Saturday the Riders are in Toronto for the final stop on their eastern tour, an afternoon match-up against the East leading Argos. Despite their 7-7 record a win damn near clinches them the East division crown… which is kind of like being named the coolest kid at a D and D convention. The Riders’ magic number to punch their ticket to the post season is 4 (any combination of Rider wins or BC losses amounting to 4). I’m too lazy to figure out how Edmonton plays into this but they do. The Argos have won 3 straight but balance that stat with the fact that they are 1 and 5 vs. the West with their lone victory coming against the Esks.
The last time these 2 teams met was in July where the Riders prevailed 38-27 but many things will be different about this game. Toronto is not coming of a short week and playing in sweltering heat. Toronto is not missing half of their D-line (Butler and Laing will play this time). And most importantly the game is not being played at Mosaic Stadium meaning the Argos will have home field advantage this time… well I suppose it’s more accurate to say they won’t have the disadvantage of playing on the road as I’m not sure they derive an advantage from the home crowd. Needless to say, the complexion of this game will be very different than our Week 6 meeting.
Offensively we actually need to do something. That would be a good start. We have been abysmal for the past 10 quarters. We are used to putting up more points in a game than we have over that timeframe. I have this crazy notion that Ricky Ray will be moderately more productive than Ryan Lindley so our defense will likely need some help in this one to get the victory. Obviously getting Roosevelt back is huge and hopefully that will help Glenn get back into a groove. Toronto leads the League in sacks so our O-line will need to step up and give him time to throw. We could of course help the O-line out by establishing a ground game but McAdoo seems to be avoiding the run like it has SARS or something (do people still remember SARS or to I need to use a new pandemic to keep my commentary more topical?). In the 4 games we’ve played without Marshall our RBs have produced rushing totals of 59, 34, 15 and 52. That’s left our offense one dimensional and struggling as a result. Sadly our chances to revive the ground game rest with Trent Richardson (who I’ve made no secret about my skepticism of him) but I guess it’s not like he can do worse than we’ve been doing. Run the damn ball! The Argos will be missing LB Marcus Ball so we should be able to attack the middle a bit more. We need to get Roosevelt and Carter going. Bakari Grant is like an American Chris Getzlaf. Productive as hell as the #3 option but unable to sustain that when he’s the #1 or 2 receiver. We’ve slept through the first 3 quarters of the last 2 games. We can’t let that happen again. If we can’t come out swinging early and get points on the board before half then we are screwed.
Defensively, I’m going to make a bold prediction that Marc Trestman has figured out that we are terrible at stopping the run. We rank 2nd only to Montreal in rushing yards allowed and when you are in the realm of Montreal in anything statistically that’s a bad thing. Since Nick James (I’m Nick James bitch! Haven’t got to say that in a while) went down, we have been allowing 144 yards rushing per game, compared to just 87 yds/game prior to his injury. Now it just so happens that Trestman has a hot RB at his disposal who has 566 yards from scrimmage over the past 3 game. What do you think he’s going to do? They are going to run until we prove we can stop it. We need to counter with pressure and pretty much anything but 3 man rush. The Argos have allowed the most sacks this year and are once again without veteran tackle Chris Van Zeyl. You want to neutralize the run and limit Ricky Ray? Put pressure on a struggling O-line. Attacking them as opposed to dropping back into coverage is our best bet. As much as we don’t appear to be able to stop the run even if an inanimate cardboard cut-out lined up at RB, I have to give a ton of credit to the D as they have not allowed more than 19 points in the past 3 games. In a league geared for offense that is impressive. The Argos have scored the 3rd least points so if we can limit the run then I like our chances of keeping the score low. Limit the run, harass Ray in the pocket, that’s the recipe for success.
I expect special teams to play a factor in this as well. We know what Christion Jones can do and Martese Jackson has 3 return TDs this season. We need to build on the strong kick coverage we’ve had the past couple games and look to spring Jones on a few long ones.
I think this will be a very close game. Toronto is not a team that can be taken lightly. Our first meeting was closer than the score reflects and that was at home. I have faith in our defense to get the job done (though I’d prefer if they found a way of doing that that didn’t involve getting torched on the ground) they have been playing lock down D and that should continue. That means the game hinges on our offenses ability to not look like they have over the past 3 weeks. My hope is that the return of Roosevelt gives them the boost they need to get out of this slump. Tough to win back to back road games but I think the character built over the past couple gritty wins pays off and we win another ugly one… not Ottawa ugly but ugly nonetheless.
Riders by a Roosevelt TD.