As much as I have enjoyed basking in the warm fuzzy feelings of last week’s win, here’s a hard dose of reality. After a relatively soft opening schedule, we now enter 5 straight games against Western rivals. To legitimately have a shot at the playoffs we need to go at least 3-2 over these 5 games. To accomplish that we will need to do 2 things we haven’t done this season. 1) Beat a west team. 2) Win on the road. First chance to accomplish that comes Saturday as we travel to BC for an evening game against the 4-2 Lions.
At first blush this game is concerning. BC is 4 and 2 and their only loses have come against Edmonton. They have a full arsenal of offensive weapons that has scored more offensive TDs than anyone. On defense they boast a number of big name playmakers. And they are coached by the all-time winningest coach in CFL history (who is already standing halfway on the field in anticipation of the game). We also haven’t won in BC since 2014 (though I guess you could say that about a lot of places). But while I’m not going into this game with a ton of confidence, based on what I’ve seen from BC this year I do think we have a chance (and not just if the Lions forget the game is on Saturday and have to forfeit).
A big key is this game will be the Riders’ offense not playing like crap on the road (that’s some top notch analysis I know). At home we are lighting up the score sheet averaging 38 points per game… on the road we are averaging just 13. We have just 2 totals TDs on the road this season… 2. We also have been starting super slow on the road with just 10 first half points over 2 games. That kind of output simply will not cut it (unless we convince the league to let us play Hamilton every week). BC is beat up in the secondary (with TJ Lee out long-term) so there will be favourable match-ups to be had with our receivers. The tendency would be to want to keep Carter’s monstrous momentum going and I agree with keeping him involved but if BC is keying on Carter we need to be prepared to attack with Roosevelt, Carter, Holley or even one of the Canadians. Glenn needs to be effective early and not create turnovers. We need another strong week from Marshall. Elimimian always makes running tough but the Lions are allowing 5.3 yards per carry (top in the CFL) so a strong runner like Marshall should be able to chew up the yards and take pressure off Glenn. Much like last week I don’t see our defense winning us this game so the offense will likely need 25 points minimum to give us a chance.
Defensively I think this will be our toughest challenge to date. There are just so many legit weapons to have to contain. Jeremiah Johnson has a TD in every game this season. Arceneaux is one of the top WRs in the league (though he has been slowed by a knee injury of late). If you manage to keep both of those in check then they can hit you with Moore, Rainey and Burnham. And as if that isn’t enough, all signs point to Chris Williams making his BC debut. I recommend starting to pray to the deity of your choosing as divine intervention may be needed. But BC has 2 weaknesses that we can hopefully exploit. The first and most glaring is that their O-line couldn’t block an inanimate bowl of fruit, let alone a living breathing defender. It seems the Lions have finally clued into the fact that David Foucault is a train wreck at guard and they will be sitting him. Even so, the BC O-line is not very good. All the great receivers in the world won’t help you if you’re on your ass. If there was ever a game not to bother with 3 man rush, this is it. Attack that line and make life miserable for Lulay. Last week the BC offense sputtered until finally gave into the fact that they could not block and started calling plays where blocking wasn’t required (i.e. screens) so we need to watch for that adjustment. The other weakness is Lulay himself. While he has admittedly been playing great, he’s throwing a ton of picks. He has 6 in just 3 games. Now the issue here is that we have the least takeaways in the league. We have just 2 INTs this season and one was essentially by accident. That needs to change. I see us struggling to defend so a turnover or 2 will be needed if we want to give our offense a chance. Odd stat for you: the Riders have allowed the 2nd least passing yards this year (I would have bet money against this being true). Though we have allowed the most passing TDs. I guess it means we play reasonably well but when we screw up it’s a big screw up.
The last thing worth mentioning is kicking. Tyler Crapigna is out so Quinn van Gylswyk draws in for his second career game. He went 1 for 3 in his lone appearance last year so let’s hope he fares better this time around.
If you had asked me 2 weeks ago I would have placed our odds of victory at “laughable” but between BC’s injuries and crap O-line, I now upgrade our odds of victory to “in the realm of possibilities”. I expect a close game but honestly until I see evidence that we can play well on the road and contend with a West top end West team, I’m not about to expect us to win.
BC by a long passing TD to Burnham late in the fourth.