Good Day Rider fans. Rider Prophet here gearing up for the first road game of the year. This week we must travel out west to face the mighty Lions.
Both teams were the best in the west last year but come into this game with very different circumstances. The Riders are fresh off a big home win and looking to maintain momentum. The Lions are fresh of a pitiful performance and looking to avoid the misery of opening the season 0 and 2. How awesome would that be? The unanimous pick to run away with the west starting 0-2 while the Riders, who many assumed would be in the west basement, open 2-0. BC only lost 3 games last year and unless they start playing like the all-stars they can be, they could match and eclipse that mark less than a month into the season.
The big story for BC (as it always seems to be) is quarterbacking. Buck Pierce managed to hold onto the starter's role for less than half a game before succumbing to injury. Pierce, the trooper that he is, has been practicing hard and contends he's still able to play. Whenever I hear him talk, all I can picture is that scene from Simpsons where Homer is chasing the flying pig. "My shoulders just a little separated. It's still good, it's still good. My rib is just a little cracked. It's still good. It's still good." With Buck falling apart at the seams, the Lions will look to Jarious Jackson once again to lead the offense.
Unfortunately for Jarious, he will not be offered the level of protection he is used to in BC. Sherko Haji-Rasouli is injured and will not be playing. Also, 2 time defending Lineman of the Year Rob Murphy will not be dressing as he has flown back to Florida to be with his wife who just gave birth to triplets. This leaves some big holes on the O-line and should lead to increased pressure on Jarious. With Murphy and Haji-Rasouli out, Jimenez will also be under increased pressure as he will now be solely responsible for on-field violence and general dirty play (though if anyone is up to the challenge it would be Jimenez).
For the Riders, the story continues to be Crandell. Despite some struggles, Crandell had a solid game last week and showed he can lead our offense. The question is whether he can do that against a real defense not just the Eskimos. Crandell though will have a lot of help with Flick, Cates, Fantuz and Bowman at his side. He will also have another weapon at his disposal... Matt Dominguez! For the first time in 10 months, #88 will be suiting up this Friday. Dominguez, who was leading the league in receiving at the time of his injury, will provide a huge boost to an already dangerous offense. Seriously, we've got more weapons than Tank Johnson
One thing we will be missing is Wayne Smith, who hurt his shoulder and will sit out in favour of Belton Johnson. No disrespect to Belton but Smith is a big loss. This will be the big test to see if our re-jigged O-line is really the best. BC's front 4 is still the best in the league, even if their performance last week left as much to be desired as the Hamilton cheerleaders. But to be fair, maybe the Lions were just in awe of Rob Lazeo's side boob.
With Jarious at QB and the holes on the O-line there is potential for the Riders to run away with it. But given the level of talent BC has at every other position, I just don't see that happening. I think we match up well with them. Both teams have a great RB, talented receivers and a solid defense. So for me, it boils down to QB... where Crandell wins hands down. Riders by a touchdown.
One last bit of news from around the CFL...
Just when I thought Rich Stubler couldn't get any worse as a head coach, I stumbled across this gem of a story. Following last Thursday's game in which Mike Vanderjagt missed his first 3 FG attempts, Stubler said he believes the Argos have done Vanderjagt a disservice by not practicing on a field fitted with uprights, an oversight that will be addressed… I'm not making this up! It makes me wonder just what Vanderjagt was doing at practice... pretending to kick FGs? There's good coaching for you, let's take a guy who hasn't kicked in the CFL in over a decade and hasn't kicked at all since 2006 and not have him practice kicking through uprights. As smart as Stubler is when it comes to defense, it appears to be balanced off with a complete lack of knowledge for any other aspect of the game.
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