There are many reasons to doubt our ability to end our losing streak this Sunday when we host the Eskimos. There's the fact that we haven't beat a credible team since Durant got hurt; there's our general inability to score points (particularly in the first half); there's the fact that we haven't held an opponent under 24 points since August; there's the fact that the Esks embarrassed us last time; and of course there's that whole "lack of a credible QB" thing. I encourage you to pick your favourite reason. Either way I can't fathom a rationale argument for why we should be optimistic about our chances... unless the Esks' flight here is somehow routed through Africa and all their players get quarantined for Ebola testing. What? Do you have a better idea?
Under normal circumstances I would focus on how we need this win to keep our slim chances of a home playoff game alive. However, we are a team struggling to even play competitive football so addressing that is far more important otherwise what stadium we lose our playoff game in doesn't really matter. All signs point to us turning back the clock and hoping Kerry Joseph can channel his inner-2007 MOP form to revive our decrepit offense. Normally I would oppose the logic that starting a 41 year old QB who hasn't played meaningful football in a long time will actually improve things... but let's be honest... he can't possible be worse. Can he? This a desperation move plain and simple but I'm not sure how much more desperate we can be. It's not like Joseph will be more indecisive than Sunseri or more turnover-prone than Doege. Also given that our offense involves handing the ball off to Allen 90% of the time I wouldn't worry about his ability to absorb the playbook.
Ok, allow me to set aside my overt skepticism at this point and talk about what Joseph needs to do to give us a chance. First and foremost we need his legs. Our O-line has not been playing great and the Esks have a solid D-line. We need to move the pocket around to take off a bit of pressure and open things up for our receivers, We don't need him to rush for 100 yards but things like rollouts, buying extra time in the pocket and giving the defense something to think about other than Allen will go a long way. Tino made old man Danny McManus look mobile by comparison. Joseph is actually an old man but can still use his legs. The Esks are going to stack the box and dare us to throw. We need to accept that dare and actually throw if we want to win. Joseph was never particularly accurate on his long ball but we will need to attempt a few of those. Primarily we need crossers, quick hooks... anything to actually make our receivers be more than glorified sprinters. Not sure if Labatte plays this week or not but it would sure be nice to have both him and Best back at guard. It would have the added benefit of adding one of our more productive offensive weapons back into the mix in Dan Clark.
Defensively you can bet we will be taking this game personally. We got lit up for 300 yards rushing last time we met and they will be looking to avenge that performance. Both Reilly and White got big yards at will. That will need to stop. With Kilgore now on the 6 game IR with a acute case of sucking, provided someone actually fulfills the middle linebacker role then that will go a long way. I don't care if we have to spy Reilly all night with an LB, keep him in the damn pocket! He's a good QB but I like our odds better with him throwing then with him running. The amazing thing about last game was how close the defense kept it in spite of all the rushing yards and the non-existent Rider offense. If Joseph can do something offensively then I like our defense's chances. Front 7 will need to contain the run and DBs will need to step up and make plays like they did earlier in the year. One play I've noticed the Esks use a lot against us is the wide-side pass to Coehoorn. Not lots but a few times per game usually on second down. Whichever CB is lined up on him will need to play him tight to take away the easy first downs.
If we had a QB I'd actually like our chances in this game... and while there's always a chance Joseph could miraculously take us on some fairytale, nostalgia filled run that they someday make a movie about, I wouldn't count on it. My guess is Joseph will manage to keep the game remotely competitive (at least by recent standards) but the Esks are playing good football right now and would be a challenge even if we had a credible QB.
Esks by 14.
It's Sunday so I'll try and keep the cursing to a minimum.
I say Joseph gets Mary Swanson. Dumb & Dumber reference.
The Riders recent play gives no indication at all that they deserve to be a second place club but neither did the Eskimos when they were getting manhandled back to back by Calgary at the start of Sept. They've had a few games that they were able to waste on an attempt to get quick CFL experience for their young QBs. It didn't work out, now I see the vets on this team step up and take things much more seriously in a do or die game to give us a shot at a home playoff date.
In spite our struggles, we control our destiny, we win two games at home and Mosaic will see a playoff game. Most years in this franchise's history we would be pleased to be in that position.
This is our first playoff game. The veterans on this team have experience elevating for the playoffs, the Esks haven't proven that yet.
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