Friday, September 13, 2019

Riders vs. Alouettes: Looking To Bounce Back

After suffering their first loss in over 2 months, the Riders are back home Saturday looking to get back to their winning ways. Their opponents are the 6-4 Alouettes… it has been so long since Montreal has had a winning record that my spell check flagged that statement as an error. The last times these two teams squared off the only thing that was more thunderous than the storm that prematurely ended the game was the hits Rider LBs were putting on Antonio Pipkin leading to TDs.

Based on how our season has been going, I kinda assumed that by this point in the week Vernon Adams would have been diagnosed with bubonic plague or Stanback would have been arrested, or the majority of their defensive starters would have abruptly quit football to join the Movementarians. That’s just how things are supposed to go aren’t they? It’s too bad Regina doesn’t have a notorious night life to distract visiting players. Our night life is more the kind to encourage players to stay in their hotel rooms.

This will be a good measuring stick game for this team’s ability to overcome adversity. They just laid and egg and got whooped on the road. Now they are home but facing a strong opponent. Are we really a good team? Are we a team that plays well against bad teams and depleted teams? I guess we will find out.

It needs to start with the offense. For all the hype around how improved they are this they have quietly regressed a great deal over the past 5 games. If you exclude the Ottawa game (because, let’s face it, they are brutal) the offense has produced a TOTAL of 4 offensive TDs in 4 of the past 5 games and only once produced multiple TDs in the same game. Through the first 6 games we had 12 big passing plays. We’ve had only 4 over the past 5 games. To be fair we’ve faced some of the league’s top defenses in that timeframe so some struggles are expected but you can’t win many games scoring a solitary TD (especially when our special teams are a liability and our defense isn’t scoring much). I personally believe our offensive struggles are rooted in our lack of commitment to the run. Through the first 6 games we were running an average of 26 times per game (most in CFL). Over the past 5 that has dropped to 16 times per game. It’s all linked. Run less, defenses key on your pass game, deep ball gets taken away, you produce less. So this needs to be a game where we turn Powell loose and give him a chance to show he can go toe to toe with Stanback. O-line needs to step up and provide better protection, though the simple fact of not facing Willie Jefferson will help in that regard. Winnipeg leads the league in sacks, Montreal is second last with just 15. Montreal allows the second most yards so if we are patient, extended drives will be there. As discussed last time though, they drop everyone to force you to take short gains and rally well to make the tackle. This will be a grind. So commitment to running and smart decisions by Fajardo are needed. That said, we need to at least try to stretch the field. Shaq’s size, Moore’s speed, Arceneaux’s ability to have people forget he exists because he’s targeted so rarely. We gotta take some shots when they are there.

Defense struggled last game and it was in large part because they refused to use their arms when attempts to tackle. You think dropping your shoulder recklessly is going to stop Stanback? Wrap up! If we don’t do that this game, we won’t win. Montreal plays pretty safe O as they have the least giveaways... and also the second least passing yards. Stop Stanback, keep Adams in the pocket, win the game.

Special teams needs to stop sucking as well. The old adage that you have to win 2 out of 3 phases to win the game holds true but we’ve rarely been able to count on our special teams (punting in particular). Jon Ryan got testy with Derek Taylor on twitter for posting stats showing he’s not that great. If only he cared as much about actually being an effective kicker as he did wishing people thought he was a great kicker. It’s entirely possible to respect Ryan’s abilities and all the great thing he has accomplished in his career and admit that he’s not doing good this season despite being able to kick it far. Everyone involved from coaches down to players needs to be better if we want to get back to winning.

Couple bonus stats for you
-        All 4 Rider loses have come in games where we lost the turnover battle. That will be a key in this game
-        Als are 5-3 in games decided in the final 3 minutes… I guess that’s why managing to avoid the last 3 minutes last game was so key 😊

Honestly this game could go either way. I think our D will have a bounce back game. I have no clue what to expect on special teams. That leaves the O needing a solid game. Montreal has a good D so that’s no guarantee. My gut tells me this will be an ugly game with many curse words coming from my mouth. But in the end, give the edge to the home crowd…

Riders by a Lauther FG from 50 yards out.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Banjo Bowl Beat Down

Riders 10 – Bombers 35

The first 2 plays of the Banjo Bowl could not have gone any better for the Riders. Big kick combined with penalty to have the Bombers start on their own 10. Then on the first offensive play, we sacked Streveler for a 7 yard loss. It was about that time that everything went downhill and tennis suddenly became an appealing way to pass a Saturday afternoon.

For the first time since the Calgary game, the Riders came out completely flat. The Bombers did not come out flat at all and completely dominated the game in pretty much all phases. For the Riders, it was pretty much a full on display of how not to football right. We got outworked. We weren’t disciplined. We attempted a form of tackling normally reserved for double amputees. We couldn’t get out playmakers the ball. We couldn’t force a turnover or even stop a drive from lasting long enough to listen to American Pie and Stairway to Heaven in their entirety. It was all kinds of bad.

Offensively, we failed to establish the line of scrimmage. Fajardo had a bad day and McAdoo did nothing to help him. In a hostile road game, with a struggling pass game you would think that maybe leaning on Powell would be a good idea. We chose the opposite, giving him just 4 touches and not having involved in any way after the 7 minute mark of the second quarter. I get that the Bombers schemed to eliminate the run but at some point you need to try.

Defense had a bad game. Don’t even want to think about how much worse that game could have been if the Bombers had their actual starters playing. We couldn’t tackle, either because we completely whiffed or because we seemed to think that if we hit them with our shoulders the Bomber ball carrier would just give themselves up because they were so impressed at our macho-ness. Micah Johnson must grease his arms before playing because he should have like 6 sacks but managed to let them slip by almost every time. Add in the undisciplined penalties. Also add in the fact that despite getting their asses handed to them all the DBs felt the need to run their mouths non-stop. Had they put in in half as much effort into stopping the Bombers O as they did to yapping the score might not been so lop-sided.

Special teams was once again in the spotlight for the wrong reasons. Coverage was utter garbage on that TD. Jon Ryan regressed to his normal "kick it far with reckless regard for directing it anywhere but the middle of the field" ways. You want a sign it was a bad game? Charbel Dabire (our 300 pound DT) fielded a kick. Can’t imagine his instructions on kick return are anything but stand in the way while someone more mobile (i.e. literally anyone) comes to get the ball.

A split with the Bombers in this 2 game set is not the end of the world. It was a crap effort. Burn the tape and move on to the next game. It’s just a disappointing effort given how much of an opportunity we had to take advantage of a depleted team and move into first place.

One more closing thought. So, its called the Banjo Bowl because Troy Westwood called Rider fans banjo picking inbreds. So it amuses me to no end to see how many Winnipeg fans come to the came with banjo in hands. You know that makes you the banjo picking inbred right?

Friday, September 6, 2019

Riders vs. Bombers: Banjo Bowl 2019

Following an epic finish to the Labour Day Classic the players (and fans) have had 6 days to recover and get to do it all over again. This time in the peepee soaked heck hole known as Winnipeg. If you are brave enough to be making the trip, while they are a heated rival you should be ok. I’ve generally found Manitobans to be mostly good folk. I would just recommend that your game day attire doesn’t inadvertently make you look like an attractive farm animal or their cousin, that’s when things can get awkward. I mean awkward by our standards of course… it’s perfectly normal in Manitoba.

The opportunity for the Riders in this game is huge. A win puts them in first place, with the season series against the Bombers in hand. But this won’t be easy. Weird things happen in the Banjo Bowl. I’ve seen the Rider hang 50 on the Bombers. I’ve seen the Bombers pummel the Riders. I’ve seen a parade of craptastic Bomber QBs including Michael Bishop, Steven Jyles, Joey Elliot, Justin Goltz (some of which beat us). I’ve seen Craig Butler commit attempted murder on Buck Pierce. I’ve seen close games, blowouts, games where Matt Nichols singlehandedly tries to give the game away (seriously take a pause here and go watch the highlights of the 2018 Banjo Bowl. It will make you smile). Pretty much anything could happen.

Also, this game could get ugly. There’s already bad blood following the whole Lavar Edwards/Chad Rempel incident. O’Shea was pissed and can’t imagine he’s any less pissed now that Edwards was cleared of wrongdoing and Willie Jefferson was fined for a helmet to helmet hit on Fajardo. So yeah, this could get real chippy. The team that best keeps their composure will have a huge advantage. Someone tell Nick Marshall not to be an idiot… I mean he’ll take his standard 15 yarder but hopefully no more than that.

This will be a game of adjustments. The Riders certainly have some things to shore up. Coaching errors, penalties, poor tackling and some bad decisions by Fajardo. Plus that whole taking a nap on offense for most of the second half and not remembering that Powell is kinda good until the final drive. As for the Bombers, one thing for sure they can shore up is penalties. They took over 100 yards worth on Labour Day which is uncharacteristic given that they typically average a league low 64 per game. Other than that though, I’m not sure. They played a really solid game in all phases except for Streveler… and I can’t see him suddenly learning how to pass. It’s either that or them discovering time travel so they can go back and prevent Andrew Harris from taking steroids… err I mean stop him from inadvertently ingesting a super okay yet unnamed supplement that was mysteriously tainted.

As of writing this both Demski and Whitehead are questionable which would put another serious dint in an already decimated offensive unit. Defensively we need to improve our tackling on Augustine, keep the pressure on Streveler and continue to force turnovers. Offensively we need to run a lot more and cut down on our turnovers. We also need to keep leaning on what’s been working: the Shaq crosser and Roosevelt on second down. This would be the game for Shaq to run a slant and go at some point as you can bet Winnipeg will be cheating up trying to slow that down. Special teams needs to turn in another solid performance like they did on Sunday.

On paper this is another game the Riders should win. Winnipeg has a great defense but not much left on offense (I feel Rider fans can empathize with this as we've seen it a few times here). That said, the raucous (and slovenly, and inbred, and 3rd grade educated) crowd in Winnipeg will make things tough. It will not be so easy for Fajardo and crew to operate this time around. The first quarter will be key. If we can weather the early onslaught and get a  lead it will take the crowd out of it. If we have an early screw up (turnover, big return) and give them momentum it will get infinitely harder to claw back. Winnipeg has yet to lose at home.

This will be hard but when I look at what Winnipeg has been reduced to offensively I just have to think the Riders will find a way again.

Riders by a Fajardo rushing TD.

Note to anyone attending the game. Be very vigilant in watching your drinks. I have it on good authority that there are people in Winnipeg who will slip illegal steroids into the drinks of perfectly innocent people without their knowledge.

Seriously though.. go back and watch those 2018 Banjo Bowl highlights.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Tuesday Morning Sentimonies: Labour Day Makes It 6

Riders 19 – Bombers 17

Well it was certainly a lot more stressful on the old heart than I would have preferred but in the end the Riders did what they do on Labour Day… win. How in the hell do old people not die at these games? I’m in decent shape and my heart can barely take it. This year’s edition of the Labour Day Classic had quite the dramatic finish. As that final drive progressed, my thoughts progressed as follows:
-        Dammit, Dickenson is going to lose on Labour Day. I really wanted to like him
-        Well I guess we are punting for overtime.
-        Oh thank god Brett Lauther has a massive range
-        Holy hell we are going to win!!
It’s about at that point that my memory of the rest of the day gets mysteriously foggy.

It was a game where we outplayed the Bombers in the first half but weren’t able to take advantage in terms of scoring. We then just stuck in there and survived the second half in time pull yet another sprinkle of Jesus out of our bag of tricks. 

The defense did their job and were really what carried us on Sunday. The had 3 sacks, 2 interceptions, held them under 20 points and really only allowed 2 big plays all game. Derrick Moncrief started the game like a man possessed. First play he snuffed out for a tackle for no gain. He then followed up with an interception the next play and added a punishing sack before the quarter was done (It wasn’t quite Craig Butler killer Buck Pierce but it was still pretty awesome). They did a good job of making Streveler uncomfortable in the pocket. So uncomfortable that at one point he just decided to throw a pass directly to Purifoy (nice read by him on that play). I really think Winnipeg wanted to lean heavy on Demski but we seemed to take that away from them. Some tackling to clean up in the run game but overall a great day.

Offense was a mixed bag. They started alright, though they didn’t get near enough point for the field position they were constantly starting with. Then they just decided to take an extra long halftime and do absolutely nothing until the final drive. Obviously Winnipeg has a great defense so some struggles were to be expected. But Fajardo made some bad decisions in that game (something he has done very rarely this season). The second INT probably should not have been thrown and was poorly placed. The first INT was just a really dumb throw. He had no business making it. To his credit, he learned from it because the exact same play came up again a bit later and he made a better decision. Winnipeg keyed into the fact that Fajardo’s tendency is to spin and roll out left and it cost us a few sacks. But struggles aside, just like in the Hamilton game, when it mattered most he shook it off and delivered. I love that he leans heavy on Roosevelt. I like how we keep milking that Shaq crosser. I didn’t like how little we ran but we made up for that in the end. I also like how we largely kept Willie Jefferson from being a game changer.

Special teams had a good day. Kick coverage was solid. Returns were decent. Even Jon Ryan decided to not suck and for the first time, he consistently hit the numbers when punting. I would of course prefer he progress to outside the numbers but this marks phenomenal progress from previous games.

Coaching made some early mistakes that we are lucky didn’t cost us. If you are going to challenge something 3 minutes into a game you better be damn sure you can win. One look at the replay on the jumbotron and 30,000 people could have told you not to challenge. It was a bad decision. As was whatever sequence of events led to us needing to take our second time out on a play where Winnipeg was conceding a safety.

The important thing though is we found a way to win. You just get the sense that this team believes in themselves and that can take a team a long way. We now sit in sole possession of second place. No time to rest on our laurels though. We have a chance to takeover first place next week but the difficulty and intensity will ramp up as we have to do it in their park.

Other random thoughts:
-        There was a series of events where Winnipeg lined up for a FG and ended up running the QB sneak for the first down (a good call). Thanks to an intentional grounding call and a tackle for a loss they ended up punting 3 plays later. Probably should just have taken the points.
-        Lavar Edwards is probably getting fined for his hit on the long snapper. I honestly don’t know how the refs didn’t call that in the game.
-        Who at the army did we piss off to get blacklisted from fly bys?

Friday, August 30, 2019

Labour Day Classic 2019

I’ll be honest… it was a bit of a struggle to write this post. I mean, Labour Day is my favourite game of the year. I love the game, I love the atmosphere, I love the trash talk that fills this space every year at this time. The thing is though, I’ve been doing this now for ovwe 12 years. It’s getting tough to stay fresh. I’ve made fun of their province, their dreadfully low hygiene and literacy rates, their openness to inbreeding, the futility of their football club, their provincial coat of arms. I’ve made graphs, I’ve talked about Pacman Jones… hell I’ve modified OJ Simpson jokes to make fun of them.

For those who are new around here, the joke is as follows:
Why did O. J. Simpson want to move to Manitoba?
Nearly everyone has the same DNA

Anyway my point is that it’s getting tough to get motivated after so many years. How would I find it in me to do this again? But then I found some inspiration. You see, there are people out there who have been persistent far longer than me. Hell, I’m not even halfway through the time they’ve invested. I’m talking of course about the Blue Bombers. Their unwavering dedication to futility year after year is damn near unrivaled. And if they can commit to 29 years of the same Grey Cup-less reality then dammit I can do another Labour Day post!

Labour Day for years has meant the same thing. We drink, we watch the Riders win, we drink some more, we have a pants optional party and play guitar around the campfire signing in a voice that I’m sure my neighbours assume is either someone experiencing physical pain or a cat yodeling angrily. It’s just how it goes. At least, that’s how it goes every year but 2016. But we’ve all repressed that memory and just pretend it didn’t happen, much like the 2009 Grey Cup and the majority of the 90s.

Anyway onto the game…

The 6-3 Riders take on the 8-2 Bombers on Sunday. The Riders come in on a 5 game winning streak. The Bombers come in on a far less positive streak of continuing to lose their top offensive weapons. Nichols to injury, Harris to a little bit of vitamin S. Though if you watched any of the Bomber/Rider games last season you could argue that the lack of Nichols may actually improve the Bombers chance of victory.

Let’s start with our defense. Its no secret what the Streveler offense means… even without Harris. They will run. I watched the Edm/Win game and literally was calling out plays from the couch. It’s not hard when the only options are Harris rush or Streveler rush but apparently it kept the Eskimos dumfounded. We had best not be. People talk a lot about it being a run-pass option offense but it’s really a run-run option offense. LaPo is no dummy and he will have wrinkles. In the Esks game I noticed they usually had someone coming on a sweep plus the option of a hitch screen. They didn’t have to use those options in that game but I bet they will on Sunday. I also expect Demski to get a ton of touches during Harris’ self-induced vacation. Still our best bet is to shut down the run, assign one or possibly 2 spies on Streveler and dare him to beat us through the air. Having Micah back will be huge. Hughes and Leonard will need to be active parts in keeping Steveler behind the line of scrimmage. Winnipeg has the 3rd most giveaways so while it won’t be as easy as Dominique Davis or Nichols circa 2018 but we should be able to force turnovers.

As much as Winnipeg’s O doesn’t worry me, their Defense is still very good. There are very few individual defensive players who dictate changes offensive schemes to account for them. They have one of those in Willie Jefferson. The line as a whole is very solid. Throw in Adam Bighill. Rose in the secondary. Adamant anti-performance enhancer champion (at least when its not relating to star players on his own team) Jeff Hecht. They are talented and dangerous with the #1 run D and the most takeaways. Fajardo and co will have their work cut out for them. It starts up front. Tough challenge for the O-line. You can’t stop Willie Jefferson, you can only hope to slow him down enough not to completely destroy you. We will need Fajardo’s mobility. While Winnipeg has good D we can’t get too far from what’s been working for us. Run Powell hard. Rely on vets like Roosevelt and Arceneaux to move the chains. Milk that Shaq Evans crosser. Try and get an explosive play from Moore or Thiggy. Most important will be not turning the ball over.

The game matches up like this. They have a great D. We have a pretty good D. We have a pretty good O. Their O is serviceable at best given their personnel. I say that and 30,000 screaming fans give us the advantage. LaPo will coach as much as possible out of Streveler but even he has limits given what he’s working with. As long as we don’t give them momentum through big plays, turnovers or dumb plays on special teams (legit concern), we should have the advantage. Plus… we don’t lose on Labour Day. Far worse Rider teams have prevailed on Labour Day. Closer than it should be but…

Riders by 10.

If you encounter Bomber fans this weekend be kind. There is legitimately a generation of children in Manitoba schools who think that the Canadian constitution outlaws Winnipeg winning the Grey Cup. The only reason they may know it’s a possibility is because their uncles are still in the same grade as them and can tell them.

Enjoy the game!

Monday, August 26, 2019

Monday Morning Sentimonies: We’re Going Streaking!

Riders 40 – RedBlacks 18

Streaks were the theme of Saturday’s football game. The Riders extended their winning streak to 5. The RedBlacks extended their losing streak to 1 win in their last 7. We’ll never know how far Dominique Davis could have extended his consecutive drives with an INT streak but they mercifully pulled him at 3. The rate he was going he seemed intent on ensuring every member of the secondary got a pick. While the fans may not have got in on the streaking action, a lady in the crowd managed to flash her “assets” on the maxtron… family day indeed.

The game really contrasted where the teams are at at the most important position. We have Cody Fajardo: rising star, point producer, turnover avoider, sprinkler of Jesus. Ottawa had to pull a turnover enthusiast (he literally completed as many passes to the Riders as to his own players) in favour of an only moderately less sucky QB. Based on that fact alone, it not hard to see why we are on a winning streak and the RedBlacks nose diving. I was really hoping they would just let Sinopoli throw… you telling me he could be any worse? I go back to what I said pre-game though… HOW IS THIS THE SAME DAVIS THAT CARVED US UP IN WEEK 2?!?!? Does he have a more talented twin brother?

With the exception of most of the second quarter where they took a nap, I thought our offense did well. They capitalized on turnovers, they didn’t turn the ball over themselves, they didn’t allow a sack (though some credit has to go to Houdini Fajardo on that). I really like how Fajardo is reading the field. On second down he’s leaning on the savvy vet Roosevelt. He’s milking that crosser to Shaq (which is tough to defend when thrown on time). He used his legs pretty sparingly but was effective when he did. He even decided to break trend and look at Arceneaux more than the allotted one token time. I really liked that long pass to Arceneaux, where Manny recognized Fajardo was in trouble and rolling and cut his route short to come back for a completion. That’s why you have vets like him in the line-up. My only real criticism of the O was that we ran with the wind in the first Q and completely abandoned it into the wind in the second, like constantly in 6 receiver sets not even pretending we’re running. But we worked through that and had a good second half so all in all a good day.

Defense didn’t exactly have the hardest challenge but you can only play the cards you are dealt and they stepped up. Ottawa only really got one play (the deep ball past Bouka) on us. Really liked how we locked down the run (though Crokett getting hurt certainly made that a bit easier). We had 7 turnovers coming into the game… we damn near doubled that… in the first quarter. Judge had a big game. Marshall had his redemption game. On his pick he completely bailed on his receiver who was running a streak and jumped the underneath route. Better QBs will make him pay for that, but against Ottawa that was good aggression and play recognition. D played fired up and with a chip on their shoulder and delivered a great performance.

Special teams had a solid day. It’s nice having Lauther back. I know he missed one but the confidence we have in him on 40+ yard attempts was missed. Plus our kickoffs actually went further than 3 yards, so that was great. Even Jon Ryan decided not to be awful. By my count 6 of his 9 punts were actually on or outside the numbers. ALLELULIA!!! His only real bad punt was late in the 4th. The main weakness I’m noticing now is that when he gets close to the endzone he completely gives up on the directional stuff and kicks it right down the middle hoping it will bounce on the 1 yard line and stay out… it never does, it always rolls in. But for as critical as I’ve been of him, this was actually one of his best games in green. He even saved a bad snap on a FG attempt, getting it up off the ground and in position for Lauther to kick (underrated skill).

Look, let’s be honest, we dummied a really bad team. But that’s what we are supposed to do, can’t apologize for it. You gotta win the winnable games and we have been. Back to back with Winnipeg will get a lot harder but you have to be happy with a 6-3 record through the first half of the season.

Buckle up. Next up is Labour Day and you know I love me some Bomber trash talk!

Friday, August 23, 2019

Riders vs. RedBlacks: It Can’t Happen Again

Saturday the Riders (who are riding a 4 game win streak) host the 3-6 RedBlacks (who have lost 6 of their past 7). These 2 teams last met in week 2 in an offensive shootout that cemented Cody Fajardo as a starting QB in this league. The more of the RedBlacks’ games I watch this season, the more I cannot fathom what happened in that game. It’s simply not the same RedBlack offense we saw in Week 2. Ottawa has just 8 big passing plays this year… 3 of them came in that game. I’m convinced that it wasn’t actually Dominique Davis playing in that game but rather a good QB disguised as Davis.

Davis’ stat line Game 2 – 77% completion, 354 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs
Davis’ state line in every other game he’s played in 2019 – 60% completion, 1469 yards (avg 210/game), 2 TDs, 11 INTs

Like, did Davis find a genie to grant him a wish when he played us or what?!? Whatever the explanation, we can’t let it happen again. The RedBlacks have failed to score more than 20 points in all but one game since they played the Riders. I get that some of that can be blamed on having to play Jonathan Jennings but he doesn’t account for all that awfulness.

So let’s start with our defense. Ottawa has 2nd least offensive yards, least offensive TDs (yes less than both BC and Toronto), 2nd most two and outs, 2nd most turnovers. Remember that time Ottawa made that questionable decision to deny their talented OC the chance to interview for a head coach job and then he ended up quitting before the season? Glad to see that decision worked out so well for them. This is a struggling offensive unit we are facing, so on our home turf we need to come out and set the tone early. This is a case where kicking them while they are down is not only acceptable, its encouraged… not literally of course. To their credit, Ottawa has realized their offense is terrible and turned to Joe PaoPao to try and fix things. With Davis struggling, he will likely start by looking to establish Crockett and the run game early. We need to shut that down and ramp up the pressure on Davis. Sure he torched us last time, but I would be willing to bet against that happening again. I would like to see us be aggressive and take the fight to them. It should lead to mistakes and turnovers. Looks like Johnson is still out but Leonard is back which should help. I expect Paopao to try and get back to basics, so in addition to a heavy dose of run, look for them to try and lean on Sinopoli to get their passing game going… or based on their past few games I should instead say: look for them to throw incomplete passes 2 yards behind Sinopoli more frequently.

Offensively you would usually fear taking on a Noel Thorpe defense. But this isn’t a typical Thorpe defense. 2nd most yards allowed, 3rd most points allowed. Injuries to Tindal and Rose in the secondary certainly have hurt them, as has the fact that the only way the O could provide less support is to kick their defensive teammates in the crotch as they are heading onto the field. Ottawa has the second worst run D (giving up 121 yards per game on the ground) that should mean Powell gets a heavy workload. Last game we attacked Chris Randle with Shaq Evans and I’d be all for that again. Outside of possibly Pruneau, no one in that secondary scares me. Evans and Moore should be able to have big gains. Add in some key conversions for Roosevelt and the token Manny catch. I’m OK with Fajardo using his legs when needed but I’d really like him to not get himself killed with a tough back half of the season left to go. Ottawa has forced 23 turnovers so we need to ensure we are protecting the ball. Ottawa allowed a combined 37 points to Edmonton and Hamilton in the last 2 games so they still have the ability to lock things down and make us work for yards and points.

Despite their struggles elsewhere, Ottawa does have very solid special teams. Lewis Ward may have recently proved he is human but can still kick. Leone is a great punter. Even without Dedmon their return game can be impactful. We can’t let our special team struggles be something that keeps Ottawa in this game. Honestly based on how well we have been covering kicks, I would not be opposed to a strategy of exclusively kicking through the endzone or out of bounds. Given that kicking out of bounds would require our punter to kick outside the numbers I guess we can only hope for the kick through the endzone option.

Ottawa is a well coached team and we can’t take them lightly. But right now, they are not a very good team. Unless Dominique Davis’ secret power is playing well exclusively against the Riders, I expect them to struggle offensively. I don’t expect an offensive onslaught from us but I don’t see Ottawa scoring 3 TDs so 21 points seems attainable on our end.  Aggressive D, get the crowd involved, smart methodical drives on O. I would personally like to see Nick Marshall have a 3 pick revenge game (as honestly despite getting torched in Game 2 his coverage could not have been much better).

Riders by 10