Saturday the Riders take on the Lions in a battle of undefeated teams for sole possession of first place. I’ll admit that when the schedule first came out I looked at this game and immediately budgeted more money than normal for booze consumption that game. I assumed like many that we would struggle in the early part of the season and steadily improve as the season went on. A week 3 match-up with the reigning champs who should by all means win the division again was supposed to part of that “struggling” phase.
As it turns out, what the hell do I know?! The Riders are miles ahead of where I thought they would be at this point and instead of cringing at the thought of the game and priming my liver for a pounding equal to the one the Riders were sure to receive, I actually think we have a shot… and not just a “long-shot miracle, if seven acts of god simultaneously render most of the BC starters orange-clad Helen Keller’s” type hope, realistic hope!
Thus far we have beat a winless Hamilton team and an Edmonton team that appears to have adopted a playbook from the early 20s when the forward pass still wasn’t leagl so this will be a great measuring stick to if we are actually good or just the beneficiaries of a favourable schedule over the first 2 weeks.
BC comes into this game exactly where we expected them to be but not necessarily for the reasons we expected. Despite the many accolades and awards bestowed upon Travis Lulay, he is not the leading force currently for this Lions team. He has been rather unspectacular over his first 2 games averaging just 200 yards per game (not bad by any stretch of the imagination but just nothing special). BC has the least passing yards of any team who didn’t misguidedly trade away a future hall of famer for Steven freakin’ Jyles. I imagine Lulay is still as dangerous as last year but he really hasn’t shown it yet.
Thing is he hasn’t really had to for 2 very important reason. 1) is the ground game. BC has the best running attack so far this year with almost 100 more yards rushing then the next best team (which happens to be us) and 2) their return game is ridiculous. Tim Brown has amassed 100 yards more on punt returns then the next nearest team. There is little pressure on Lulay to perform like an MOP when he consistently gets great field position and can chew up big yards by simply handing the ball off.
Our defense is playing phenomenal but they will be in tough to contain this powerful offense. It’s weird to say but so far the Riders actually lead the league in sacks (and not sad-sacks or paper sacks on fans’ heads but actual quarterback sack). All 9 of our sacks have come from different people (a true team effort). Our re-discovered pass rush will face a stiff challenge from Archibald and Olafioye who are the best tackle tandem in the CFL. We will likely need to attack the less experienced/talented guards more if we want to keep the pass rush disruptive. LBs will have to deal with a very talented set of RBs in Harris and Brown as well keep in mind that Lulay will not hesitate to pull and run on his own. Shomari will need every ounce of his athleticism to keep this run game in check. Lastly the secondary will have unenviable task of containing Simon and Bruce as well as the speedy Kierre Johnson. So far they haven’t given me reason to doubt them.
Thus far we have allowed no passing TDs, only 1 rushing TD and a league low 17 points (BC by contrast has allowed 52) so I think we are up to the challenge. I have no doubt that BC will run on us and I will swear when they do but if we can limit the damage through the air then I think we have a great chance at keeping the score in check.
For the Riders, simply put we can’t get away with another offensive fairing as piss poor as that one (at least not unless we can find a voodoo person or witch to switch the souls of Lulay and Jyles prior to kickoff). We may actually need to do something to win this game. Priority 1 will be establishing the line of scrimmage. I have my concerns here because we have an elite DL unit from BC up against relatively unproven tackles, back-up guards and an angry Frenchman (who is about the only sure thing on the line at this point). Not that I don’t have faith in Heenan and Neufeld, I would just feel a whole hell of a lot better with Labatte in there. I imagine we will need to use some pitches, some screens/swing passes and roll outs to slow the pass rush down, move the pocket around and buy Durant some time. A strong game from Sheets will help a lot but BC tends to be pretty strong against the run so we will need to get creative there.
Durant has yet to commit a solitary turnover (which by his standards is nothing short of amazing) that will of course end on Saturday when he throws a pick to Ryan Phillips. (I don’t want it to happen but that’s just what happens every time we play BC). This is a game where I think Durant can really air it out. BC has very talented/veteran DBs but a very inexperienced safety which we should be able to exploit with the likes of Getzlaf and Bagg. I’m not a huge Efrem Hill fan (who by the way re-starts the year as the retarded rabbit, he will have to earn his way back up again) but running him on some seam routes should be wide open as the D keys on Dressler and Getzlaf. Hell I forget sometimes that Hill is out there, I can only assume opposing Defenses will as well.
I think BC will start out hot and get the early lead on us but we will claw our way back into this and make a game of it in the second half. As much as I would love our amazing start to continue, I think we will lose this game. It will be close, it will be competitive but I think our first taste of adversity comes on Sunday.
BC by 6
Let’s hope I’m wrong.