Saturday the 0-2 Riders host the 2-1 BC Lions. Both teams will be looking to avenge losses suffered last week. The Riders will also be honouring the 1966 championship team. Personally I hope they give us the full 1966 experience. I'm talking spirographs handed out, the Monkeys playing on the P/A system and audio quotes reminding us that Beatles are bigger than Jesus.
A week ago I was a lot more apprehensive about this game than I am now. BC is still a good team but the Argos showed they are beatable. Also, our team took a big step forward last week (albeit while still failing miserably at one of the most straightforward plays in football). While BC still enters as the favourite, I think the match-up is a lot closer than it would have been had we met a week or 2 earlier.
BC's resurgence has been powered by a very strong defense and Chris Rainey on special teams. The defense has allowed the least yards and points of any team (just 15.3 points/game). This has masked an offense that has not been very good at all. I guess that's not entirely accurate. They have the top rushing attack but their passing attack has been about as effective Johnny Manziel's rehab efforts. They are averaging just 20.7 points per game (2nd last in the league) and have the least passing yards. A lot of this stems from the struggles of Jonathan Jennings. He is completing just 58% of his passes and has just one passing TD. It got so bad that Buono finally had to pull him from the last game.
Jennings will start again and by no means can you write him off yet. Defensively, stopping him starts with taking away the run. That O-line has been very good in run blocking and former Rider Anthony Allen looked really good last week. A major factor in that will be the play of our D-line. I have been underwhelmed with their play so far. The trade for McInley shows that Jones feels improvement is needed as well. We only have 2 sacks this season and while I know sacks aren't the be all end all, we need our front 4 to have a bigger impact. If we can contain the run, it will force Jennings to rely on his arm and based on recent play that gives us a good chance to win. Now they have receivers like Arceneaux who can score on any play so our secondary will need to find a way to limit the big plays we saw last week in Edmonton. Can't forget that Jennings has a strong arm.
Offensively don't expect the air show we saw last week, the Esks secondary is very porous right now whereas the Lions are currently the top D in the league. It will take a lot more patient and methodical approach to best them. Cutting Bryant Moniz certainly helps cut down the turnovers so that's a good start. Giving Steele more than 8 carries is probably a good idea. The Argos were able to control the game thanks to 152 yards from scrimmage on 20 touches from Whitaker. Can't become 1 dimensional and expect success. Durant needs to keep spreading the ball out like he did last week. It will keep the D from keying in on any one player. I have a feeling this could be Bagg's biggest game of the season. O-line will have their hands full as the Lions lead the CFL with 11 sacks. We have allowed just 1 sack so far so I think we are up to the challenge (provided we keep ourselves out of 3rd and inches situations).
The last note on BC is special teams will need to play their best as we can't allow a big Chris Rainey play in the return game. Play smart, maintain lanes and leave BC's offense a long field to work with. It would be nice if our own return guy could make a big impact but at this point I'm just happy if he maintains possession.
Maybe I'm overly optimistic, or maybe I've started my Craven drinking earlier than normal but I think we can win this game. We'll need to eliminate the big mistakes but our team is really starting to come together and with the home crowd energy to feed off, this could very well be the game were we get in the win column. I can guarantee that it won't be easy and that Arceneaux will score a TD of 40+ yards. I would say this is the week that Jones gets the Gatorade shower but I'm pretty sure he's informed the team that anyone who does that will be cut.
Riders by a John Chiles TD
Win or lose there will just be something right in the universe again when we can collectively yell "Get Off The Field Wally!"