The Blue Bombers will find out very early in 2016 if all the changes they made in the off-season will pay dividends.
The CFL just released the 2016 schedule and it has the Bombers playing six of their first seven games against Calgary, Edmonton and Hamilton. Recently, the Blue & Gold have had very easy starts to the season, giving fans false hope after a strong start. The week one home game against Montreal will serve as a tuner for the tough stretch afterwards.
The Bombers don’t have any short weeks, mercifully, after numerous 4-day weeks last year. They do, however, play a whopping four games on Thursdays and one on Wednesday (August 3 vs. Hamilton). Thursday night games weren’t necessarily a success last year but the league clearly wants to give them another shot.
Unlike the last couple seasons, the Bombers will only play Saskatchewan twice this year – the annual Labour Day and Banjo Bowl contests – instead going head-to-head with the Calgary Stampeders (weeks 2, 5, 14) and the Grey Cup defending champion Edmonton Eskimos on three occasions (weeks 4, 6, 15). The Bombers have never once played the Eskimos close in Mike O’Shea’s tenure in Winnipeg, losing handily in each match up.
The Bombers play a home-and-home series with British-Columbia in weeks 16 and 17 before their second bye week of the season, eight weeks after their first one in week nine. Once again, the Bombers have been given two solid dates for bye weeks in their schedule.
After the difficult start to the season, the Bombers have a relatively easy schedule. Their longest road trip is three games, with an important bye week in between, and it’s against Toronto in week eight, Montreal in week ten and Saskatchewan in week eleven. The Blue & Gold will then play Saskatchewan, Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton, BC (2) and a home-and-home with Ottawa to close out the season, hopefully with a playoff spot locked up by then.
Overall, I think the Bombers have a great schedule this year for the team itself. With no short weeks, long road trips or badly scheduled bye weeks, it’s all in the team’s court to have a successful season. If Mike O’Shea’s team can reach their bye week in week nine at or above .500, they have a really good chance of making the playoffs for the first time since 2012.
Our first time to see the Bombers in action is Wednesday, June 8 when they take on the Montreal Alouettes at Investors Group Field in pre-season action.