Friday, July 30, 2010

Riders vs. Hamilton: Time For a Rebound

Saturday the 3-1 Riders take on the 1-3 Ti-Cats at a sold out Mosaic Stadium. Both teams are coming off humbling loses (though in the case of the Ti-Cats it was one of many humbling loses) and looking to rebound. For the Riders, what better way to rebound then by playing in front of a sold-out Mosaic Stadium.

The game has many subplots due to players playing their former teams. Prechae and Goodspeed are playing Hamilton for the first time since leaving the Ti-cats while Belton Johnson, Adam Nicolson and of course Marcus Thigpen will get their first chance to stick it to the team that sent them packing. For me its pretty much a non-issue. For the most part its business as usual for these guys. Rodriguez will continue to be the gifted receiver who squanders his talent because he’s a pussy just like he did in Hamilton. Nicolson will continue to have as big of an impact as Scott Gordon on a safety blitz just like he was here. As for Thigpen, given the embarrassing state of our special teams, if he were still here he would have done absolutely nothing and people would probably be calling for him to be benched/cut.

Despite their poor showing last week the Riders still have one of the most potent offenses in the league. Wes Cates was one of the lone bright spots in Calgary and leads the top rushing attack in the CFL. Our O-line will have to step up after getting embarrassed (like an Asian guy standing next to a black man on the shower embarrassed), otherwise our passing attack will continue to falter.

Defensively our pass defense has more wide open holes than a cheap porno mag. We are routinely giving up huge yards through the air and that has lead to us having given up the most point in the league so far. Pure and simple defense needs to tighten up.

Hamilton comes into this game in not great shape. They are a -3 in the turnover ratio, have allowed more sacks than anyone, have allowed the 3rd most points so far and have the worst rushing attack in the league. That in large part has to do with the fact that Cobb is not as good as he was made out to be last year (I told you so). Even Buck Pierce has more rushing yards than Cobb and he only played 2.5 games, that’s just embarrassing.

They are also choosing to focus their offensive attack (if you can call it that) on some very odd players. Instead of making perennial all-star Arland Bruce or talented wideout Maurice Mann the focal point of their offense, they have chosen to go with perennial leg cast sporter Dave Stala and Marquay McDaniel.

Kevin Glenn is the CFL’s version of Jekyll and Hyde this year. If you watch his home games compared to his road games you’d think you are watching 2 different QBs.

At home – he has completed 79% of his passes for 692 yds, 4 TDs and 0 INTs

On the road – he has completed 50% of this passes for 398 yds, 1 TD and 1 INT

You’d almost think they dressed Michael Bishop for their away games… well except for the fact that given that the turnovers are in the single digits, the QB has yet to knock himself unconscious on his own player and the fact that Bellefeuille hasn’t had to resort to white boards to call plays it’s fairly safe to assume its not Bishop.

To make maters worse, the Ti-Cats big name offseason acquisition, Sandro DeAngelis seems to be trying really hard to lose his “most accurate kicker in league history” designation. He is currently the least accurate kicker this season hitting just over 50% of his attempts. Even that talentless bum Serna has managed not to suck that much. The only thing that sucks more than DeAngelis at this point would be like vacuums and hookers and even then I’m not so sure.

Despite the above mockery, the Ti-Cats are not a team to be taken lightly. They have a strong front 4, the best group of LBs in the league and a dangerous receiving group. They have the talent-laden roster that has thus far underperformed but has the potential to be a very good team. We just need to prevent them from reaching that potential just yet.

The keys to the game are all in the trenches. Our O-line needs to step up and protect Durant. Hamilton has weak run D so a strong performance by our line should lead to big chunks of yards being chewed up by Cates. Though their LBs are great, the Ti-Cat secondary has been pretty weak so as long as Durant gets some time in the pocket he should be able to move the ball effectively.

Defensively again we need a strong performance from our line. We need to pressure Glenn. The Ti-cats have next to no ground game, and the odds of Glenn taking off are next to nil so they should be able to pin their ears back a fair bit and go after Glenn. Our DBs need to step up because Glenn has 4 talented receivers to work with and if our secondary is not playing at a high level they have the ability to make us pay.

Kye Stewart (one of my favourite players from last year) will make his debut this week in an effort to help improve our special teams. This unit is already pretty much at rock bottom so I guess they have nowhere to go but up.

Hamilton will put up a strong fight but in the end I think the Riders will make this a statement game.

Riders by 10.

One last thing I have to comment on this week…

Rob Murphy was fined for making racially insensitive comments on Twitter. Now normally I would be about as likely to defend Rob Murphy as I would be lobby for the induction of James Johnson into the Plaza of Honour but I find this whole situation kind of funny. He said the following…

"Pumped to be smelling foreigners this early in the A.M. They smell less offensive this way....little known fact," and "Ok...the novelty of riding on a train thru Ontario and "Frenchland" has worn out....get me off this damn thing!!!!"

To be fair most people smell less offensive in the morning, the only falsehood there is that this is a widely known fact. As for “Frenchland”… that’s not even that bad. It’s not like called them a bunch of poutine eating, whiny separatists frogs who smell like cheap wine and submit at the slightest sign of resistance (I mean who would be so rude as to come up with something like that?).

I’ve said worse things on this blog… hell I’ve already said worse things in this post and will likely say something else more offensive before this post is done.

I guess the lesson here is that Rob Murphy is a jerk and I can do whatever I want... that and Puerto Ricans are lazy (see I told you I'd say something more offensive).

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Should Have Gone To Karaoke

Riders 20 – Stamps 40

The annual Rider Prophet road trip was going along fantastically. As expected there was shenanigans, tomfoolery and a variety meat platter. It even featured a healthy dose of blasphemy, most notably when a Rider fan in a green luchador mask and championship belt knelt before me and asked for my blessing (yeah I’m probably going to hell but its not like that wasn’t going to happen anyway might as well enjoy the ride). Unfortunately the trip peaked right around halftime.

Halftime was of course Mascot Soccer, which is among my favourite things in the world. Seriously if there was some sort of mascot soccer league, I would buy season tickets. This year’s edition did not disappoint. It was highlighted by a Hit of the Year candidate when one mascot form tackled another sending him to the ground and his mascot head flying (I didn’t think the guy would get up after that hit). It was also highlighted by a breakaway goal by the Wendy’s Milkshake.

Picture this giant milkshake with spindly little legs and no apparent eye holes on a breakaway while his suit is deflating around him, knocking in a Highlight of the Night calibre goal while falling down. It was all kinds of awesome.

Unfortunately the football game it witnessed was nowhere near as awesome. In fact it was pretty pathetic.

We were thoroughly outplayed in the first half but managed to weather the storm and keep the game tied. Like many I was confident the Riders would come out strong in the 2nd half and emerge victorious. I mean Patrick had already picked of Henry twice in the endzone, the patented Stampeder collapse was well on its way. That prediction was so wildly off base that I think I’m now qualified to be a weather forecaster. The Riders continued being thoroughly outplayed in the 2nd half and things quickly got out of hand.

For me the story of the game was in these 2 stats: 247 rushing yards allowed and 3 INTs. Plain and simple we lost the battle in the trenches. Our D line got pushed around which led to big holes opening up for Reynolds and Cornish (who we looked powerless to stop). They also failed to get any tangible pressure on Burris which gave him plenty of time to pick apart our secondary. On the other side our O-line had no answer for the furious pass rush of the Stampeders. It looked like a bunch of high school kids had snuck onto the field disguised as our line they way they were getting manhandled. Durant had zero time in the pocket and that led to him making numerous ill-advised passes and multiple turnovers.

I’d comment on the continued ineptness of our special teams unit but quite frankly they are playing exactly how you’d expect a group coached by Jim Daley to perform. This guy has been a coaching failure for longer than some of his players have been alive. The decision to hire him rivals the decision to bring in Michael Bishop in 2008.

We are still 3-1 and tied for first place so its not the end of the world but the Stamps exposed some glaring weaknesses in our team that we will need to address if we want to get back in the win column. Besides it could be worse... we could be the Eskimos.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Riders vs. Stamps: Alberta Bound

Saturday the undefeated Riders travel to Calgary to take on the 2-1 Stampeders in a first place showdown. Joining the Riders will be a good chunk of the population of Saskatchewan. Prospective burglars would be advised that this is probably a good time for a crime spree as most of the province including most of our provincial and civic leaders will be gone for the weekend. But be warned, stay away from my house because I’ll be there waiting for you… well okay I won’t actually be there but I have someone house-sitting for me who will rough you up… well I don’t actually have anybody house-sitting but I have told my parents who will probably check on the house at least once in my absence and you would look pretty silly if they happened to catch you. So there… you’ve been warned.

That’s right its time for the annual Rider Prophet Media road trip. Me, Media Consultant, Man in the Bush and cast of other ne’er-do-wells will be hitting the road to take in the big game. If it’s anything like previous road trips it’s likely to involve one or more of the following: shenanigans, tomfoolery, adultivity, variety meat platters, an Asian karaoke bar and a panicked phone call from a dying cell phone asking to be rescued from downtown. It should be a good time.

Onto the game…

The Stamps are off to a 2-1 start but that record really flatters their performance. They have looked pretty awful in all 3 games they’ve played and they had a fairly easy set of teams to open the season. That said they are a dangerous team and only a game back of the Riders so they can’t be taken lightly.

The Stamps have committed a league high 11 turnovers (mostly Henry’s fault), have the 2nd worst passing game (again mostly Henry’s fault) and are having trouble sorting out ratio problems (that one probably isn’t Henry’s fault but I’ll go ahead and blame him for it anyway just because its fun). That said they also have Joffrey Reynolds who is always dangerous and will likely welcome back Ken-Yon Rambo who, when healthy, is one of the best receivers in the league.

Defensively the Stamps have played pretty solid though that might just be a product of playing the Argos twice and catching Hamilton on a night where they played like crap. They have stingy run D and have forced 11 turnovers already. One thing they aren’t very good at is pressuring the QB. They rank 2nd last in sacks so far.

The Riders are hands down the top offense in the league. Top scoring, top passing and top rushing (averaging an amazing 200 yds rushing per game). The Stampeders have always had fairly solid run D so this should be a good test for the born again Wes Cates. Last year our talented slots where able to pretty much rape the Calgary halfbacks. I mean nothing short of bringing in James Johnson could have made them more useless.

Defensively the Riders are somewhat of a mixed bag. We are #1 at stopping the run and #1 in sacks. The most noticeable thing about our sacks is that they are coming from everywhere with 8 different defenders notching one so far. The ability to bring pressure from everywhere should help keep Burris from using his legs too much. Our pass defense has proven to be porous and more exploitable than child. The good news is we are good at creating turnovers to swing momentum back our way.

One quick note about special teams… ours is up the “high” standards of Jim Daley so provided Dorsey can actually catch a ball or Sakoda can kick it father than a 4 year old could shot put we’ll have to consider that a success.

Keys to the game will be a balanced offense attack. Calgary’s corners are ball hawks that we need to be wary of (well one is a bal hawk and the other is an overrated cheating machine) but the middle should be as vulnerable to the likes of Dressler, Fantuz and the Chris “The Stampeder Killer” Getzlaf.

Defensively the key is the same as it always is when facing the Stamps… eliminate Reynolds and the ground game and contain Burris, forcing him to air it out. Having watched his success at doing that so far this season, I like our chances in that scenario. Calgary has some talented receivers but when Burris is passing to our DBs and fumbling the ball the only way his receivers will be able to get on the stat sheet is by tackling our defenders.

This game will be no pushover but given after watching both teams over the first 3 games we are just so much farther ahead in terms of execution and level of play than they are. It will be close but…

Riders by a Rob Bagg TD.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Not Pretty

Riders 24 – Eskimos 20

Well that game was a lot like picking up an ugly hooker. You kind of regretted paying that much for something that was so ugly to watch and really wasn’t that good but it did have a happy ending so in the end it turned out to be alright… though its nothing to brag about to your friends.

Even though it wasn’t the greatest game to watch, I’ll give the Riders credit for a hard fought win. Things won’t always be easy or pretty so it’s good to know we can win the ugly ones when need be.

I thought our defense did a great job of containing Arkee Whitlock and Kelly Campbell. Unfortunately in doing that they decided to let Fred Stamps saunter around the field at will. I realize that some of his receptions were just really good catches in coverage but other times Stamps was so open it wondered if people thought he had SARS the way they were avoiding him. I’d like to know what was going through our DBs’ minds when they decided it would be better to ensure Andrew Norwacki was in blanket coverage as opposed to Stamps.

Huge props out to Chunky on a great game and Tad Kornegay who stepped up big time in the 2nd half and ultimately forcing a game changing fumble. The D allowed the Esks to move the ball quite a bit but true to the aggressive style of Etch they attacked the ball forcing 2 huge fumbles when it mattered most and not allowing a point in the 4th quarter.

Don’t look now but Mike McCullough currently shares the team lead in sacks.

Offensively, you have got to like our ground game. If you take away that long run, Cates didn’t have a great day but he’s still performing well beyond most expectations. The use of Hugh Charles as a change of pace is working great. Him and Cates compliment each other well and give us versatility at RB. When you factor in the yards Durant chews up, the fact the Szarka can still move the chains and the reverses our receivers run (which for the record was an insanely ballsy call) you have a pretty solid running attack. Plus any game that features a celebratory flip is always a good one in my books. Passing game was hit and miss but it came through when it mattered most. With Durant at the helm I’m always confident that we are never out of reach.

Prechae Rodriguez continues to irritate me. I have always said that he is overrated but he clearly has the skills to be an elite receiver… as evidenced by the YAC yards he chewed up on his lone reception. But despite his skills and obvious physical advantages he still plays with all the toughness and aggressiveness of a male fashion designer… as evidenced by his unwillingness to expose himself to contact by going over the middle for a ball. He’s a wussy who also strikes me as lazy. Lack of effort bugs me more than lack of skill.

Another thing that bugs me is the play of our special teams. I know it’s shocking that a group coached by perennial failure Jim Daley is not performing well but that seems to be the case. Luca Congi gets a pass this week because he kicked well (including booming that 54 yarder). Sakoda just looked lost out there. His kickoffs were fine but his punting made Luca Congi look like Jon Ryan by comparison. I’m not sure if he developed amnesia between last year and this year but he doesn’t even look like the same guy.

Dorsey is another guy not earning his keep. We are paying him an awful lot for the right to watch him screw up. The lack of big returns don’t bother me as much since the blocking he has been receiving is nowhere near adequate but watching him give up on a ball that ultimately bounced out inside the 10 and then watching him mishandle a kick that bounced out at the 2 is infuriating. This is a former Special Teams Player of the Year who is making a 6 figure salary but is honestly making me yearn for the days of James Johnson as our kick returner. His Dance Dance Revolution impression never got any yards but at least he could catch the ball. I don’t care how much money Taman stupidly spent on the guy, if he doesn’t step it up soon he needs to be benched.

Despite what the unusually large amount of rants above might indicate, a win's a win and it doesn’t matter how you do it as long as you come away with 2 points. It may not have been pretty but we are still undefeated. This team showed yet again that it never gives up and will fight tooth and nail until the time expires. That kind of attitude should lead to a lot more wins this season.

Around the league…

- So who had the middle of game 3 in the Buck Pierce injury pool? Oh wait… I did. I predicted Pierce would last 2.5 games before succumbing to injury. I was little bit under but if this were Price Is Right I would have been the closest to the actual amount without going over so I’ll count it as a win. I will now pause for a moment of silence in memory of Bob Barker… actually, on further investigation turns out he’s not dead yet. My bad. Seriously though is anybody at all (Paul LaPolice included) surprised by this?

- Montreal has now managed to lose despite putting up 51 points and win despite failing to score touchdown. That’s pretty amazing.

- The way Henry Burris is throwing picks you’d think it was the postseason already. Needless to say the normally potent Stampeder offense doesn’t really scare me this week.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Riders vs. Edmonton: Go Black and Red!

Saturday will mark the first time in my career as a Rider fan that I will actually be cheering for a team in black and red as opposed to green and white. It will be difficult because I’ve been conditioned to despise teams in red and black but I’ll manage.

The decision by the Riders to honour their past by wearing centennial jerseys to honour the colours the team wore in the 30s and 40s has created quite a stir. Many people see no problem honouring the team’s heritage for one game in our centennial year. Others are strongly opposed to anything that is not green and white.

Personally I’ve got nothing against the black jerseys. Some of my favourite jerseys are black. The fact of the matter is that the black jerseys were here before the white ones. But the white jerseys showed up and immediately took everything from the black jerseys leaving them with nothing. I think it’s high time the black jerseys were given equal rights. Though I do worry that this will open the door for calls for equality for pink jerseys and rainbow jerseys.

After the game the Riders will be giving away all 42 game worn Centennial jerseys to lucky season ticket holders. Personally I hope they washed them first. I mean can you imagine getting Chunky Adams’ jerseys right after a summer afternoon game? Though odds of walking away with one of these collectors items are obviously small, with my luck if I do win it’ll end up being Dinwiddie’s jersey. I’m not sure what I would bother me more, the prospect of having to accept a jersey from a guy I hate or the prospect of having to look into his eyes in person.

Onto the game…

The teams come into this match-up heading in very different directions. The Riders came firing out of the gates with 2 wins and are coming back home riding of wave of momentum and confidence. The Esks have struggled out of the gates, dropping their first 2 games on home turf and now have to head out on the road.

The offenses are at completely different ends of the spectrum. The Riders are the most potent offense in the CFL, leading the league in passing yards, rushing yards and most importantly points. The Esks boast the league most futile offense (though after watching the Calgary game last night I’m no so sure) in the league having amassed a whopping 1… yes 1 passing TD. The only thing they lead the league in is homely QBs and midgets employed in their football operations.

Ricky Ray has been steadily regressing over the last few years and hasn’t looked that good so far this season. He certainly has dangerous weapons in Campbell and Stamps but the combination of Ray struggling and his receivers all doing their best Kamau Incompleterson impersonation has led to a stagnant offensive attack. The only Eskimo who has been playing well consistently is Arkee Whitlock, who I think is one of the best RBs in the league.

The contrast between these 2 teams continues on defense. The Riders have been very effective so far at shutting down the run. The Esks… not so much. The Riders force turnovers. The Esks have only managed 1 turnover this season (which added to their 7 giveaways place them at a league worst -6 in the turnover ratio). On top of not being a very good defense to begin with the Esks find themselves in even worse shape due to a number of injuries. They are down 2 starters on DL, 1 LB and have been forced into starting a raw rookie at safety. You just Doug Berry is like a shark who smells blood and is planning to attack the inexperienced safety.

Key to the game offensively is just keep doing what we’ve been doing. Attack with a mixture of runs and passes to keep the defense off balance. I see another big game in store for Cates. Walls and Thompson are talented DBs so we can’t carelessly air it out but there’s no way Durant and our receivers can’t exploit that secondary.

Defensively we can’t be overconfident. Like I said Whitlock is one of the best so the priority will be keeping him in check. Thus far our interior lineman and LBs have been stuffing the run well so that shouldn’t be a problem. Containing Stamp and more importantly Campbell may be a problem though. You can bet the Esks will have watched the film from our home opener as a blue print on how we can be beat through the air. Pressure will be on Alexander and Patrick to step up. We will also need another strong push from our DL. Edmonton has a better OL than BC so I don’t think we will see the relentless pressure we saw last week but we should still be able to get back there and get some hits on Ray.

The Esks will be hungry team but I just think the Riders are too strong for them. In front of a sellout crowd I expect the Riders to continue their strong start.

Riders by 10.

Don’t forget that it’s Tackle Hunger Day so remember to a donation for the food bank. And Man In the Bush if you are reading this your left over pizza crusts don’t count.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Jerseys Set New Standard For Creativity

When the CFL announced last year that it would be celebrating its heritage, most people thought that it was great idea. Our league is rich with history and honouring those players, coaches and teams that laid the foundation for the League as we know it today could only be a positive.

Last season the League honoured the 1960s and as part of the celebrations each team came out with retro jerseys. For the most part the jerseys were well received. Well this season the League is continuing to honour the past. This time around it’s the 70s that we will be paying tribute to. As part of the celebrations each team will be releasing new 70s retro jerseys.

I know you might be saying to yourself “Enough is enough already, each team already has 3-4 jerseys and besides how much can you really change on a football jersey anyway?” Well rest assured the good people at the CFL and Reebok have been working extra hard to ensure that this new line of 70s jerseys do not disappoint.

Why just take a look at the Stamps 70s jersey…

Note how dramatically different and creative it is compared to last years 60s jersey.

Or how about the Ti-Cats 70s jerseys…

Which is clearly nothing like the 60s jersey that preceded it.

And Eskimo fans will be glad to know that instead of the boring jersey they normally get to see…

The 70s jerseys will make you think that you are watching a completely different team. (The team will probably still play like crap but they will look different while doing so).

The good folks at Reebok and the CFL clearly saved their best creative juices for Toronto. Just seeing this jersey tells me even in my wildest dreams I could never be creative or hard working enough to make it in the jersey design world.

The Lions, Als and Riders have yet to unveil their 70s jerseys but I have no doubt they will be up to the same high standard they have established with the other teams.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Still Rolling

Riders 37 – Lions 18

Saturday the Riders got their second win of the young season in front of a sold out crowd at Empire Field (which is a really nice place from the looks of it). After a fairly evenly matched first half, the Riders dominated the second half on route to a convincing victory. It was the first time in a while that the win was not a roller coaster ride that took years off my life. It was a relatively stress free experience… that was a plus.

Unlike last week when the offense was the difference maker, I thought the Riders played well in all 3 phases of the game. Defense played good overall, special teams was much improved and offense… well they were our offense and continue to be a force to reckon with. That said after tossing 5 TDs last week, was 1 TD toss the best Durant could muster? Come on! Show some effort #4!... I’m kidding relax. Durant played outstanding. He is poised, making great reads and has yet to thrown an INT (which was his only major flaw last season).

Wes Cates had another great game. Admittedly I expected absolutely nothing out of him this season but man oh man was I wrong. He’s traded his ballerina slippers for big boy shoes and is running with authority again. Charles offered a nice change of pace to round out a solid running game. Dressler continues to make amazing catches. While many people were critical of the amount of times we sent him over the middle and exposed him to big hits, I’m not so worried. You see Dressler is like the Smart Car of the CFL… he’s so small that he just bounces off contact without much damage. Physics are on his side. It was nice to see a strong offensive attack even when one of our top guys (Bagg) was held completely off the stat sheet. We just have too many weapons to be kept in check.

The only downside offensively was the Wayne Smith experiment ending before it really got started. I feel sorry for Wayne because he is a stand-up guy but he has unfortunately been cut form the same cloth as Jesse Lumsden and Adam Braidwood… he has all the talent in the world but is trapped in a body constructed primarily of apple cores and Chinese newspaper. Given the severity of this injury on the heels of his achilles injury last year, I could see this as being a career ender for Smith, which is a shame. I was impressed at the play of Best and Geno while filling in after the injury.

Defense stepped up big time after struggling last week. Part of that may have to do with their opponents. I mean a 2 time MOP QB and an all-star line are a lot tougher to contend with than a fairly inexperienced line and a motivational speaker QB. My big concern going into the game was Hawkins not being able to keep contain on Printers. Well he did that and then some, bringing big pressure and notching up 2 sacks and a forced fumble for a TD and knocking Printers out of the game. For the second week in a row our run defense was extremely solid, taking Robertson out of the equation for most of the night. If the defense continues to improve like they did this week, very good things are in store for this team.

I love how its pretty much a given that when the Riders play the Lions, BC’s starting QB is going to get injured by our defense forcing the backup into action. Heck the way Lulay was getting hit, I thought we might be seeing Jarious get forced into action too.

My favourite moment of the game was watching Paul McCallum trying to outrun Hugh Charles for a first down on a fake punt. That was seriously like watching a buggy being pulled by a pair of 3 legged horses try to pass a supped up muscle car… he never had a chance. A close second was when it looked like Barrin Simpson had killed O’Neil Wilson just before halftime.

Overall it was an impressive win that was the product of solid play from the entire team. I know it’s early in the season but the Riders have already established themselves as the team to beat.

Other random thoughts from around the league…

- The Bombers’ special teams unit is a perfect storm of failure. Not only do the field a coverage team that can’t cover a kick to save their soul, especially missed FGs. They also have a kicker who misses an excessive amount of FGs.

- LaPolice must assume based his experience here that any Canadian receiver can be made into an all-star because he inexplicably seems to have based his offense around Brock Ralph. Problem is Ralph is no Bagg or Getlzaf… hell Ralph is barely even a French.

- That stack of cups in Winnipeg may have been one of the greatest things I have ever seen. That instantly became the best thing to come out of Winnipeg since I headed home from the Banjo Bowl last year.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Riders vs. Lions

Saturday the Riders head to BC to face the Lions in a battle of 1-0 teams. Since BC Place is currently having a new retractable roof installed (one that is costing close to what an entire new stadium here would… I’m just saying), the Lions will be playing outdoors this season at a temporary stadium constructed at the old Empire Stadium location.

Though both teams were victorious in their season openers, it was for vastly different reasons. For the Riders, they won because of the play of their QB and offense as a whole, overcoming a great deal of adversity and a formidable foe. For the Lions, they won in spite of the play of their QB, overcoming next to no adversity and a foe that was about as formidable as the Egyptian ice hockey team or the Edmonton Oilers (apologies to the Egyptians for likening them to the Oilers). By no means will BC be a pushover but needless to say they were less than convincing in their win over the Esks.

Even though, the Esks offense provided about as much resistance as a soggy napkin, I thought BC’s defense played well. Their front 4 (powered by Kerron Williams) got a good push, Korey Banks was the playmaker he always is and rookie Joe Henderson looked pretty solid. That said they looked pretty susceptible to the run and I think their success at limiting the pass had more to do with pressure on the QB than the coverage of their DBs.

Offensively, they really didn’t do anything. Old man Robertson provided the bulk of their offense on 2 long runs and other than that they had to rely on older man McCallum to put up points. Printers was as elusive as ever but he looked shaky and indecisive in his passes which led to a very pitiful offensive attack. Statistically only Lemon and Glenn had worse performance than Printers. Given the wealth of talent he has been gifted in his receivers, there is little excuse for his poor showing.

For the Riders, obviously improvements are needed on defense. Our run defense was surprisingly effective and that will need to continue this week. Our pass defense… well it has some work to do. Part of that is getting better pressure from our D-line. BC’s O-line isn’t near as good as Montreal’s so hopefully they will have more success. The other part is pass coverage. You can bet good money that Wally took note of Alexander’s struggles and will be looking to attack him. Buono has any 1 of 4 dangerous receivers (Simon, Jackson, Arceneaux and Armstrong) he could throw his way, so Alexander will have his work cut out for him.

Our passing attack is not a concern other than it would maybe be nice if they could start clicking sometime before the 3rd quarter. Durant and his receivers are clicking and that can only lead to more good things. Even our running game looks to be a threat once again (though I will need more than 1 good showing to convince me). Wayne Smith will be stepping in for Joel Bell who struggled last game. It will be interesting to see if Smith can play like the Smith of old after being on the shelf for over a year.

Defensively the keys to winning are stop the run and keep Printers contained. That won’t be easy since Printers is as elusive as Bin Laden but he is not that strong throwing from the pocket. If we can avoid the patented “Printers scrambles around for 5 minutes before bombing it to Simon” play and force him to make more conventional passes I think he will struggle like he did last week. The pressure will be on Hawkins, who got caught too far inside a couple times last week, not to lose contain.

Offensively we need to attack, attack, attack. BC has a good D-line and a good group of LBs but without Barron Miles, their DBs don’t scare me. Our receivers should be able to put up big yards again this game. They key will be to neutralize the BC pass rush, which is always very strong. Part of that will be a good game by our O-line and part of that will be establishing Cates and the running game again so the DL can’t just pin its ear back and go after Durant. Cates will also have to be on the lookout for Korey Banks who sneaks up and blitzes a lot.

As much as I’d like to say that the Riders should have no problems winning this game, historically the Leos always seem to play well against us. I expect a very close game that will feature a lot of passing on both sides. It will also feature a lot of Buono starting somewhere near the hash marks and an excessive amount of McCallum love on the part of the commentators, both of which I could do without. I also guarantee that the majority of Rider fans will consciously or subconsciously (perhaps even superconsciously) be counting the number of Rider players on the field for any defensive or special teams play. As long as those people counting include the coaches and players themselves we should be fine.

Riders by a Weston Dressler TD

Monday, July 5, 2010

Belated Milestone

I’m going to assume that the greeting cards filled with your best wishes and your packages filled ornate gifts are just in the mail. I mean surely you wouldn’t have forgotten how important yesterday was, right?

Curious about what was so important about yesterday. It’s more than Koko the sign language gorilla’s birthday and more than Filipino-American Friendship Day….

It’s the Rider Prophet’s 3rd Anniversary!!

Yes we’ve defied the odds and managed to last another year… one that was yet again free of litigation I might add.

As you know the 3rd anniversary is traditionally the leather anniversary. Unfortunately, one member of the Rider Prophet staff whose name rhymes with Pan in the Shush, took that way too literally and showed up at my house wearing leather chaps… and nothing else to celebrate. It was disturbing to say the least. I live beside a park and needless to say Man in the Bush is no longer allowed in my neighbourhood.

The whole incident has me convinced that I will have to shut the blog down sometime before our 5th Anniversary which is the wood anniversary. Something tells me that if we are still in operation then I will have to pre-emptively put Man in the Bush on Administrative Leave.

Anywho, there were a number of notable achievements during my 3rd year in the sports-related prophecy business.

- A trip to the Grey Cup, filled with requests for pictures from fans and media alike.

- Being featured on a piece on CBC National

- Becoming a columnist for Fantas-Eh Football

- Being featured in an article in the National Post

As we head into our 4th year, I would like to give a sincere thanks to all my readers for your support and not ratting me out the authorities for the comments I’ve made that could be considered hate crimes.

I’d also like to thank my staff Man in the Bush, PR Guy and Media Consultant. Whether it be promoting my blog, have jokes written at his expense or rescuing a lost and disoriented Prophet from downtown Calgary their contribution to keeping this site going are greatly appreciated.

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Sacré Bleu!

Riders 54 – Alouettes 51

It has now been 4 days since the Riders opened the 2010 season with a dramatic come from behind double OT victory over the Als and my body is only now starting to recover from the emotional beating the game took on it. Thursday’s season opener was certainly an exciting way to kickoff the new season.

The emotional rollercoaster that the fans endured was unbelievable. The surprising INT on the Calvillo’s first pass attempt had me convinced we were going to win. The remainder of the 2nd half and the start of the 3rdthat followed had me convinced of just the opposite. But as has happened countless times in the past, the Riders mounted an improbable comeback to force OT. The deciding series featured some unbelievable catches and some unbelievable stupidity culminating in a game winning TD pass from Durant to Dressler. There were some amazing plays in that game and it was something else to witness its all.

The offense came as advertised… packed with more firepower than Gilbert Arenas. It took awhile for them to start clicking but once they did it was a thing of beauty. Durant lived up to the high expectations placed on him this season. He read the field well, made good decisions and was his usual calm self in the face of adversity. After not seeing him play in a long time, I had forgotten how unbelievably talented Weston Dressler is. Even Wes Cates had a surprisingly good performance. I had to do a double look when I saw #20 rattle off a big run. Maybe he’s not as washed up as we all thought.

Defense was … well it was what I expected… a work in progress. Anytime your defense gives up over 40 points you can’t be happy with their performance. You especially can’t be happy when Kitwana Jones playing at DT is legitimately your best pass rusher. Donovan Alexander’s ass probably hurt like hell Friday morning because he was repeatedly raped by Montreal. He recovered with a nice stop in OT but it wasn’t a night to be proud of. The good news is that a) that is hands down the best receiving unit in the league and b) Alexander is young and should be able to learn from his mistakes. I thought our run D was pretty decent. Our front 4 wasn’t great but then again Calvillo is a tough QB to get pressure on in the first place due to his quick release. I expect our defense to steadily improve week by week. With the firepower in our offense, even a half decent performance by our D should lead to a lot of victories in our future.

I still can’t believe that of all the penalties in the rule book, we had to take a Too Many Men with the game on the line. Offside would have angered me. Pass Interference would maybe have enticed me to curse mildly. But too many f’n men?!?!?!? Well that led to a period of stunned silence followed by a profanity filled tirade wasn’t suitable for any child to hear… thing is that penalty angered the crowd so much that I’m pretty sure even young children were swearing right along with me. How the hell can our team manage to grasp the complexity of our playbook and the intricacies of Etch’s ridiculous schemes but the simple act of counting is beyond us?!? This is unbelievable. 13 one play… 11 a couple plays later. What is so hard about 12?

Well being the ever helpful guy that I am, I’m personally volunteering my services to the Riders to help get over this math problem that most pre-schoolers wouldn’t have an issue with. First, the team needs to take a lesson from the world of professional wrestling and institute a system whereby you have to tag in and out of the contest. You don’t tag somebody, you’re not allowed on the field. I have also produced this instructional video to help the team learn how to count to 12.

We won in amazing fashion against the toughest opponent in the league, so I will try not to dwell on the negatives. We have some things to work on but we also have a lot of reasons to be excited about the next 17 games. The team rallied and did what they needed to do to win and in the end that is all we should care about.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

National Post

The Rider Prophet and Matt Brown from Fantas-Eh Football were invited to be part of of the National Post's panel for a CFL preview.

Check it out here...