The Winnipeg Blue Bombers have ended a drought with a rout. This comes after they clinched the CFL West Divison title with a commanding 45-0 win over the BC Lions.
This is the first time they will have hosted a divisional final since 2011. And the first time they have hosted a Western Division Final since 1972.
If you are relatively new to the CFL you might be wondering about the discrepancy there. Well, the Blue Bombers have shifted around a little over the years to help with balance and alignment.
Winnipeg have moved Divisions over the years
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers are very much a Western team and belong in the CFL West Division. But they have spent a considerable amount of time in the East Division too. Between 1987 and 2013 they spent 21 seasons in the East Division. Plus one season in the North Divisions as part of the US expansion era.
In 1987 they moved to the East Division to replace Montreal who had folded just prior to the regular season.
They played a total of eight consecutive seasons in the East Division. Before moving to the newly created North Division in 1995 during the short-lived US Expansion era. As the US expansion was wound down, and the Baltimore Stallions were made into the core of a reinstated Montreal Alouettes team, Winnipeg returned to the West Division in 1996.
It was short lived though. As the Ottawa Rough Riders ceased operations. Once again Winnipeg were re-aligned to the East. It wasn’t until 2014, and the arrival of the Ottawa RedBlacks that the Blue Bombers returned ‘home’ to the West Division.
So all in all Winnipeg were in the East Division for 21 years, in between, were in the North Division (during the U.S. expansion era) for one year and the season was cancelled in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Meaning there were 26 shots at a Western Division title that did not come off – but not any more.
Ending the droughts is becoming a habit
Until the end of the 2019 season the Winnipeg Blue Bombers suffered through the longest title drought in team history. Not to mention maintaining the longest run in the CFL without a Grey Cup to their name. But after finally winning it all in the last full CFL season they are are the reigning Grey Cup Champions. Incredibly this was their first championship since 1990.
Now Blue Bombers fans are enjoying watching their team defend a championship this year following the cancelled season in 2020. And, boy, is that title defence going well so far!
This is all part of a remarkable run. As since 2016, Winnipeg are on a 54-29 run (including standing at 10-1 this season). They will be making their fifth consecutive playoff apperance off the back of 10+ wins in a season. And, have made a habit of getting the monkey off their back of some longstanding droughts these past two seasons.
How Good are they?
So far this season it is fair to say that Winnipeg have looked a cut above. Their only blemish came in a surpsise 30-23 defeat away to the Toronto Argonauts, who themselves are unbeaten at home.
That aside, on their way to a 10-1 record they have looked dominant. They have scored more and conceded less points than any other team in the league.
Not to mention the Blue Bombers are yielding points at historically low levels in the 4th Quarter. So far they are allowing 0.54 points in the final period. 6 points in 11 fourth quarters has seen them become the only team in CFL history not to allow a 4th Quarter TD in a season. Of course that could still change. But as it stands the points per fourth quarter they are allowing is also the lowest in CFL history.
Allowing for rounding the D is giving up 11.5 points per game. An incredible performance in the modern game. The last time a team gave up this few ppg was the Hamilton Tiger Cats giving up 11.4 ppg back in the 1966 season!
If the old adage that Defence wins championships holds then they look in very good shape indeed.
Winnipeg be warned
Winnipeg then are easily the League’s frontrunners. They look incredibly dominant. Get to play a home West Division title game in December, and have a shot at defending their title off the back of a really dominant season.
But they don’t have to look far for warning signs not to become complacent. When they took the title last year they did so be beating a record setting 15-3 Hamilton team who many saw as the favourites.
They could look to their own history too. That 1972 Winnipeg team that last hosted a Western Final were bested 27-24 by an 8-8 Saskatchewan team. Or remember that the 2011 team that hosted an Eastern Final went one better making the Grey Cup only to lose 34-23 to the BC Lions.
You could argue of course that neither of those teams were as dominant as this Winnipeg side. But what of the Calgary Stampeders who turned in dominant 15-2-1 and 13-4-1 back to back seasons in 2016 and 2017 only to suffer shock Grey Cup defeats on both occasions?
Or, again, from their own history another warning. Led by Bud Grant the Blue Bombers most dominant Dynasty run came between 1958 and 1962. They won four Grey Cup titles in five years. Yet it was the 1960 team that posted the most dominant regular season record (14-2) that lost a 3 game Western Semi-Final to Edmonton.
Winnipeg fans will be confident however. They should be. Their team is dominanting and looks to have great strength in depth. But if history teaches us anything it is that you can never be certain of the outcomes.
That is why they play the games, and as ever, it will be fun for us all to watch it unfold on the field.
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