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Tait: Predictions pile up in long start to Blue Bombers season

The annual slate of football guesses has begun pouring in from across the CFL map.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback Matt Nichols (15) hands off to Andrew Harris (33) during the first half of CFL action against the Edmonton Eskimos, in Winnipeg on June 15, 2017. Matt Nichols seems to have found a favourite word to describe how the Blue Bombers offence will be this season. In a scrum with reporters after Tuesday's practice, the quarterback used the word

THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

Winnipeg Blue Bombers quarterback Matt Nichols (15) hands off to Andrew Harris (33) during the first half of CFL action against the Edmonton Eskimos, in Winnipeg on June 15, 2017. Matt Nichols seems to have found a favourite word to describe how the Blue Bombers offence will be this season. In a scrum with reporters after Tuesday's practice, the quarterback used the word "explosive" six times.

Not by their design or choice, but the Winnipeg Blue Bombers will be arriving late to the 2017 Canadian Football League party this weekend.

Yes, when the Bombers finally open their ’17 campaign this Saturday with a trip to Regina to face the Saskatchewan Roughriders at spiffy new Mosaic Stadium, they will be the last team in the CFL to officially grab turf and growl at an opponent.

In fact, when the Bombers and Riders kick off on Canada Day, six other squads will already have two games under their collective belts in a scheduling oddity that will be called a ‘quirk’ if the Bombers exit Saskatchewan with a victory, and a ‘curse’ if they don’t.

It also means that the Bombers will have had to wait an extra week to begin proving their seemingly growing list of doubters wrong.

That’s been one of the more intriguing sidebars in the l-o-o-o-o-n-g wait for the Bombers to open their ’17 season: in the build-up, the annual slate of predictions began pouring in from across the CFL map. And most of them had the local footballers finishing anywhere from third to last place in the West Division.

Now, predictions are just that – educated guesses – but it’s curious, from this perch at least, that so many don’t see last year’s 10-3 run under quarterback Matt Nichols as legit. That the league-best 59 takeaways and +29 turnover ratio isn’t sustainable, that Justin Medlock kicks too many field goals, that the defence gives up too many yards… and so on and so on and so on.

All of this, of course, may turn out to be a gift of prophecy.

Or, the juicy part of those numbers – particularly the 10-3 record with Nichols at the controls – may be representative of a trend that will carry over into this year.

The Bombers do return 10 of 12 starters on offence, with only receivers Rory Kohlert and Ryan Smith having exited, and have made a significant makeover to their defensive line in an effort to get more heat on enemy quarterbacks by bringing in free agents Tristan Okpalaugo and Drake Nevis.

Yet, the doubters remain, largely because the West Division race figures to be a nasty drag-‘em-out slugfest from now until November.

Can the Bombers build on a 10-3 run that saw them finish 11-7 a year ago?

Is Nichols a bona fide No. 1 quarterback?

Will the defence be able to turn over the ball at last year’s torrid pace and cut down on the gaudy yards against?

All good questions. And if this serves as fuel to the Bombers in fuelling a ‘we-get-no-respect’ mantra, so be it. But predicting how this will all turn out is simply part of the fun of the start of a season, nothing more or less.

After all, as Yogi Berra – that noted sports philosopher – once said, "It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future."

Ed Tait is the Blue Bombers Director of Content. His columns will appear weekly in the Metro. Follow him daily at bluebombers.com

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