The Winnipeg Blue Bombers need to extend one streak and snap another Saturday to keep their slim playoff hopes alive.
The Bombers are in Hamilton on Saturday for the final game at Ivor Wynne Stadium (1 p.m. ET). Winnipeg hasn't lost a regular-season game to the Ticats since Aug. 13, 2010 — a streak of five contests — leaving quarterback Buck Pierce unsure as to why.
"I don't know, I think it's just one of those things," he said Thursday. "We have the confidence level when we go in and play against them.
"It seems like we execute well and we match up well against them. Their offence is a big-play offence and that kind of puts the pressure on our offence to stay on the field a little bit longer."
Actually, Winnipeg has won its last six straight against Hamilton, the other victory being a 19-3 decision over the Ticats in last year's East Division final.
But Winnipeg (5-11) hasn't managed consecutive wins all season and is coming off an impressive 44-32 victory in Toronto last week. The Bombers last recorded back-to-back wins Aug. 26, 2011, the second victory, coincidentally, coming against Hamilton.
Pierce is just as puzzled trying to explain that streak as well.
"Lack of consistency, lack of focus would be my guesses," he said. "Maybe too much confidence going in after a win."
Whatever the answer, now would be a good time to find it.
Hamilton (5-11) and Winnipeg are scrapping over the same bone — the last playoff spot in the East Division.
But also in the mix are the Edmonton Eskimos (7-9), who sit poised to take that bone with just one more win. That would ensure a team from the West Division crossing over and taking the final East Division playoff berth.
Wanting to play hard
Edmonton plays Montreal on Sunday and both Hamilton and Winnipeg can only hope the Alouettes, who have already secured first place in the East, will want to play hard regardless.
"One of us is going to be out and one of us is going to be in it for at least 24 hours," said interim Bombers head coach Tim Burke, adding if he could he'd ask Als quarterback Anthony Calvillo play this week and sit out the next one.
Winnipeg plays Montreal next week in the final regular-season game for both.
Burke says the stakes are different for Montreal on Sunday but he's counting on the Alouettes wanting to keep their momentum going.
"Montreal doesn't have to win, Edmonton does, but . . I know [Als head coach] Marc Trestman real well and I think he'll have those guys ready to play this week," Burke said. "He does not want to go into the playoffs with a negative. . . He wants to go in with momentum."
Since Burke was promoted from defensive co-ordinator at mid-season to replace Paul LaPolice, he has tried to change the atmosphere in the Bomber dressing room. Too much pressure on a team can be counterproductive, he has said.
"We brought it up briefly at the beginning of the week, what our situation was," he said. "My message will still be let's go out there and play for the love of the game and have fun."
The Bombers have continued to make changes, however, in particular to bolster a defence that Burke feels has been one of the weakest links lately.
The move of Johnny Sears to strongside linebacker is the latest. He's the third player in as many games to fill the slot and the fifth this season, although the change this time is because of injury to Demond Washington.
Both Burke and Sears think his skills are suited to the position.
"It's been musical chairs and I'm the last one to get in," Sears said with a laugh. "We know what's at stake.
"This is a huge game for both of us . . .We know that the team with the least mistakes will be able to come out with the win."
Burke has been touted as a possible head coach next season, although he insists he hasn't had any offers. But he has managed to make the Bombers look and feel more like contenders since taking over.
It's still a work in progress, he says.
"I think it's too early to say that we've overcome everything," he said. "Now, if we can win out here and go into the playoffs, then you're looking at a team with momentum, which is what you want."