Andrew Harris returns to anchor the CFL’s top-ranked ground attack this weekend.
The CFL rushing leader will be back in the lineup Saturday when Winnipeg (9-3) visits the Montreal Alouettes (6-5). Harris missed the Blue Bombers’ last two games while serving a suspension following a positive drug test.
Despite that, Harris, 32, continues to lead the league in rushing with 908 yards. The five-foot-10, 216-pound Winnipeg native is averaging a solid 6.4 yards per carry with three TDs while adding 46 receptions for 337 yards with three touchdowns.
Winnipeg head coach Mike O’Shea said he saw a different Harris on Tuesday.
“He’s pissed off,” O’Shea told reporters. “He’s not in any mood to chat and he’s not just going to exchange pleasantries.
“He’s angry. I’m sure that will turn into something productive for him.”
Winnipeg, which was 1-1 without Harris, is averaging a league-best 146.3 yards rushing per game (6.1-yard average per carry). And the Bombers will feature a two-headed run game with Harris and quarterback Chris Streveler (406 yards, 5.4-yard average, nine TDs).
Winnipeg is 2-1 with Streveler, who makes a fourth straight start replacing injured veteran Matt Nichols (upper body).
The Bombers would clinch a playoff spot by beating Montreal and Ottawa losing to the B.C. Lions on Saturday. If the Alouettes win, Winnipeg would still garner a post-season berth with a Calgary victory over Toronto on Friday and Redblacks loss, which would also secure a playoff spot for the Stampeders.
The challenge for Montreal’s defence will be containing Winnipeg’s rushing game and forcing the Bombers to pass. The West Division leaders are ranked last in the CFL in passing (205.1 yards per game).
However, that’s easier said than done considering Winnipeg leads the CFL in touchdowns (40), offensive touchdowns (33) and points for (29.6) and is second in offensive points (25.8).
Defensively, Montreal is ranked fourth against the run (100 yards per game) and sixth in points allowed (25.2), offensive points (22.5), touchdowns allowed (28) and offensive touchdowns (24).
But the Bombers’ defence isn’t exactly chopped liver, either. Winnipeg is ranked first in fewest points allowed (19.0), offensive points (17.7), touchdowns (18), offensive touchdowns (16) and rushing yards (67.8). Winnipeg is tied with Calgary for most turnovers forced (35) while standing second overall in interceptions (17) and sacks (35).
Montreal counters with an offence, led by quarterback Vernon Adams Jr., that’s ranked second overall in rushing (126.3 yards per game) and third in offensive points (24.5). And head coach Khari Jones has shown he’s an innovative, imaginative play-caller who’s not afraid to think outside of the box.
Adams was 22-of-36 passing for 344 yards and a TD in Montreal’s 27-25 road loss to Saskatchewan last week. Eugene Lewis had eight catches for 130 yards and a touchdown as the Alouettes had their three-game win streak halted.
Calgary Stampeders versus Toronto Argonauts (Friday night)
At Toronto, Calgary (8-4) chases a fourth straight win with Bo Levi Mitchell under centre. Mitchell threw for 342 yards in last weekend’s 19-18 home win over Hamilton but defensive back Tre Roberson clinched the victory by blocking a Ticats’ field goal try with 32 seconds remaining. The Argos (2-9) were on a bye week following their 46-17 road win over Ottawa on Sept. 7, but are 1-4 this season at BMO Field. McLeod Bethel-Thompson threw for 411 yards and three TDs versus the Redblacks and is second in CFL passing with 3,004 yards.
Hamilton Tiger-Cats versus Edmonton Eskimos (Friday night)
At Edmonton, Hamilton (9-3) plays the second of three straight road games against West Division rivals after dropping a heart-breaking decision in Calgary. The East Division leaders will clinch a playoff spot with a win or tie or Ottawa loss or tie against B.C. While the Ticats haven’t won at McMahon Stadium since ‘04, they claimed a 38-21 victory at Commonwealth Stadium last season. If Trevor Harris (upper body) can’t play, backup Logan Kilgore will be tasked with helping the Eskimos (6-6) snap a three-game losing streak.
B.C. Lions versus Ottawa Redblacks (Saturday night)
At Ottawa, B.C. (2-10) looks for the home-and-home sweep. Mike Reilly threw for 286 yards and two TDs while running for two more in last week’s 29-5 victory at B.C. Place, the Lions’ first win there this season. More importantly, Reilly wasn’t sacked for the first time this year and Brandon Rutley ran for a game-high 111 yards on 20 carries. Jonathon Jennings, returning to Vancouver for the first time, completed 19-of-31 passes for 239 yards with two interceptions for the struggling Redblacks (3-9), who’ve lost five straight.
Last week: 3-0.