Blue Bombers in must-win situation vs. Argonauts
Winnipeg needs victories in final 3 games, Als losses to make playoffs
Glenn January doesn't want to be officially knocked out of the playoff race on Saturday.
That's why the veteran Winnipeg Blue Bombers offensive lineman isn't going to think about the lose-and-you're-out scenario that the Bombers (3-12) are facing against the visiting Toronto Argonauts (9-6).
"We're not really focusing on big-picture stuff like that," January said after Friday's walk-through at Investors Group Field. "We're focusing just on this game. This is a good challenge for us coming off a short week against a team that's going to throw a lot of different looks at you."
For Winnipeg to reach the post-season, they need to win their last three games and Montreal (6-9) needs to lose its final three. Winnipeg has won the season series against the Alouettes.
Toronto has a lot at stake in the game, too.
A loss to the Blue Bombers would open the door for Hamilton (8-7) to pull even with the first-place Argos, provided the Tiger-Cats defeat Montreal on Sunday. The Ticats hold the tiebreaker after winning the season series against the Argos.
If Toronto defeats Winnipeg, they'll clinch a home playoff date.
However, the Bombers could give the Argos a fight as they're going into Saturday's game on a rare high note.
Winnipeg defeated the Alouettes 34-27 last Monday in Montreal, forcing the Als to commit seven turnovers. Toronto is coming off two straight losses to Hamilton, including a 24-18 defeat last Monday.
"It's another chance for us to prove we have the wherewithal to brush off some of the hardships we've had this year and focus on doing our jobs and getting a win," January said.
Quarterback Max Hall will make his fifth start in a row and seventh overall for the Bombers. He recorded his first victory against the Als and was interception-free for the first game this season.
He sees plenty of motivation for the Bombers to win their first back-to-back games since August 2011.
'We're not out'
"We're not out," Hall said of the playoff picture. "Obviously, I'm going to be cliche and say we've got to take it one game at a time and all that stuff, but what we can control is this week, and if we can win this week we might have another chance next week to stay in the playoffs.
"But having said that, we're all still playing to keep our jobs, No. 1. And No. 2, I also think it is a pride thing. We want to go out there and play well.
"We get another chance to play in front of our fans, who pay good money to come watch us play, so we want to give them a show and beat a really good team if we can."
Bombers linebacker Henoc Muamba, who has enjoyed playing pro ball for the first time with his brother Cauchy, isn't ready to throw up the white flag.
"The season is winding down, but it's not over yet and we're not going to stop playing until the very last game of the year," Henoc said. "There's a lot of things that you've got to work on and we want to improve on."
The Muamba brothers (Cauchy is a safety) will be trying to figure out an Argos' offence that's once again being guided by Ricky Ray, who's back for his second game after recovering from a shoulder injury.
The 11-year veteran put up his 71st career 300-yard passing game in Monday's loss to Hamilton.
His interception-free streak ended at 247 passing attempts with a pick late in that game. His touchdown-to-interception ratio this season is an impressive 17-1.
"I thought [backup Zach] Collaros did a very good job while Ricky was hurt, but now that he's back, he's a Hall of Fame quarterback so he definitely makes the offence go," Bombers head coach Tim Burke said.
Winnipeg had been plagued by slow starts this season, but the Argos are currently experiencing the same thing. Toronto has trailed after the first quarter for four games in a row.
Asked how the Argonauts stack up to their league counterparts, Burke's answer supported the tight race in the East.
"Right now, I would rate Calgary as the best team in the league. I think they're really solid all the way around," Burke said. "And then it would be either Toronto or Hamilton."