Johnny Manziel and Matt Nichols Playing under Pressure on Friday

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Friday night’s matchup between the 3-9 Montreal Alouettes and the 5-7 Winnipeg Blue Bombers will feature two quarterbacks who could be playing for their jobs.

Montreal’s Johnny Manziel and Winnipeg’s Matt Nichols are starting for their respective clubs. Both quarterbacks have a back up behind them who is pressuring for playing time.

1. Johnny Manziel 2. Antonio Pipkin

In Manziel’s rear-view mirror is Antonio Pipkin.

Despite Pipkin posting an impressive 2-2 record, well, impressive by the Alouettes’ standards, his statistics are not pretty. He’s averaging just 214 passing yards per game and has accounted for five touchdowns (one passing) in comparison to eight interceptions, three of which were returned for opposing scores.

Last week’s performance of 95 yards, zero touchdowns, and four interceptions has Pipkin benched in favour of a now-healthy Manziel.

After suffering a concussion during Week 9 against the Ottawa Redblacks, Manziel was sidelined and Pipkin was Manziel’s replacement. Healthy, and a back up the last two weeks, Manziel has not been shy to voice his opinion about sitting behind Pipkin.

With Manziel back behind centre, there’s no guarantee that the starting role will be his regardless of his performance.

Manziel should be in tough too.

Across from the former Heisman winner will be a Blue Bombers defence that is starting to find its game.

The Bombers have an above-average front seven, including speedy linebackers like Adam Bighill and Anthony Gaitor that can limit the damage of Manziel’s scrambles. Winnipeg’s secondary has allowed only 227 yards per game through the air in September too.

If Mike Sherman and the Alouettes are looking for enhanced ball security, Manziel may not be the answer. In Week 8, Manziel infamously threw four interceptions.

Johnny Football’s CFL season has not gone how he’d like it to. He’s yet to eclipse 200 yards passing in a game and is still without a CFL touchdown pass.

It’s crazy to think that Bodog, an online gambling site, set Manziel’s over/under passing yards at 3,900 and touchdown passes at 23.5 for 2018.

1. Matt Nichols 2. Chris Streveler

In Winnipeg, the quarterback controversy is much more legit.

Many armchair quarterbacks, excuse me, I mean fans, wanted Chris Streveler to replace a deflated Matt Nichols.

Nichols validly could have been blamed for Winnipeg’s 32-27 Banjo Bowl loss, loudening the Streveler chants. Ironically, both Nichols and Streveler finished 10 of 20 in the Banjo Bowl, and Nichols only threw for five more yards.

But Nichols three (five if you count those negated by penalty) crucial interceptions is what fans, and Nichols himself, are livid about.

The Bombers are also 5-7, which is not a record that a pre-season Grey Cup contender should ever possess. As Winnipeg’s starter in 2016 and 2017, Nichols’ main accomplishment was leading his club to victories. He’s the most consistent option the Bombers have had in years at quarterback.

In 2018, not much has gone in Nichols’ favour.

He’s trended numerous times from his post-game comments, and his play has been nowhere near last season’s.

In nine starts, Nichols has not thrown for 300 yards in a game, has more interceptions  (12) than touchdowns (11), and is fielding a losing record (4-5).

Starting Nichols versus Montreal is still without a doubt the right decision, but a poor outing and/or a loss could result in a permanent quarterback change.

Some are questioning whether Nichols is battling through injury after coming back earlier than expected. Others are definitive that it’s in Nichols’ head.

Whatever the issue may be, Matt Nichols has to deliver on Friday.

Luckily for Nichols, he appears to be getting two important offensive players back in the lineup. Veteran receiver Weston Dressler should replace Kenbrell Thompkins, and all-star tackle Jermarcus Hardrick will likely suit up, strengthening arguably the league’s best offensive line.

The Last Word

It’s highly unlikely that Pipkin would start over a healthy Manziel in Week 16. It’s also unlikely that Manziel will play lights out on Friday against Winnipeg’s defence. But for the Bombers, a poor performance by Nichols and/or a loss would likely result in Chris Streveler starting in Week 16.

The Alouettes rank dead last in opponent’s passing yards per game (320.3) and opponent’s completions (309) this season. If Matt Nichols is going to save his job, now is the time.

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