Sunday the slumping Riders take on the surging Lions. It’s hard to believe how much things have changed in the 3 games since we last played. We went from the toast of the league to some sort of stale bagel (sorry I know that was weak at best, in the future I will work harder on my breakfast analogies). The BC Lions have gone from talk of them having lost “it” to once again being atop the league.
As a side note, anyone who was writing off the Lions based on their start obviously has a short memory. The Lions had 1 win by this point last year, so they are 3 games ahead of a pace that saw them win the cup. July tends to be to the Lions what they 4th quarter has been to the Riders.
Anywho, back to the game. In many ways the BC Lions are like the anti-Riders… you know beyond the obvious of being on a winning streak and their coach being white. They have myriad of reliable receiving options but none are their go-to guy, talented offensive tackles but vulnerable interior, a reliable defense and a kicker you’d probably like to punch… well I guess in that regard we are the same. They have also made fewer rosters moves so far this season than we make in a typical week.
Offensively BC has been effective but unspectacular. They have fewer points than us and Lulay has less passing yards than Durant and more INTs (I can only assume that means BC fans are calling for Mike Reilly to get a shot). But they are getting the job done. What they do have is the best pair of Offensive Tackles in the league, the #1 run game in the league (averaging an impressive 139 yards per game) and a league low 5 giveaways. Novel concept hey? Protect the QB, run the ball and don’t turn it over and you’ll have success.
Outside of Harris, they haven’t had any real dominant guys on offense. Simon is their leading receiver but he’s currently 13th in the league in receiving (behind the reliable hands of Getzlaf… take that Mr. Best Receiver Ever!). That said they do have 5 receivers with over 140 yards which speaks to how much they spread it around. Will be challenge for our D to keep all those options in check and account Lulay’s ability to run.
Fortunately we will no longer be handicapped by Nick Graham on corner as he was cut yesterday. He didn’t leave town though as he mistakenly tried to get on the early flight and ended up trailing the real one by about 15 minutes. Turenne steps back in and while I’m not convinced he’s anything to rave about, he has that whole “not being Nick Graham” thing going for him which is good enough for me.
It will be a struggled to get pressure off the edges since BC’s aforementioned tackles are dominant. I think Sholgan and whoever lines up with him inside have a real shot at getting pressure up the middle. If it were me running the defense I would be running blitzes and stunts designed to target rookie Matt Norman… unfortunately its Richie Hall running things so look for a lot of 3 man rush (that will inexplicably still leave 3 receivers open). If our LBs can contain the run game then we have a real shot at keeping the Lions in check but given how good we just made Jyles look, I don’t like our odds against an actual QB.
Sad defensive stat of the day: The Riders have a league low 9 takeaways… 8 of those came in the first 3 games. We need to start getting turnovers again if we want to get back in the win column.
Offensively, we will be running one of 3 plays: Give it to Dressler, Give it to Sheets and hope for a miracle run, or praying for the hacky sack play… sadly both the last 2 currently have better odds of working than attempting to pass to Getzlaf. We need somebody… anybody to emerge as a reliable number 2 option. I’m getting so desperate I would even take Sisco at this point. It’s actually amazing how we have managed to become the third most potent offense in the CFL when things are things bad in terms of personnel.
Hopefully Dyce learned from the success he had with Sheets last week and continue to give the guy a steady workload. Even without Arm-Bar Mitchell, BC still has an imposing line… especially when you consider that Pat Neufeld will be starting again and we will have Chris Best at Centre (which is a bit concerning to say the least). BC has allowed the least yards and second least points this season so we have our work cut out for us. They will clearly be game planning to eliminate Sheets so we need to be prepared to counter with some play action and 10-15 yard passes… the caveat there is Durant needs to account for Bighill at all times or his INT count will grow.
To help out Neufeld and the rest of our OL we should use some TE sets and for god sake avoid the empty backfield set! Another thing that would really help slow down the pass rush is if Durant would start using his damn legs more than once or twice a game.
Keep Durant mobile, pound them with Sheets and find someone not named Weston to catch the ball (even if it’s that other midget Sanders) and we should be able to put up points.
Last time it took 2 McCallum misses which Tristan Jackson made them pay deeply for for us to win. I think we will need one or 2 big game changing plays like that again to emerge with another win, be it on D or Special Teams.
Is it possible? Yes. Is It likely? Not really. Game will be very close, very competitive and the Riders will turn in a solid performance but at this point BC is better on both sides of the ball. So…
BC by 8