I had promised you a special Banjo Bowl report from Man in the Bush but he is still MIA so the report will have to wait (what’s this world coming to when you can’t expect prompt high quality work from people who work for free?). Anywho… there’s more important things afoot as Week 12 in the CFL is upon us.
Tomorrow the 8-2 Riders are in BC to take on the last place Lions (man that has a nice ring to it… Last place Lions) for the 2nd time this season. The last time these 2 teams met was Week 2 when all our injury problems began as Flick, Mitchell and Crandell all went down and we still ground out a victory.
To the casual observer, the status of these 2 teams coming into this game could be very confusing. The Riders are so decimated by injury that our we have been reduced to starting practice roster players, training camp cuts and, even worse, Michael Bishop (cheap shot I know but I’ve gotten to the point where I make Bishop jokes just to piss people off). Yet somehow we are the best team in the league.
BC, by contrast, has a healthy roster that is arguably the best team on paper. It features the best defensive front 4 in the CFL, a talented defense, a solid O-line and 3 very dangerous receivers. Yet somehow BC is struggling to be a .500 team. This is mainly because Wally Buono has opted for the Minnesota Vikings approach to football… build a ridiculously solid team around a terrible QB (or in BC’s case, 2 terrible QBs). To be fair, Buck Pierce is actually a very good QB, but the problem is he’s the West Division equivalent of Jesse Lumsden… all the talent in the world but about as durable as a Roughrider’s fibula.
This is a big game because a win puts us 8 points up on the Lions with the season series in hand and only 7 games to go, effectively eliminating them as a contender for first in the West.
Some things to keep an eye on: How will our O-line fair against the top sack team in the league (especially without Wayne Smith)? How will Bishop and our speedy receivers fair against a defense that doesn’t suck like the Bombers? How will the RB tandem of Roberts and Logan fair against the league’s best linebackers? How long will it take for Buck Pierce to get hurt? If anyone's wondering, I've got "midway through the second quarter" in the pool.
Two things will need to happen to walk out of BC Place with a win: 1) Bishop will have to buy time in the backfield by either using his legs or dumping the ball off to Cates in order to avoid the powerful BC rush and 2) our receivers will have to continue catching the ball consistently. Most importantly we will have to do this over 4 quarters (1 quarter of effort may be enough against Winnipeg but we are actually facing a legitimate team this time). This game will be closely contested and come down to the final minutes… in which case I’ll put my faith in the best 4th quarter team in the CFL as opposed to a team that failed to score in 3 tries from the 1 yard line just 2 weeks ago.
Riders by a Luca Congi Field Goal.
Around the CFL…
Newly appointed Ti-cats head coach Marcel Bellefeuille made a comment this week that has led me to believe he may be smarter than I have given him credit for. He said that Jesse Lumsden will not see more action until it is clear he can handle it. Wow! Marcel is actually the first guy in Hamilton to catch on to the fact that Lumsden is injury prone. Go figure. If he does nothing else in Hamilton (and believe me, he won’t) this revelation alone should be seen as a success. To be fair though, just before making that comment Bellefeuille did say that he honestly believes that Ti-Cats can still make the playoffs so that whole “smarter than I give him credit for” theory is obviously false.
Speaking of Hamilton, earlier this week a deal was struck to trade star linebacker Zeke Moreno to the Bombers for Tom Canada. The deal however got derailed when Canada first refused to report and later disclosed that he had an enlarged spleen and is unable to play. The deal was amended to Moreno and a conditional draft pick for a 1st round draft pick and the rights to Cory Mace (good ol’ Taman. When in doubt, trade a draft pick). Canada was subsequently put on the 9-game injured list and is just happy he gets to remain a Bomber because in his words “I've got better things to do than go to Hamilton and lose more games."… Yeah why go all the way to Hamilton when he can do the same thing without leaving the comfort of Winnipeg?
Finally, the troubled tenure of Rich Stubler came to an end this week. He was fired by the Argos. When Stubler took over, the Argos had a brutal offense and an amazing defense and special teams. Eleven short games under Stubler and the offense is even worse and the defense is trying it’s best to match the terrible play of the offense. Good work Rich. Fortunately for the Argos, management decided to make their first good decision of the season in naming Stubler’s replacement. Rather than promoting inept offensive coordinators (ala Hamilton), the Argos decided to go out and get the winningest coach in CFL history… Don Matthews. The good news for Matthews and the Argos is that their next game is against Winnipeg, so odds of The Don adding to his lead in career wins are pretty good.