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