By Judy Owen, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG – Running back Andrew Harris believes a Blue Bombers victory over the Saskatchewan Roughriders Saturday afternoon could be just the boost Winnipeg needs.
The Roughriders would sweep the clubs’ three-game season series with a win and also put a wrench in Winnipeg’s playoff quest.
If the Bombers are victorious, it could potentially set up a playoff matchup between the prairie rivals.
Both squads are riding three-game winning streaks and Saskatchewan has won four straight on the road.
“I mean, every game right now is a must-win and a big one for us,” Harris said after Friday’s walk-through practice.
“And again, a team that we’re potentially going to play in the playoffs, it’s going to be a big contributor to the confidence and knowing that we can do certain things and be successful in all three phases of the game against a team that we weren’t in the past.”
Saskatchewan (10-5) is in second place in the CFL West Division behind Calgary (12-2). Both clubs have clinched a spot in the playoffs.
The Bombers (8-7) have both B.C. and Edmonton two points behind them. The Lions play in Calgary and the Eskimos host Ottawa Saturday.
Riders defensive end Willie Jefferson would like nothing more than to add to his team’s momentum at the expense of the Bombers.
“You never want to go out and lose to a team that we know we can beat, and a team we’ve beat twice in a row,” Jefferson said.
“We come out, win this game, it’s just motivation for us to get going to the next game and the next game going into the playoffs.
“For Winnipeg, them coming in against us, like they have to win. If they don’t win, it’s pretty much going to be an uphill battle for them trying to get into the playoffs.”
Jefferson has at least one sack in five of his last six games. He’s also taken a pair of interceptions into the end zone for touchdowns this season, including a 49-yard run last week against Edmonton and a 97-yarder versus Winnipeg on Sept. 8.
The Riders lead the league with 41 quarterback sacks. Defensive end Charleston Hughes is tops with 15 and Jefferson has nine.
Saskatchewan defeated the Bombers 31-23 in the Labour Day Classic and 32-27 in Winnipeg the following weekend.
“We didn’t play great a couple games against them,” Winnipeg quarterback Matt Nichols said. “They capitalized on some mistakes and it is what it is. That’s the types of things that happen over an 18-game season.
“We’re a different team than we were then. We’re playing good football. We have a lot of confidence right now.”
Nichols has thrown one interception during the winning streak, compared to seven picks in the previous three games.
Riders head coach Chris Jones has noticed Winnipeg’s transformation since its last loss that was against his team.
“I think over the last three weeks, they probably are playing the best football in our league,” Jones said.
“They seem to be playing with that confidence that they had early in the year. (Nichols) is getting the ball out of his hands, they’re playing tremendous defence and special teams.”
The Riders have won seven out of their last eight games and Jones said his team was “fortunate.”
“A different phase has to lift us up every single week, whether it’s the offence one week or the special teams one week or the defence one week,” he said.
“We’re a good football team. We just have to show up with the right attitude.”
SASKATCHEWAN (10-5) AT WINNIPEG (8-7)
Saturday, Investors Group Field
CLOSE CALLS: During their three-game winning streak, the Riders didn’t win by more than seven points and the total margin was 13 points.
LUCKY 13: Saskatchewan has taken a club-record 13 returns in for touchdowns, including nine by its defence.
DRESSLER MAY DRESS: Bombers veteran receiver Weston Dressler is a game-time decision after injuring himself in practice this week. He’s on a streak of 123 consecutive games with at least one reception.
QUICK TURNAROUND: The Riders will be fielding a pair of players who arrived this week in seven-year veteran receiver Patrick Lavoie and four-year offensive lineman Philip Blake.