Monday, September 29, 2014

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Horrible

Riders 0 - Eskimos 24

In a league that awards points for punting too far and missing FGs we didn't manage to get a solitary point on Friday night... we didn't even come remotely close. It was among the painful things I've ever watched... and I've watched a lot of Michael Bishop games.

At the risk of stating the obvious, you can't win without any semblance of offense. Tino regressed to the version that didn't look like he belonged at the pro level (and Doege was far from a saviour). Slow reads, bad reads, bad throw... non-existence production. Harp on the run game all you want but when your opponent has no reason to worry about you throwing the ball even the best run games will struggle. Our O-line wasn't very impressive, our receivers didn't step up, our play calling was suspect but the bottom line is that you need a remotely credible QB to be successful and currently we don't have one. And until we get one, we can expect more offensive futility. I have been a big Tino guy but his time as a starter is causing me to rethink my faith. In 3 starts he has been awful against the 2 good defenses and managed only 2 good quarters against a bad defense. Given that we will only play good defenses from here on out, I'm not liking our chances with Tino as the guy.

If our O-line played as good as they are supposed to, that would help. If our receivers could get open and catch the ball consistently that would help. If we called plays that would help our struggling QB as opposed to playing to his weaknesses that would help. Why did we even bother dressing Ford? Why didn't we run more quick Taj crossers like the one that worked (or use Taj at all for that matter)? Why did it take until Doege came in for us to remember that Dressler existed? Why not run a receiver screen to take the pressure of the pass rush off? These are all questions I had (and possible yelled at the TV along with some curse words).

As for defense, well its an utter embarrassment when you get run on like that. Short of rolling out a carpet for the runner or physically carrying them I'm not sure we could have made it easier on them. The amazing thing is though that despite the insane amount of rush yards we allowed, we were actually close enough in that game until very late to have a chance had we had anything on O. It almost defies logic.

Chad Kilgore was complete and utter junk and is now firmly implanted on my hatred list. He can't cover a pass, he can seem to get within 2 gaps of the one the RB is actually running through, he can't spy a QB. Hell the only time that game, that he made a a play he took a facemask. It honestly looked like we had no MLB all game. Here is a list of options that I would prefer at MLB over Kilgore going forward: Hurl, Shomari (even he wasn't this bad), asking Rey Williams to unretire, asking McCullough to unretire, playing a cardboard cutout of someone who played Major League Baseball. On top of his inability to do anything I don't get how we used him. Clearly we were getting killed by Reilly's leg's and clearly Kilgore can't pass cover or pick up an RB so why not have him spy Reilly?

I'd like to be harder on our D for a bad performance but they kept the score pretty close all things considered (mind you Edmonton had no reason to call risky plays and were content playing it safe and letting our O hand it right back to them). That said if our D-line is really as good as we think it is they should have feasted on that Edmonton O-line... instead they got out worked in the trenches for the most part. Though the fact that Reilly could leave the pocket and run for 15 at will liekly didn't help their cause.

Normally I try not to get too down in the dumps but coming off a performance like that and having to face the best team in the CFL next, there's not a lot to be optimistic about that this point. We have until Friday to figure out how to get some kind of production out of our QB be it Doege (who I think you have to give starting reps to and pray for the best) or Sunseri (if they feel he is worth a 3rd chance).

Other random thoughts:
- The only thing that cheered my up on Friday was seeing how badly Hugh O'Neil missed that one FG attempt. I'm not even sure you can call that an attempt for how awful it was.

- For a guy with such a strong French accent, you'd think Proulx would look for the shortest way to explain a play on the microphone, yet he insists on giving the longest ones possible.

- Not that I'm sure he could have done worse, but bear in mind that Keith Price (the new most popular man in Saskatchewan) has been in Canada 3 weeks when calling for him to play.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Riders vs. Eskimos: Horrible Human Beings

Friday night the 9-3 Riders take on the 8-4 Eskimos in a second place showdown. Thanks to the genius of the CFL schedule makers, despite the season being 2/3 over this will be our first meeting of the year… and first of 3 meetings in 6 weeks. Ticket sales are already over 39,000 so all signs point to a raucous atmosphere for a big Friday night game.

PS – To anyone offended by the “Horrible Human Beings” ad campaign, that marketing department got a level of publicity and airplay out of that ad that most marketers can only dream of. So lighten up… and if you happen to be going to the game go ahead and poop on your seat on the way out just to prove them right about us being horrible.

This will be a big test for the Riders on both sides of the ball. Their offense poses a threat in multiple ways. They have a good QB who can hurt you with his legs, they have 2 big time receivers and now that Jon White is healthy I think they have a credible running attack (something that the Esks in recent history seemed to have avoided like the plague). Bowman is inconsistent at the best of times but given that he struggled last game I’m expecting him to be back to good for this one. It’s an adventure getting him the ball but once he has it, he is as good as anyone at gaining more yards. So our tackling needs to be sound. No shoulder tackles (I’m looking at you Rod Williams). As much talent as this offense has it hasn’t been very impressive this season. I still think their O-line is not very good (better than last year but short of starting 5 actual pylons, I’m not sure how they could get worse). The key will be attacking that line and keeping Reilly from escaping. If he’s forced to throw and do so under duress then the offense will struggle. If he breaks contain and is allowed to buy time for Stamps and Bowman we will struggle. In their wins, Edmonton is averaging over 60 yards rushing by the QB… in the losses, 20. If the Esks watched game film from last week they will be trying to find ways to get an RB (like Lawrence) lined up on Kilgore in a passing situation. Hopefully we can avoid that. I expect the Esks to score but overall our D-line should be able to attack that O-line and that will power our defense to be a difference maker… as opposed to early last game when they just lied their and took it like Ottawa had paid for their services.

Offensively, Tino will go from facing a poor defense in the RedBlacks to a damn good defense in the Esks. Outside of us, I think the Esks have the best front 4 in the league. Jones even managed to get a solid season out of Odell Willis. Our O-line will be tested. The Esks also have playmakers in the secondary. They have amassed the second most takeaways and sacks. They have taken on the persona of the coach and are very aggressive… and likely a-holes too. We will need a strong run game to help take the pressure off our O-line. When the Esks win they average 74 rush yards allowed… when they lose it balloons to 134. Teams are not respect Tino when he rolls out after the handoff. If he hangs on the odd time it will go for decent yards. We did it once last week and got 15 easy yards. Given how Dressler carried our team last week I expect Jones to lock either Grymes or Watkins on him all game in an attempt to eliminate him. That likely means our effectiveness in the pass game will depend on Getzlaf’s ability to be a consistent catcher and Taj Smith’s ability to regain relevance. I also think using Ford’s speed by getting him involved with short passes to slow down the rush would be good. Our last 2 attempts to run screens have been comically inept but that could be effective too. Hard running (and lots of it), short quick hitting passes and limiting turnovers will be the keys.

One note on special teams, the addition of Chad Rempel is massive. Not only does it add a veteran (and very good) long snapper (need I rehash the issues that caused us last week). It also adds a veteran Canadian presence to a unit that is short on that due to injuries. I have a feeling that in a defensive battle, we will need to call on Milo’s leg a few times. Hopefully we get the good Milo and not the “F%^$^!! Milo”

Despite the fact that the Esks are stronger at QB, I still think this should be a fairly even match-up. I suspect the Esks D will get a couple turnovers off Sunseri so our defense will need to respond with turnovers of their own. While there’s no reason that we can’t win this game, my gut says that on the road on a short week we lose. I still think we take the season series but for this game I see us getting edged out. Riders keep it close until late but in the end…

Esks by a TD

Sponsored Video: 2014 Re:design Project

In keeping with the Kia theme, here is the new ad campaign from them about re-designing their vehicles. Unfortunately their automotive advances have not brought us such needed innovations as separate sound proof bubble domes for the kids; some way to give a painful shock to people who drive like idiots (of which there are many) or an actual trunk monkey (if you don't know what I'm talking about you should google it after watching the ad above). But hey, we can't all be perfect.

You should check out this ad if for no other reasons than it will not call you a horrible human being in it.

Disclaimer: This post has been sponsored by Kia, but all thoughts are my own

Sponsored Video: Take a chance to win a Father & Son's Road Trip

Here's an ad for Kia that is based around the idea of a father and son connecting via a roadtrip in a Kia (of course). It features british accents, the driver of the vehicle switching way more than is normal and an awkward scene where they are both dancing together in their speedos. And if there is one thing that will encourage you to buy a Kia, its the prospect that it could lead to speedo dancing with your dad.

Disclaimer: This post has been sponsored by Kia but all thoughts are my own.

Are You Smarter Than A Toddler - Week 14 Picks

Here are the Prophet family picks for week 14.

Prophet Jr - Montreal, Edmonton, Hamilton, BC
Rider Prophet - Montreal, Edmonton, Hamilton, Calgary
Mrs. Prophet - Montreal, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Calgary
Step-Prophet - Montreal, Saskatchewan, Winnipeg, Calgary
Momma Prophet - Ottawa, Saskatchewan, Hamilton, BC

Be sure to get your picks in by kickoff Friday

Monday, September 22, 2014

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Somehow, Someway

Riders 35 - RedBlacks 32

There are 3 ways to do things: the easy way, the hard way, and the Rider way... which is a complicated, ridiculous, beyond hard way that takes years off my life. Good lord! What a roller coaster ride! I could have done with a wee bit less drama but I've learned this seasons that we just need to take the wins however they come.

It was set up to be the perfect weekend. All our western opponents had lost to East teams and all we had to do to capitalize was beat the worst team in the CFL. Well we tried really hard to screw that up. I mean you would have thought we were the team with one win at times early in that game. Had we lost the game, my blame would have been squarely on the secondary and our overall terrible pass coverage. Defense was bad. None of these receivers are all-stars or savvy veterans or particularly good but we made them look like offensive juggernauts. Receivers were wide open all over the field. It was painful to watch and surprising given the talent we have back there. Rod Williams was downright awful in the first half. Ottawa clued into the fact that Chad Kilogre is a massive liability in pass coverage and did a very good job of getting players lined up on him and taking advantage.

Fortunately, as they generally seem to do, the real defense showed up when it mattered most. Tearrius George was a terror out there and was really the catalyst for the defense.  The league may be asking him to pee in a jar after that game given how enhanced his performance was. It was the defense that won us that overtime. Despite the RedBlacks getting the ball twice on the 35 they allowed 0 points in OT.... 0! The first 3 quarters sucked but at least they played their best ball when it mattered most.

Speaking of someone who may have been using performance enhancing drugs... how about Weston Dressler!?! The man pretty much but the team on his tiny back and willed us the victory. He was making contested catches, he was returning punts to the house, he was running over/through multiple defenders on route to the endzone on that one pass. He was something else! That said, I'm starting to wonder if he used his ample supplies of paninis, blizzards and car washes to buy off the refs. Both his punt return TDs this year have involved some pretty suspect non-calls in terms of penalties. Not that I'm complaining but still. 

I thought Tino had a good game. Not a great game but at least he looked like a guy we belonged under centre at the pro level. He was quicker, more decisive, and most importantly more effective. Sure he had overthrows and misses and bad reads but he improved by leaps and bounds over last week and played at a level that if he keeps it up will allow us to win going forward. We needed a TD drive and 2 pt convert to end regulation and he delivered. He will need to keep improving as we will face far better defenses but he showed me enough to re-instil my confidence.

Ottawa threw everything they had at us including all kinds of special team trickery and even on a day where their offense was the best it looked all season, we still somehow found a way to win. It was uglier than the offspring of Henry Burris and a Hamilton cheerleader but it was also one of the most exciting finishes you will ever witness. Had they played like they did in the 4th quarter all game we would likely have won handily like we were supposed to but at least this team is mentally tough enough to hand in their and get a win despite many attempts to give it away.

Random thoughts:
- I love when Mosaic gets rocking like it did at the end of that game

- Found it odd that we abandoned the run in the 3rd quarter and most of the 4th. I realize we were behind but we completely went away from it.

- Brian Peters is lucky he blocked that kicked and redeemed his bad snaps that put us in that position.

- Given that our entire offense revolves around him, I was amazed at how often Dressler was wide open... I guess there is a reason the RedBlacks are last

- I have no clue how that first Milo FG managed to sneak over crossbar. There was not an inch to spare

- Really noticed Shomari Williams on kick covers. It was a refreshing surprise.

- At half time I was thinking we should maybe ask Szarka and Reaper to suit up. Based on Chamblin's half time interview, he might have been as well. (PS if you were at the game at have not seen that interview, you should. Here's the link)

- For those who were at the game, when they showed those fans with the Reaper sign with the green skeleton did anyone else notice that it clearly had a penis drawn on?

- I wonder what kind of odds i could have gotten if I had put money on the OT going: INT, missed FG, FG, blocked FG?

- Honestly had they ruled that the Ottawa guy had stepped out of bounds before punting it out that would have been a fitting way for that game to end

Friday, September 19, 2014

Riders vs. RedBlacks: Free Space On The Bingo Card

Sunday the 8-3 Riders will try to get back on track after a dismal outing last week. Luckily the schedule offers them an absolute gift of a match-up with the 1-8 RedBlacks coming to town. This is by far the easiest match-up left on our schedule and so it is the perfect opportunity to work out all the crap we need to in order to get back to playing football at a level that at least gives us a chance to be a contender come November.

There’s really no way of putting this nicely… Ottawa is terrible.
-          They have just 1 win, and are winless on the road
-          They are averaging 14 pts per game and haven’t scored more than 10 points in a game in their last 4 attempts (a span that has produced just one solitary offensive TD... one!)
-          They have the worst run game (averaging a lowly 66 yds/game)
-          They have the least passing TDs
-          They have the least sacks and takeaways on defense
-          They have the worst run defense (allow 129 yds/game and most rushing TDs)
-          They have the worst pass defense (most yards allowed, highest completion % allowed)

Yet currently their odds of hosting a playoff game are as good or better than ours. (I think we are all prepared to die a little inside when we see how few wins the 2 East teams that make the playoffs will have.)

Sunseri needs to bounce back and Ottawa provides him the perfect opportunity to do so. Now I’m not saying he needs to come out throwing like the 2nd coming of Doug Flutie but we do need to see improvement in his game. His reads and decisions need to be quicker and more decisive. Let me remind you that running our offense does not mean needing to throw for 300+ yards. We don’t need him to suddenly try and morph into a gunslinger, we just need him to trust his instincts more and get the ball out when he is called on to throw. To put in bluntly, if he can’t get it done against this defense, he better start working on his resume. He will have strong run support this game. We ran for 100 on a very good run D in Hamilton when they had zero reason to respect the pass. Ottawa is far worse against the run so whether or not Sunseri gets it together we will be logging yards on the ground. Ottawa probably got their best performance of the season from their defense last game against BC so don’t expect to lie there and just take it but there is no reason we can’t have success against them. Based on their current offensive struggles we need just 2 measly TDs to all but guarantee victory... hell 1 and a FG probably amounts to an insurmountable lead.

Defensively I fully expect a dominating performance. We are a very good defense facing a team that has 1 offensive TD over the past month +. Burris is prone to struggles when he has talent around him. What chance does he have now that he is surrounded by receivers not good enough to stick as #4 receivers anywhere else? And now that they are without Chevon Walker, their run game has descended to almost comical depth (not that it was consistent even with Walker in). Our D-line will have Burris running for his life and our DBs have better hands than their receivers so expect turnovers (historically Burris serves them up in groups of 3). Unless it comes in garbage time, I just don’t Ottawa scoring a major (I’ve seen chess teams, with better chances of scoring). 2-3 FGs max with strong chances of a shutout.

Ottawa’s best chance of scoring (like most teams that face us) will come on special teams. We have allowed a kick return TD in 4 of our last 5. That is embarrassing. I’ve been saying all along that it is a product of all the injuries we have along the Canadian core of our special teams but that’s just our reality. It doesn’t look like we will be getting guys back soon so we better learn to be better with the guys we have. Better punting from Milo would help.

I don’t like being this cocky about our chances (especially given what we most recently witnessed at QB) but there’s a good chance we could win this game if our offensive and defensive players switched sides for the day. If for some reason we find a way to lose this game then you have my permission to hit the panic button. But let’s have some faith in our team and be confident they will win like they are supposed to. Sunseri will still look shaky at times but will be show enough improvement to re-instill faith…

Riders by 14 (one of which is likely a defensive TD)

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Are You Smarter Than A Toddler - Week 13 Picks

Here are the Prophet family picks for week 13.

Prophet Jr - BC, Hamilton, Calgary, Saskatchewan
Rider Prophet - BC, Edmonton, Calgary, Saskatchewan
Mrs Prophet - Toronto, Hamilton, Calgary, Saskatchewan
Step-Prophet - Toronto, Edmonton, Calgary, Saskatchewan
Momma Prophet - BC, Hamilton, Calgary, Saskatchewan

Be sure to have your picks in by kickoff Friday

Monday, September 15, 2014

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Ti-No

Riders 3 - Ti-Cats 28

Sunday we witnessed first hand the drastic difference between not passing for many yards because we choose not to and not passing for many yards because we can't. We were able to win 8 games with the former. We looked like a team that brought a sandwich to a knife fight with the later.

Sunseri's first career start certainly didn't go as planned. We needed him to deliver a mediocre performance in order to keep playing our game and have a chance to win. Instead Sunseri looked like he was playing at half speed. Slow making his reads, slow making decisions... and there were sometimes when he didn't make a decision. That is where things all started to go wrong for the Riders. A less decisive QB means the OL has to block longer. Not surprisingly that led to sacks and holding penalties. A less decisive QB meant the ball was generally delivered later than the receivers should be expecting it... if it was delivered at all (I was convinced for part of the game that Sunseri didn't know that people other Anthony Allen played offense). We may be the best in the league at running the ball but without even a remote threat that we can pass its pretty easy for a team to take away the run... especially a team like the Ti-Cats who have decent run D to begin win. The fact that we ran for 100 yards in spite of the whole no passing thing is really a sign of how good our run game is. I'm not sure why Sunseri was so "slow". Maybe it was nerves, maybe he was trying to be too perfect and over-thinking things. Whatever it is we need him to be more decisive. I'd honestly prefer to see him make mistakes while making quick throws rather than sitting there like a he was a computer trying to download a YouTube video with a 56K modem.

As for the defense, admittedly they did not have a good day either. At times they looked uninspired, they missed tackles, they missed assignments, they didn't play at the level we needed them to. But to be fair. Despite an offense that did not exist, we were down 10 points a half. They kept us in it but eventually ran out of gas late because our offense offered no support. Could they have been better? Absolutely. But if we had even the semblance of a pass game I think they would have done enough for us to win.

We got whooped, plain and simple. That said I'm not about to give up on Sunseri or the season, or call for the new most popular man in Saskatchewan Seth Doege, as seem to be popular options. I think Sunseri can play better and the only way that is going to happen is by learning from his mistakes and growing in the starter's role. Besides next up is a home date with Ottawa... that can the cure for a lot of what ails you.

Other random thoughts:
- Derek Walker gave Dan Clark a run for his money for most amazing catch by a fat man. Wow what a diving catch! Maybe we should build the Sunseri passing attack around Walker and Clark.

- For a league that supposedly focuses on protecting the QB to miss a blatant face mask on the QB is unacceptable. You would have had to consciously not been looking at the QB (who had the ball) to miss that.

- Milo had a pretty bad day punting. Too many line drives with no hang time to allow our cover teams to have a chance.

- I was really hoping that the failed clock management at the end of the half would end up being the downfall of Austin and the Cats. That was just bad.

- In this day and age should it not be possible to transplant Susneri's arm onto Durant's body? Skin colour difference would be a bit odd but I'm sure we'd grow to love FrankenDurant.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Riders vs. Ti-Cats: Win It For Durant

Sunday the 8-2 Riders travel to Hamilton to face the 2-7 in what will be their first visit to the new Tim Hortons field. I hear the Riders are looking forward to the experience, minus the requirement for them to spend 2 hours installing guard rails and light fixtures in exchange for practice time. Sunday is also the official start to the Autumn of Tino (doesn’t quite have the same ring as “Summer of George” but it does sound more promising than the first draft I had: “Fall of Tino”).

If there was any franchise I would feel great starting an upstart QB against it’s the Ti-Cats. History has proven pretty good to us in that regard. Willy had a big game against them last year, Durant’s breakout game in ’08 came against them, and of course who could forget Rocky Butler? He beat them so badly that they traded us for him that off-season in one of the most lopsided trades in recent memory.

We utterly embarrassed them in the season opener and they have just 2 wins since then (none of which have come against a western opponent)… so logically the odds-makers have them as the favourites headed in to this game. Paging all compulsive gamblers! To be fair I don’t think the Ti-Cats are as bad as their record indicates… well let me re-phrase that. Their record is very reflective of their level of play this season but given the talent on their roster, I think they have potential to be a far better team then they have shown. Five of their losses have been by a TD or less. They have been close but just keep finding ways to lose. They also keep finding ways to enrage Kent Austin. I swear of these times either he will choke out a player or his head will explode.

Obviously injuries at QB have affected their offense but even when healthy (which I think they are pretty close now, minus Gable) their offense really doesn’t scare me. Consider this. Hamilton has scored 15 offensive TDs this season. 8 of those TDs were scored by either Dan LeFevour or CJ Gable… 1 was scored by a linebacker. That leaves 6 TDs by people who will be playing offense on Sunday. It all starts with that sorry excuse for an O-line they have. First of all it’s not very good. Second, in their 9 games they have started 7 different combinations and no one has started every game in the same spot. It’s like they put names in a hat each week and draw spots. The end result has been predictably awful line play and a whole ton of sacks (only the Bomber OL has given up more). Peter Dyakowski can’t get healthy soon enough. With a struggling line, it’s no surprise that their run game has been a non-factor. They are near the bottom of the league in terms of rushing yards and Dan LeFevour accounts for close to 40% of those yards. Part of it is they just don’t rush very often (even when Gable was healthy), only Ottawa has less rushing attempts. Not that we can ignore the run game, I’m just not overly concerned in our ability to make it a non-factor (if Austin doesn’t do that on his own by not calling run plays).

Collaros and the pass game are where the challenge will lie for our D. While Collaros has looked better in his last couple starts (though not sure how he could manage to look worse than week 1), I haven’t seen anything in his game that gives me cause for concern. Part of it has to do with the receivers at his disposal. To be fair, the Ti-Cats have solid receivers across the board (Fantuz, Grant, Tasker, Ellington, Koch, Guiguere). Thing is, while they have a lot of good receivers, they lack a real impact receiver. All are capable of making plays and moving the chains but none have that game-breaking factor. So I like how our secondary matches up against them. Certainly the fact that you can’t slow this offense down by eliminating one receiver (like some other teams) is a challenge but regardless of who ends up covering who, there are no match-ups that scare me. A weak ground game and an even weaker OL means our D-line will be in attack mode. Combine that with a Hamilton team that throws a lot of INTs and lacks a game breaking receiver and you have the recipe for a very good defensive outing.

This brings me to Sunseri and our offense. The Ti-Cats actually boast the #3 run defense in the CFL. They are very strong at the interior of their DL with Bulcke and Laurent. They also are solid at LB with Simoni Lawrence (who is a damn good player) and Rico Murray. I don’t see us shying away from the run but it will likely prove more difficult then the last couple weeks where we pretty much just steam-rolled the Bombers on the ground. Sunseri will need to pass and I’m sure he will. It’s a favourable match-up for Tino in his first start. The Ti-Cats force the least turnovers, have the least sacks (way to support Tackle Hunger jerks!), allow the 2nd highest completion % to opposing QBs and allow the 2nd most points per game. This won’t be a cake walk for him but there’s no reason to think he can’t have success. Look for the Riders to take a deep shot early (maybe even on the first play) to either Taj or Bagg (who damn well better catch it this time!). Play-action crossers could be very effective if the LBs are cheating up on the run. I also like lining Messam up a TE and passing to him on a leakout every now and them. Don’t expect us to stray too far from what’s gotten us this far, lots of running and controlling possession of the ball.

We will need another solid outing from our special teams again. Hamilton is a returner factory. They had Thigpen, Williams and this year have 3 different guys with kick return TDs. Granted all of them are hurt this week and they have airlifted in Terell Sinkfield but still as long as we don’t allow any game changing plays on teams (or better yet if we can be the ones making those game changing plays yet again) then I like our odds of grinding out another road victory.

I expect us to start the first quarter very shaky but settle things down in the second and play solid from there on out. These are the Riders so they will find some way to make it interesting and make things stressful to watch but in the end I see no reason why we shouldn’t emerge with another victory.

Riders by 10