Friday, August 22, 2014

Riders vs. Lions: Guaranteed Win Night

Sunday the Riders travel out west for a showdown with the BC Lions. Oddly enough this will be the last time we see the Lions in the regular season. This will be our chance at redemption after they beat us in week 3. We had them on the ropes in the first half and then inexplicably went to hell in the second half on route to an embarrassing loss. Fear not, after an exhaustive inquiry it was determined that it was all Hugh Charles’ fault so we should be good to go this time around. Actually, we haven’t lost since cutting Charles so maybe they were onto something.

Lions President Dennis Skulsky has guaranteed a win. The move is both a good marketing move (it has generated some buzz for the game) and a terrible football move. The Lions won’t gain any extra motivation from it but it will piss off the Riders… and that defense is not a group of guys I would want to piss off.

It goes without saying that the primary objective here is emerge with a win (no matter how ugly). However, another thing to keep in mind is the tie breaker (as crazy as it is to be discussing that in August). I expect the West standings to be super close so any leg up you can have in terms of tie breakers will be very valuable. If we beat BC by 14 points or more we take the season series. Follow that up with a win on Labour Day and we would have the tie breaker over 2 of our 4 division rivals which would be solid footing at the halfway point of the season.

The Lions started the season like hot garbage (is that worse than cold garbage?). Their first 2 games were bad. They lost to Troy Smith for pete sake! But over the last 6 games (starting when they beat us) they have been looked like a completely different team. Just take a look at how they’ve improved both defensively and offensively (where the biggest improvement as occurred).

- In the first 2 games the defense was allowing 143 yds rushing, 283 yards passing and over 25 points per game. Over the last 6 that has dropped to 91 yards rushing, 177 passing and 19 points per game

- In the first 2 games the offense averaged 219 yards passing, an abysmal 68 yards rushing (with Harris and Logan that’s just staggering) and 15 points per game. Over the last 6 that has risen to 280 yards passing, 134 rushing and 28 points per game.

- Also consider that the Lions turned the ball over 9 times in the first 2 games and only 9 times in the next 6.

My caveat is that their opponent over those 6 included Montreal, Hamilton and Toronto on 4 days rest. They did beat Calgary so it wasn’t all a soft schedule.

Offensively I have no clue what to expect in terms of QB. The general rule of thumb is “once you go black, you never go back” but if you watched last game, you saw the Lions employ the lesser known “once you go black you randomly insert a ginger at odd times” strategy. Whether it’s Lulay or Glenn under centre, the primary objective has to be limiting Andrew Harris. The man single-handedly embarrassed our entire defense in week 3 and you simply can’t expect to beat the Lions if you struggle to bring down Harris on first contact.  I expect the D to come out looking to avenge the week 3 embarrassment, hopefully that translates into sound tackling. Priority 2 is ensuring Arceneaux doesn’t burn us with a big play. Week in week out the guy shows he is a threat to score at anytime. If I’m the Lions I’m looking to get him matched up on Macho. Outside of Arceneaux the Lions have a decent set of receivers but no one that I don’t think we can handle. Overall the key match-up though is in the trenches. No team has allowed more sacks than the Lions. I don’t think I need to remind you about what our DL can do. If our DL can control the line of scrimmage it will make life harder on Harris and it will make life miserable on Glenn/Lulay. I expect the Lions to scheme extra protection towards Chick which could mean a less productive day for him (maybe only one or 2 sacks) but the rest of our DL will benefit from the attention he demands. At least 4 sacks overall is my guess… nay it’s my guarantee.

For our offense, we face the stingiest pass defense in the League… which suits us just fine because passing isn’t one of those things we are big on any way. If I’m the Lions (or any team for that matter), the strategy against the Riders would be stack the line and focus on eliminating the run until the Riders to prove they can you beat through the air. Thing is I think we can beat them through the air…in theory… though even communism works, in theory. Unlike the headshaking decision against the Als to mostly forgo the run in the first half, even though we are likely to run into a defensive wall at first we still need to commit to running early and often. We can’t shy away from a stiff run blocking front, we have the talent on the OL and RB to go toe to toe with anyone on the ground so let’s prove it. We put up 90 yards in one half against them last time… do it again (minus the whole untimely fumble leading to unemployment part). Key to running effectively will be getting blockers on Elimimian. Left unblocked he will terrorize our run game. While our primary attack should be “pound it down their throat”, I think we also need to get creative to slow down that talented front 7. Play action TE leakouts could be effective given the aggressiveness of the LBs. I would also like to see us try and get Ford the ball in space on swing passes and what not (I realize that his catching ability is questionable but we gotta try). One other thing I think could be very effective is 2 back sets. Given that Messam is Canadian it would be easy to get both him and Ford on at the same time that gives the defense 2 things to pay attention to vs. focusing all on one guy. Mix it up with both of them seeing the ball and then every so often is we toss is a Durant run I think that would go for big yards.

I don’t see us passing often (bold prediction I know). I stand by my ongoing conviction that JR LaRose isn’t a very good safety. We didn’t have Getzlaf the first time around (we were still suffering through the Riley experiment) and I think he is a guy that can really exploit that middle. As big as Bagg has been for us lately I see a quieter night for him. BC’s DBs are very aggressive and those wide-side passes scare me. Work the inside, run lots and I think we are about due for a long bomb to Taj for a TD.

BC Place is a tough place to play and anything less than our best level of play just won’t cut it. That said, we aren’t playing as bad as people would lead you to believe. We keep finding ways to win and if you look at what we did in the 1st half last time we played you’ll see that we can beat BC. As much as our last couple wins have been ugly they have shown that we can fight through adversity and emerge victorious. That will come in handy because we are in for adversity in BC. Expect a hard hitting, tightly contested game. It will take a 4th quarter comeback but…

Riders by a FG… guaranteed.

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