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).