Saturday features a match-up so far off the marquee that if it were not the second also game ever at old Mosaic, people might not care. One team comes into this game on a role, playing their best football of the year just in time for the final stretch, stabilizing their roster and generally giving their fans something to get excited about. The other team comes in just trying to find a fire extinguisher that will keep the dumpster fire moderately under control. They have won just 1 of their last 6, their GM just cut their top 2 receivers (just one of many crazy roster decisions this season), they are giving a rookie QB his first start, limping down the stretch and generally giving their fans reasons pursue other sporting interests. The amazing thing here is that the latter is the one that still has a playoff shot (granted the odds are so slim that it would take 4 miracles and a government legislated intervention to actually materialize).
Coming into this year Montreal was essentially an extremely talented defense that was saddled with a mediocre offense. This year they are essentially a talented defense that has been gutted by headscratching attempts to save money (that evidently aren't working as the $300k over cap rumor just won't go away) and is saddled with a mediocre offense that has also been gutted and a crazy GM... and a terrible kicker... and, well in the interest of brevity I'll stop there. (As an asside it feels really weird to spend two weeks in a row blasting opponents for being gong shows given how our season went down).
Our defense will be missing Hecht and Cox which I think will provide a huge test for how far this defense has come. The secondary has remained unchanged for close to 2 months now. How will a new combination fare? The good news is that Montreal barely qualifies as being able to be referred to as an offense. They have the least yards gained this year and second last in points scored... and that was before they cut Duron Carter and Kenny Stafford and turned to a rookie QB with 4 completions to his name as their starter. Never like facing a QB without much film on him but given the general potency of the Als offense, I'm not sure we should be concerned. It starts upfront, the Als O-line is dreadful (most sacks allowed). Our front 4 need to make life miserable for Adams all day. Three things we need to watch, 1) Brandon Rutley is a very talented RB so we need to keep him in check. 2) With a new safety and without Cox as our lockdown DB I could see a bust in coverage leading to a big play for a guy like Cunningham. Gotta limit those. 3) Nik Lewis will get his catches. I'm sure his gravitational pull must help the ball come his way.
Offensively, I think we all want to see what Joe McKnight has for an encore. The Als have the worst run defense in the league so its a prime match-up for him. Feed him the ball until someone proves they can stop it. At this point in the season the debate is of course how much to play Durant as opposed to evaluating new guys. Its a home game, the team is on a role, I say give the fans what they want and let Durant play. The final road game can be for the back-ups but in the final home games at Mosaic give us our franchise QB well into the 4th at a minimum. Als have the #2 pass D and are #2 in points allowed so it won't be a cake walk if we can't get the run game going. But with contributions from Holley, Collins, Craig, Bagg and Demski, I think we have the firepower to put up at least more than the 2 FGs the Als offense will be producing (unless Bede is kicking again... then you can only count on half of that).
As a team eliminated from the playoffs I don't like being cocky but the Riders are playing with a great level of confidence, while the Als are just counting down the days until this dreadful season is over and their rebuild can begin. After 2 weeks on the road, the roar of the home crowd should give the Riders the boost they need to get a victory that should easily be their's.
Riders by 14.
Given that is the second last game at old Mosaic, I'm planning on getting an early start on calling dibs on all the stuff I'll be taking home as a memento. So I call dibs on my bench in the stands, the north goal post and the Max Tron.