Friday the Riders and Lions square off at BC place in their second meeting of the season. The teams are coming off very different results last week. The Riders are coming off a last minute come from behind upset over the Stampeders, while the Lions are coming off losing the season series to Hamilton (which is the CFL equivalent of hitting absolute rock bottom considering the Ti-Cats have only amassed 6 wins over the past 2 seasons and only 2 of those wins have been against western opponents).
Its strange to see the Lions struggling so much since up until last year it was pretty much a given that Wally Buono would lead them to first place. While it’s strange, it’s certainly not surprising. They lost a game breaking RB, a 2 time lineman of the year, 2/3 of their starting LBs and the most dominant defensive player in the league all it once… and they were only a 3rd place team even with those players.
Their offense is a chain reaction of incompetence. Their O-line has given up a league high 18 sacks and when your QB is the not so mobile and even less durable Buck Pierce, that’s a big problem. Those rare times where Pierce does get enough time to get the ball away he tends to direct it to the hands of the defenders. He and Jackson have combined for a league high 9 INTs. Those rarer times where Pierce actually manages to get the ball to the correct coloured jersey, they usually drop it (e.g. Grice-Mullen in Game 1). And finally those rarest times when the receivers manage to squeeze the ball, they usually end up fumbling it away. BC has committed a league high 21 turnovers. About the only bright spot on this offense is the play of RB Martel Mallett (just our luck that their only strength plays into our main weakness).
The thing that I’m still shocked about is BC’s debacle at QB. Buono has consistently fielded elite QBs such as Dickenson, Garcia and Flutie but for some reason he now thinks that the combination of Buck “I’m always hurt and not that great to begin with” Pierce and Jarious “Almost as good as Bishop” Jackson is good enough to win games consistently. That’s about as misguided as making Eli Manning the highest paid player in the NFL.
I can sum up the performance of the Lions defense with one stat. They are the only team in the league who are more futile than the Riders when it comes to stopping the run (and by a wide margin too). That’s like losing to a blind man in a game of I Spy. Their front 4 look very mediocre without Wake and their linebackers are so futile that Buono was forced go out and sign Jojuan Armour and anoint him the starter over Javy Glatt before Armour even got his orange jersey on. Maybe Wally is hoping Armour can knock some sense into his receivers like he did to Copeland.
For the Riders, they need to continue to build on the success of last week. We played better in Calgary but are far from playing great football consistently.
In week 1 we would have destroyed the Lions if not for the turnover-fest our offense produced. So this time around we need to hang on to the ball above all else. Our running game seems to be back on track with the addition of Geno back in the O-line and Cates now running with authority. The key to this game will be running the ball down BC’s throat. It’s not often you play a team that has worse run D than us so we need to take full advantage. Durant also needs to continue controlling the ball as he did in Calgary (minus 2 very ill advised throws). A strong run game should also open some long passes as it did last week. BC still has a bunch of ball hawks in the secondary so we need Durant’s throws to be right on the mark.
Defensively it is still all about tackling. In our 2 loses we were abysmal in that area. Last week we were okay tacklers and it led to holding a very potent offense to only 2 TDs (imagine what would happen if we ever get really good at tackling). In game 1 our D beat up on the Lions like they were Tina Turner and we were Ike (God rest his soul… well okay maybe not God… but you know what I meant). I don’t expect that kind of slaughtering this time around, but I still think that our front 4 should be able to get consistent pressure against a struggling BC O-line. Provided we can control Mallett, the BC offensive attack should be minimal. Simon and Jackson are good receivers but I’m not overly concerned about Pierce’s ability to get them the ball. And I’m not overly concerned about the other receivers since it appears none of them can catch.
Same as last game, if we can win the battle in the trenches and establish a stronger running game than them we will win. This should be an easy win for the Riders but you can never really count out a team coached by Wally Buono, especially when they are playing at home.
Riders by 6.