Happy Friday… unless you happen to be one of those poor bastards who plays against someone with Peyton Manning on their fantasy roster this week, in which case you are probably doing a lot of cursing and not very happy.
Sunday the 8-1 (for the first time ever) Riders travel to a place that likely holds the record for nicest stadium in the crappiest city (at least until Hamilton’s is done) for a rematch against the lowly Bombers. About the only thing that is going better for the Bombers heading into this week as compared to last is that Ed Hervey is doing a magnificent job of making them not look like the biggest gong show in the CFL.
Any other year would have me worried as a Rider fan heading into this game. If there was ever a franchise that would be likely to lose to the worst team in league or be the first visitor to lose at a new stadium, it would be the Riders. Hell we’d probably be likely to throw in some legal troubles as an added bonus. But not this year. This team is not only laden with talent, it also is laden with veteran leadership, determination and most importantly focus. They won’t be overlooking the Bombers, especially after last week. But as last week proved, even if we do overlook them as long as we show up at some point before the 4th quarter it should be enough to win.
There will be a few roster changes on our end. McCullough and Hurl will be back from injury, likely replacing Newman and Regimbald-Gagne. It’s nice to have some Canadian depth for a change. Sanders should be back as primary returner, which provided he remembers how to catch should be a plus. And lastly Pat Neufeld comes off the 9-game and will slot in a guard for Chris Best. There was talk initially of Neufeld reclaiming his tackle spot and Heenan bumping back inside but quite frankly that would have been so stupid it would have made the Bombers handling of the QB position look rational by comparison. Fact: Neufeld was a mediocre at best tackle last year. Fact: Heenan has been vastly superior to Neufeld in every facet of the game. Fact: OT is one of the hardest and most critical positions to recruit. It would have made zero sense to replace a great young tackle with a mediocre one. Fortunately the Riders agree with this logic. I just hope that Neufeld doesn’t show too much rust against a tough Winnipeg DL. Then again if Devin Tyler can come off the practice roster and fill in adequately I assume Neufeld can too.
Defensively the keys to the game will be don’t give up the big play. This is not an offense that will be able to repeatedly work its way down the field (hell there are times we’re not even sure if they can tie their shoes). Their biggest weapons are Cory Watson and Goltz’s legs. Those were the only 2 things to really affect us on defense… well that and penalties but let’s not rehash that.
Offensively, this would be a good game to start getting away from the slow starts that have been about the only knock against this Offense this year. If we can get on them early and suck what little life is left out of the fans then we should be in store for a good old fashion beat down. An early bomb to Bagg would be perfect. Last week when we decided to pass, the Bombers just had no answer. So I expect us to pass early to open things up for the Kory Sheets show in the 2nd half. Just spread the ball around as we have all season and we should be fine. Given Henoc Muamba’s aggressiveness (particularly against the run) some option runs, or zone reads, or play action passes to Hughes/McHenry on the leakout have potential to be very effective.
Bottom line is there are a laundry list of reasons why we are 8-1 and they are 1-8. Banjo Bowl is always tougher than Labour Day to win (2009 aside) but the difference in talent, coaching and execution are too great for the Bombers to overcome. Let’s go in to Winnipeg and try and get out as quickly as we can with the win before we catch some sort of disease. Though to be fair the biggest health concern in Winnipeg is inbreeding and that isn’t contagious.
Riders by 15.