Sunday the Riders return home for an afternoon match-up against the lead leading Stampeders.
Calgary is good (just another example of the quality analysis you’ve come to expect from this blog). How good? They’ve lost 1 game (to Montreal of all freakin’ teams). Their offense has scored the 2nd most points and turned the ball over the least and it features a wall of protection so good that it’s drawing Trump’s interest. The O-line has allowed just 12 sacks all year (QBs like Reilly and Jennings would kill for that kind of protection). But as impressive as the offense is, I think the defense is backbone of that team. They are allowing a microscopic 17 offensive points per game and force the most turnovers. Since losing to Montreal (which I still don’t comprehend) they haven’t allowed more than 25 points and held teams under 20 points on 6 of 8 occasions. Throw in the most dangerous returner in Roy Finch and a rock solid kicking game and you have a team that can (and has been) dominating in all 3 phases. The only real knock on them is their inability to win with some class (got your back on this once Coach Jones).
But you probably didn’t come here to listen to me extoll the virtues of the Stamps. In fact, I feel dirty going this long without saying something disparaging about them. So let’s get to how the Riders can contend with the top team in the league.
The bad news is Calgary embarrassed us last time. The good news is we plan infinitely better at home. We have never scored less than 37 points at home and our lone home loss came in overtime. Very promising to hear that Glenn and Labatte are good to go and that Carter is probable. We will need all our offensive weapons if we are going to contend with the stingy Stamps D. First and foremost we need to establish a ground game. If McAdoo slips into one off his “pass on every play” phases, we will become one dimensional and the Stamps will eat us alive (hopefully just figuratively). Last game I believe the technical term for our play in the trenches was “sucked utter balls”. We can’t let that happen again. You can bet Dennis is eager to get another chance after getting embarrassed back in July. When it comes to passing we will have to be patient and get creative. Assuming Carter plays, I expect he will see a whole lot of Tommie Campbell. That means our other receivers will need to step up and do the heavy lifting. That said, we shouldn’t be afraid to take shots to Carter occasionally. He will catch it, just ask him. We need to limit turnover and keep Glenn upright. Offense will have a tough enough job without negative plays further digging us a whole.
Defensively, a big key will be not having half the defense go down to injury (more solid analysis that you won’t find anywhere else). Our D gave a valiant effort last week but I have a feeling that Dave Dickenson will be a bit more adept at exploiting Hecht and Radford should they find themselves among our starting defenders than June Jones was (Dickenson > June Jones, the top notch analysis by me has no end). The Calgary O is a lot like a used mini-van: not much to look at, doesn’t have that wow factor, but will get you where you need to go. Their recipe is simple give Mitchell time (he enjoys a level of protection that most world leaders don’t), don’t turn the ball over (league low 11 turnovers), stay committed to the run (though the possible absence of Messams could greatly impact that) and be opportunistic when chances for big passes come up. Best way to combat that starts up front. Much like our O-line, our D-line was embarrassed in Calgary. We need to win in the trenches to limit the run and force Mitchell to throw without the benefit of enough time to do the Sunday Crossword. There is a chance one or both of Kamar Jorden and DaVaris Daniels could play which improves the Stamp pass attack. Though assuming Foster can last a full game, we have the talent to compete with them with him Johnson, and Gainey (who in following with his trend will get 0 INTs and then 2-3 next week). I don’t see us hanging our usual 38 on the Stamp D so our D will need keep them under 25 points for us to have a legit shot.
Special Teams could also be a big factor and I’m not just talking about the famed running ability of Rob Maver. Roy Finch has been lethal in returns. Early in the year our kick coverage was top notch but that has been visibly slipping of late. Hopefully additions like Knox, Bouka and Brouillette will help shore that up because we can’t afford the give big plays to Finch. I personally suggest that Brouilette (who will continue to practice law) threaten to sue Finch if he has a gain over 20 yards. That’s the kind of out of the box thinking we need to topple the mighty Stamps.
Realistically we should be targeting a minimum of 10 wins to get into the playoffs. That means going 4-3 over our remaining games. More specifically that translates to going 3-1 against out eastern opponents and 1-2 against the west. Should be pretty doable. This match-up is second only to our road game in Calgary next months in terms of the toughest games we have left. So it probably won’t surprise you to hear I’m skeptical about our chances in this one. We are a powerhouse at home so I don’t see Calgary bending us over like they did back in July. That said, I have yet to see a reason to doubt Calgary. They are strong in every phase of the game. It will take 60 full minutes of our very best ball to beat them. Thus far even in our wins, I have seen stretches of the game where we don’t play our best. It will be a close game and we will go toe to toe with them until the end but…
Stamps by a Marken Mitchel TD late in the 4th.