Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 2:15 PM EST.
8:30 PM EST. After 30 years of futility, it doesn't take much positivity to fire up the Blue Bombers hype train. A 5-2 start in the Manitoba capital has this year’s football club skyrocketing up the power rankings. From the outside looking in, it might be a nice story but if you watched the Bombers this season you'd understand that this team could easily be 2-5. To start the year, Winnipeg escaped an overtime game in Regina 43-40 after blowing a double digit lead at halftime. In Week 6, the Bombers overcame improbable odds to defeat the Alouettes even though they were down 12 points with just over a minute and a half to go. Finally, in Week 7, the Bombers had no business winning at Ottawa, but Redblacks' coach Rick Campbell threw up all over himself and gave up a costly single that kicked the window wide open for Winnipeg to steal the victory. Last Week, the Bombers were a small road favorite at winless Hamilton and not only did they cover but they crushed the lowly Ti-Cats 39-12. A blowout win like that will turn some heads in the market but don't color us impressed. Talk of the Bombers being in the same class as the Eskimos or Stampeders is a bit premature. Winnipeg has failed in both of its previous attempts against the best the West has to offer in Calgary and B.C.. Going from a -2 point favorite at the Ti-Cats to just a one point dog against one of the league's top teams looks like an overreaction based on last week's results. Had this game been played a few weeks ago what would this line be? A three-game winning streak for the Blue Bombers makes for a nice story in the local papers but this game against Edmonton is a big step up in competition. While the Bombers defense had their best game of the season in Week 8, it came against Hamilton. Not impressive. This unit still ranks 8th in the CFL in points allowed per game at 29.9, seventh in net offense and passing yards per game at 380.4 and 324.3 respectively. With one of the leagues’ best QB's coming to town, the Winnipeg D is being asked to run before it can crawl.
What the Eskimos have been able to do so far this season has been impressive. Their roster looks like the castoffs from the set of “The Walking Dead” as the bodies in their infirmary continue to stack up. Injuries are the biggest knock against the undefeated Esks coming into Week 9, but so far they've survived with the “next man up” approach. The loaded IR notwithstanding, the Eskimos are league leaders on both sides of the ball. The offense ranks first in net yards per game (407.1), passing yards per game (332.7) and they've owned the clock this season averaging 33 minutes and five seconds per game, which is tops in the CFL. Ball control is everything and there is no better man to have the pigskin in his hands than quarterback Mike Reilly. Reilly has not let the Eskimos makeshift offensive line become an issue, as he's been out of this world by completing an amazing 72.7% of his passes with 13 touchdowns and just four interceptions. On the other side of the ball, Edmonton is first in fewest yards allowed per game (308), first in passing yards allowed per game (252.9), first in quarterback pressures (60) and third in the league allowing 24.1 points per game. It doesn't matter who wears the Green and Gold, these guys have come to play every week.
Like Winnipeg, the Eskimos have played their fair share of close games but the tone towards those victories has been much more negative than the Bombers. Maybe because the Eskies have played down to the likes of Hamilton (twice) and Ottawa while Winnipeg has exceeded early season prognostications. The buzz around this contest is at a near fever pitch, which is saying a lot in a league that doesn't really kick it into high gear until the leaves turn colors. Bombers coach Mike O'Shea changed his team's preparation by closing practice to the public. O'Shea loves to mix in a trick play or two but those often come with a high risk/reward and the Esks will likely be ready for anything. Bombers defensive coordinator Richie Hall has rated his unit's performance “a five or a six” even after their dominant performance in Hamilton and we couldn't agree more. The Bombers have relied on winning the turnover battle with 14 takeaways but those are not skill plays, instead, they make up the in-game variance we often discuss When it comes to what these two can do man for man on the field, this is a bad matchup for the Bombers. Reilly should have a field day torching this vulnerable defense. Almost every time the Bombers look like they are about to take that next step, they flounder badly and this one sets up for that exact same thing. The only thing the Bombers have proven this year is that they can beat the East and they can get lucky in doing so. That’s not enough to get behind on a short week against one of the powers.
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Edmonton +101 (Risking 2 units - To Win: 2.02)