Well here you have it Rider Nation, after spending much of the season lamenting that we did not play in the much weaker East division, we now have an opportunity to represent the East in the Grey Cup. I doubt many thought we would find ourselves one game away from the Grey Cup after our offseason/rocky start. Turns out there may be method to Jones’ madness (though I will say that at time he is a bit heavy on the madness even for my liking). At a combined age of 243, Glenn and Ray may be the oldest combined starting QB age in playoff history (at least if you exclude games where Damon Allen played).
That East-Semi win was sweet but we have to put that behind us as Toronto represents a very different type of challenge. Unlike Ottawa I don’t expect Trestman to not try and pressure Glenn and forget he has a good running back at his disposal. Jones and his staff we need to come up with new game plans on both sides of the ball.
Offensively the key will be dealing with pressure. I don’t know what game film Rick Campbell watched but let’s assume Cory Chamblin (Chamberlin as he’s still often referred to around these parts) watched the vast amounts of footage showing Kevin Glenn/our line struggling when pressure is sent. Toronto has a very talented front 4 and thus the ability to get pressure without relying on blitzing (though you can bet those will come too). Our O-line will need to step up and play their best. McAdoo can also help by keeping Thigpen heavily involved. Toronto is #1 against the run so it may be slow going at times but we need to stay committed to keep the offense balanced and the D-ends from teeing off on Glenn (not to mention that Thigpen is a threat to break one on any play). Keep the Owens sweep going, toss in some swings/screens. Hopefully Glenn is as dialed in as he was last week because he’ll need to make quick decisions. Get Carter involved early again, lean on Roosevelt when in doubt and look for Owens. With all the focus on our big 3 and Thigpen I think Owens could have himself a big game. First and foremost, we need to control the ball. The stakes will be high and turnovers can be killers… just ask the RedBlacks.
Defensively, for all the hype that Ricky Ray and that passing game will get (deservedly so), the #1 thing we need to concern ourselves with is shutting down Wilder (easier said than done). In just 10 games Wilder put up 1400 yards. Trestman loves to use his RB both as a runner and a receiver and Wilder has been deadly at both. Pressure and sound tackling from the front 7 will be key. Even if we do manage to contain Wilder, Ricky Ray is still a pretty good QB and has some quality weapons in Green, Posey and Edwards (that Dyakowski/Edwards trade was one of those that works out great for both sides). Our DBs need to bring their A game (I’m looking at you Kacy Rodgers). Toronto chews up a ton of yards (#2 in offensive yards) but doesn’t score a ton of points (lowest scoring offense of any of the playoff teams) thought they were better down the stretch. In their last 7 games their failed to crack 29 points only once… and it just so happens that was against the Riders. Toronto can beat you in a lot of ways so we need be disciplined on D. We also need to make every play that presents itself as I don’t see Ray making as many mistakes as Harris did so we need to seize the few opportunities there may be.
For the second week in a row we get a match-up of marquee returners. Both Jones and Martese Jackson have multiple kick return TDs to their name. The team that best manages to corral the opposing returner will have a big advantage in this game and I really like how our special teams have played all season on both sides.
There’s no denying that Toronto became a stronger team down the stretch and they pose a far more formidable opponent than the RedBlacks mainly because they have a veteran QB and more playmakers on defense. While prepping to write my pre game preview I always pour over the stats and pull out interesting ones. I also make up stats when I can’t find any good ones. Just kidding… or am I? Most of you are too lazy to prove me wrong even if you wanted to (insulting your readers is always good practice right?). Anyway, the stat that is the most telling for me headed into this game is this: Toronto is 3 and 7 versus the West (and 1 of those wins was a victory over BC in a game that was meaningless to the already eliminated Lions). Toronto is no pushover but I think they are beatable. The Rider have the ability to make big time plays in all 3 phases of the game. Between that and Toronto’s struggles against Western opponents, I like the Riders to prevail in what will essentially be a home game for them.
Riders by a Duron TD.