Pic courtesy CFL.ca

Looks like we’re going to have a battle for first in the East Division after all.

At 8-4, the Blue Bombers are still atop the division – where they’ve been since Day 1 of the 2011 CFL season, but the Alouettes and Tiger-Cats are both within striking distance after some recent Winnipeg struggles.

Following a 7-1 start that included a streak of five wins in a row, the Bombers have slipped off the map a bit, going 1-3 in their last four. Perhaps strangest of all, the three losses in that span are all to last-place teams, with Winnipeg falling twice in a row to Saskatchewan earlier this month and a shocking 25-24 defeat to the 3-9 Argonauts last week.

Oh, and did anyone notice that the Bombers have lost both of their top-two running backs for the remainder of the season?

There is at least one bright spot.

The lone Bomber win in their 1-3 run came against none of than their Week 14 opponents, the Alouettes.

It was something of a squeaker, but the Bombers were 25-23 winners at Montreal two weeks ago, with Buck Pierce leading the visiting offence with 20 completions on 29 attempts for 320 yards and a pair of touchdowns against just one interception on a deflection into the arms of Alouette safety Jeff Hecht.

The Bomber defence didn’t exactly stifle the Als in the win, but it was effective, keeping Montreal pivot Anthony Calvillo out of rhythm and keeping his usual ESP-like connection with his receivers out of whack.

Montreal had exactly zero 100-yard receivers that day – a rare occurrence, and league-leading running back Brandon Whitaker was held to just 51 yards and no scores.

A Montreal win on Friday would bring both teams to 8-4 and a tie for first place in the East.