Friday the Riders travel to Edmonton to probably get beaten handily… err I mean to play the Eskimos. These 2 teams last met in Week 3 and that honestly seems like an eternity ago. Optimism was high in Riderville back then. We went toe to toe with the defending champs in an absolutely thrilling game that we should have won. Despite the loss it seemed Jones was well on his to building this team into a winner. Fast forward 7 weeks, 3 fines and more player turnover than I can count and the hope that was instilled in our last match-up has pretty much dried up. Our definition of a good week is no longer “win a game” but rather, “score one TD and manage not to get fined”. The only thing trending upwards on the prairies at this point is whiskey sales (something I have a large part in).
Offensively, the good news is that it probably can’t be worse than last week. Durant will bounce back from a brutal outing. We are playing a lower calibre defense (the only D worse than the Esks is the Riders). Also, short of Durant lining up under the tackle to receive the snap or a receiver being knocked unconscious by a pass hitting their head, I’m not sure it’s possible to be worse than last week. A few personnel changes expected. Bagg is out with what I and my zero years of medical training have diagnosed as a tweaked hamstring. Fulton is back (yeah a shred of good news) and Hall is takes over for St John at guard. Also John Chiles has been cut (I’ll have more on that in my Monday Sentimonies). The Esks D is like a less comical version of ours. They have an atrocious secondary who allow 70% of passes to be completed (that’s worse than us). They can’t muster a sack to save their soul (again only we have less) and they give up 28 points per game. Any chance for success starts in the trenches. Our line got worked over in Hamilton and Durant may be a hell of a player but he is not a miracle worker. He needs protection. Priority 1 is keep him upright. Then I would attack, attack, attack. We are 1-7 no sense being cautious now, not like we have anything to lose. Take shots to Roosevelt and Collins. Demski involved in the short to medium range. Toss the odd pass out wide to Chambers. Be aggressive as opposed to relying on our usual offensive plan of “suck as hope desperate challenges will result in first downs we didn’t deserve”. With an offense as potent as the Esks, our D won’t be winning us this game. O needs to go in with the attitude that they need 30 points min.
Defensively, we just need to do our best to not let this turn into a blowout. Even the league’s best defenses struggle to contain Bowman and Walker, so it’s not like we can expect to be the ones to finally figure it out. To be fair though, we did hold Walker to 51 yards in our first meeting so there’s a glimmer of hope. We can’t hope to stop Reilly (currently on pace for 6000 yards) but slowing him down enough to give our offense a chance to win the game is possible. In the last few games Reilly has taken a pounding… so he’ll probably appreciate match-up against our line where his odds of being contacted are minimal. Seriously though, our D-line needs to disrupt Reilly. Hit him, make him move, make him throw (preferably before he has time to make pancakes, call his mom, and re-enact portions of his favourite Shakespeare plays). AC Leonard is hurt so we are logically replacing the converted TE with a converted basketball player in Tony Criswell. He’s 6’8 so if nothing else maybe his giant arms can knock down a pass. With the way the season has been going I fully expect to see him in coverage on Bowman at some point. We’ll need a turnover to have a chance in this and looking at our roster that will pretty much have to come from one of Cox, Foster or Greg Jones. Maybe the addition of Fred Bennett will give our secondary a boost.
One final note is that Special Teams have been an issue for Edmonton. They are dead last in punting average, kickoff average, and punt return average. If we could get a big play on teams it would go a long way to boosting our slim chances in this game.
By now you’ve astutely surmised that I am picking the Eskimos to win. This is a game where an upset is not completely out of the realm of possibility I can’t in good conscious pick the Riders in this one.
Esks by 14.