Matt Nichols isn’t counting on anyone doing the Winnipeg Blue Bombers a favour.
If the CFL club wants to secure a home playoff date for the first time since 2011, the quarterback knows now’s the time to get that done with a victory Saturday afternoon against the visiting B.C. Lions.
“It’s a playoff-type urgency for us,” Nichols said Friday after the team’s walkthrough. “I’ve been in this league long enough that you can’t count on anyone in this league to do favours for you. I totally expect Edmonton to win out.
“If you want to get to where you want to be and be a championship team, you’ve got to win games that are must-win because that’s what they are when you get to the playoffs.”
A Winnipeg (11-5) win or an Edmonton loss at home to Calgary Saturday night would give the Bombers second place in the West Division.
This is the second attempt Winnipeg has at controlling its first-round playoff site. Last week, the Bombers lost 29-28 in Toronto after Justin Medlock missed a 39-yard field-goal attempt as time expired.
The task would seem easier this week since the Lions (6-10) are out of the playoffs, on a five-game losing streak and are 1-8 in their last nine games.
Not so fast, Bombers running back Andrew Harris cautioned.
“We looked at the depth chart. They’ve got a lot of their starters in there, they have some new guys in there,” Harris said.
“For those new guys, they’re going to be trying to make an impression. They’re trying to win a job for next year. And I’m sure there’s a bunch of guys going into free agency that are trying to impress as well.
“I mean, a Wally Buono team is a team that’s never going to quit so I expect them to come out flying.”
Buono, the Lions’ head coach and general manager, backed up that observation when asked what he wanted to see from his players.
“Honestly, I want to see a win,” he replied. “I’m not complaining about the effort, I’m not complaining about the physicality.
“I do complain at times about the execution, but I think every coach is going to do that. What we need to do is win. We’ve played some good football and some bad football and at the end we’ve always found a way to lose.”
The Lions will start Chris Rainey at running back and give Jeremiah Johnson the day off. Jonathon Jennings starts at quarterback and he wants to finish strong for the team and himself.
“You’ve got to play well to keep your job,” Jennings said, adding he hasn’t played to his standard or potential this season.
Winnipeg head coach Mike O’Shea said offensive linemen Jermarcus Hardrick and Travis Bond will be game-time decisions. Running back/receiver Timothy Flanders will miss a third straight game.
The Bombers and Lions played two weeks ago in Winnipeg, with the home team winning 26-20 despite not scoring an offensive touchdown. Winnipeg defensive back T.J. Heath took an interception back for a touchdown and Kevin Fogg returned a punt for a TD. Medlock was good on all three field goals in that game.
The veteran kicker said he’s flushed the Toronto loss, which saw him connect on only two of four field goals. He’s missed six of his last 13 field-goal attempts, sending his percentage to a league-low 76.7.
Bombers receiver and Medlock’s former holder Weston Dressler predicted better kicks ahead for the former most accurate kicker in league history.
“Most of the time he’s going to make that kick for us,” Dressler said. “I’d bet money right now he’s going to make a big kick for us somewhere before this season’s over and into the playoffs.”