Saturday the Riders (winners of 5 of their last 6) take their hot streak on the road to Edmonton to face the Eskimos (winners of 1 of their last 6). We have a chance to lock up a playoff spot in the west with a win so hopefully we can turn in another solid performance at Commonwealth (a place where we historically struggle). If all goes as planned this will be the last time we have to see the Esks until 2013... and by then they could be a very different looking team.
Last time we played at Commonwealth we let Steven freaking Jyles carve us up on route to a disappointing loss. Fortunately since then the universe has righted itself and our defense is greatly improved and Jyles has found his way back to the bench. Well then again old man Joseph is starting so maybe the universe hasn’t completely righted itself.
Based on the last game, it’s pretty obvious that Kavis Reed’s big offensive game plan is “Give Stamps the Ball”. I know we are shocked that a reputable offensive mind such as Kavis couldn’t come up with something more intricate but so far it’s been effective. Obviously we will need to keep him in check if we hope to leave Edmonton with a win. Marcus Henry is really the only other receiver that concerns me (I mean the only thinkg that concerns me about the likes of Dobson Collins and Matt Carter is that they are considered starting material). The other major concern is keeping Hugh Charles contained. He has sure developed into one hell of a back. I liked him when he was here but I’d be lying if I said that I thought he could ever be an every down back... let alone one who has already racked up over 1200 yards from scrimmage and 7 TDs. He’s speed and shiftiness will be a challenge for our LBs. I’m not even going to bother talking about Messam... the 4 touches he will get will be inconsequential.
Honestly the game plan defensive should look very similar to last week just cross out the names Jackson and Owens and write in Joseph and Stamps... same style, same risks. We know full well Joseph is not a precision passer so if we can contain Charles and take away the deep pass, the Esks will struggle to put together drives on a consistent basis. Based on how well our D has been playing of late, I’m confident we will be fine. Also keep in mind that despite the last game, Edmonton is still a brutal offense: 2nd lowest scoring, 2nd least yards gained, and an O-line that obviously doesn’t think their awful QBs are worth protecting.
The game will be decided based on the play of our offense. If we play our game, avoid turnovers and put up at least 20 points we will win. If we turn the ball over and let the Esks D dictate our play then we give them a chance to grind out a win. The Esks D will give up a ton of yards. They have allowed the second most passing yards and have the worst run D in the league. Paging Kory Sheets! I expect him and the returning JC Sherritt to see a lot of each other (though it would be even better if one of our OL could meet up with Sherritt and spring Sheets). But the Esks D doesn’t give up a lot of points and leads the league by wide margin in turnovers. Ball security will be paramount. Durant needs to continue making good decisions. I feel like a broken record but for the love of god DO NOT throw the out to McHenry! Lean on Sheets and Dressler and mix in some West, Carr and Getzlaf (I would say Smith too but I still think he’s too inconsistent to be trusted against a team that is as good at creating turnovers as the Esks).
For all the analyzing and opining that people have been doing about the Esks, one major thing that I think has been missed is the impact of Marcus Howard and Ted Laurent. Those 2 are game changers. With both of those guys in the lineup the Esks are a completely different team. Don’t believe me? Consider this stat:
The Esks are 4-1 when both Laurent and Howard play. Allowing an average of a mere 14 points.
The record falls to 2 and 3 when only one plays and the avg points allowed rises to 27.
And when neither play... they are 0 and 4 allowing an average of 29 points.
We will have to deal with Laurent but not Howard so that should play to our advantage. O-line will still need to step up protect Durant from the fierce Esk pass rush and open up holes for Sheets to rack up huge yards.
Really this game boils down to this: both teams have solid defenses (and right now I would say ours is playing better) but only one team has a solid offense. Play, smart, control the ball and wake up Sunday morning with a ticket to the playoffs booked.
Riders by 14.