Who is your choice for Fans' Choice Douche Bag of the Year?

Monday, November 23, 2015

Monday Morning Sentmionies: Division Final Thoughts

My tolerance for bad football is pretty high. I mean I did willingly watch a Tennessee/Jacksonville game on Thursday that featured jerseys so hideous I swear I've found more appealing stuff in Prophet Jr's diaper. I'd like to say I watched purely for fantasy football implications but if I'm being honest with myself I probably would have watched regardless. The point of this extended rambling is that I was going to be watching the CFL playoff games no matter what. I was super happy to be rewarded for my dedication with an absolute classic of a first game and a second game that was at least exciting enough to hold my attention until the end.

Let's start with the East Final. A beauty of a game. Tightly contested. Back and forth. Amazing plays on both sides of the ball. Came down to the very end. This was the CFL at its finest. Love him or hate him, for me Sunday's game solidified just how great of a coach Kent Austin is. Against a very good defense, he managed to get 350 yards passing out of his third string QB and another 40 out of his top receiver. He designed a game plan perfectly to Masoli's strengths and damn near pulled it out. Another thing this game solidified is how awesome Luke Tasker is. He is such a treat to watch that its worth enduring Rod Black's repeated reminders about his famous dad and poor attempts to give him a nickname.

The end sequence of that game was unlike anything I've ever seem. To summarize, Bad Hank showed up at the worst time ever for Ottawa and Burris threw what should have been a game losing TD directly into the hands of Hamilton's DE Gascon-Nadon. I get that you can only expect so much in terms of pass catching ability from a d-lineman but the only way Burris could have gifted that anymore would be if he wrapped it and had it delivered by singing telegram. After that bad drop spared Ottawa, they responded with a bad snap, a pass to a clearly well covered receiver... and a massive game winning TD because Gainey chose to embarrassingly fall down like h lost a battle with an invisible midget instead of making what should have been a routine knockdown. For the most part Ottawa deserved to win that game but man that's gotta be tough to take if your a Ti-Cat fan. I'm happy for Ottawa's fans... which is really tough for me given year's of anti-Burris conditioning.

The West final was essentially 3 quarters of Edmonton pummelling the Stamps, one of the oddest and most embarrassing video's reviews I've ever seen and a fourth quarter that featured a fight to the end by the Stamps in a desperate attempt at a miracle comeback. In a game featuring 2 of the stingiest defenses in the league, it was logical that a total of 76 points were scored. Credit to Edmonton's Offense. Calgary's had given up over 30 points just once this season (you would lose a bet if asked who did it because it was the Riders). Both offenses were moving the ball early but the big difference was that Edmonton was scoring majors while Calgary had to settle for FGs 5 times.

I now must address the embarrassing video review on the Messam fumble that honestly made the CFL look like the video review booth was being run by monkeys... no, check that, monkeys could probably have figured things out quicker. Clearly Messam fumbled and the play was whistled dead. Refs blew the whistle early and that cost the Esks a TD (at least briefly) but that's just run of the mill CFL reffing mistakes. What took this one over the edge was them taking 10 minutes to announce that the play was under review and another 10 minutes to figure out that because they blew the whistle and Lacey didn't score the play couldn't be reviewed by the booth (something they probably should have clued into a bit earlier given that the call on the field was down by contact... last time I checked that is not a scoring play). "The previous play could not be reviewed but Edmonton can now challenge" is about the most CFL call you will ever see. I mentally had the circus music going in my head the whole time. I just hope a reffing screw up like this doesn't pop up in the Grey Cup when a wider audience of non-football addicted people is watching,

I'll have more analysis on the Grey Cup as the week goes along but I will say this now: If Ottawa had trouble stopping a 3rd string QB they are going to be in trouble when Mike Reilly starts tossing against them.

If any of you are brave/stupid/crazy enough to be making the trip to Winnipeg for the Grey Cup party have 10 beer for me... it will help you cope with the whole "being in Winnipeg" thing.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Prophet’s Playoffs Picks: Division Finals

I love playoff football… even if my favourite team is so far removed from the playoffs that even if all of the remaining teams folded or were otherwise be unable to play this Sunday, they would still not enter in the playoff picture even as a replacement. But the division finals are a bittersweet occurrence. On the good side we get 2 hard fought games to determine who will freeze their ass off… err I mean play for the Grey Cup in Winnipeg. The downside is that there is sadly just 3 more CFL games until next year.

Let’s take a look at the match-ups.

East Division Final: Ti-Cats vs. RedBlacks (i.e. the battle of two teams whose names are derived from randomly combining two words into one thing).

Kent Austin will attempt to accomplish a pretty amazing feat on Sunday. He will try to lead his team to a third straight grey Cup appearance with a third different QB under centre. This will be his greatest challenge of the three… and that’s saying something given that one of them he had to accomplish with Henry Burris. If this were a battle of two healthy teams, the Ti-Cats would steamroll the RedBlacks (and I actually think Ottawa is a solid team). But the reality is injuries will play a major factor in this. Hamilton is missing their top 2 QBs, the top pass rusher in Norwood, Tasker and Lawrence are banged up but should play. By contrast Ottawa had largely avoided significant injuries (a leading reason they were the best team in the East). Ottawa’s defense allowed the least yards of any team, had the most sacks, tied with Hamilton for most INTs. They are a solid unit. Hamilton may have barely squeaked by the Argos but the Argo D is not very good. This will be a far bigger challenge.

As much as I make fun of Henry Burris (not only do I do it a lot, I enjoy it), he has been playing some of the best/most consistent football I have ever seen him play. Usually the pendulum swings often from Good Hank to Bad Hank (as Austin can attest to first hand) but this year has seen very little Bad Hank. That either means he is due for one of the most epically awesome choke jobs known to man or that he’s just on a roll that doesn’t show signs of slowing down. While I would really love the former, I think the latter is more likely. Hamilton’s defense and special teams are among the best but with a banged up defensive unit and a poor aerial attack I don’t think they will be able to carry the Ti-Cats to victory this team.

Game will probably be closer than some expect but in the end Ottawa by 10.

West Division Final: Stampeders vs. Eskimos (i.e. the battle of a province desperate for something to take their mind of the sad state of their hockey teams) 

This is likely to be the marquee game of the weekend. Two best records in the league, two great defenses, two dynamic QBs, two teams that tend to get heated when they play. This one could easily go either way. I give Calgary the edge in the run game and a slight edge at QB. I give Edmonton a slight edge in not having every player resembling an O-lineman hurt. Beyond that these teams are pretty even. I believe the on-paper match-up goes to the Eskimos. Plus they won the season series. But in spite of the injuries I give Calgary the edge in terms of intangibles. The key will be the start. Edmonton hasn’t played in two weeks. That will either mean they will come out fresh and hot or slow and sluggish.

I would say Edmonton is a slight favourite (despite what the official odds tell you) but my gut says take Calgary in a very clos, hard fought game. Stamps by a Rene Paredes FG.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Vote In the Fan’s Choice Douche Bag of the Year Award

It will soon be time for the annual Rider Prophet Awards. The awards themselves are about as meaningful as the Rider nominee for top O-lineman but at least my awards are more entertaining than the so called “legitimate” awards.
By far the most popular of the Rider Prophet Awards is the Fans’ Choice Douche Bag of the Year which recognizes outstanding achievements in the field of douche baggery as chosen by you, the fans. Voting opens today so let your voice be heard and cast your vote.
This year’s nominees are:
Jamal Westermaan - Nominated for being fined 4 times in his first season in the CFL for questionable hits. The fact his wasn’t suspended is more a reflection on the sad state of discipline in the CFL than it is on his dirty play.
Rogers – Nominated for their complete and utter mistreatment of the Argos. It culminated when they claimed they did not have enough time between ball games to convert the field for the Argos… they had 5 days. I hope every Argo player took a dump in their locker when leaving Rogers Centre for the last time this season.

Corey Chamblin – There are many things I could point to for his nomination: his abysmal failure at fielding a competent defense; his habit for deflecting blame to pretty much everyone but himself in press conferences; after months of silence following his firing, that revisionist-history interview he gave where he claimed among other things that he was trying to make the team younger. But the reason I will personally choose for his nomination is for subjecting us all to Tino Sunseri as our quarterback. That has to be classified as a form of torture under some international treaty.
Jon Cornish – He did nothing particularly douchy this season but this is a fans’ choice award and at your request it’s now a rule that Cornish be a nominee every year. He was among the top contenders last year based purely on write in votes after being left off the ballot. This is democracy in action people… even if it’s in relation to a made up award whose purpose is to insult people.

Other – If you feel someone out there exceeds the levels of douche baggery of the above nominees and needs to be considered for this award feel free to vote “Other” and leave the name of your write in vote as a comment on one of the blog posts.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Division Semi-Finals

It was a weird feeling for me on Sunday. Normally the first round of the CFL playoffs find me a lot less sober and a lot more stressed/nervous. Of course that is because I have grown accustomed to the Riders playing in the division semi-finals. But since the Riders won't play another meaningful football game for many many months (and you could argue haven't played a meaningful game in many, many months), I got to enjoy postseason football as a calm, cool and collected fan. Okay in full disclosure I may have stayed up late drinking and watching UFC the night before so the "calm and cool" may have actually been tired and "dehydrated" but I digress.

The games themselves were a weird hodge podge. The East semi was a very exciting game that featured some pretty bad football. The West semi was a not-so exiting game that featured some pretty good football (at least for one team). Both games went pretty much as expected. IN Hamilton, the Ti-Cats defense and special teams managed to compensate for such poor QB play I was mildly expecting to see Tino Sunseri saunter onto the field. There were times when Zach Collaros on crutches would likely have been a huge upgrade for them. The real winners in the East-Semi are Ottawa. Between the lack of a credible QB and the parade of injuries that occurred, you have to like Ottawa's chances next week. As much as losing sucks for the Argos, I'm sure they are secretly somewhat relieved this gong show of a season is over for them. Next year they get a new home that won't go out of its way to kick them out and owners whose interest in the teams goes beyond an obligation to not let them fold while trying to limit how much money gets lost in the process.

Out West, well the Stampeders just laid a good old fashion ass kicking on the Lions. They were just the better team in every aspect of that game. Defense was rock solid. Eric Rogers (in what is becoming a recurring playoff theme) was a monster. Even Jerome Messam got in on the action and ran all over the Lions. The only thing that remotely resembled drama in that game was when Calgary started losing all their O-linemen. You know you suck when you're opponent ends up starting 2 defensive tackles at guard and it makes absolutely no difference on the game. I don't like seeing players get hurt but I was kinda hoping it would continue just so we could get to a scenario where Paredes and Maver had to play guard. Could very well be the last time we see Harris and Lulay in Orange and Black... well Lulay will always be seen in orange but you know what I mean. I would complain about the lopsidedness of this game but I briefly switched over to the Denver/Kansas City game to watch Manning break the NFL passing record... when you see a guy break an all-time record and throw 4 picks and get benched in the same game, well let's just say it made the CFL look like quality viewing by comparison.

Bring on the division finals.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Prophet’s Playoff Picks

While the Riders are firmly into 2016 mode, the competent teams in the league still have some meaningful football to play. So I decided to devote this post to breaking down the division semi-finals. For 1, I could use a break from writing about the Riders (it’s a pretty big buzzkill). For 2, I have a whole offseason worth of blog space to fill and I don’t want to use up all my Rider material (GM/coach search, needed roster changes, etc…) before there is actually nothing to write about. Otherwise I might be reduced to posting photo journals of my poor attempts at Lego building with my children and Grandpa Simpson style “here’s what’s wrong with society” rants.

East-Semi: Toronto @ Hamilton
In a truly CFL moment, this game will actually feature 2 home teams. Hamilton being the actual home team and Toronto being a home team pretty much anywhere but their actual home. Had Zach Collaros stayed healthy I don’t think any team could have stopped the Ti-Cats from winning the Cup. His injury instantly changed the playoff landscape, particularly in the East. They have a dangerous defense and special teams but with a philosophical refusal to run the ball and no real aerial threat they will need to grind out a close with if they hope to move on. For the Argos, being able to turn to a guy like Ricky Ray come playoff time because your young hot-shot QB was struggling is a pretty sweet deal. Much like Hamilton, Toronto really doesn’t run much so their fate is tied to the arm of Ray.  To me this one boils down to big plays like turnovers and big kick returns. Hamilton does them better than anyone and will need them to help take pressure off Masoli. They will also need to counter the turnovers Masoli is likely to cough up. He certainly looked better last week than he did last year (he was awful last year in relief of Collaros) but he still isn’t able to carry that team offensively.

My gut says either a pick 6 or a kick return TD will be the difference as Hamilton feeds off the home crowd on route to a very narrow victory.

West-Semi: BC @ Calgary
BC has had a resurgence of sorts under Jonathan Jennings. Remember there was a time where people weren’t convinced Jeff Tedford or even Wally Buono would last the season. Banish the ginger, change QBs and suddenly BC manages to surge past the pile of garbage teams with which they used to wallow at the bottom of the CFL standings. For me, this game comes down to one match-up: a rookie QB in Jonathan Jennings vs. defensive guru Rich Stubler. He has managed to stymy some of the best QBs in the game, odds of him preying on Jennings’ lack of experience are good. Calgary allowed a league-low 16.1 offensive points per game. Calgary hasn’t really been dominating teams like last year but they keep finding ways to win. BC’s best player, Andrew Harris, appears to be counting down the days until he gets the hell out of BC. Not exactly the kind of laser-like focus you’d want from one of your star players. Another matchup to watch: Eric Fraser vs. Eric Rogers…. Well pretty much any Stamp receiver as Fraser is so non-impactful at safety that I’ve previously mused he would have been a perfect fit on the Riders D this season.

Stamps by 10

Monday, November 9, 2015

Monday Morning Sentimonies: We Won? I mean We Won!

Riders 30 - Alouettes 24

Well that was certainly unexpected. I had become so used to losing I just kinda took for granted we would lose again. Death, taxes and the Riders losing, three certainties in life. Apparently unless the Riders play the Alouettes. I would like to point out that the Als needed 8 wins to clinch the first ever eastern crossover. They have 6... 2 short. If they had managed to defeat the lowly Riders (like every other non-Brian Brohm led team did) they would have been in the postseason. I realize that given the lowly state of the Riders, I'm in not much of a position to beat other teams but man Montreal sure sucks.

As we mounted our big comeback in the 4th I found myself wrestling with 2 conflicting desires. 1 being for the Riders to win, the other being for that meaningless game between to bottom feeding teams not to go on any longer. I'm sure OT in that situation topped lots of people's lists of wants.

Keith Price didn't exactly look stellar... though if he had an O-line that actually decided to block somebody (you know like reputable pass rushers such as Bowman and Knapton), I bet he would have looked better. Also, bear in mind that Brandon Bridge got to look good against our god awful defense. Price had to play an actual pro-level defense. Every QB looks good against us, Price probably looked like the second coming of Flutie while running scout team in practice. I still like what I see from Price and hope he's back in camp next year battling for #2. He needs to work on things (like reading an all out blitz and throwing the ball quickly before he gets killed).

When it comes to intangibles, how can you not love Brett Smith. The guy just flat out makes things happen. Three TDs and 40 yards rushing would be a decent game. Smith did it in a quarter plus one drive in OT! He's rough around the edges fundamentally but he just seems to find a way to make plays. He's improved a lot since he was forced into action earlier this year. It would be huge if he could come in next year and lock down the #2 spot. Plus if we don't address our porous O-line this offseason then his mobility might be about our only chance.

Other guys I noticed in a positive way:
Anthony Allen - ran hard all day, also somehow turned a poor snap on a fake punt into a positive play
Ryan Smith - big day for him
Don Unamba - made some plays, me noticing him might just be a product of his average play looking great as compared to the rest of secondary

I won't give a full list of people I noticed in a negative way as that we take more typing on my part and reading on your part then I'm sure we'd both care to invest at this point. We won three games this year... that means lots of people suck. Below is just a list of people who really stood out.
Marshay Green - Any play directly involving him only has three possible outcomes: badly missed tackle, penalty, or really obvious penalty followed by a hissy fit.
Defense in general - have I mentioned before how bad we are at pass coverage or run stopping? 
O-line - I get that heavy blitzes like the Als were running will result in unblocked defenders but those should not be in the inside guys... all the time.
Stephen Houston - Last week I asked to see more. I got my wish and was disappointed.

And thus mercifully ends just a terrible year of Rider football.  While this win is mostly devoid of meaning and by no means makes up the crap we've endured this season, its still nice to end the season on a winning note. Bring on the offseason, it means we can't lose anymore and hopefully that the needed steps to bring this team back to competitiveness will begin to take place.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Riders vs. Alouettes: Let’s Get This Over With

I’m sure the CFL had a better match-up in mind when they decided to end the regular season with the Riders travelling to Montreal. Instead the season will end with a whimper as two non-playoff teams (featuring the 2nd and 3rd worst offenses) go head to head in a game that is about as useful as the logistical plans for a Grey Cup parade in Manitoba. They will have good company as two of the other three games will be devoid of meaning and likely starters. So the good news is next week brings an end to a terrible year in Rider Nation and the arrival of playoff football. Yay! The bad news is that if you are reading this it likely means you will be subjecting yourself to the Rider game on Sunday.

As of writing this I have no clue what the game day roster of either team will be. It will likely be a mishmash of anyone with a pulse who was unable to get a sick note from the team doctor. I can tell you that Getzlaf is hurt (again) so Alex Carroll draws in. I can tell you that Ainsworth and MacDougall (i.e. two of the guys I would actually be interested in seeing) are hurt so we had to bring in Ryan Wellman and Hugo Lopez… mainly because the CFL wouldn’t accept our preferred option to just put 2 pylons on the field instead (we couldn’t prove the pylons had national status).  I’ll be somewhat surprised if Kevin Glenn plays, though knowing the other QB options Montreal has he may have to by default. I would actually like to see Montreal give Brandon Bridge some playing time. At this point I will formally apologize to Bridge for cursing him as players I endorse or petition for playing time tend not to pan out (just ask Dylan Ainsworth). Nik Lewis is hurt which is likely welcome news to small children in Montreal.

Keith Price will start and play into at least the 3rd quarter, which I think is the right decision. We have enough film on Smith to know what he brings. We need to give Price more playing time to see if he can progress in his development. We will hopefully also see more of Stephen Houston at RB. If we enter 2016 with Allen at RB I’m fine with that but I want to see him win it in a strong competition instead of be handed it by default. The last time we handed the RB role to someone by default was Henri Childs in 2007. I’d rather not rehash that repressed hatred. Hopefully we either get to see a bit more of Marcus Davis or we get to see LeQuan Williams (which I believe is French for “The Quan”) or Ryan Lankford get some action. Probably would also be a good time to get Matt Vonk some playing time. I don’t think very highly of him but given that he is the closest thing we have to OL depth, it would be nice to know if he can handle playing with the starters.

I will likely use the series we are on defense to go to the bathroom, get a snack and refill my brunch whiskey (look brunch whiskey is a thing because I say it is… plus there is no way I’m getting through this game without the assistance of my old friend JP Wisers) pretty much anything to avoid watching us play. Our defense was a train wreck in games where they were trying… throw in a few replacement players (who I already rate below pylons) and this could get ugly… unless Montreal is stupid enough to play Tanner Marsh. Even our sad sack D could get a turnover off him.

I will go out on not so big a limb and say that this is last time you will see guys like Jackson, George and Brackenridge in green and white. So better enjoy them (or swear at them) while you can. I was going to include names like Mertile and Green as well but that’s so obvious even a CFL referee couldn’t miss it.

I honestly have no clue how to predict this game. We could very well win. Price will be looking to impress. Most of our top offense will be playing. Montreal doesn’t care. That said I can't in good conscious look at our defensive depth chart and feel good about things. Plus for all of Montreal’s failings (which are many) they do have solid D (and can’t very well sit them all) and 2 good running backs who will be looking to do what Jerome Messam did to us.

You know what? What the hell, it’s the last game of the season, so I’m going to do something crazy and predict we win by 7 on some sort of special teams TD. Why not end the season on a positive?