Thursday the 11-6 Riders take on the 4-13 Argos in their final game of the regular season.
It’s a good thing this game has playoff implications because otherwise it would be very hard to get excited about it. I mean I love Rider game day as much as anybody but when the team we’re playing boasts such impressive accolades as lowest scoring team in the league, most points allowed, most times punted, most penalized, worst run defense, and have not won since Sept 1, the game just doesn’t have that same level of intensity. Face it, when the winningest coach in CFL history can’t help your team you know you’re screwed (just ask the Riders of the early 90s).
It would be easy for the Riders to overlook this game but fortunately the stakes are too high for that. This game is a must win if we hope to host a home playoff game.
This game will mercifully bring to an end what has no doubt been a trying season for Kerry Joseph. The lone bright spot in his short Argo career was cashing his cheques this year; everything on the field was terrible to say the least. The Argos learned what the Ti-cats already knew… simply adding a former MOP quarterback to a really crappy offense won’t improve your offense. Go figure. While Joseph no doubt had a bad season, he sure didn’t have much to work with. He had no O-line, no running game, only 1 talented receiver and ludicrously bad coaching. Not to mention the gong show at QB he had to deal with to start the year.
Speaking of QB gong shows it’s time for me to address the Rider QB situation. It’s been announced that Michael Bishop will get the start against his former team and likely be the starter in playoffs as well. Now we all know how highly I think of Bishop but unfortunately the coaches had no other choice. Durant and Jyles were both given the opportunity to seize the starter’s role but each managed to figuratively and literally throw the opportunity away. Now Bishop did the same thing not 3 weeks ago, but when faced with the choice between 3 guys who seem to go out of their way to give the ball to the defense, I guess the veteran of the bunch becomes your best option going into the playoffs. Bishop showed on Saturday how effective he can be if he sticks to short passes (mainly because he can’t be intercepted by safeties when running 7-10 yard routes) and if he continues doing that he could be very successful. The problem is Bishop has shown a complete inability to do this on a consistent basis and there won’t be an 80km/hr head wind to prevent him from throwing deep when he plays in Skydome.
Another week, another return from the 9 game injury list. This week it’s last years leading receiver DJ Flick who returns after missing 15 games with a gruesomely broken fibula. I expect Flick to be eased into the offense much like Dominguez was so he can get a feel for game speed again and play with our QBs (2 of which he has never played with and the other one he probably wishes he hadn’t played with). Hopefully all goes well in Flick’s return because adding him to our offense for playoffs can only mean good things. To make room for Flick, Dominguez will rest this game as a precautionary move so he’s healthy (or at least as close as he’ll ever get) for playoffs.
The injury plague that ravaged our team and surely brought Eric Tillman to the verge on insanity may actually end up being a small blessing in disguise. Teams around the league are seeing their top guys fall to injury (Glenn, Roberts, Pierce) and even the healthy ones are banged up from a long and grueling season. The Riders by contrast are just starting to welcome back their stars from the injured list and by virtue of not playing a full season they are considerably less banged and bruised. So while we spent the entire season as the most injured team in league history, we may actually enter the playoffs as one of the more healthy teams. Could this all have just been part of Tillman’s master plan?
As for the game I expect another strong showing. Last week was a statement game and this week should be no different. Our defense is playing rock solid and our offense has its playmakers back so I see no reason why we don’t stomp the Argos. They have good pass defense but no run defense so Cates should have a big game. They have no run game and we have one of the stingiest pass defenses in the league so I expect very little Argo scoring. They have Joseph and we have Bishop... well slight edge Argos on that one.
Bold prediction... Riders by 273
Then on Saturday we all have to do the unthinkable and cheer for the Stampeders. It’s terrible I know. Personally, I would rather eat a 5 gallon pail of feces while someone beats me with a hickory stick as I listen to a Kevin Federline CD than cheer for those douche bags but unfortunately we need them to win. So for the first and only time ever on this blog… Go Stamps (though if in the process of losing if BC we’re to seriously injure 2 or 3 Stamps I’d be perfectly alright with that… leave Burris though, I want to see his 4th annual playoff choke).