Friday the Riders travel to Calgary for a showdown with the League leading Stampeders. The Riders will be looking for their first win in over a month and our first win over a playoff-bound team since we beat BC back in August.
The Stamps will be an interesting team to watch over the final weeks of the regular season. They have first place locked up meaning that their next meaningful game will be the West final a month from now. You can bet that what happened last year is looming large on their mind when they also had 1st locked up and played their starters in the final game of the regular season. They ended up losing McDaniel and both starting DTs to injury in that meaningless game. While it wasn’t only reason they lost (cough 7 turnovers cough), trying to stop Kory Sheets and our OL with back-up DTs was certainly a factor in that game. So the Stamps will need to strike a delicate balance of protecting key players and not letting the team get rusty between now and the playoffs. We already know Cornish will sit out and I imagine a couple more vets will as well. Apparently Cornish is blaming “sliding on his hardwood at home” as contributing to his injury… which ranks right up there with Sandro DeAngelis blaming home renos for his poor performance in terms of excuses,
Seems the Riders are in the "resting players" boat too. Having resigned ourselves to the reality that no matter what happens in the next 2 games we will be on the road for the duration of the playoffs, we will be resting Dressler, Best and Allen. The fact that next week is a bye likely plays into that decision as well. My preference would be to push to win enough games to not crossover as the team historically gets way more pumped up for West road games then East ones but I get the desire to let our best players be healthy when it matters most.
I really think it’s important for the Riders to win at least one of the final 2 games. It may not matter standings wise but I really think we need that winning feeling again to build momentum for the playoffs. At the start of this year the team believed … hell they knew they could overcome adversity during a game. Recently, they just haven’t been doing that. We saw a more confidence with credible QB under centre last week but really need to take that next step and translate that into that elusive win.
Offensively, we need to see progression from Joseph. Hopefully he is closer to game shape this week and hopefully he improves his play. Calgary will have the benefit of film on Joseph running our O (something Edmonton did not). A big key will be finding balance offensively. Generally we have been too reliant on the run and last week the run just wasn’t there and we had to throw a lot. Success will lie in finding that middle ground. Keith Toston will finally get his chance (as fans have been clamouring for all year), if he’s even half as good as the hype he’s managed to garner then he will be some sort of unstoppable force. We really did not effectively use Will Ford’s speed (not that I see his departure as a huge loss) so maybe Toston’s power will fit better into our plans. With Dressler out, other receivers will need to step up. I’ve mentioned before that I like Korey Williams and hope we keep him involved. I really want to see Getzlaf turn in a “Stampeder Killer” performance like the ones that made him famous. He has really been Getzlafing the ball the year (it’s a valid verb, trust me) and we need consistency from him if we want the postseason to be more than 1 and done. Not sure if Labatte will be back this week or not but if not our much vaunted O-line could be reduced to Adcock/Watman/Picard/Clark/Heenan. Stamps will likely look to eliminate the run and force Joseph to do the hard work himself (just cause it’s obvious doesn’t mean it’s not true). To counter that I think we need to not give up completely on the run (pretty safe bet with this team) and we need to take advantage and make the passing plays that are there. A few deep balls for a big gain would really help open things up underneath. Joseph really telegraphed his deep shots last week and wasn’t very accurate (not that he was ever known for his deep accuracy) so that needs to change. Bottom line, Joseph needs to take command of this offense and continue producing and scoring. Bagg and Geztlaf are the guys I think we need to lean on.
Defensively, we won’t have to worry about Cornish which makes life easier in the run stopping department. I thought we did a decent job against Cornish last game and Walter is no Cornish so we should be good. Normally I’d worry about Mitchell’s mobility but I’m guessing he’ll be under coach’s orders to play it pretty conservative in terms of exposing himself to injury. He will still run but likely be very picking about when. If Maze is back then I like our secondary matching up on what’s left of Calgary’s receivers (Fuller, Sinopoli, McDaniel and West all out). If he’s out then the task becomes much harder. Maurice Price is the dangerous one so limiting the big plays to him will be a key. I hope Brackenridge gets the chance to drill Price if for no other reason than my general dislike of the guy (a feeling I think shared by many). We need to win the battle of the trenches in order to get the edge defensively. Fortunately we have the talent along the D-line to do so. If it was me I would rest John Chick. The bye is next week and I’ve long thought he’s nicked up. I wouldn’t volunteer to be the guy to tell him he wasn’t playing mind you.
Really tough to say what to expect in this game with both teams resting so many key players. Given that it’s a home game and they hate us, I expect the Stamps play us hard regardless of the unimportance of the game in the standings. Word is the game is damn near sold out so the good news is the Riders will have a large chunk of the crowd on their side. I predict will be start slow and fall behind early but claw back and make a game of it by halftime. I think the Riders will manage to keep it close but this one just isn’t feeling good for a victory. I think we could win… hell we almost beat them in a meaningful game with Tino Suneri. My gut just says we will have to wait until the final game of the regular season to get back in the win column.
Stamps by 7