Friday, November 5, 2010

Riders vs. Edmonton: Season Finale

Saturday the 9-8 Riders take on the 7-10 Eskimos in the final game of the regular season. The Esks come into this game on a hot streak having won 5 of their last 6 games. The Riders come in just the opposite having not won a game in over a month. Oddly enough the Riders are the ones who have locked up a home playoff game while the Esks still are not guaranteed a postseason appearance. This is a rather anti-climatic end to the regular season and is in start contrast to the epic season finale of a year ago.

First of all let me start off by apologizing. It has come to my attention that my criticisms of the team (and those of other fans) during this recent losing streak have been unfair and are hurting the players’ feelings. I would like to formally apologize for any negative comments I may have made. As someone who has never coached or played at a professional level, I am unqualified to critique the team’s on-field play. Again I apologize. Clearly as an uneducated fan I fail to comprehend the intricacies of football such has how giving up repeated kick return TDs is actually a good thing, how being unable to stop the run is not a cause for concern and how a struggling offense is the sign of championship calibre team. Please accept my heartfelt apologies. Our coaching staff is superior to any others in the league and our team is infinitely better than even the 1972 Miami Dolphins. I have already staked out my spot on Albert St for the Grey Cup parade that will inevitably be occurring at the end of the month.

Now that that is out of the way, let’s get to the game…

I really have no idea what to expect out of this team tomorrow. On one hand they could come out fired up in front of a hometown crowd, determined to put an end to the losing streak and gain momentum for the playoffs. On the other hand, since this is just another instalment in the series of “team with nothing to play for faces team whose playoff aspiration hinge on winning”, we could just as easily come out flat and uninspired yet again and lose once again to an inferior team.

By the time the game kicks off Edmonton will know how hard they have to try. If BC wins the early game, Edmonton faces a do or die game. If BC loses, Edmonton clinches the final playoff spot and joins the Riders in the “meaningless game” club.

I think the team did show signs of progression last game. Run D was improved and Durant looked mobile and more effective than in past weeks (well with the exception of that shovel pass INT that was so bad that it made Michael Bishop look like a proficient passer by comparison). Improvements are being made… but they still have a ways to go.

The Esks will obviously serve up a heavy dose of Daniel Porter in the hopes of recreating the success they had 2 weeks ago. Though the decision to run against the Riders is such a blatantly obvious one that even a partially retarded, blind giraffe could figure it out (though why a partially retarded, blind giraffe would be following football is a questions for another day).

The Riders hope to counter the Esks running attack by starting newcomer Rodrique Wright at DT. At 6’5 and 300 lbs the hope is that Wright will help plug up the middle and attract some double teams to open things up for the rest of our front 7. That’s the theory anyway. I’m sure Etch will draw up some plays that involve Wright lining up at CB or lining him up giving Kitwana a piggy back. Though I’m excited about Wright’s potential I think we all need to taper our expectations of him since he only started learning the Canadian rules under 2 weeks ago. I expect a few penalties and mistakes but this is the perfect opportunity to see what he can do in live action.

Wright will not be the only change on defense as injuries are forcing a number of other changes. Daniel Francis is officially out for the year and Sean Lucas is rumoured to be not far behind meaning big changes at LB. Tad Kornegay will finally reclaim his LB spot that he vacated early in the season to help out in the secondary and Jerrell Freeman will handle the other spot. It’s nice to have the depth to replace 2 starters on D without much of a drop off (hell the way Lucas and Francis have been playing of late it may even be an improvement). The good news is that it looks like Chris McKenzie is healthy enough to reclaim his HB spot. Hopefully that will help shore up some things coverage-wise.

I think emotion will be the deciding factor in this game. The team that wants it more will win. The Riders have the more talented roster but as we’ve seen over the past few weeks, talent is about as useful as a Blue Bomber playoff ticket voucher when the effort isn’t there. The Esks will have built-in motivation as their season may hang in the balance. The Riders will have to find their own motivation be it from their own pride as a professional football player, from their team-mates or from the roar of the crowd.

I know it’s a nothing game but I have a feeling that the Riders will be eager to put the whole losing streak behind them and prove once again that they are a force to be reckoned with. It won’t be easy and it won’t be pretty (over/under on major special teams gaffes is set at 2.5 and I’m taking the over). I called it 2 weeks ago and I’m sticking to it… Riders will win the final home game.

Riders by a Cary Koch TD.

No post this week would be complete without commenting on the team nominees for year end awards. For the most the nominees were spot on. There were a mixture deserving recipients and default recipients (i.e. BC’s Most Outstanding Lineman and the Riders’ Most Outstanding Special Teams nominee) who are only on there because “nobody” was not an option on the ballot.

But one nomination stood out above all the others… Paul McCallum as BC’s nominee for MOP. Now aside from the fact that it is an utter embarrassment for a team to have their kicker picked as the best player on the team (seriously that is more embarrassing than the time Man In The Bush had to call an ambulance because he got his junk stuck in the mail slot at an old folks home), there is another major problem many are having with this nomination. Follow along…

- Yonus Davis was picked as the top special teams player (and deservedly so)

- Paul McCallum plays exclusively on special teams

- Paul McCallum is not the best player in the only phase of the game he plays in… but is somehow the best player on the team at any position.

The logic is simply outstanding. At this rate I can only assume that Yonus Davis will be named the West nominee for Rookie of the Year despite the fact that he wasn’t the best rookie on his own team

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