Saturday the Riders travel to Toronto to take on the 3-2 Argos in their first actual home game of the year (though there were likely as many Argo fans in Fort Mac as there will be at Rogers Centre). The last time these two teams faced off was the thrilling (yet utterly deflating) Week 2 double OT game at Mosaic. Since then we’ve had 7 players who dressed in that game go down to serious injury and parted ways with 3 others. The good news is that our defense has been a model of consistency amid all that turmoil… the bad news is that they have been consistently awful.
Offensively, Brett Smith will get his second straight start. He didn’t exactly light it up in his debut but I think he showed enough to warrant a second start. It will be interesting to see how he progresses in his second showing particularly since he will be facing a defense that is nowhere near as intimidating as Edmonton. It would be a novel concept if we could provide him with some run support to ease the pressure on him. I realize Chapdelaine may call this thinking heresy but we are kind of good at running the ball and it was a huge part of our offense part when they were actually putting up more points than any team in the league. The Space Cowboy (Steven Miller for those of who are either new to this blog or too young to get references to great music) will replace Allen this week. Hopefully we can use the combination of Messam’s power and Miller’s speed to get back to a strong ground game. Devin Wilson gets his first game action after we shut down Richardson for the year. Not sure he’ll get many looks as Smith will likely lean on Dressler, Getzlaf and the other Smith but it’s good that we are at least giving a young guy a shot. Toronto's defense is certainly not terrible but they are not among the top D's in the league. They are allowing 27 points per game (3rd worst). They are also 2nd last in sacks... Seems Ricky Foley may may have exaggerated just a bit when calling that line the best he’s ever played for. We need to run lots (including letting Brett Smith run) and start with lots of high percentage stuff to help Smith get comfortable. That said we can't be afraid to let him air it out occasionally (since I'm guess the Argos will cheat up on the run).
Defensively, last week was probably the best they've played this year... sadly it still wasn't good enough but the progress is at least promising. Hopefully we can build on that (minus the ridiculous over blitzing of Brackenridge). Toronto is among the league leaders in giveaways but given that the Riders are on pace for a CFL record low 6 turnovers this season, I sense that tidbit (true story spell check just recommended I change that to titbit... my mind is amused by simple things) of info is as useless my attempts to come up with a funny end to this sentence. Mark LeGree will be back in the line-up and I really liked him last year (my suggestion would be play him at LB and bump Macho back to HB but I realize I'm not a defensive guru like Chamblin). Sounds like we may get Tristan Jackson back too which would be big. Chad Owens may be out but the trio of Gurley, Hazelton and Elliot (aka that idiot who spins the ball after every catch no matter how insignificant) seem to be doing just fine. Not sure how we are struggling to find a solitary receiver when Toronto can find 3 but that's a topic for another day.
The biggest key will be limiting Brandon Whitaker. In Toronto’s 2 loses, he averaged 41 yards from scrimmage. In their 3 wins, he averaged 124 yards from scrimmage. Any chance of victory will require our D-line playing like they played last week, our tackling being at a level somewhere above blindly flailing bodies at empty air and we will need at least one turnover. We will also need to cut down drastically on penalties. Currently we are the worst in the CFL averaging 14 penalties and 122 yards per game.
As much as this could be a trap game for Toronto and as much as I think the Riders will be somewhat competitive, it all boils down to this... Toronto has the best passing attack in the CFL and we offer so little resistance to the pass that even Bill Cosby wouldn't feel the need to drug us.
Is it possible we win? Sure. Is it likely... lord no.
Argos by 10.