WINNIPEG - Somewhat lost in the Twitter talk, the Swaggerville talk and the coach’s wife’s talk is the fact that Friday’s game between the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Hamilton Tiger-Cats is a big one.
Sure, it’s only Week 8, but the East Division-leading Bombers (6-1) have a one-game edge on the Montreal Alouettes and a two-game advantage on the Tiger-Cats (4-3), whom they beat 24-16 in Week 1.
The Bombers are taking on a tough opponent and are just two losses from being in a position where they would be on the road in the playoffs. In other words, the sold-out clash at Canad Inns Stadium between the swashbuckling East Division foes should be a beauty.
“We’re either up six (points), or we’re only up by two if we lose,” defensive tackle Doug Brown said. “We play them three times. We’ve won one game. We beat them at home. They’re coming here to steal one from us and even the score.”
The Bombers are looking for their first five-game winning streak since 2003, while the Tiger-Cats have won four of their last five. The Bombers boast the league’s top defence, while the Tabbies are one of the more well-rounded squads in the eight-team loop.
That is especially true about their offence, which is led by former Bombers quarterback Kevin Glenn.
“They probably have the best offensive line that we’ve faced in this league, which makes them very proficient at running and passing the ball,” Brown said. “Kevin’s got the veteran savvy back there at quarterback, and they’ve got weapons all over the place, including a better running game than they’ve had in years, with (Avon) Cobourne back there.
“That’s the problem: When you face them you can’t really gang up on one area. They’re really balanced. Khari (Jones) is doing a great job in his first year as co-ordinator, putting up points and keeping teams guessing.”
Brown returns to the lineup after missing two games with a broken big toe, but the Bombers will be without weak-side linebacker Marcellus Bowman, who is out with a case of turf toe. Merrill Johnson will start in his place.
First overall draft pick Henoc Muamba will make his CFL debut as a member of all four special teams. Receiver Greg Carr will appear in his second game of the season, but it’s not known if it will be at the expense of fellow pass catcher Terence Jeffers-Harris or defensive end Jason Vega. That decision will be announced one hour before kickoff.
The Bombers and Ticats will play in front of 30,033 spectators, which will be the largest crowd at the stadium since Oct. 21, 2006, when 30,092 watched Winnipeg beat Calgary. It will be the second-largest gathering for a football game on Maroons Road since 1998.
Winnipeg quarterback Buck Pierce hopes the hometown roar can help propel the Blue and Gold to victory.
“We’re playing well at home, so hopefully that momentum can continue,” said Pierce, who is 5-4 against the Ticats in his career. “We are a young team and this is relatively new territory for a lot of people here, so it’s a constant learning process and we’re preaching that daily to remind everybody how big of a game this is.”
Pierce expects the large crowd will ratchet up the decibel level a few notches, which could be a tough task considering how loud it was during Winnipeg’s win over Edmonton on Aug. 5.
“Probably a little louder than Kevin Glenn’s ever heard it before,” Pierce said.
The Bombers announced Thursday they sold all 500 of their temporary seats for the Banjo Bowl on Sept. 11. Capacity for that game will also be 30,033.