Thursday, October 6, 2016

Riders vs. RedBlacks: Back at It

Friday the Riders travel to the land of mediocrity aka the East Division for a match-up against the 6-6-1 RedBlacks. The last match-up back in June of course featured the highly anticipated Gale vs. Jensen match-up as Harris got injured early. It resulted in the Riders’ first win of the season… a fact that I don’t think the Redblacks were made fun of for nearly enough. The RedBlacks will be looking to separate themselves from the crap that is the rest of the East division (or barring that, suck slightly less than everyone else in order to maintain their lead in the division). The Riders will be looking to extend their winning streak to 3 (they haven’t lost in close to a month!). The wins may be meaningless but the boost to team and fan morale as they build towards 2017 is huge.

Coming off the bye week you may need some reminders on who is and isn’t with the team anymore as there were a number of changes that occurred. Willie Jefferson, Jeff Fuller and Henoc Mumba are in. Kendial Lawrence and Derrius Brooks are out (though unless you are a devoted follower of the team you probably won’t even remember Brooks as he spent all year on the injured list). These all look like great additions (and all have signed beyond just this season) and I’m very excited about all 3. But perhaps temper elation just a bit for a few games. Let’s not forget we were also excited when we signed Chiles, Lemon, and Lawrence.

Ottawa’s offense is a curious case. On paper they have unbelievable firepower evidenced by the fact that they lead the league in passing yards and completion %. But they are only #6 in scoring. Three things are holding them back. The first is their O-line… it’s been struggling. They have lowest gain per rush in the CFL and they allow the 2nd most sacks. The loss of SirVincent Rogers puts a massive hole in a unit that wasn’t firing on all cylinders before. The second is the revolving door at RB. Since their #1 guy William Powell went down in preseason, they have started 4 different guys. At the rate they are going, I’m slated to start game 17 for them. The final thing is Chris Williams (you heard me). After starting the season looking completely unstoppable, Williams has been inconsistent and unproductive most weeks. Consider these stat lines:

Chris Williams first 4 games: 36 targets, 31 receptions, 556 yards, 6 TDs
Chris Williams last 9 games: 76 targets, 43 receptions, 650 yards, 3 TDs

Some of the drops he’s been making even Chris Getzlaf would make fun of him for. Still he’s insanely dangerous as are his counterparts Jackson, Ellingson and Sinopoli so the secondary will have their work cut out for them. Key will be attacking that beleaguered O-line. If Harris has time he will dissect us. Even if we don’t get to him (which, looking at our sack numbers is a pretty safe bet), simply hurrying him or forcing him to move his launch point will help. The lack of a credible run game may open up chances to blitz our LBs more.

As for our offense, the key will be patience. Ottawa allows the third least yards and is number 2 against the run. Their biggest issue is their undisciplined play leads to a ton of defensive penalties. They lead the league in that category and it costs them. We need to take what the defense gives and wait for them to Plaxico Burress themselves (or I guess updating that referencing Aqib Talib themselves). We can and should take shots downfield but should do so sparingly and use the run game and the short/medium passes (like we saw against Hamilton). Ottawa’s outside pass rushers don’t overly scare me but one guy in particular in the middle needs to be kept in check… Zach Evans. He’s flourishing in his first full year as a starter. It’s too bad we never had the chance to keep him here… oh wait. Our O will need to do their part to keep us in this game as I see the big receivers for Ottawa putting up points.

Here’s a surprising fact: the Riders have won more home games this season than Ottawa. Then again the Riders are winless on the road so take that with a grain of salt. In fact the last 2 eastern games the Riders played they lost by a combined score of 94-10. You can blame the night life in Montreal… not sure what the excuse in Hamilton was... steel mills and ?

I honestly don’t know how this game will go. The Riders have been playing better and are coming off a bye. That could either lead to them coming out refreshed and firing on all cylinders or flat and slow going. The RedBlacks have been super inconsistent (tie the top ranked Stamps yet lose to Logan Kilgore and Mitchell Gale) so they are beatable. That said, they are not completely injury ravaged like Hamilton was and actually have semblance of a defense unlike Edmonton so they will be the toughest test we've faced in a while. 

I expect a close game but since I can't decide I'm going to play the odds and bet against the team that has yet to win on the road. Seems they do better when I bet against them anyway.

RedBlacks by a Sinopoli TD (I need the Fantas-eh points)

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