Zach Collaros and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers have a tough road ahead. Collaros is expected to start at quarterback against the Stampeders in Sunday’s West Division semifinal in Calgary (TSN, 4:30 p.m.). The winner will face the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the West final on Nov. 17.
Winnipeg is chasing its first Grey Cup since 1990. But the 2005 Edmonton Eskimos are the last team to win a CFL title after finishing third in the West standings.
Now, the 11-7 Bombers do have some things going for them. They won the season series 2-1, and Collaros has won his last three starts versus Calgary. The 31-year-old from Ohio was 22-of-28 passing for 221 yards with two TDs and an interception in his Bombers debut, a come-from-behind 29-28 home win over the Stampeders on Oct. 25.
However, Winnipeg was a dismal 3-6 on the road and lost 37-33 in its only regular-season visit to McMahon Stadium on Oct. 19. Calgary quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell — who has an 11-3 regular-season mark against the Bombers — is 5-0 all-time at home in the playoffs since becoming the Stampeders starter in 2014.
But after finishing atop the West the previous three seasons, Calgary faces a longer road to a fourth straight Grey Cup appearance and second consecutive championship.
The offence will ride Mitchell’s strong right arm after 12-6 Calgary averaged a CFL-worst 73.4 yards rushing — and just 44.7 vs. Winnipeg, whose defence surrendered a league-low 64.2 per game.
However, Calgary will counter with the CFL’s No. 2 aerial attack (312.3 yards a game). Mitchell has two 1,000-yard receivers at his disposal in Reggie Begelton (100 catches, 1,492 yards, 11 TDs) and Eric Rogers (85 catches, 1,080 yards, 10 TDs). As solid as Winnipeg’s defence was against the run, it was ranked sixth against the pass (303.4 yards per game). But the Bombers finished second in interceptions (24, two behind league-leading Calgary) with Winston Rose (CFL-high nine) leading the way.
Winnipeg’s biggest advantage is its rushing attack. The Bombers averaged a CFL-high 147.9 yards per game, anchored by Canadian Andrew Harris (league-best 1,380). It marked the third straight CFL rushing title for Harris, despite missing two regular-season games following a positive drug test. Calgary’s defence allowed 96.3 rushing yards per game, but led the CFL in forced turnovers (47) and interceptions.
Calgary was 7-2 at home and 8-2 within the West. Winnipeg struggled away from IG Field, but was 7-3 against division rivals. Source Canadian Press