Okay before I get into this weekend's big game I have to address some things with regards to Rider QBs. People have gotten in an absolute furor over this topic in the past few days. Overnight Darian Durant became the most hated guy in Riderville and can’t even get the flu without being jumped all over; the announcement that Stephen Jyles would start hasn’t been well received; and worst of all people are starting to call for Bishop to be given another chance.
With that in mind it’s time for another edition of “Addressing Uninformed Opinions” or as I prefer to call it, “Everyone Is Stupid But Me”.
Addressing Uninformed Opinions: Rider QBs
Uninformed Opinion #1: Darian Durant is worse than Michael Bishop
False. Check the stat sheet ladies and gentlemen because they will show you that Durant is more accurate than Bishop, has a better QB efficiency rating and is a far more effective runner. Also Double D put up 7 TDs compared to 6 INTs whereas Bishop has put up 6 TDs and 8 INTs as a Rider (and he has played more than Durant). Bishop has a long history of failure and general mediocre play. The only thing in Durant’s history is 3 wins and 1 solitary bad game. While Durant may lack Bishop’s arm strength, he outdoes him in every other category and most importantly he gets results (not to mention the fact that he’s at least able to look off a safety).
Uninformed Opinion #2: Darian Durant is a terrible QB
False. He had 1 bad game people, calm down. Ricky Ray also threw 3 INTs in a game this season… bad games will happen. Now I’m not comparing Durant to Ray, but still. Other than a poor showing last game, Durant has been fairly effective at moving the ball. While he’s not all-star caliber yet and certainly can’t walk on water, I’m not ready to give up on him based on 1 bad game.
Uninformed Opinion #3: We Are In Trouble With Jyles As Starter
False. One QB leads the Riders in completion % (by a significant margin), QB efficiency and rushing average… that man is Stephen Jyles. How quickly we forget than Jyles has come in games we are trailing and scored the game winning points on 2 occasions. Aside from his struggles in BC to start the year, Jyles has had nothing but success when he’s on the field. We will be just fine with Jyles running the offense.
Hopefully that clears things up. Now onto the game…
Tomorrow the 10-6 Riders take on the 9-7 Eskimos at a sold-out Mosaic Stadium (17th straight sellout, including every single game this year) in a game with huge playoff implications. Essentially, the loser of this game will finish 4th in the West and cross over to play Winnipeg in the East Semi-Final. The winner remains in the hunt for 2nd place and a home playoffs game.
QB situation aside, the big news for the Riders this week is people returning from the injury list. On defense, Anton McKenzie returns after missing 4 games and John Chick returns (for the 3rd time) after missing 1 game. I’d like to be excited about Chick’s return but given he’s been about as durable as a cheap kleenex this year, I will contain my excitement until he lasts past the 4th quarter stretch. Our offense will get a huge boost from the return of Andy Fantuuuuuuuuuzzz who returns after missing 11 games with a broken fibula. Also returning from a broken fibula is Belton Johnson. For some reason people are overly excited about Belton’s return and are even saying he’s one of the starters we’ve been missing all season. That statement would be true if you changed “starter” to “back-up” and “missing” to “mildly inconvenienced by his absence”. To be fair, we were undefeated until he was injured but that fact is about as meaningless as the relationship I had with that prostitute in Calgary last Thanksgiving. No disrespect to Belton, I think he’s a pretty decent tackle and his return is well-timed given the injury to Smith but I’m just not as excited about it as everyone else seems to be. It is nice to finally be moving in a positive direction injury-wise (though I’m sure this is only a false sense of security and the trend will reverse itself shortly).
The game itself features some interesting match-ups. It will be the 2nd ranked Edmonton passing attack led by the ever dangerous Ricky Ray against the Riders defense which is 2nd against the pass; our dangerous running game against their porous run D; and the best linebacking group in the league against a Eskimo ground game which ranks dead last in the CFL and has been brutal since Maciocia took over. Judging by his rotund figure, Maciocia must avoid running as much in his personal life as he does in his football life.
For the Riders there will be 2 keys to victory. 1 – Stephen Jyles must remain calm, take what the defense gives him, control the ball and use his powerful arm sparingly. Short to medium passes to the likes of Fantuz, Hughes and Dominguez as well as a heavy dose of Cates should keep the chains moving and lead to points on the board. 2 – The defense needs to disrupt the Edmonton passing attack. We need solid coverage on their receivers, particularly on crossing routes and dump passes to the RB (which are Edmonton’s bread and butter). We also need pressure on Ricky Ray. He’s the best in the league and if you give him time he will pick you apart no matter how good your coverage is. Hopefully Chick will give our front 4 a boost because if they continue to get zero pressure, we are in for a world of trouble.
With the regular season almost over and the stakes higher than Pacman Jones’ legal bills, both teams will be going all out (let’s face it, both teams would probably rather be kicked repeatedly in the crotch while being forced to listen to a Bryan Hall marathon than travel to Winnipeg). I expect a heated battle that will come down to a field goal to win the game. Good news for Rider fans is that we have the league’s most accurate kicker in Luca Congi, who, in addition to kicking the longest FG in the league this year, has been lights out this season when it comes to kicking under pressure. Also Edmonton does not have a great record when it comes to kicking game winning FGs against the Riders. If history is any indication if it came down to the Esks kicking a game winning FG, either Omarr Morgan will block it or Edmonton will take an untimely holding call.