Bombers fans have waited all winter long for this rematch, after the Eskimos embarrassed the home-side team in last year’s Western semi-final 39-32. This game may have been considered the best game of the week, but a major injury to a Blue Bombers star has changed that perspective.
The Eskimos are now set as 7-point favourites for this CFL matchup to lead off Week 1.
CFL Betting Odds
The Blue Bombers won both regular season games against the Eskimos last season (33-26 at Winnipeg, 28-19 at Edmonton), but fell to the Eskimos in the West semi-final. Overall the Bombers are 10-4 ATS in their last 14 games against the West and 15-6 ATS in their last 21 games overall. The Eskimos are notorious slow starters to the season, going 3-8 ATS in their last 11 games in June. Although last season was a mystery, as the Eskimos won seven games in a row to start the year.
Last season the Eskimos were 12-6 during the regular season, before bowing out to the Calgary Stampeders in the West final. This season they want to take it to the next step and be in the Grey Cup game – and if they do, it could be special, as the Eskimos will host the Canadian Championship game in late November.
They definitely have the players to do just that starting at the top with the league’s most outstanding quarterback Mike Reilly. Reilly is just the sixth quarterback to record back-to-back 5,000 passing-yard seasons. If he wants to do it this year, he’ll be missing two of his key receivers. Gone are Adarius Bowman (Winnipeg) and Brandon Zylstra (Minnesota Vikings), but Reilly feels he could still hit that mark this season. A major strength of this team is its offensive line. Last season it allowed a league-low 29 sacks against.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers
The Bombers received some terrible news back on June 6 when star quarterback Matt Nichols went down in practice. He’ll be out of the lineup for the next 4-6 weeks with a knee injury. The question now for the Blue Bombers – who starts at quarterback? The answer – rookie Chris Streveler. The 23 year-old, 6-foot-2, 220-pound product of the University of South Dakota will make his first career start Thursday night. Streveler saw action in both of the Bombers two pre-season games, going a combined 13-of-19 for 184 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Streveler will become the first rookie quarterback to start a CFL season opener just a year after playing NCAA football since Anthony Calvillo (remember him?) did it for the Las Vegas Posse (1994). Alex Ross will back-up Streveler in this game.
Outside of the injury to Nichols, the Bombers do have a lot of optimism for the upcoming season. They have added some major free agents in receivers Adarius Bowman (former Eskimo), Nic Demski (former Rough Rider) and linebacker Adam Bighill. Bighill will be the most noticeable addition to the team. Last season he spent time in the NFL, but does have quite the history in the CFL. He is a four-time CFL all-star and in 2015 was named the CFL’s top Defensive Player.