Normally I would use this space to breakdown the key match-ups in the game, the strength and weaknesses of each team and what the Riders need to do to win. Given that what the Riders need to do to win involves either locking the Eskimos in their hotel room or convincing them that the game has been moved the New Mosaic, I won’t bother wasting time on that. Edmonton is a 4 loss team fighting for first place in the west. We are a 2 win team that is treating this like a slightly more important version of a preseason game. Simply put, we won’t be winning. Though if by some miracle (likely many simultaneous miracles) we do win, I plan on partying like we won the Cup.
Rather than breakdown match-ups I will instead talk a bit about what I will be looking for in this game… you know other than stocking up on beer tokens because odds are good of a price hike next year.
1 – Brett Smith
His first start came against the Eskimos a few months back and he predictably preformed like a raw rookie would against the top D in the League (i.e. terribly). While I still expect struggles, this will be a good gauge as to how far he has progressed since being thrust into the starter’s role. I’m looking for him to be better this time around.
2 – Keith Price
Likely due in large part to the lobbying I have been doing for weeks (you’re welcome), Coach Dyce confirmed Price will see playing time. He may flame out, he may show promise, either way I’m excited to finally see him in action.
3 – Anthony Allen/Chad Spann
This will be the first time since the early days of 2014 where Allen is the unquestioned starter. The time in between saw Hugh Charles, Will Ford, Jerome Messam and the Space Cowboy come and go. If he can run hard, block well and most importantly not fumble, he will make a strong case for the starting job next year. As for Spann, I know nothing about him but it would be nice if he could show something.
4 – D-line
Hall (injury) and George (just being shut down) are out meaning there is a huge opportunity for our back-ups, particularly the Canadians, to show they can be valuable contributors on D even if its just in a rotational role. I have been pumping Ainsworth’s tires for a few weeks (which historically is akin to the kiss of death so my apologies in advance for derailing Ainsworth’s career) so hopefully he can step up and take the next step in his career.
5 – Secondary
At this point any remotely decent play by that group will be a welcome sign... as well as a massive improvement. Green is moving to CB and MacDougall will see time at safety (clearly Dyce and O’Day have been reading my blog and valuing my input as I suggested that on Monday). The good news is that Adarius Bowman’s catching ability seems to decrease the more space you give him so that plays well into our defensive strengths.
6 – Linebackers
Loving the prospect of Knox and Doughty working together again. Brack has been shut down in what I say is a very telling sign on his future here. Likely not a done deal but I expect Brack will want more $ than we are willing to offer after his play this season. What I want from the LBs that do play is solid tackling. At this point my expectation have been lowered to the point that I don’t even care how many yards they get before we tackle them. I will settle for solid form tackles on the first try (I know I’m asking a lot).
Tough to get really pumped for a game you know we will lose but I am excited to see what the potential stars of tomorrow can bring to the table against a team playing at the highest level. Wetaher will be pretty darn good for late fall on the prairies so hopefully I won’t be only one there… though if I am, the 50/50 is all mine.