Admittedly there are times when it’s hard to determine who shows worse judgment, the CFL schedule makers or the CFL refs. But to their credit, the schedule makers have been good to the Riders this season. I love the intra-division games to end the season and we get the added bonus of a Saturday night game, against a division rival… oh and by the way we have a chance to lock up a home playoff game.
Ladies, gentlemen and people from Manitoba who read this (and can be classified as neither ladies or gentlemen), if you aren’t amped up and shaking with excitement over this game then you have no soul… and this is coming from me, a ginger. The stands better be packed and they better be deafeningly loud (unless we are on offense then shut up or I will start systematically applying sleeper holds).
Two weeks ago we beat this same team in BC Place, handily. Now we are back in our own park where unfortunately they beat us a few weeks back. But don’t discount the home field advantage. BC has just 3 road wins this season (us, Esks and Bombers). Also consider that the much hyped BC defense is allowing an average of 21 points at home… but that swells to 30 on the road. By comparison the Riders have allowed a league low 131 points at home, 20 less then BC which is second and 80 less than Calgary. Home field is a marked advantage and a raucous sold out crowd will further enhance that. I would love to get cockier about this match-up but if I had a dollar for every home game against BC that ended in a rye induced rage I have enough money to… err… buy a stadium burger (man inflation is really making this expression a lot less impactful).
Defensively we get huge boost in the form of Weldon Brown back in the line-up. He is one of our best defenders and should help further solidify a unit that is performing well. No reason to expect anything but a solid performance from the D. Key will be eliminating Harris (which BC is doing a good enough job on their own of) and making DeChacho one dimensional. As much as the talk in the media is about the under use of Harris, I think the bigger issue is a struggling O-line. Harris has actually had more rushes this year than at the same point last year, just less yards. Also consider that BC has the 2nd lowest average gain per rush in the league and that they have allowed 41 sacks this year (11 more than they did all of 2012, and sure to swell further on Saturday). Injuries are certainly a factor but my point is I think the OL play is more to blame in BC than under use of Harris. So glad we have a D-line that can take full advantage of that match-up and continue to keep Harris as a non-factor.They have good receivers but our DL should make life miserable in the pocket leading to incompletions and picks.
Of course the concern is offensively… but just 2 weeks ago we hung 30 on them. So it can be done. BC will likely make adjustments to shore up the weaknesses we exposed but we can stay one step ahead by building on what worked and adding in new wrinkles to keep them guessing. Adding Sanders in for a few series (along with Sheets if possible) would add a new element. Use McHenry/Hughes on leakouts. Use Sheets more in the passing game as they will be amped up to stuff his running. Anything we can do to keep from getting predictable because that is when defenses can make us look more useless than an Eskimos playoff ticket. A quick start would be a huge boost as it would get the crowd going and place huge pressure on DeChacho which will likely make him crumple quicker than Buck Pierce’s skeletal system. Stay balanced with the run, stay unpredictable in the pass, and don’t turn the ball over. The way our D is playing (as last week proved) anything beyond mediocre offensive play is icing on the cake.
This is a test of character. Are we a championship caliber team that can seize opportunity when it arises as we’d all like to think? Or are we still that team from the midseason slump that lets it slip away? While this team tends to perform better when I doubt their chances, I still feel that with the roster that we have built, we are that team that will seize opportunity. I will likely have more than a few curse filled moments in the stands and the game will likely be closer than it should be but in the end I see me using my home playoff ticket for more than a bookmark come November…
Riders by a Sheets TD.
Be there. Dress Warm. Cheer your damn lungs out!