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.