are already in playoff mode.
“It’s a playoff game,” Bomber quarterback Michael Bishop said earlier this week. “If they win, they get rewarded. If we win, we get rewarded ... It should be a great game but the outcome needs to be in our favour.”
Winnipeg is shooting for its third straight win for the first time this season.
“We’ve had confidence all along, we just weren’t getting it done on the field,” Bishop said. “But our confidence is getting higher. We know we can play with anybody in the league. If we come out and do the things that we do well, the sky’s the limit.”
Hamilton does have that two-point cushion to deflect some pressure.
“This is another football game with obvious implications,” said ’Cats head coach Marcel Bellefeuille. “But it’s not the last football game so we can’t over-emphasize it.”
Both teams have four games remaining, including a head-to-heat matchup in Winnipeg.
“It is a key game because of Winnipeg getting back in the hunt and getting on that two-game winning streak and putting themselves into a position to get into the playoffs,” said Hamilton’s backup quarterback, Kevin Glenn. “The biggest thing is that we’re still in control of our own destiny. We can control whether or not we get a home playoff game and whether or not we get into the playoffs.”
After Saskatchewan beat Toronto Saturday night, six points separate the No. 2 team from No. 7 (Winnipeg) among the eight CFL teams.
“This is a big deal now,” Kelly said. “This is what we all want it to be, right? We want to be playing games in October that mean something.
“This is great for the league that you have so many teams clustered in together and you really don’t how it’s going to come out for another month or so.”
A Bomber victory today would rev up the playoff pistons after such a horrible to start to their campaign.
“We can climb our way back into things,” said offensive lineman Ryan Donnelly. “If we can pull off a win this week and get another one against B.C., we’re looking good.”
But if they lose, they can expect those gallows to go up in a hurry.