Plan the parade!
While I, of course, am kidding, the 2-0 preseason will certainly have made some on the prairies seriously think that a Grey Cup is inevitable now. Look, the preseason went about as well as it could have. Penalties were down, sacks were almost non-existent, starting O looked great, defense looked ok, we actually won. I think we should all be happy with that preseason. For a team that has been mired in misery and hopelessness since last August, we at least have some hope now. And even if it was just preseason (and against a Bombers team not fielding many starters), it still felt great to actually enjoy watching a football game again.
I won’t dwell much more on that game. The first 2 quarters made it pretty obvious who should make the team. The second half made it almost equally as obvious who should not. The only surprise among the cuts was Stefan Banks. He was a highly touted free agent acquisition from Calgary viewed as the next starting DE. Swing and miss there. He was beaten by Cox (an unexpected reversal of what normally happens) and not even deemed worthy of a practice roster spot. Overall I really like our roster except I think our linebacker depth is downright concerning and we still keep signing OTs which means we aren’t super set their (not that that’s important).
But now its onto the real games, against real opponents, fielding their real starters. The West is shaping up to be a very tight race where I think legitimately each team has a shot at finishing first or second.
Here are my 10 bold (or not so bold predictions) for the 2023 season
1. We will finish 9-9 but will get there in a very streaky manner. Start hot, midseason slump, late season recovery. 3rd in a competitive West will be our finish.
2. Harris will throw for 5000 yards. He will settle for more FGs than we like but he will be able to move the ball on offense.
3. We won’t have a 1000 yard receiver. It will be a true team effort. We also won’t have a 1000 yard rusher… though Morrow and Hickson combined will be the equivalent of one.
4. O-line will not be great… but good enough. We will be middle of pack for sacks allowed. We will try a bunch of different OL combinations before settling on a set group on Labour Day. Partial odds on Derek Dennis being part of the mix at some point.
5. Kian-Schaefer Baker will make his triumphant return on Labour Day and score a TD in a winning effort.
6. Lanier will get double digits sacks in 12 weeks. Defensive player of the year in the West.
7. While Teitz should be a lock for top Canadian on the team, a young upstart named Jayden Dalke will steal the spotlight and be the best safety we’ve seen since Craig Butler.
8. Dickenson and O’Day will last the season but after an early playoff exit, O’Day will save his job by sacrificing Dickenson as the scapegoat.
9. Mario Alford will score at least 6 kick return TDs.
10. Rider Nation will spend the whole season debating Dolegala vs. Fine and it won’t matter because Harris will play 18 games and Patterson will be the only other QB to touch the ball on 3rd down plunges.
Bonus Prediction: The Riders will continue to put zero effort into half time and the $5 menu (which can only really be found on the first level, not on the second level where the cheap seats are) will be much ado about nothing.
Bring on the season.