Saturday the Riders head to Guelph (aka the home of the football field with the giant checker board in the endzones) looking to complete a dominating sweep of the hapless Ti-Cats. You could probably just go back and read my pre-game post for last week’s game as it’s all pretty much the same. But I suppose since you are here anyway I could at least make an effort to come up with some new material. I can’t promise it will be good but by know I’m sure you are well accustomed to my levels of quality.
Even though we are playing the same team again, there are numerous changes going on with both teams that will likely make for a completely different game come Saturday.
On the Ti-Cats side, Andy Fantuz will likely sit out yet again (thus making our investment in Geroy Simon look like a shrewd investment by comparison). However, the Cats should get a couple offensive weapons back in the form of Dave Stala, Onrea Jones and running back CJ Gable. That can only improve their offense… mainly because short of forgetting their pants, they really can’t do worse. Defensively it’s a different story as they have cut Markeith Knowlton and brought in Brandon Isaac. Not sure if Isaac will play but if he doesn’t I don’t like the Ti-Cats chances of improving their abysmal run D by continually shuffling rookie LBs in and out and playing vets out of their normal position. The basic philosophy seems to be that if they throw enough crap at the wall, something is bound to stick. That’s a bold strategy Cotton.
For the Riders, some bad news as it looks like McHenry will be out a few weeks. Sounds like rookie Spencer Moore will take his place. I think his size and athleticism will be an advantage in the passing game but I worry about his lack of experience blocking at the pro level. In the secondary, at least one (maybe both) of Harris and Maze should check back in, which can only improve an already top notch pass defense.
The big news is of course (yet again) Durant’s foot. He’s back in a walking boot. Here’s how I see it, I’m willing to bet Durant could once again tough it out and play outstanding. He’s a warrior and has a long history of doing that. But unlike last week, we only have a couple days between games and the bye week is up next (for reasons I still can’t fathom). So while I’m pretty sure he COULD play, I’m not sure that he SHOULD. We are 4-0 and playing a bad eastern opponent. The way our D and run game are performing, even a mediocre performance by Willy should get us the win (and if anyone knows a thing or two about mediocre Willy performances… ahh never mind). Absolute worst case scenario we are 4-1 going into the bye. I would rather that and a healthy Durant over the remaining 13 games, than see Durant grind himself down and end up so physically beat up by the end that he can’t play his game when it matters most (see Grey Cup 2010). Season is a marathon not a sprint.
Here are five reasons why even with Willy in the game we should be pretty confident going into this game:
1 – Hamilton has 2 takeaways this season… we had 2 takeaways in the first half last game.
2 – They allowed 4 passing TDs last game… we have allowed 5 all season
3 – They have scored 7 TDs this season… we scored 4 TDs in the last 3 quarters of football.
4 – They have the worst O-line in the league (most sacks, least rush yds)… we have the best (least sacks, most rush yds)
5 – Their entire team has combined for 261 rush yards this season… Sheets did that by himself in just 2 games.
Hamilton will play better offensively and will likely score points… I mean honestly you’d have to try really hard not to score at least a single in 8 quarters of Canadian football. With Gable back in they will try to establish the run. Defensive game plan needs to be the same: strong play up front to eliminate the run and make life miserable for Burris in the pocket and eliminate the big plays downfield. Hamilton simply doesn’t have the playmakers to continually put together long drives against us.
As for the offense, if I’m Hamilton and Willy plays, I bring the same defensive game plan as last week. Stack the box, eliminate the run and force us the throw. Durant embarrassed them when they tried this but odds of Willy making some of the deep throws that Durant was reeling off are a lot less. That means that we will a) needs to be patient with the run game (something I’m not at all worried about) and b) focus on short and intermediate passing routes. If the LBs are cheating up to stop Sheets then Smith on the crosser or Dressler/Simon hooks just behind where they vacate will be deadly and are high percentage passes for Willy. I would also use Willy’s mobility to our advantage and roll him out and take off the odd time (yes I’m calling for the Willy naked bootleg to be used). The way our offense gets spread around, Getzlaf is probably about due for a big game. Also, we can’t be afraid to let Willy take shots downfield if they are there. The Ti-cat secondary isn’t all that good at this point.
I fully expect the Ti-cats to make a game of it this time. They have a few more weapons on O and will be at home (kind of). That said I still don’t think the Ti-cats are in the same league as us. It will be close but we will win.
Riders by 10.