Sunday the Riders travel to the nation’s capital in search of their first victory. In a surprising turn of events they will face a team that hasn’t beat them yet…to be fair Ottawa's lack of beating us is more a product of not playing us yet as opposed to not being able to. I’ll be perfectly honest, I’m not sure I’ve seen this level of optimism around a winless team before. Despite an 0-8 record, the pick-em pools I’m in would lead you to believe Ottawa is the underdog and there is still talk of playoffs. Perhaps those who cheer for the green have taken to smoking it or maybe they’ve all built up a subconscious mental block to help them cope with the mess that this season has been. I don’t know I’m not a doctor… I’ve just pretended to be one for the purposes of acquiring prescription drugs and female companionship.
In a refrain you are all probably sick of by now, I think this is a game the Riders could win… but don’t actually think they will. I still find it weird that I am in the minority when it comes to thinking the winless team is in tough this week. I mean I’m used to people disagreeing with me it just usually happens when I take more radical stances than this.
I think a lot of people are discounting Ottawa based on the last two games where they got utterly embarrassed by Calgary and blew it against the Argos because they took penalties at a rate that would make the Riders look like angels. Prior to that they were a 4 and 2 team… keep in mind that only one of those wins came against a team with a winning record. They certainly aren’t a power house yet but they can’t be overlooked or discounted.
Offensively I can sum up our ideal game plan in 2 words: Run Messam!!! We finally gave him a bit of a workload last week but it wasn’t even close to enough. What are we saving him for? Playoffs? Hahahaha. Seriously, dude is averaging 7.3 yards per carry! Run him as much as you can. I feel the need to point out that a tendency for not giving the RB enough carries was one of the leading factors in Chapdelaine’s firing in BC. Ottawa has a very underrated D. They are allowing the 3rd most points in the league but they are #2 against the pass and are allowing a league low completion % of 57%. They are also allowing just 86 rush yards per game. Still let’s not overthink this. Give them a heavy dose of Messam along with some short inside passes and Smith using his legs. 5 out 8 games we have failed to register a first quarter point… this might be the time to start taking more chances early… what’s the worst that could happen? Not like we have much to lose at this point.
Defensively, short of miraculously discovering how to defend the pass after 8 games of being dumfounded by it, I’m not over optimistic about our chances. If you prefer most optimistic outlooks, I could point out that Ottawa is the lowest scoring team in the league, they have a non-existent run game (68 yards per game and an embarrassing 3.7 yards per attempt) and have the second most turnovers (on a Burris led team, I’m sure that shocks you). They have finally realized what I have been saying for a long time: Chevon Walker can’t be an every down back. Jeremiah Johnson will carry the load. He’s a decent back but Ottawa’s run game doesn’t overly concern me (unless the game is close in the 4th quarter then they are likely to run on us at will). Earnest Jackson is the scoring threat and Sinopoli is establishing himself as their possession receiver. That’s not to mention the speedy Chris Williams as well as Mo Price… in Price’s case I don’t mention him because he hasn’t actually done anything this season worth mentioning. At the salary they are paying him I’ll be surprised if they keep him past Labour Day. Given his ability to keep passing yards to a minimum maybe we should get him to play DB… though he’d have to play CB because he won’t go over the middle (at least according to recent twitter beefs).
D-line needs to step up and be disruptive, if they can get to Burris early, we all known his propensity for collapsing epically (and often comically). This new found ability to generate turnovers would be great to continue (though I have the feeling this might just mean we used up our turnover quota for the next month). I would be willing to risk some long passes early to dial up the pressure big time on Burris. If we allow him to get comfortable against our sad sack pass coverage we will make him look like a great QB (oh the horror!).
I expect another very competitive game, though a low scoring one. We are likely to have the lead at some point around halftime. But I’m one of the few that has not bought into the wave of optimism sweeping the province. Until we learn to defend the pass any other step forward we make is in other phases is moot. Until I see any evidence of that…
Redblacks by a 4th quarter Earnest Jackson TD.
In picking the Riders to lose this week I kinda feel like Principal Skinner when he did this...
Haha prove me wrong Riders. Prove me wrong.