Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Riders vs. Argos: Battle of Division Basement Dwellers

Thursday the 1-6 Riders Travel to Toronto to take on the 1-6 Argos. I jokes a couple weeks ago about how hard it must have been for TSN to hype the lowly Riders/Lions game... well this week their task isn’t much easier. Not only do they have to hype a match featuring 2 of the worst teams in the League, they get the added bonus of it being a Thursday game.

It’s nothing new that the Argos get stuck with crappy times for their home games but who they got bumped for this time is pretty telling of their overall importance in the Toronto sporting world. Yes the Argos can’t get a weekend timeslot this weekend because the ever important Ontario Varsity Football League Finals are going on. That’s right pro football taking a back seat to amateur... though to be fair in this case Rogers Centre probably made the right call. I bet the quality of football will be higher at the Varsity event.

I’m not really sure what to expect from this game. Logically since this is the 2 worst defenses in the league one would expect a high scoring game. But then again this is also 2 worst offenses so that’s not likely to happen. At least we are evenly matched... kinda like 2 Special Olympic wrestlers squaring off.

The Argos’ offense pretty much the same as last year... i.e. it would be non-existent if they didn’t have an RB in the lineup. Here’s an interesting stat courtesy of Dave Naylor... the Argos are on pace to finish without a 1,000-yard receiver for the fourth time in five seasons  The only Argo to eclipse the mark since the 2006 season is Arland Bruce in 2008. That’s pretty sad and pretty telling about the Argos’ ability through the air... at least until the Richie Hall brand Ultra-Soft defense turns them into bona fide stars. Compounding their poor passing attack is their propensity (big word for this blog) for turning the ball over. They lead the League in giveaways. Of course we have the least takeaways in the League so whether we will be able to take advantage of that is a debatable point.

Unlike like last year where the Argo defense carried the team, this year they have been a liability. They struggle in pass D, give up a ton of points and have the least sacks in the league despite a line featuring Foley, Flemons, Huntley and Wroten. They have been hurt by injuries to LBs Kevin Eiben and Jason Pottinger. Though Pottinger is putting off the doctor recommended knee surgery in the hopes of playing again this season. I’m sure that will turn out well for him.

Defensively the Riders need to eliminate Cory Boyd. That might prove difficult since that involves actually tackling on first contact but you can always hope. If we can limit him all we have to deal with is Cleo Lemon and a cast of mediocre receivers. Based on last week I’m not sure our D could cover the varsity teams that will play Saturday but I’m hopeful they’ll bounce back against a far weaker opponent. I would stack the line in order to limit Boyd and force Lemon to throw. I’ll add a small proviso there that Sean Lucas be one of the guys rushing since if we need to rely on him covering somebody we might as well just go mark the 6 points on the score sheet.

Offensively I would say just keep up with what worked last game... a strong run game (though we now have to rely on West and Foord for that), using Efrem Hill (who based on last game has been upgraded to Efrem the Cognitively Challenged Rabbit) in the slot to move the sticks and take pressure of Dressler, and moving Durant around. He doesn’t even need to take off and run lots just move the pocket and allow plays to open up downfield. Also our defense does a good enough job of allowing our opponents to score so there is no need for the O to help them out in that regard.

It’s really tough to say what’s going to happen. Both teams have piss poor offenses that have shown flashes and both teams have defenses that are capable of making plays but just haven’t been doing it all that often. Part of me could see the Riders coming up flat before the bye week and mailing it in (and part of me wouldn’t mind seeing that since it would surely precipitate some coaching changes).

But the other part of me (most likely the delusional lifelong Rider fan part of me) believes there is just enough heart left in the players to pull out a much needed victory. Were it not for that pick 6, the Riders could have ended up beating the Stamps despite an atrocious defensive showing. Argos are a worse team than the Stamps so if we can tighten up even slightly on defense (I know that’s asking a lot) then maybe, just maybe...

Riders by a Weston Dressler TD

Even if we win I still think we will fire someone over the bye week. It’s sad when I’m looking more forward to the bye week then the game.

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