Tonight the Riders are in Edmonton to face the 7-1 Eskimos. The Esks are looking to rebound from their first loss of the season. The Riders are looking to prove that the BC game was not an aberration and they can actually contend with the big boys in the West. Doing that will require overcoming a bad habit they have developed this season… playing like embarrassing piles of garbage on the road.
At home we average a whopping 39 points per game. On the road we average a miniscule 13.7 including failing to score any points whatsoever in the first quarter and scoring a total of 10 first half points in 3 road games. We seem to particularly go to hell in the trenches on the road. In our last 2 road games we have given up a total of 343 rushing yards defensively and 7 sacks offensively. Whatever the pregame rituals have been on the road (likely taking in the local nightlife) have been, they need to change.
Edmonton reminds me a lot of the 2008 Roughriders with their hot start despite an insane amount of injuries. The big difference is that they still have a franchise QB while we were reduced to relying on Michael Bishop. The Esks have shown tremendous depth to thrive despite an injury to pretty much every player not named Reilly. The bad news for us is that they seem to be getting healthy now as the likes of Zylstra and Sewell will return.
Defensively this game is all about containing Reilly… good luck with that. He leads the league’s top passing attack and is a leading candidate thus far for MOP. He is as talented on the field as his choice in hats is poor off the field. Any chance of disrupting him starts up front. If we can’t get pressure on him then we might as well just piggy back their receivers into the endzone. Our secondary needs to step up even more so this week as they won’t have the benefit of the QB launching errant throws all over the field like Jennings did. Get pressure, avoid giving up the big pass plays (which Edmonton thrives on) and try and force more FGs than TDs. Even if we play solid defense (which is no guarantee) I don’t see us keeping the Esks under 25 points.
Defensively the Esks are anchored by the best front 4 in the CFL. Not only do they look to be getting Sewell back for this game (one of the top DTs in the game). They also are the beneficiaries of the Ti-Cats sucktitude and add John Chick. Given how well we play on the road, the prospect of facing a Chick-Sewell-Cummings-Willis front 4 is downright scary (***edit*** seems Cummings is out but it’s still an intimidating front 4). Our O-line has to step up. Our OC also needs to step and bring a game play designed to slow down that rush. Glenn needs to be rolling, using swing passes and most importantly handing the damn ball off! The Esks can be rushed on. They have the 3rd worst run defense and allow a League worst 5.6 yds/carry. We also can’t be afraid to test that secondary early. Let’s make Roosevelt and Carter earn their salary and take shots. Most importantly we need to actually start playing at kickoff. Another slow road start will kill us in this game. We need points and we need them early. I think 30 points minimum is what we are going to need to win.
A couple other random notes, our cover teams (which have been really good thus far) will have a big test trying to contain Chris Edwards. He has quietly established himself as one of the top returners so far. Discipline could also play a role in the game. We are relatively well disciplined; the Esks are about as disciplined as their head coach.
My thoughts on our chances of this game have been all over the map. A few weeks into the season I would have put our odds of victory in this one on par with Hamilton’s win total. Last week, the prospect of playing them without a lot of their big name players gave me a fair bit of hope. Then John Chick showed up and dashed that (stupid Ti-Cats!). Where I have settled is that I am in “prove it” mode. For all the excitement following the BC win I feel the need to remind you that we are an atrocious road team playing the hottest QB in the league. Sometimes it’s better not to over-complicate things.
I do expect us to actually play some competent road football and make this a competitive game. I also promise that if we do somehow win, it will allay much of the skepticism I have about our chances this season. But until they prove otherwise…
Esks by 10