Fridaythe Riders are on the road for a battle of 4-1 teams in Montreal… or Frenchland as Rob Murphy refers to it… or the land of poutine, poor hygiene and surrender as some bigoted prophets refer to it.
The game will be a rematch of the epic double OT shootout in the season opener which featured more scoring than your average brothel (you know, so I’ve heard). They are the top 2 teams in scoring, passing yds and takeaways. While I don’t expect anything close to what we saw on Canada Day, these are 2 of the best teams in the league so you can expect a hard fought battle that will likely further reduce my life expectancy by a few years.
Since losing to us on opening day the Als have been on a tear, rattling off 4 straight wins and reestablishing themselves as the dominant force in the East, not that that is anything to brag about. They come into this game with a potent passing attack, a RB who suddenly remembered how not to suck last week and having committed a league low 5 turnovers. They also have the # 1 run defense and have allowed the 2ndleast points. None of this is very surprising since the Als have been robotically good for many years.
Some things that Idofind surprising about the Als is that they have the 2ndworst rushing attack, the 2ndmost sacks allowed and are the most penalized team in the CFL. A poor ground game, a porous O-line and an undisciplined team are about as characteristic of Montreal as politeness and obeying traffic laws.
Given all the issues the Riders have been having this year (pass defense, special teams, red zone) it’s almost hard to believe we are talking about a 4-1 team. How easily we forget that overall this team is playing well and in some areas of the game playing extremely well.
One area is running the ball. Week in and week out Wes Cates is proving his detractors (including myself) wrong. He is running with authority, chewing up yards and most importantly putting up points (he leads the CFL with 5 TDs). The Cates we came to love in ’07 and ’08 is back. We are also stopping the run way better than we were last year. Now that might be a product of allowing teams to pass on us at will but I will get to that in a minute. Another positive thing was the improvement of our specials teams. This unit started out as an embarrassment and pretty much a ready made example of everything you can possibly do wrong on special teams. But I give our coaches full credit, they made some personnel changes and did what they needed to do to improve our greatest weakness. Now we have a unit that should actually be able to benefit us in this game.
Of course the match-up everyone is talking about is the league’s best and most accurate passer in Calvillo against the most porous secondary in the league. It’s as if someone gave our secondary rufies given how easy it seems to be to make a pass on them and eventually score. Alexander is out with a tender hammy (which sounds like a delicious name for a meal) and Leron Mitchell is nursing his annual knee injury so Tad Kornegay will get the start on corner. I actually think we will do fine with him there. He’s a talented player. And hell, short of physically misplacing his pants it’s not like he can do worse than Alexander did on opening day.
Offensively the key will be getting the passing game going. The Als have allowed the 3rdmost passing yards in the CFL so its not like their secondary is that great. If Durant overcome his infected intestines and once again get on the same page as Dressler, Fantuz and Bagg (I’d say Rodriguez but my hatred of him is well documented) they should be able to move the ball all day. Our O-line will have another tough test as they will be the dangerous duo of Bowman and Stewart. Durant and his sensitive tummy need all the protection they can get.
Defensively it’s pretty obvious, stop something through the air… anything. This will be an extremely tough task as Calvillo is the best QB in the league and has a cast of dangerous receivers and a resurging Cobourne at his disposal. A big key to this would be getting Lance Frazier out of this funk he is in and get him back to being an elite DB as he has been in the past. Our D-line (or whomever Etch sends at the QB… LBs, DBs, Congi at nose tackle, Frennette on the end) will need to help out by disrupting Calvillo. The Als O-line has been struggling so it should be doable.
If you are a betting man, you would bet against the Riders. They are on the road against one of the best team in the league, their QB has digestive problems and they are sending the worst secondary against the best passer. Logic says take the Als.
But for some reason I have the feeling that this is one of those games that the Riders will step up and play like great football. I see a close fought battle featuring a ton of passing yards. In the end the Riders will come from behind to take the lead late and…