Friday, October 29, 2010

Riders vs. Lions: Halloween Spooktacular

Welcome to this Friday edition Canada’s Best Sports Blog (just so you know I will be finding ways of incorporating that into everything I write from now on)...

Sunday the 9-7 Riders travel to BC to take on the 6-10 Lions on Halloween. For the Riders this is a meaningless game and all they are really playing for is pride and to get tuned up for the playoffs. By contrast the Lions are in a fight with the Esks for the final playoff spot. The Esks hold the tie breaker so a loss to the Riders plus a home win by the Esks over the last place and QB-less Bombers (which is only moderately more difficult than beating an amputee in a boxing match) will end the Lions season. Bottom line the Lions are desperate.

The West Division has undergone a head scratching role reversal. Through the first 11 games the Stamps and Riders went a combined 16 and 6 while the Lions and Esks went an embarrassing 5 and 17. It was pretty much assumed that there were 2 tiers in the West and it was a forgone conclusion that the Riders and Stamps would be in the West Final. However, in the past 5 games the Lions and Esks have suddenly woken up and have gone a combined 7 and 3. By contrast, the “super powers” of the West have gone a combined 4 and 6. If the season were much longer I wonder how different the playoff picture might look.

The Riders come into this game on a 3 game losing streak (their worst in 2 years). While the game itself doesn’t really matter in terms of the outcome to Riders, they do need to start making improvements in their play if they hope to any kind of success come playoffs… unless of course this whole thing is just a crazy scheme by the coaching staff to make the other teams think we suck before opening the playbook wide open on Nov 14th and be completely dominant. … What? A man can dream can’t he?

Durant is clearly hurt. He is the top rushing QB in the CFL yet over the past 3 games he has only run the ball 5 times. As a passer, Durant is at his best when he is moving around, rolling out and making the defense respect the fact that at any time he could take off for a big gain. But since his leg is obviously not healthy he just sits there. This allows the pass rushers to just pin their ears back and attack. They know where he’s going to be and they don’t have to worry about him running or even handing the ball off for that matter… advantage defense.

Personally I would not let Durant touch the field. Let him rest up. He still has one more regular season game to get tuned up for the playoffs but if we keep subjecting him to the wear and tear of a game he won’t heal and we will be left with a QB who by comparison would make Jim Hopson look mobile while giving Chunky a piggy back. That said, it looks like a complete benching is not in the cards so I just pray they pull Durant early. Treat it like a preseason game. Not that I really want to see Dinwiddie on the field but for the greater good of the team I’d be willing to endure it.

Despite their recent victories I still don’t believe that BC is a very good football team. Basically their game plan has been assume Yonus Davis can return all kicks to within FG range, do next to nothing offensively and have Paul McCallum kick for 3 and repeat. If that fails either have Lulay run for his life or check it down to Robertson. The thing is, as ridiculous and terrible as that plan is… it keeps working! Barring Yonus Davis getting hurt or some sort of erroneous roster submission that prevents McCallum from playing (and really, what are the odds of that?), I expect this plan to continue. Unless of course they want to try the screen play to the O-lineman trick again.

Wally Buono is not blind… his tendency to squint all the time suggest some visual difficulties but he’s not completely blind… he will have seen what the 3 weaknesses of the Riders are and be prepared to attack them. Offensively: run the ball all day. Defensively: send more blitzers than there are blockers since we don’t really do hot routes. Special Teams: Be adequate and you will completely overwhelm us. Hell short of having all 12 of your special teams guys turtle on every play, you will have a good chance at big plays against us.

In the 2 previous meetings, the Riders completely manhandled the Lions and embarrassed them worse than the time Man in the Bush found out the hard way that a Cleveland steamer is not a sauna from Ohio. They have the worst O-line in the league, a laughable passing attack and the worst run defense in the CFL (yes it is somehow worse than ours). Problem being, we’re not really great at pressuring the QB and don’t run the ball so only 1 of those deficiencies really helps us much.

Keys to the game offensively are to get Durant back in sync with his receivers (particularly Fantuz). Tad Crawford is far from an elite safety so there is bound to be match-ups that can be exploited for big yards. Given BC’s inability to stop the run, logic would dictate a heavy dose of Cates or Charles… but we don’t really believe in that so I’m no holding my breath.

Defensively, do everything you can to stop both Robertson and Lulay from running. Lulay is not a very gifted passer. He has thrown only 3 TDs in his past 5 games and statistically speaking is only slightly better than Cleo Lemon (which is a more polite way of saying he’s crap). Stack the box and go to man coverage on the receivers. BC won’t beat us through the air. Actually, if we are serious about stopping the run we should just make Doug Berry our Defensive Coordinator… he seems to have an innate ability to make the run a non-factor.

Lastly, we need to stop Yonus Davis on the returns. I think he is the most dangerous returner in the CFL and is the guy I fear the most on the Lions’ roster. If we keep him in check, BC’s chances of winning drop faster than a drunk guy’s standards.

As much as I’d like to believe that the Riders will come out strong and make a statement and stomp the Lions, you have to factor in the fact they we simply don’t care about the end result and their season will likely hinge on the end result. Let’s not forget that BC has beaten the Stamps twice this year so they are no pushover.

I’d like to think that this team will rally, if for no other reason than they are sick of fielding questions about the losing streak, and I honestly expect us to play better than we have the past 3 weeks. That said my gut instinct says a road game that we’d don’t care about equals a loss.

Lions by 3

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Canada's Best Sports Blog

The results from the Canadian Blog Awards are in and (assuming some minor legal things in the state of Florida don't screw me) the Rider Prophet has been named Canada's Best Sports Blog!

A big thank you to everyone who voted and made this possible. Most people upon winning awards will talk about how humbling it is during their acceptance speech... I will do just the opposite.

I'd like to thank the folks on the interweb for finally acknowledging my outstanding achievements and overall excellence. This award makes me realize just how awesome I am and how superior I am in most facets of life. I'd like to thank a lot or people... I'd like to but I really have no one to thank but myself and to a lesser extent God. And as I sip my soda that I'm sure someone has spit in, I just would like to say to all of you: kiss my ass you rotten mother $^&^$&. Now if you'll excuse me I'm gonna go home and put some water in Heroux's momma's dish. Good evening.

Though I can only assume that the large cheque I should be receiving as well as the ensuing endorsement offers are currently in the mail... they did give me this to honour my victory.

Though its a touching gesture, I really don't think that it is a fitting symbol of my outstanding achievement in the world of sports blogging. I think I need something a bit more becoming of a national icon. So I will be substituting the badge they gave me with a championship belt.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Calling Shane Falco... We Need Heart

Riders 24 – Eskimos 39

In retrospect, given how the game started for the Riders I should have realized that we were going to lose. I mean good nights don’t start with balls bouncing off your face... unless your name is Man In The Bush, but I digress. I’m not sure if Grice-Mullen thought for a minute that he was playing European football and couldn’t use his hands but that was an embarrassing way to start.

And it was that kind of night for the Riders. Fumbles, incompletion, more fumbles, bad plays, drops, lacklustre effort and of course our perennial friends brutal special teams and ineffective run defense. You could just tell that the team didn’t care about the end result and turned in a half assed effort.

Well that’s not entirely true, there was a few players turning in an effort.

- Wes Cates came out of nowhere and rattled off 92 rushing yards, the bulk of which were amassed on a nice opening drive that ended up in a TD.

- Marc Parenteau emerged as a receiving force.

- Cary Koch was our entire offense. Hell of a game for him... shame that nobody except him and Parenteau were doing anything.

Other than that it was a painful game to watch.
- Durant is clearly playing on an injured leg. He didn’t use his legs at all and it clearly affected his performance since he is at his best when he is moving around. Our passing game was in complete disarray. Durant should not come anywhere close to the field next week. Let him heal up and use the last game of the year as a playoff tune-up. A gibbled Durant come playoff time is about as useful as a starting Jabba the Hutt at RB

- I can’t believe Edmonton figured out our Achilles heel... repeatedly running the ball and adequate special teams.

- Remember on Friday when I made a joke about how getting the ball to the opposing team is Ryan Dinwiddie’s greatest strength? How prophetic .

Actually I was watching the game with Media Consultant and my fiancée, both of whom are well aware of my blatant Dinwiddie hatred. Well after his first completion they started mocking me and pointing out how good Dinwiddie was doing. Well... on the next play karma reared its ugly head and Dinwiddie telegraphed a pass (shocking as that may be) for a pick 6. That play made my night (which says something about how bad the game was).

The result really shouldn’t have surprised anybody. As I said, they cared, we didn’t and it showed. This team and this coaching staff have 2 more weeks to figure out what is wrong with this team and fix it, because if the team continues on this steady decline that they have been on I may need to bring a paper bag with me to Mosaic Stadium for the West Semi. There is too much talent on this team for them to be doing this much wrong. It’s time for our coaches to start earning their money... every single coach, because all of them should be embarrassed by the performance of their respective units.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Riders vs. Edmonton: Take 3

Saturday the 9-6 Riders take on the 5-10 Eskimos in front of an estimated crowd of 50,000 at Commonwealth. If you want a sign that things are good for the CFL, just look at ticket sales for this game. When you can sell that many tickets to a game featuring one of the worst teams in the league facing a team that has absolutely nothing to play for, you are doing pretty good. Though, given the current popularity of the Riders, the league could probably sell thousands of tickets to a lawn bowling tournament in Dildo, Newfoundland featuring the Riders. … It’s a real town, Google it… On second though maybe you should just take my work for it, doing a search for that town could lead to some unintended results… though if you are in to that sort of thing, Google away.

The final 3 games of the regular season will be very interesting for the Riders. Barring some sort of monumental choke by the Stamps (which is very unlikely but if there was a man capable of it, it would be Burris), they are essentially meaningless. All we are really playing for is pride and tuning up for the playoffs. It will be interesting to see how the team comes out given those circumstances. They could play it safe, protect players from injury and coast into the playoffs. They could also play hard, finish strong and gain momentum going into the playoffs... I expect a mixture of both.

Even though we have nothing to play for, we have lots to prove. We were supposed to be an odds on favourite to return to the Grey Cup and even though we are playoff bound we are heading there with a list of deficiencies that would put Toyota to shame. We have lost 2 straight (at home no less), we have no ground game (generally important come playoff time), we can’t stop the run, learning to tackle properly seems to be akin to learning quantum physics for our team and each week our special teams find a way to sink to a new low.

It’s kind of a sad statement on the level of competition in the league when a team can’t stop the run, can’t tackle, has no running games and has a special teams unit that is so terrible that you can’t even call them retarded since that would be extremely insulting to actual retards, yet is still among the top teams in the league.

It’s even sadder that a team that has scored the 2nd least points, have allowed the most points, commit more turnovers than anybody, had to fire their GM partway through the season and only won 3 of their first 12 games still has a good chance of making the playoffs.

Oh well at least the League can take solace in the fact that is hasn’t made any major public relations gaffes recently… oh wait. Awkward.

Don’t let my repeated listing of our team’s shortcomings fool you… I am actually not a doom and gloomer. Fact remains we are still a team that is laden with talent and despite the many issues we face, we have been competitive in all of our recent games (all but 2 of our loses were by a TD or less). Bottom line is we are playing at a high level despite having many glaring weaknesses. Hell as long as you have a talented QB you have a shot at winning any football game (just ask the Indy Colts). That said if we hope to accomplish anything in the playoffs we can’t afford to turn a blind eye to our problems, we need to start addressing them now.

Problem the 1st – Running the ball. Wes Cates started the year on fire racking up 400 yds on the ground in his first 4 games. Unfortunately in the ensuing 11 games he has mustered only 468 yds and has been held under 50 yards in 7 of those games). Hell, Darian Durant has out-rushed him on 4 occasions this year. Now admittedly this is not all Cates’ fault. For one, he ahs to deal with an OC who avoids running the ball like it was a diseased prostitute (unless you are into that sort of thing). Second, on those rare occasions when a running play mistakenly gets called, it is always a run up the middle for a negligible gain. There is zero commitment to the run and zero creativity. If we hope to ever have a formidable running attack we need to a) commit to it and b) change things up (test the edges with Charles, actually run a reverse instead of faking it all game, put both Cates and Charles in on the same play, run off tackle, anything). I realize that we are a pass first team but you need to at least make an effort to run to remain successful in this league.

Problem the 2nd – Stopping the run. Much like our running game started strong but then faded into the abyss, so too has our run D dropped off. In the first 6 games we allowed a team to exceed 100 yds rushing only once. In the ensuing 9 games we have kept teams under 120 yds rushing only twice. A major part of this is our inability to tackle. Might as well just have the D hold their hands behind their back like they are impersonating a sperm for as good as they are at wrapping up on initial contact (there’s a joke in there somewhere about wrapping up, initial contact and sperm but I won’t go there today). Our schemes also play a role in this Etch consistently subs out our big boys and lines up guys like Kitwana, Freeman and McCullough on D-line not exactly what you’d call a run stopping wall. If we want to stop the run we need to stack the box with big bodies and tackle properly.

Problem #3 - Special Teams. Since the logic solution of firing Daley doesn't appear to be on the table, I will decline further comment and just pray that no one else gets injured because of our ineptness in that area.

As a side note turns out our emergency back-up punter is Dinwiddie. I actually like that because it takes advantage of his biggest strength... getting the ball into the hands of the opposing team.

Since getting hired in Edmonton, Eric Tillman has done a good job of changing their attitude. He is also doing his best to bring in all his favourite players that he had with the Riders. Namely Joe Sykes, Mike Stadnyk, Carlo Thomas and most recently Jason Armstead. Armstead is a dangerous returner that the Esks were in need of. People on wondering what the best way is for the Riders to stop Arsmtead. I would say just fly in his girlfriend and give them a car. If hisotry has shown us nothing else its that that is guaranteed to end up with a gun related incident and the cops showing up.

Basically we need to stop the run and cover Fred Stamps and that will pretty much stop the Esks entire O. On O, the Esks have terrible run D so in theory the plan should be to run it down their throat. In theory. But since we don't run we will have to settle for attacking through the air. Esks secondary isn't that great so that's not a bad plan B.

My gut instinct would be to lean towards the Esks winning. Simply put, they care... we don't really have any reason to. However, I think Riders will be eager to atone for their last 2 loses and prove they are still a force to be reckoned with. That and I think the 50,000 plus fans will give the Rider the emotional boost they need to some out strong. Close game...

Riders by an Eddie Johnson FG.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Blog Awards - Final Round Of Voting

Round 1 of the Canadian Blog Awards is in the books. Thanks to your support I was the top vote getter for Best Sports Blog.

I am now in the 2nd and final round. Please vote by clicking here:

You have until October 26th.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Settling For Second

Riders 26 – Stamps 34

While all the talk heading into this game surrounded Henry Burris and his affinity for women’s lingerie, turns out it was the Riders who had the bigger collection of useless boobs on Sunday.

The game started out as good as could be expected as the Riders built up a 14-0 lead in the first 7 minutes. Everything looked to be going our way. The offense was clicking and Burris was folding like a football franchise in Ottawa under the pressure. Unfortunately, that was as good as things got for the Riders and the ensuing 53 minutes of the game were difficult to endure for a number of reasons. Poor play, poor coaching, gruesome injuries and slowly watching our chance at first place slip away to the team that I hate more than any other football franchise.

Before I get into the negatives I would like to make mention of the few positives that there were in this game. Chris Getzlaf had a monster game (as he always seems to do against the Stamps). He has quietly put himself in a position to crack the 1000 yd mark. Hats off to him. Eddie Johnson’s Kid Correspondent interview was simply outstanding. The man may have a future in comedy once his playing career comes to an end. James Patrick continues to make plays and is arguably the top safety in the league at this point. I never tire of the Narco Dance. The camera people finally decided to put the Rider Prophet on the big screen for everyone to see.

Now for the negatives…

On both sides of the ball our futility when it comes to the ground game continues to be a major problem. The D let Reynolds run all over them. He logged 124 yards. 75 of came in the 4th quarter. This is the 3rd week in a row where we have been repeatedly torched along the ground. It might be time to consider doing something about it because this whole “offering about as much resistance as the French army” thing isn’t really working for us.

Compounding our lack of ruin stopping is our complete and utter inability to tackle. Our defenders are bouncing off people like they were teenagers in a mosh pit. Well I hate to break it them but this isn’t a freaking April Wine concert (who I assume still maintain unprecedented popularity among young people), this is a pro football game. So you might want to try wrapping up once in a while. Had we done so we could have reduced the yards the Stamps gained on us by 30-40%... and that is being conservative.

Sean Lucas is playing absolutely terrible this year. His is rarely in position to make a play until after the first down has been gained and when he is, he misses the tackle. Omarr Morgan is also firmly implanted on my hatred list. I never want to see our players get hurt but Morgan sitting out may just improve our defense (certainly can’t make things worse). Lastly, can someone please tell Leron Mitchell that he needs to give a slightly smaller cushion than the 40 yds he currently grants the people he is covering?

While the defense certainly had a bad game and has lots of things they need to improve on, I will not hang the defeat on them. Despite playing poorly for the 2nd and 3rd quarter, they made plays when it counted. They forced two huge 4th quarter turnovers. Getting the ball back to our offense for a chance to win the game. You know how our offense responded? 3 and out the first time and gave up a TD the second time. That’s right we somehow managed to get -7 points off turnovers. That’s not the D’s fault.

Our run game is complete joke. We rarely run and when we do it’s always up the middle for 1-2 yards. And what happens when you can’t run? That’s right, the defense intensifies their pass rush and wreaks havoc on our QB. Our entire offense disappeared at half time and never showed back up until late in the 4th. You simply can’t have that kind of inconsistent production and expect to win against one of the best teams in the league.

Lastly its time for our weekly instalment of “Reasons Jim Daley Should Be Fired”. Our special teams used to be comically inept… but when our gaffes on special teams lead to a horrendous looking injury to our place-kicker things stop being funny. This week Daley’s accomplishments include a costly blocked FG that was the turning point in the game, costly penalties on kick coverage and of course the standard poor kick returns. There was a play where Grice-Mullen made 3 people miss and still only gained a yard or 2. He was only 9 more jukes away from maybe breaking it. A consistent pattern of failure has to be pinned on the coach at some point. Yet we remain convinced that the status quo will eventually start working and Daley is the answer. Open your freaking eyes Miller and Taman!! This is getting ridiculous. If repeated failure is considered acceptable by our management then we might as well just bring back Michael Bishop at QB, James Johnson at CB and replace Coke-a-Cola Classic with New Coke at the concession stands because that makes about as much sense.

Other random thoughts…

- Why did we keep declining penalties rather than pushing the Stamps back? Declining a 10 yard penalty on 1st and 10 was a head scratching coaching error. The way our defense was tackling we needed the extra room to bring down the ball carrier.

- I know the Stamps were keying on Fantuz but I highly doubt that the defense scheme they were using on him was so unbelievably perfect that it could not be overcome with a little creativity. We can’t just allow teams to eliminate our best receiver.

- Durant needs to learn to find a hot route when he gets blitzed. For all the good things he brings to the table as a QB, this is one glaring weakness in his game.

The sad thing is we were outplayed for all but the 1st quarter and still had a chance to win against an elite team. If we could ever play consistently in all 3 phases of the game we would dominate. But woulda and coulda don’t win games. We are a talented team and I remain confident that we will get another shot at the Stamps in November and that we exact revenge. It’s weird being disappointed about a 2nd place finish when for many years we would have been ecstatic over squeaking into the playoffs.

As disappointing a week as it was for Rider we can always take solace that it could be worse. At least we are competent enough to fill out our 46 man roster accurately and submit it... unlike BC who wanted to play McCallum but neglected to add his to their game day roster so they were forced to go with Sean Whyte at the last minute. Whyte was so unprepared that he had to borrow McCallum’s shoulder pads. Good work Wally! As I said… things could always be worse

Friday, October 15, 2010

Racist, Boob Loving Riders vs. Conspiracy Victim Stampeders

The biggest regular season game of the year is upon us. A showdown between the top 2 teams in the west with the season series and likely 1st place on the line. The funny thing is that despite the stakes of this game, very little time is being spent discussing the game itself. Instead all the talk continues to be about Hooty McBoob... aka Henry Burris.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past month, you’ve no doubt seen the infamous pictures of Henry Burris in a bra with some random chick who is also in her bra. According to Burris he was “tricked” into taking off his shirt and putting a bra on at the Birthday Bachelor Party for Cancer research. I’ve already dedicated an entire post to making fun of Burris’ unbelievably bad excuse and his blatant stupidity, so I wasn’t planning on rehashing all of that today... that was until I read Burris’ latest comments.

Instead of just quietly letting this embarrassing story run its course, Burris decided to pour more gas on an already raging fire by once again blaming rider fans (because clearly it’s our fault that he was dumb enough to get photographed in a bra). He went on to say that people are trying to make it like Brett Favre showing his ding-a-ling... this is of course a textbook attempt at deflecting while incorporating the vocabulary of a 3 year old. “I may have worn a bra but at least I’m not as bad as that guy”. Besides, when you break every passing record imaginable you should be able to show your junk to whoever you want.

As bad as that was he saved the best for last by alleging that Rider fans have made racist comments against him. Another bonafide deflection tactic... play the race card. Let’s all just forget that Burris is a dumbass and feel sorry for him because everyone in Saskatchewan is a racist towards him. Memo to Henry we don’t make fun of you because of the colour of your skin. We make fun of you because you are a dumbass. If an Asian QB made as many embarrassing on-field errors as you I would make fun of them. If Puerto Rican QB got caught posing for pictures in a bra and then tried making a lame excuse. I would make fun of them. If a smurf wept openly while trying to explain the deep meaning in the lyrics of “We are the champions”, I would make fun of them. The whole thing reminds me a lot of this...

Now onto the game. As I said, the stakes in this game are bigger than the gap in Burris’ teeth (well okay maybe not that big). Winner will have the inside track on finishing 1st in the west and getting a first round playoff bye. Both teams are coming off bitter loses and looking to redeem themselves.

Statistically the Stamps still have the best offense and defense in the league. That said, as Montreal proved last week and we proved in our last meeting, the Stamps are far from invincible. They seem to be an all or nothing team. When they are on their game they play at an elite level and look like an unstoppable force, the breast in the league... err I mean best (Freudian slip). When they aren’t they look like a booby reel... err I mean blooper reel on Sports Centre (sorry again, not sure what’s come over me).

The key to stopping the Stamps is to get to rattle them early. Score, force a turnover or even get a few solid hits Tits McGee himself. The Stamps can never seem to bounce back from early struggles. They fall apart quicker than a Henry Burris alibi. I know we usually don’t start playing good until we are down 10 points but that needs to change this week. We need to come out strong and rattle Burris and his lovely lady lumps.

As always Reynolds is the engine that drives the Stampeder O so eliminating him is priority #1. If we force Henry to try and be a hero he is likely to start handing out INTs like they were embarrassing photos.

Offensively, the deep middle is where the Stamps are most vulnerable as we proved last time. We need a strong areola attack... err I mean aerial. As long as the O-line can buy Durant some time he should be able to dissect the middle. Stamps have great run D but since we don’t bother running the ball it doesn’t really worry me. I would expect the Stamps to key in on Fantuz and likely Dressler too so guys like Clermont, Getzlaf and Bagg will need to step up and make plays. Hopefully Durant’s leg is in better shape than last week because we will need his mobility this week in order to evade the strong Calgary pass rush.

This game is as big as it gets the in the regular season, so our intensity in the stands should be off the charts. As much as Burris likes to deny it, the crowd can get to him, especially when things don’t go well on the field. Make no mistake about this will be an all out war that will go down to the wire. Yet another game that will dramatically shorten my life expectancy...

Riders by a Luca Congi FG.

One last note: if you plan on bringing bras to the game please ensure that they aren’t all white. A mixture of white, black, brown, yellow etc... would be best. Lest Burris accuse us yet again of being racist.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Blog Awards

Voting is underway for the Canadian Blog Awards. Yet again I am in the running for Sports Blog of the Year.

Please vote for me by going here...

You have until October 17th... and remember if you don't vote for me, God will kill a bunch of kittens and puppies and make it burn when you pee.

** If none of the above concern you, you should vote for me anyway.

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Belated Thanksgiving Edition

Riders 19 – Argos 24

The good news about waiting until today to do up this post is that between a big delicious meal and the Als stomping the Stamps, most of the anger I had following our game has dissipated... most... not all.

I am not one that ever takes loses very well. That said, I find loses where we get outplayed easier to take than loses where we get out-coached. Unfortunately Saturday was the later. The only redeeming thing is that all 3 phases of the game contributed equally to the loss.

Offensively, we didn’t bother showing up until the Argos had a double digit lead. Now I realize that this may have just been an attempt to level the playing field with an inferior opponent but while it is admirable sportsmanship it is just plain idiotic for a professional football that is supposed to be trying to make a run at first place. To their credit the offense did calw their way back into the game but it was only really because of a turnover that our special teams managed deep in Argo territory. All day the offense just failed to start clicking. Durant reminds me a lot of Kerry Joseph... his passing game goes to crap when he loses his mobility. Durant’s best games come when he is able to move around and take off when needed. I don’t know whether he couldn’t or just wouldn’t run to be cautious but Durant might as well have been in a wheel chair for as much as he moved around. Struggling to get 200 yards passing and serving up 2 INTs to the worst secondary in the league is as embarrassing as failing to get past second base with a hooker that you’ve already paid for. Of course most teams would be able to compensate for a struggling pass game and immobile QB by running the ball. But of course we have no use for a ground game and really only keep Cates around to pick up blitzes and run in TDs from 3 yards or less so that wasn’t an option for us. Obviously Toronto made adjustments to limit our receivers... and obviously our coaches didn’t bother making adjustments of their own.

Only 2 positives on O for me were Fantuz turning in another strong performance and Neal Hughes getting some love.

Defensively, we were tasked with the relatively simple task of stopping an offensive playbook that contains nothing but pictures of Cory Boyd on every page. Yet for some reason we looked shocked every time he got the ball... which was almost every play. I know he is an elite back but when you know he’s getting the ball you should be able to contain him somewhat. Not only were we not covering Boyd, we also decided to leave Copeland wide open at key times. I guess our D was more concerned about the scoring machine that is Spencer Watt. Just take a look at the Argos’ final drive. Our D needed a stop to give us a chance to win. Instead we let this happen...

1/10-T35 (2:37) C. BOYD Run (19 yds), Tackle: D. FRANCIS
1/10-T54 (2:15) C. BOYD Run (8 yds), Tackle: S. LUCAS
2/2-S48 (1:52) C. BOYD Run (8 yds), Tackle: D. FRANCIS
1/10-S40 (1:28) C. BOYD Run (3 yds), Tackle: D. FRANCIS
2/7-S37 (1:04) C. LEMON Run (11 yds), Tackle: S. LUCAS
1/10-S26 (00:59) C. BOYD Run (2 yds), Tackle: B. SIMPSON
2/8-S24 (00:38) C. BOYD Run (4 yds), Tackle: S. LUCAS

Notice a pattern? Our D sure didn’t. To be fair our D did force some turnovers and held the Argos to less than 20 points all while receiving no support from the O but they could have and should have done even better.

This brings me to Special Teams. I would have to learn 3 more languages in order for my vocabulary to contain enough swear words to adequately describe this group. Blocked FG – check. Non-existent returns - check (well there was one but a penalty ensured that fluke was stricken from the records). Getting fooled by 2 fake punts in the same quarter – check. Actually given that was all that went wrong it may be one of Jim Daley’s better games. Our specials teams are consistently a liability and have been ever since Daley’s hiring (which is second only to bringing in Michael Bishop in terms of the dumbest and most inept person signed by the team in the past 5 years).

Admittedly the fake knee was a ballsy call that you likely wouldn’t game plan for. That said when you see Byron Parker running the wrong way that should maybe alert you to something. The second fake in the 4th quarter though was nothing short of pure retardation. Everyone in the stadium knew that they were not going to punt on 3rd and short. Everyone that is but our coaches and players who got that deer in the headlights look when the ball didn’t go to the punter.

So to summarize: our defensive coaches could not handle Cory Boyd, our special teams coach continued his string of ineptitude and our offensive coaches could not adjust to the Argos D and Durant’s lack of mobility. This all lead to the first Rider loss at Mosaic in over a year.

Now BC’s unbelievable collapse clinched us a home playoff game and Calgary’s embarrassing outing kept us in the running for first so the loss is by no means apocalyptic. But the fact remains that this was a very winnable game and it’s an opportunity lost.

The Riders had better get things figured out quickly because we have a first place showdown on the horizon and we can ill afford another uninspired performance... by our players or our coaches.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Riders vs. Cory Boyd and 41 Other Irrelevant Team-mates (aka the Argos)

After 3 long weeks the 9-4 Riders will once again be back at Mosaic Stadium for a Saturday afternoon showdown with the 6-7 Argos. I’m sure you’ll all be shocked to here that the game is sold out. Used to be that the league would give the Riders an exciting rivalry game on Thanksgiving (i.e. the Stamps) in order to build hype and sell tickets. Recently though the league has realized that it doesn’t really matter where the Riders play or who they play, people will come. Hell I’m sure an exhibition game in Igloolik (it’s a real town… look it up) against a mixed team of polar bears and locals would attract thousands of Rider fans. With that in mind the league has stopped giving us good opponents on Thanksgiving and instead just sent us the Argos.

I spent last week listing the reasons why Toronto is not a very good team. Feel free to go back and re-read it as it is all still applicable. Rather than rehash those reasons, I figured I would give you a few comparisons to consider…

The Riders have the best home record in the CFL having not lost at Mosaic since September of last year.

The Argos are one of the worst road teams in the league having only beaten the Esks and Bombers (2 teams unlikely to make the playoffs).

The Riders have 4 receivers that have eclipsed the 600 yard mark.

The Argos have yet to have a receiver eclipse 500 yards.

The Riders have had receivers log 100 yard games on 10 occasions.

The Argos have had receivers log 100 yards games once and that was 2 months ago.

The Riders are starting a great QB with a questionable leg.

The Argos are starting a questionable QB with a great leg.

Rider players are model citizen who are heavily involved in community service.

Argo players secretly practice the occult, spit on the elderly don’t wash their hands after going to the bathroom.

**Okay that last one might not be based on anything factual.

Here’s the way I look as this game: The Argos were outplayed by us last week when we were on the road. This week we are at home where we have thus far played much better football. The only thing that really changes for the Riders is that Durant is playing at less than 100%. Double D is a fierce competitor who won’t let a sore ankle hold him back. I mean this is a guy who threw for 400 yards while his digestive tract was revolting against him. Sure he probably won’t be as mobile but he is still the top passer facing the league’s most porous secondary… even with a leg injury I like that match-up. We also get Brent Hawkins back which should help our pass rush.

For the Argos, they are replacing Bell with Lemon. Basically this is replacing an inexperienced QB who struggled with a QB with plenty of experience struggling. This certainly won’t magically make the Argos pass game suddenly good. They also might be playing without Kevin Huntley who just happens to be the best defensive tackle in the league and the only guy our OL really had problems with last game.

Obviously we still need to stop Chad Owens and Cory Boyd if we hope to extend our winning streak and we admittedly struggled with both last game. However, the fact that Boyd ran for 145 yards and the Argos still lost by double digits is fairly reassuring. At that rate he would have to run for 290 yards tomorrow for the Argos to win. Given that that would require Boyd to break a record that has stood for the past 50 years, I don’t like his odds.

It would be nice to establish a strong run game to help take pressure off Durant but since our Head Coach, OC and QB are all big fans of airing it out, I’m not holding my breath for that to happen. That said when matched up against the least effective secondary in the league it’s hard to fault their logic in this case.

Logic would point to a blowout for the Riders. That said, so far this year our tendency has been to play just good enough to win at home so I have a feeling that things will once again be closer than expected. But bottom line is, the Argos simply aren’t as good of a football team as the Riders are. Home undefeated streak continues…

Riders by 14

Monday, October 4, 2010

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Another Road Win

Rider 27 – Argos 16

I know that it’s only against inferior eastern teams but you have to be happy with the Riders new found ability to win on the road. I mean I love winning at home as much as the next guy but unless Jim Hopson somehow manages to convince Mark Cohon to move the Grey Cup to Regina our inability to win on the road was going to catch up with us eventually.

The game was pretty much what I expected… the Argos pinning their slim chances for victory on Boyd and Owens and otherwise accomplishing very little. The plan seemed like it might work early in the game. Our defense was doing their best impression of a race track and letting Boyd run all over them as they showed all the tackling skills of a bunch of men who had their arms cut off and replaced with T-rex arms. Fortunately after halftime they made some adjustments and limited Boyd’s production in the second half (only 47 yds rushing in 2nd half vs. 98 in the 1st). When the D did finally learn how to contain Boyd it highlighted Toronto’s biggest weakness… the fact that everyone but Boyd is useless. Boyd ended the day with 188 total yards. The rest of the offense combined managed only 143. At this rate they might as well just institute an all-Wildcat offense. Its not like they are fooling any teams into thinking they might give the ball to someone other than Boyd.

That said I think Bell looked infinitely better than Lemon… and given Bell’s mediocre at best performance that should tell you something about Lemon’s abilities.

In stark contrast to the Cory Boyd show, was the Riders’ offense. Durant spread the ball around to everybody. The rate he was going I was waiting for Parenteau and Cetoute to get in on some passes. Durant was on top of his game, not only did he spread the ball around but he was also accurate with his throws (78% completion), made smart use of his legs (even though you could tell he didn’t really want to run that TD he just saw the defense open up and was like “Well, okay. If I have to”). Above all else he turned in a turnover free performance. It looked like he could have milked those outs on the sideline all night. Durant has taken his game to a new level ever since getting embarrassed in the Banjo Bowl. If he can keep it up it will lead to very good things down the stretch.

Three weeks ago I was harping at this team to make Fantuz the focal point of our offense. Well low and behold they do just that and Fantuz explodes for 438 yds and 2 TDs over the past 3 games. We are using him perfectly too: we are working him mainly as a possession guy underneath but torching DBs deep with him when they cheat up too much. Fantuz is well on his way to the Top Canadian award I predicted he would get in the preseason.

Our run game was no existent but that’s more a product of playing a team with a good front 7 but a vulnerable secondary. Let’s see, run Cates at a strong front 7 or pass to a wide open receiver? Hmm which should we choose? Obviously we will need to get the run going if we want to make a strong push in the playoffs but for now I’m fine with taking to the air given how well that has been going of late.

We have some things we need to improve on for the rematch this weekend (i.e. tackling Boyd, containing Owens and blocking Huntley) but overall it was a solid performance on the road for the Riders who have now won 3 straight.

Other random thoughts:

- Did anyone else have flashbacks to Schultz KO’ing Spergeon Wynn when Shologan got loose on Bell?

- I was amazed that the man we call Chunky was not only able to “leap” over someone but also bend down and pick the ball up in stride. I was just really hoping he would score. You just know he has been working on a TD celebrations for years now.

- Not that I take pleasure in opposing players punishing our guys but Boreham’s dominance over Grice Mullen is kinda funny. He’s like his Achilles heel. Another big hit and another aerial flight with a rough landing from Grice-Mullen. Lucky for the Argos that Boreham was pestering Mullen because otherwise he would have had a couple big returns.

- I know I called for a Clermont TD but I blame him for not stealing the ball from his own team mates like I said. Nice game for him though.

- I realize that it was Omarr’s ball but Morgan should have known better and just let Patrick get the pick.

- So Edmonton manages to beat Hamilton despite the fact that Tristan Jackson gave up a safety after running back into his endzone on a kick return. Ouch if you are Hamilton.

- I did have to laugh though at Jamal Johnson running behind the Eskimo bench on that kick coverage. Guess that’s one way to avoid the blockers.

I was going to post a humourous picture to end this post but since Rod Pedersen would just likely steal it for his own site and refuse to credit the source I decided against it.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Riders vs. Argos

Believe it or not the Riders are heading into uncharted territory this weekend. Despite having already played every other team twice, we have yet to square off against the Argos. After starting off 5-2 and actually looking like a legitimate team, the Argos have obviously remembered that as a sports franchise from Toronto they will inevitably suck and have won only 1 of their past 5 games. They are actually following to a tee the storyline of pretty much every Toronto sports teams’ season: start off hot and built up hope in the fan base, start choking when it actually starts to matter and go on a winning streak once being mathematically eliminated from then playoffs (though for the Argos to fulfill that last part it would require the Bombers to actually win some games so I wouldn’t count on it).

To be fair the Argos have far exceeded expectations this year. To be .500 and vying for a home playoff game despite replacing their entire coaching staff and the majority of their offensive starters when they weren’t a good team to begin with is a pretty impressive accomplishment.

It’s really a shame for the Arogs that the CFL is a passing league because they excel at every aspect of the game that does not involve a pass being thrown. They have an extremely talented defensive front 7, they have an outstanding RB (at least when he’s not concussed) and their biggest strength has been the play of their special teams in particular Chad Owens. Problem is that they counter this with the worst pass defense in the CFL and a passing game that is so futile and painful to watch that I can honestly I have seen more diversity, creativity and excitement in bridge games, chess tournaments and actually watching paint dry. Their entire pass game is based around 2 plays, the check down to someone coming out of the backfield and the interception. How Cleo Lemon ever managed to convince someone that he was good enough to for any NFL team (even a crappy one) is absolutely mind boggling.

Here are some other interesting stats that illustrate just how bad the Argos actually are:

- They have scored the 2nd least points of any team this year.

- They have fumbled more than any team in the league despite the fact that Casey Printers is doing his best to overtake them single-handedly.

- They have allowed the 2nd most sacks in the league

- Their top receiver Chad Owens has 100 less yards receiving than our 4th best receiver (Chris Getzlaf)

- They have allowed more yards on defense than anyone, mainly because their pass D is terrible. They average 300 passing yards per game against them.

- They can’t even return a fumble for an easy TD without screwing up (I’m looking at you Ron Flemons).

In retrospect I am at a loss to explain how they have won 6 games this year. Honestly if it weren’t for Cory Boyd and Chad Owens there is a good chance they would be winless at this point.

As much as I think the Argos aren’t as good a team as their record would indicate I still don’t think they can be taken lightly. I mean they did manage to beat both the Stamps and Als. They will have to do it with a new QB under centre as Dalton Bell takes over for the injured Lemon. Generally when the back-up is forced into action it’s not a positive thing for the offense… but in Toronto’s case I think it will be. Bell may be unproven but he would have to try really hard to be as bad as Cleo Lemon. Bell had the better preseason and by all logic should have been the starter, if it weren’t for the fact the Jim Barker has mysteriously convinced himself that Cleo Lemon will eventually become an all-star.

The Argos will also welcome back Cory Boyd after sitting out 2 weeks with what is reported to be his 3rd concussion this year (which is ridiculous and tells me maybe Boyd shouldn’t be playing right now). There’s no denying that Boyd is an elite RB. He is still 3rd in the league in rushing despite missing the last 2 games (and only 66 yards back of the leader). It’s a good thing that Chunky will be back this game to help shore up the interior of our line and boost our run D which struggled big time last game.

Keys to the game defensively are pretty obvious… eliminate Boyd. Toronto’s passing game is about as intimidating as lion that has no teeth or claws and has been shot with 12 tranquilizer darts. I expect Etch to throw a ton of looks at the untested Bell to try and confuse him and force him into making mistakes. It will be up to our front seven (in particular Shologan, Adams and Simpson) to contain Boyd.

Offensively we just need to keep up our momentum. Last week Durant threw for over 400 yards against a decent Ti-Cat defense, the week before he shredded the Stamps top rated pass D for 500 yards… this should be a walk in the park for him. Pile and Parker are ball hawks so as long as Durant accounts for them I expect another big night for our receivers. Our O-line will have to contend with Huntley, Flemons and Foley so they will have their work cut out for them to give Durant the time he needs to pick the Argos’ secondary apart. They have fared well against good D-lines the past 2 weeks so they should be up to the challenge.

Another key will be limiting Chad Owens on kick returns. He is the catalyst for that team and his big returns often give Toronto huge momentum boosts. Our cover teams will need to be on top of their game.

As much as I’d like to say we will stomp them, these are the Riders… they never do things the easy way (last year the Argos played us close late in the season and they were a far crappier team then). That said there is just no way that I can see the league’s worst pass defense handling the league’s best pass offense. Nor can I see an inexperienced QB heading the worst passing attack in the CFL whose only weapon is a hard running RB who repeatedly gets concussed getting the better of us. It will be closer than most are thinking but in the end…

Riders by 14 (Bold prediction… one of those TDs will be by Clermont… even if he has to steal the ball from a team mate and run it in himself).