At this point I’m surprised most of you still read this column. Last week I pretty much said the Riders’ chance of victory was on par with the chances that Michael Bishop is inducted into the Plaza of Honour. The Riders proceeded to go out and win. To be fair, I couldn’t have predicted the Harris injury (just another reason why I’m surprised you people still accept me as a prophet). The point is, I think I should just keep predicting cataclysmic loses for the good of the team.
Friday Mitchell Gale leads the Riders into Montreal in search of their second victory of the season. Given the current state of our team I’m reluctant to trash other teams… but let’s be honest, Montreal is a hot mess right now. Their only victory this season came against the lowly Bombers in week 1. Since that game they have averaged just 12 points per game and lost by an average margin of 17 points per game. But the on-field performance is only part of the story. All signs point to a very ugly situation off the field. There’s the fact that Noel Thorpe tried to leave but was forced to stay; the ongoing drama production that is Duron Carter; the mind boggling decision by the team to fine Nik Lewis for showing some leadership; and probably more issues that have yet to hit the public eye. This is all a product of Jim Popp’s decision to coach this team. His track record as a GM is pretty good, but a coach he is not. So it’s little surprise to see everything crumbling under his watch.
Defensively this will be a match-up of the league’s worst offense vs. the league’s worst defense (hopefully TSN comes up with something better for their promo video for this game). Montreal has scored just 5 TDs this season, have the second worst passing attack and the second most giveaways. The loss of SJ Green, Kenny Stafford and Terrell Sutton was pretty devastating. Obviously that leaves stopping Duron Carter as priority #1. We managed to shut down Williams last week so there is hope. Thick Nik is still a reliable possession receiver with the ability to gain yards after the catch (mainly because “wrapping up” when tackling is damn near impossible on him). Also, Brandon Rutley is a threat both as a runner and receiver. Still if Carter can be contained then Montreal’s offense will fizzle. D-line has put in 2 pretty decent games now and that needs to continue. Part of that is Chris Jones noticeably dialling up the pressure and relying less on that damn 3 man rush. We need them to be disruptive to help out our secondary. I fully expect the usual bust in coverage leading to a long TD but overall I think this D is up to the challenge of containing an offense that even Duron Carter’s girlfriend apparently thinks is awful.
Offensively, I suggest you begin praying to your deity of choice because we need some divine intervention. This has nothing to do with Gale. He seems to be handling himself pretty good all things considered. This has everything to do with fielding an O-line that I can't even call patchwork because it’s now a step below that. Coleman is now the lone starter left and he’s joined by a ragtag group that instills confidence in pretty much no now. We were a team with highly questionable OL depth coming into the season and now we are in a situation where St John is one of our most experienced OL by virtue of making his 3rd appearance. With guys like John Bowman and Gabriel Knapton coming at them, you can see why I might be a bit concerned. It's at this point that I make my weekly mention that I wish we would run the damn ball. We have rushed a league low 54 times. It's just ridiculous. Help out the O-line and QB by running. It just so happens to be Montreal's biggest weakness as they allow a league high 117 yards per game. Looks like Dyer will carry the rock, which suits me just fine because I've made my thoughts on Steele pretty clear. Running (even a little bit) will help open up the passing game. Als have the #3 pass D but oddly enough are allowing a league high 76% completion percentage (probably just get tired from the being left out so often by the O). So that tells me we need to be patient but not be afraid to take deep shots when they are there. Als will be bumping up to take away the short passes so deep shots will be available if we can buy time with a rollout or play action.
A couple other advantages I see for the RIders in this game:
- Discipline: We have taken the least penalties in the League (including just 6 accepted offensive penalties) while the Als are the second most penalized.
- Kicking: Fresh off a massive game winning kick, confidence in Crapigna is sky high. Bede on the other hand is beyond brutal. He's just 5 of 12... that 42%!
A large part of me wants to take the Riders in this one. This is a winnable game against a weak opponent. My only reservation is our abomination of an O-line. They scare me against a D as good as Montreal. Not sure we'll be able to overcome that. Especially since we refuse to run. Besides, given how well the Riders play when I predict them to lose, I'm going to do the responsible thing and say
Als by 3