It wasn’t all that long ago the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Hamilton Tiger-Cats were fighting it out in back-to-back Grey Cups.
On Saturday, they’ll write the next chapter in their cross-division rivalry at Tim Hortons Field.
It’s the second and final regular season meeting between the two teams, with Winnipeg having secured a high scoring 42-31 win way back in Week 1.
Both teams are looking to make it two straight after picking up victories in Week 14.
The Blue Bombers put together their most dominant effort of the season last week, dropping Saskatchewan 51-6 and the play of their offence should be cause for concern to a Tiger-Cats’ defence that ranks seventh in net yards allowed.
Zach Collaros comes into Saturday’s game after throwing for 319 yards and five touchdowns. This week he’ll try to pick apart a secondary that’s surrendering 272.3 yards each time out.
To do it, receivers Dalton Schoen and Kenny Lawler again need to be a force in the pass game. Both had 104 receiving yards in their win over the Riders, with Schoen pulling down three touchdown passes to give him an even 10 on the season.
Defensive back Stavros Katsantonis has been a standout in the Ticats’ secondary recently with interceptions in his last two games. If he can play well again and Javien Elliott and Kenneth George Jr. can perform up to their usual standards, it should give them a chance against one of the league’s top receiving corps.
Unfortunately for the Black and Gold, the pass game isn’t the only part of the Bombers’ offence they need to worry about, as running back Brady Oliveira smashed through the 1,000 yard mark a week ago with 154 yards on 18 carries.
With a loss followed by a big win, the Bombers are focused on being consistent each week.
Responsible for stopping Oliveira and putting pressure on Collaros is a front anchored by defensive linemen Ted Laurent and Malik Carney, who recorded seven tackles for a loss in their win over Ottawa.
Quarterback Taylor Powell opposes Collaros and heads into the game off a similarly strong effort that saw him accumulate 326 passing yards and three touchdowns. With a defence that has their hands full, being able to sustain and finish drives is critical to the team’s success.
Tim White will be Powell’s top target. He finished with 180 yards and two touchdowns in Ottawa.
He’ll be the focus for Bombers’ defensive backs Evan Holm, Demerio Houston and Winston Rose. Houston leads all backs with seven interceptions.
White feels his team is starting to head in the right direction having won two of their last three.
Despite a somewhat up-and-down season, running back James Butler — a game-time decision for Saturday — is still fourth in the league in rushing yards with 736. Butler could see his fair share of touches against a defence he’s well aware of after his time with the BC Lions.
It’s a defence that doesn’t give up much: 90.1 yards per contest to be exact. Second in the CFL with 37 sacks, they apply pressure from multiple angles and defensive lineman Willie Jefferson’s eight sacks will surely put the Hamilton offensive line to the test, even with the absence of veteran d-lineman Jackson Jeffcoat.
The Bombers can take another step toward a West Division title with a win in the Steel City.
Hamilton, meanwhile, wants to stay hot on the heels of the Montreal Alouettes in the East.
Kickoff is scheduled for 4 p.m. ET. Fans can watch on TSN in Canada while American and international audiences can catch the game on CFL+.