While the Riders are firmly into 2016 mode, the competent teams in the league still have some meaningful football to play. So I decided to devote this post to breaking down the division semi-finals. For 1, I could use a break from writing about the Riders (it’s a pretty big buzzkill). For 2, I have a whole offseason worth of blog space to fill and I don’t want to use up all my Rider material (GM/coach search, needed roster changes, etc…) before there is actually nothing to write about. Otherwise I might be reduced to posting photo journals of my poor attempts at Lego building with my children and Grandpa Simpson style “here’s what’s wrong with society” rants.
East-Semi: Toronto @ Hamilton
In a truly CFL moment, this game will actually feature 2 home teams. Hamilton being the actual home team and Toronto being a home team pretty much anywhere but their actual home. Had Zach Collaros stayed healthy I don’t think any team could have stopped the Ti-Cats from winning the Cup. His injury instantly changed the playoff landscape, particularly in the East. They have a dangerous defense and special teams but with a philosophical refusal to run the ball and no real aerial threat they will need to grind out a close with if they hope to move on. For the Argos, being able to turn to a guy like Ricky Ray come playoff time because your young hot-shot QB was struggling is a pretty sweet deal. Much like Hamilton, Toronto really doesn’t run much so their fate is tied to the arm of Ray. To me this one boils down to big plays like turnovers and big kick returns. Hamilton does them better than anyone and will need them to help take pressure off Masoli. They will also need to counter the turnovers Masoli is likely to cough up. He certainly looked better last week than he did last year (he was awful last year in relief of Collaros) but he still isn’t able to carry that team offensively.
My gut says either a pick 6 or a kick return TD will be the difference as Hamilton feeds off the home crowd on route to a very narrow victory.
West-Semi: BC @ Calgary
BC has had a resurgence of sorts under Jonathan Jennings. Remember there was a time where people weren’t convinced Jeff Tedford or even Wally Buono would last the season. Banish the ginger, change QBs and suddenly BC manages to surge past the pile of garbage teams with which they used to wallow at the bottom of the CFL standings. For me, this game comes down to one match-up: a rookie QB in Jonathan Jennings vs. defensive guru Rich Stubler. He has managed to stymy some of the best QBs in the game, odds of him preying on Jennings’ lack of experience are good. Calgary allowed a league-low 16.1 offensive points per game. Calgary hasn’t really been dominating teams like last year but they keep finding ways to win. BC’s best player, Andrew Harris, appears to be counting down the days until he gets the hell out of BC. Not exactly the kind of laser-like focus you’d want from one of your star players. Another matchup to watch: Eric Fraser vs. Eric Rogers…. Well pretty much any Stamp receiver as Fraser is so non-impactful at safety that I’ve previously mused he would have been a perfect fit on the Riders D this season.
Stamps by 10