It's been 11 months since the Stampeders and Riders last played... it was the West Final and the Stamps coughed up more loose balls than a... you know what, I'll let you finish that simile yourself. Bottom line is the Stamps lost and after a ridiculously long wait they finally get to do battle again. It's the long anticipated showdown: Doege vs. Tate! Well ok, the League was probably hoping for a little more of a marquee QB match-up but the fact remains, Friday night the arch-rival and much hated Stamps come to town for a divisional match-up with big playoff implications.
If we are being perfectly honest with ourselves we have little reason to expect a victory. The Stamps are the best team in the CFL, score the most points, allow the least, have the #1 run game, allow the least sacks... I mean I could go on but I think you get the point. We are taking on the best team in the CFL and we'd probably feel a lot better about our chances if we had a QB. But I'm guessing you didn't come here to have me depress you with reasons you should probably plan on getting drunk at the game so allow me to talk about how we can go about giving ourselves a chance.
I'll start with the defense...
In what is likely the most obvious statement you'll read today, the most important thing on defense is limiting Jon Cornish. I'd say stop but based on how he has been running this year I don't see him getting completely shut down. I think we need to keep him under 70 yards to have a chance. It would really help if we could rediscover the long lost middle linebacker position. Sounds like Hurl will get more reps there which gives me some hope. But we will need a team effort to contain Cornis. D-line will need to win the war in the trenches to fill the gaps and keep the OL off our LBs. The other thing you need to be wary of against the Stamps is Maurice Price. He is a threat to score from anywhere if he gets behind the DBs (unless of course he fumbles). I expect the Stamps to try and force us to bring Brackenridge up into run support to get one on one match-ups. Sounds like LeGree may be back which adds some versatility to our formations. If we can avoid the big plays, I like our DBs chances against the rest of those receivers. If Dave Dickenson watched any tape of last game or even if he just saw the stat line, he will be looking to use Tate's legs. Not lots but every so often, we need to keep him in the pocket and let our D-line rough him up. I loathe Tate so seeing the likes of George and Chick sack him will be extra satisfying (let's just hope George doesn't headbutt him). Our D got embarrassed last week and with a full week of practice I expect them to respond and make it personal in stopping Cornish. D will keep it close enough to win.
As for the O... if you have a preffered deity I suggest praying and making offerings to them. I'm kidding... mostly. Seth Doege (which I insist on saying like its spelled as opposed to his ridiculous pronunciation) gets the start. I have no clue what to expect but he really can't be worse than Tino was in 2.5 out of the last 3 games. I expect us to use his mobility to help move the chains which is something that certainly wasn't Tino's strength. Thing is Doege can't do it alone. We need the O-line to be the dominant force they were at times early in the year. We need a strong running attack. We need receivers to catch the damn ball. And we need coaches to call plays to help him out. Short crossers, swing passes to Ford to push the edges, receiver screens. Lets get the ball out quick to keep the pressure off him and let him get in a rhythm. Calgary has a great D but with a pile of injuries along the DL (most notably Charleston Hughes) that is their biggest weakness and where I would attack. Run our big OL and Allen/Messam at them early and often. Early success will pull the LBs up and open things up for the aforementioned crossers and what not in the intermediate range. Their secondary is good we need good reads/decisions from Doege. We need to lean on Dressler and it would be nice if Getzlaf could rediscover his inner Stamp-killer than served him so well early in his career.
Every ounce of logic in me says we lose and I end up trying to drink the game pretty. We are facing the best team in the league without Fulton, Best, Taj or Durant. That said I have watched enough Rider football over the years to know that this is exactly the type of game they will surprise you with an inspired performance. They will have a rowdy (and likely very drunk by 8pm kickoff) home crowd on their side and I expect them to respond with pride and heart and go blow for blow with the Stamps. In every pick'em pool I'm in I'm betting on the Stamps but here I'm ignoring all my logic and picking with my heart. I just have this weird feeling we somehow pull this out.
Riders by 3
Buckle up for a roller coaster game. Let's make it loud.