To move atop the West Division standings, Cody Fajardo and the Saskatchewan Roughriders will have to do something no other CFL club has this season — beat the Winnipeg Blue Bombers at home.
Saskatchewan (7-3) visits Winnipeg (8-3) on Saturday to complete a home-and-home series between the rivals. The Riders took the opener 19-17 on Labour Day weekend in Regina on Brett Lauther’s 26-yard field goal on the game’s final play.
That victory ran the Riders’ win streak to six and gave them sole possession of second in the West Division, just two points behind first-place Winnipeg. However, the Bombers are a stellar 5-0 this season at IG Field, having outscored their opponents 165-83 there.
Even without starter Matt Nichols (upper-body injury) and CFL rushing leader Andrew Harris (suspension), Winnipeg led Sunday’s contest 17-16 on Chris Streveler’s one-yard run with 3:44 left to play. But Fajardo marched the Riders 87 yards on 10 plays to set up Lauther’s game-winning boot.
Fajardo finished 25-of-39 passing for 300 yards with a TD and two interceptions. He’s the first Saskatchewan quarterback to win six straight starts since Darian Durant recorded seven consecutive victories in 2014.
Streveler, in his second start replacing the injured Nichols, was 16-of-24 passing for 161 yards with a TD and two interceptions also. He added 65 yards rushing and a TD on 11 carries.
Streveler is 1-1 since taking over for Nichols. He’s 23-of-41 passing for 250 yards with a TD and two interceptions while rushing for 160 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries.
Johnny Augustine, replacing Harris in Winnipeg’s backfield, ran for a game-high 98 yards on 12 carries while adding three catches. Harris, who has rushed for 908 yards this season, will miss Sunday’s game as he serves the final game of his suspension following a positive drug test.
Winnipeg had 186 yards rushing on 26 carries (7.2-yard average) against the Riders. The Bombers defence recorded five sacks.
Fajardo became Saskatchewan’s starter after incumbent Zach Collaros suffered a concussion in the team’s season-opening loss to Hamilton. Fajardo’s emergence allowed the Riders to eventually deal Collaros to the Toronto Argonauts.
Fajardo has completed 196-of-273 passes (71.8 per cent) for 2,412 yards with nine TDs and six interceptions. He’s also run 59 times for 321 yards (5.4-yard average) and seven touchdowns.
Saskatchewan, which is 2-2 on the road this season, completed the Labour Day sweep last year en route to finishing second in the West with a 12-6 record. But Winnipeg had the last laugh, downing the Riders 23-18 in the conference semifinal.
With Winnipeg and Saskatchewan having two of the CFL’s better defences, the expectation is again for a low-scoring affair. That usually means the home team has the slight advantage.
B.C. Lions versus Montreal Alouettes (Friday night)
At Montreal, the Alouettes (5-4) play their first home game since their weather-related 17-10 loss to Saskatchewan on Aug. 9. They come off the bye week following road victories over Calgary and Toronto. Quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. threw for over 740 yards with four TDs and ran for three touchdowns in those victories. B.C. (1-9) also comes off the bye and plays its first game since offensive line coach Bryan Chiu was fired. The Lions have allowed a CFL-high 43 sacks and are last overall in net offence.
Toronto Argonauts versus Ottawa Redblacks (Saturday afternoon)
At Ottawa, Jonathon Jennings replaces Dominique Davis under centre for the Redblacks (3-7), who’ve lost three straight and seven of their last eight games. They also have more wins on the road (two) than at home (one). Davis was pulled in favour of Jennings after throwing three picks in a 40-18 loss to Saskatchewan on Aug. 24. Toronto (1-9) has also dropped three straight but McLeod Bethel-Thompson has passed for 300-plus yards in six-of-eight starts and has a CFL-high 16 TD passes. The Argos defence recorded six turnovers and seven sacks in Monday’s 38-27 road loss to Hamilton.
Calgary Stampeders versus Edmonton Eskimos (Saturday night)
At Edmonton, Bo Levi Mitchell looks to earn Calgary (6-4) a home-and-home sweep over its provincial rival. The CFL/Grey Cup MVP threw for 263 yards and a TD in Monday’s 25-9 Labour Day Classic home win in his return from a pectoral muscle injury. Ka’Deem Carey ran for a game-high 143 yards while Reggie Begelton had 10 catches for 138 yards and a TD. CFL passing leader Trevor Harris was 27-of-35 for just 216 yards with an interception for the Eskimos (6-5), who’ve lost two straight and continue to struggle in the red zone (44 per cent). Harris is 0-8-2 lifetime versus the Stampeders.
Last week: 2-2