Monday, December 31, 2018

Monday Morning Sentimonies: New Year’s Resolutions

Hopefully you all had a good Christmas… or any other observance you may take part in such as the Feast of Maximum Occupancy. By this point I’m sure you have eaten too much, physically moved far too little and seen more than enough of your family (except of course mine, they are wonderful). The holiday season will officially start winding down after New Years but I thought we’d get an early start and talk some football to help transition you back to things like working and a diet not based on butter, chocolate or cheeses.

This is the time of year that many start making resolutions, ones that they will surely have given up on by week’s end. I personally don’t make resolutions but it seemed like a pretty good holiday tie in for a blog post and so I present to you 3 Resolutions I hope Chris Jones makes this year (spoiler alert, none involve his wardrobe).

1 – Stop making acquisitions in Free Agency that you immediately regret.
Shawn Lemon, Justin Capicciotti, Kendial Lawrence, Travis Bond, Jerome Messam, Duron Carter. All big name free agency acquisitions. All gone by the middle of the season they were signed in (and this is not an exhaustive list). It honestly seems like some times Jones goes on out on the town on a signing spree, wakes up the next morning and has immediate remorse about what he sees lying next to him in bed. Jones has done many good things to improve the talent on the Riders’ roster but free agency is generally not one of them. Imagine if he had used the money spent on these players on players that actually were a fit for what he wanted.

2 – Suck Less Early In the Year
If you look that Chris Jones’ record as Rider coach broken down in thirds of the season a clear picture emerges
First 6 games: 6 and 12
Middle 6 games: 9 and 9
Last 6 games: 12 and 6
Jones always seems to start slow and improve as the season goes on. Even if you exclude 2016, the pattern holds:
First 6 games: 5 and 7
Middle 6 games: 8 and 4
Last 6 games: 9 and 3
While I’m glad Jones generally has the Riders playing their best ball late in the season, if he didn’t dig himself such a big early season hole the team would be way farther ahead. Hopefully 2019 is the year we find early season success.

3 – Find a QB
Just because it’s obvious doesn’t mean its not true. Jones has built a team with talent and depth across the board… with the exception of most important position. It’s the only place he hasn’t managed to recruit young talent and his free agent forays have brought us old man Glenn (arguably the best of the bunch), Zach “Buck Pierce in Training” Collaros and Brandon “My mother told me if you don’t haven anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” Bridge. Jones has returned the Riders to the post season, brought payoff football back to Mosaic. Taking that next step will require him to find a mildly competent QB. It’s hard to see 2019 being any different than 2018 if he can’t.

NFL Watch
CFL players will son be able to sign futures deals with NFL teams so here’s a listing of all the NFL Workouts for CFL players. Reported workouts are courtesy @HBalzer721 and @JDunk12 (you all know I’m far too lazy to do my own investigative reporting).

For context, last season every single player who had 4 or more tryouts got an NFL contract. So Sam Eguavoen is most likely gone, as are guys like Singleton, Thurman, Boateng and Bo Levi.

OL Dakota Shepley – tryouts with Denver, Cleveland, Tampa Bay
LB Samuel Eguavoen (Ssk) – tryouts with Miami, LA Rams, New England, Arizona, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, 3 more scheduled
DL Tobi Antigha (Ssk) – tryouts with Arizona, NY Giants, LA Chargers
WR Jordan Williams (Ssk) – tryouts with Chicago, Detroit, NY Giants, New England
QB Bo Levi Mitchell (Cal) – tryouts with Minnesota, Denver, Jacksonville, Chicago, Buffalo, NY Giants, Indianapolis
DB Winston Rose (BC) – tryout with Minnesota
DB Chris Ackie (Ott) – tryout with Minnesota
WR Diontae Spencer (Ott) – tryouts with Minnesota, Buffalo
LB Jameer Thurman (Cal) – tryouts with Minnesota, Chicago, NY Jets, Arizona, LA Chargers, Philadelphia, Cincinnati
DB Tevaughn Campbell (Mtl) – tryouts with Cleveland, Green Bay, Houston, Tampa Bay, NY Jets
DL Kwaku Boateng (Edm) – tryouts with NY Jets, LA Chargers, NY Giants, Washington
LB Alex Singleton (Cal) – tryouts with Cleveland, Minnesota, Arizona, Philadelphia, LA Chargers
DL Avery Ellis (Ott) – tryouts with NY Jets, LA Chargers, Philadelphia, Cincinnati
K Ty Long (BC) – tryout with NY Jets, Minnesota, Indianapolis, Arizona, Cincinnati
OL Rykar Matthews (Ham) – tryouts with NY Jets, New England, Arizona
WR Bryant Mitchell (Edm) – tryouts with NY Jets, Arizona, Detroit, NY Giants
WR Duke Williams (Edm) – tryouts with NY Jets, Buffalo, Detroit, Cincinnati
DL James Vaughters (Cal) - tryouts with Chicago, NY Jets
QB Mike Reilly (Edm) - tryout with Jacksonville
DB Chris Edwards (Edm) – tryout with LA Chargers
WR Marken Michel (Cal) – tryouts with Chicago, Philadelphia
LB Dexter McCoil – tryout with Washington
DB Mercy Maston (Edm) – tryout with Philadelphia
DL Jake Ceresna (Edm) – tryout with NY Giants
RB Terry Williams (Cal) – tryout with NY Giants
WR Dominque Rhymes (Ott) – tryout with Pittsburgh
DL Jackson Jeffcoat (Win) – tryout with Cincinnati
WR Derel Walker (Edm) – tryout with Oakland
QB Jonathan Jennings (BC) – tryout with Indianapolis

Monday, December 17, 2018

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Random Quasi-Coherent Thoughts

After a 1 week absence I'm back! Did you miss me? Did you even notice I was gone? No? Well it's not like I have fragile emotions and will spend the rest of the day crying in the shower.

We took the family down to Universal Studios Orlando... where I spent all lot of time looking down my nose at all the Harry Potter nerds and then turned around a geeked out when we got to Simpsons Land. I'm aware of my hypocrisy and perfectly okay with it.

But you probably didn't come here to hear about my emotional well being or my vacation (and if you did then that's pretty sad) so lets talk football. There isn't much to talk about. But the lack of material has never stopped me from drawing a couple coherent thoughts into a lengthy post.

Random Quasi-Coherent Thoughts:
- Sad to see John Murphy go. I think he and Jones had just finally gotten our recruiting pipeline to where there wanted it to be (with the exception of QB). When your GM has as many roles as Chris Jones does he needs a strong right hand man. Hopefully Jeremy O'Day can step in fairly seamlessly. By the way the irony of a front office guy leaving because he was asked to take a pay cut should not be lost on anyone.

- Only other notable Rider news is that Sam Eguavoen is in the midst of a big time NFL tour. 3 confirmed tryouts so far (Miami, LA Rams, New England) with up to 7 more to come. Pretty safe bet he's heading south. I like his odds off sticking past training camp too. For one he's a damn good player. Also, as an LB he can contribute almost immediately on special teams. Bad for us, good for him.

- Coach vacancies have filled up Steinhauer to Hamilton, Chamblin to Toronto and Claybrooks to BC. That means that 5 of 9 teams have defensive guys as Head Coach. 6 if you count O'Shea though he's really more Special Teams. 

- Hopefully the next big news will be that a new agreement with the CFLPA is signed... given that that may take some time I'd settle for Brandon Bridge being released. I get that its unnecessary given that he's a pending FA but the symbolic significance would be appreciated. 

NFL Watch:
OL Dakota Shepley – tryouts with Denver, Cleveland
LB Samual Eguavoen (Ssk) – tryouts with Miami, LA Rams, New England, 7 more scheduled
QB Bo Levi Mitchell (Cal) – tryouts with Minnesota, Denver, Jacksonville, 2 more scheduled
DB Winston Rose (BC) – tryout with Minnesota
DB Chris Ackie (Ott) – tryout with Minnesota
WR Diontae Spencer (Ott) – tryout with Minnesota
LB Jameer Thurman (Cal) – tryout with Minnesota, Chicago
DB Tevaughn Campbell (Mtl) – tryouts with Cleveland, Green Bay
DL Kwaku Boateng (Edm) – tryout with NY Jets
LB Alex Singleton (Cal) – tryouts with Cleveland, Minnesota, Arizona, Philadelphia, LA Chargers
DL Avery Ellis (Ott) – tryout with NY Jets
K Ty Long (BC) – tryout with NY Jets
OL Rykar Matthews (Ham) – tryout with NY Jets, New England
WR Bryant Mitchell (Edm) – tryout with NY Jets
WR Duke Williams (Edm) – tryout with NY Jets
DL James Vaughters (Cal) - tryout with Chicago
QB Mike Reilly (Edm) - tryout with Jacksonville

Monday, December 3, 2018

11th Annual Rider Prophet Awards

These awards are fairly unique in terms of their set-up. While most sports awards recognize the best in their field (outstanding achievement in the field of excellence if you will), these awards recognize the rest in their field as well as things that I find generally entertaining. While most sports awards are voted on by a large contingent including media (only about half of whom actually know what the hell they are talking about), these awards are quite arbitrarily awarded based on my own whims with the exception of one award which is voted on by the fans. Lastly, while most sports awards are something recipients are proud to receive, these awards are something that most recipients would avoid acknowledging publicly.

Let’s get to the awards. This year’s winners will receive the chance to host the 2026 Olympics… since no one else seems to want to.

Best Player Name
Honourable mentions to Wil Likely and Boobie Hobbs but this year’s winner is Montreal DB Armagedon Draughns. Seriously, how cool a name is Armagedon? With a name like that he pretty much had to go into professional sports or security. I just can’t see a guy named Armegedon doing my taxes attending to my medical needs.

Previous Winners: Rakeem Cox, Akawasi Owusu-Ansah, Lirim Hajrullahu, SirVincent Rogers, Drew Willy, Bear Woods, Solomon Elimimian, Craphonso Thorpe, Charleston Hughes, Chijioke Onyenegecha

Quote of the Year
I almost hesitated in naming this quote the winner. I love the quote and most people like me found it entertaining. But a vocal contingent blew this completely out of proportion with feigned outrage. What cinched it for me was when the Bombers embraced it and started selling shirts.

Your winner is Dave Dickenson for "F'ing Canadians"

Previous Winners: Kavis Reed/Jacques Chapdelaine, Greg Quick, Solomon Elimimian, Ed Hervey, Joe Mack, Henry Burris, Eddie Johnson, Jason Clermont, Mike Abou-Mechrek x2

Play of the Year
Two of the best moments from this season were not actually eligible for this award as they were not actual plays. I still feel they deserve special mention. I’m talking about the Mike Sherman striptease and Jason Maas vs. the Gatorade jug.

With those 2 out of contention, one remaining play stood out among all the others. There is an old adage that if you are going to run your mouth, you better be prepared to back it up. The Lions’ Gary Peters learned this lesson the hard way when he decided to call on Duke Williams. This is what we call a natural consequence. 

Botched Call of the Year
I briefly considered going in a different direction with this award because there were certainly some doozies to chose from. The botched chain measurement from Labour Day certainly comes to mind. But I know my readers and I know there would have been outcry if I didn’t mention headshots here. This is what we in the business call blatant pandering.

Rather than one play I will give this award to the collective inability for the refs to call headshots on QBs. Obviously the Collaros and Bridge one’s are the most talked about but Lulay took an uncalled headshot early in the season and there were probably others I’m forgetting.

It’s ridiculous that these keep going uncalled. It’s ridiculous that the replay official can correct an offside call but not headshot. The official can remove a player whose brains have been scrambled by a headshot (usually many plays later in the game) but they can’t assess a penalty. Fixing this needs to be an offseason priority.

I will add in that rather than just complaining about how little the league is doing, the CFLPA could maybe tell their members to stop trying to kill other members and agree to harsher penalties for those that do. That is if they are really serious about player safety and not just grand standing against the League. (end rant).

The Commercial I Didn’t Get Sick of Seeing Even Though TSN Made Me Watch It 54,297 Times Award
I’ll tell you what commercial I did get sick of seeing… that damn Nissan commercial that played roughly 100 times per game. Note to Nissan: I’m glad you are a proud sponsor of the CFL but that ad on endless repeat made me less likely to ever consider purchasing that vehicle.

Honourable mention to Fountain Tire for their “Nan’s smile is nice, but useless” ad but this year’s winner is Belair Direct for their series of  Football Simplified quick ads. Simple, quick, funny.

See a bunch here:

Most Insulted Sports Figure
While there were times that it looked like Steve McAdoo was destined to repeat here, a new front runner emerged. It proved to be the only thing his person would excel at. I'm talking of course about Brandon Bridge. By far he led the pact in terms of me insulting him in this space. Brandon Bridge. Joins the like of Sunseri, Bishop and Dinwiddie in terms of Rider QBs I have loathed. I’m sure he’s a nice guy off the field but he is utterly useless on it.

I have never been a Bridge fan. I've long contended that if he wasn't Canadian no one would care about him. But this year he took things to a new level. He managed to look awful in an offense that allowed him only to hand off and throw screens. He runs like a baby deer learning to walk and still thinks that his horrible attempts at huddling are a good idea (they are not). He is so inaccurate in his passes that fans in the front row are more likely to catch his pass attempts than our receivers. I could maybe be more forgiving if he was a developing QB but he's a 4 year vet. This is as good as it gets.

Previous Winners: Steve McAdoo, The Riders Secondary, Any Rider QB not named Durant, Pat Neufeld, Chris Getzlaf, Ryan Dinwiddie, Jim Daley, Michael Bishop x 2, Marcel Bellefeuille

Fans’ Choice Douche-Bag of the Year
You the fans have spoken yet again… and in record number. A total of 163 votes were received including an amazing 8 write in votes for the likes of Odell Willis, Duron Carter, Chris Jones, Jackson Jeffcoat, Jonathan Rose, Blue Bomber fans and my personal favourite the media who pretended the Riders' O wasn't awful.

The voting was way closer than I expected. I underestimated how much you people hate Dave Dickenson. Personally I think he's an angel compared to other nominees but this is a fan vote and he came in 2nd. 

You the fans have decided that with 45% (74 out of a possible 163 votes) Jason Maas is your Douche Bag of the Year for the second year in a row.

I doubt this will shock anyone. Between his yelling, his tantrums and his assaults on innocent sideline objects he's an easy choice. Used to be that pretty much anyone outside of Edmonton hated him but now his support even in Edmonton is slipping after missing the playoffs despite fielding the top QB in the league. It will take something pretty douchy to keep Maas from three-peating in 2019.

Previous Winners: Jason Maas, Cory Chamblin, Chris Jones, Jon Cornish x2, Henry Burris, Dwight Anderson, Mike Kelly, Jason Jimenez, Rob Murphy

Monday, November 26, 2018

Monday Morning Sentimonies: That's A Wrap

Unless you happen to be a fan of the Stampeders (and therefore a terrible person with questionable decision making for spending this morning reading a Rider blog) its the saddest Monday on the calendar. It signifies no more Canadian football until May. For Montreal and Toronto fans its a bit easier to take because they've been dealing with this feeling since the early fall. 

Sunday all the collective "anybody but Calgary" wishing in Canada was not enough to keep Calgary away from the Cup for a third straight year... mainly because Ottawa seemed intent on making sure that didn't happen. Calgary played a decent (not great) game but won the ever important "screw up the least" battle. And its not like they didn't screw up. For a while it looked like no one wanted to win the game. 

Ottawa just made too many mistakes. Punting to the middle of the field in the dying seconds of the half. Fumbling. Passing the bulk of their second half offense on failed attempts to chuck it deep.  They also sent three man rush far too much (god I'm even stuck saying this in games not involving Chris Jones). The book on Bo is you need to pressure him to fluster him. Sending minimal pressure is curiously deciding to play into his strengths.

Credit to the Stamps (pauses to vomit). They was likely the least stacked roster they had in the past 3 Cups but it was the one that made enough plays to get it done. It is reassuring that the "weaker" East division finally didn't win the Cup.

The offseason may be upon us but don't go anywhere. I will have insight, analysis and a bunch of filler that may of may not be funny to help get you through the long months ahead. It all starts next Monday with the Annual Rider Prophet Awards

Other random thoughts:
- The dude in the Reklaws' pants were tighter than the chicks... by a wide margin.

- Shame that the biggest game of the year was  played on such a crappy field surface. I hope future Grey Cup bids require a contingency plan to ensure the big game showcases the best of Canadian football not Ice-capades. 

- I thought the half time show was pretty solid given that I'd never heard the performer before. 

- Trevor Harris apparently used up all his good play last week.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Grey Cup Thoughts

Congratulations if you made it through the week without finding yourself too drunk to curl. Not everyone in Canada can say that. Your reward for making it through the week is probably spending a ton of money on crap you don't need purely because it was on sale. But should you make it past that there is the biggest football game in Canadian football on Sunday as the 106th Grey Cup goes down between the RedBlacks and Stampeders.

If you are one the many people who has made the pilgrimage to Edmonton... I hate you. Not like actually hate but just am very jealous and cope by cursing you all silently. I hope you understand. 

The big story of the game will of course be whether the Stampeders will channel their inner Bills and lose yet another championship. I don't think many people are actually cheering FOR the RedBlacks but rather cheering AGAINST the Stamps and by default ending up pro Ottawa. The weird thing is that if I compare the past 3 Stamp teams this is arguably the least talented across the board. Not that the 2018 Stamps are bad just not as stacked as some of those previous teams. But I think this is the one that has the best chance of actually getting the job done. Not saying they will just that I think they have the least chance of choking. 

Lots of attention will be paid to the Harris vs. Mitchell battle but for me, this is all about the defense. Noel Thorpe vs. DeVone Claybrooks. Whichever guy schemes up the best game plan will win the game for his team. I could honestly see a low scoring games despite the talent level of the offenses involved. These were the 2 stingiest D's in the regular season. In terms of weapons Ottawa has the edge. In terms of experience at QB Calgary has the edge... though all his recent history relates to how to lose Grey Cups.  Also in the Stamps favour is Eric Rodgers. Dude is ridiculous and all he does is score. Noel Thorpe needs to find a way to keep the ball away from him.

As much as I would like to see Calgary's misery extend another year (I'm petty like that), if I'm betting (and I most likely will) I'm betting on the Stamps in a close one. I just hope its an exciting game befitting the biggest game of the year.

I honestly don't know what to expect of the halftime show. I legit have no clue who the headliner is but I'm at that age where if people tell me she is popular, I'll believe them. Have something on fire and something doing flips in the background (possible the thing that is on fire) and I'll be entertained.

Enjoy the game.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Cast Your Vote

On December 3rd I will be handing out the Annual Rider Prophet Awards. I once inadvertently omitted the second N and the U from that title. It actually generated a ton of interest but just not from by traditional target market. Anyway… the Awards means its time to cast your vote for one of the most dubious distinctions there is… the Fans’ Choice Douchebag of the Year.

This year we have 4 nominees who have excelled in the field of douchebaggery. Please cast your vote for your favourite. (There is also a Twitter poll if that’s more your thing. Votes sent by carrier pigeon or singing telegram are accepted and count double)

Here are this year’s nominees:

Kyries Hebert – Nominated for yet again trying to end the career of a fellow player with a nasty cheap shot to the head not once but twice. Added bonus was him trying to use his involvement in the community as justification for why is wasn’t a dirty player.

Toronto Argonauts – Nominated for firing Marc Trestman... by phone… at 2am. Obviously things weren’t working great in Toronto and something needed to change but at least have the decency to do it in person during daylight hours… especially when you know the difficulties going on in Trestman’s personal life.

Dave Dickenson – To be clear this has nothing to do with the F'n Canadians comment (that I actually found entertaining). He's nominated because he consistently comes across as a whiner on the sideline mics and cameras.

Jason Maas – Defending champion in this category. Screamer, tantrum thrower, attempted Gatorade jug assaulter, post season avoider. It can be easy to sweep his childish behaviour under the carpet when he’s winning but when you miss the playoffs it really makes you wonder why you are tolerating it.

Jon Cornish – Did absolutely nothing of note but it was requested by you the fans that he be a perennial nominee no matter what. (Predicting he finishes no lower than 3rd in voting because people are that spiteful)

Other - Please leave the name of anyone else you feel deserves consideration in the comments section.

Create your own user feedback survey

Monday, November 19, 2018

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Division Final Thoughts

The second last weekend of CFL football delivered one close match-up and one ass kicking. From big plays to questionable calls to scraps on the field,Sunday had everything... it even capped off with Bomber tears.

Let's start out East where the RedBlacks just embarrassed the Ti-Cats. Had it not been for Jonathan Rose and the brewhaha he caused, I likely would have tuned out much earlier. It's probably for the best that BC didn't make it to the East final because if the Ti-Cats beat the the Lions by 40 and then lost by 19 that would tell me the RedBlacks would have won by 59. Yay for math! Hamilton just had no answer defensively for the Ottawa offense. Hamilton let just vaunted offensive threats as Gillanders, Beaulieu and Dubois score. Game highlights for me included the aforementioned Rose being an absolute idiot (seriously how do you not at all pause in that situation and go "Should I push this striped guy over this pile?") Bonus points to Rod Black for doing something right for once and perfectly using the term donnybrook. The other highlight was Ottawa showing a fairly graphic chair shot on Ric Flair late in the game (not sure why TSN thought that was a good idea to show that). It led to a bunch of Wooo's from the crowd. That's some quality trolling.

In the West, I can't really by happy because f&*% the Stamps but I would be lying if I said that seeing Winnipeg's Grey Cup drought extend another year didn't make me feel good. Seriously, decades from now my grandkids will ask me if its true that the Bombers actually used to win Cups. By that point my memory will be long gone and I will honestly answer No. The Bombers played well but just could not stop Eric Rogers. The ultra conservative "don't make Nichols do anything" offense didn't work. He did so little in the playoffs that he might as well have been playing for the Riders' O. Mitchell did not play that good but he at least knew what the endzone was for. The highlight in that game was Dave Dickenson whining on the sidelines (you're shocked I'm sure) the quote seems to be "Why do all the flags thrown in front of Mike O'Shea? Because he's a bleeping Canadian" except he didn't say bleeping. Didn't want to offend any of my readers' sensitive ears. Tell us how you really feel Dave. 

This all sets up an Ottawa Calgary Grey Cup where we all hope that Stampeders continue their choking Grey Cup ways. 

Tomorrow I will be unveiling the nominees for Fans' Choice Douchebag of the Year  award an opening voting. Who will you the fans choose to honour for their outstanding achievements in the the field of douchebaggery?

Friday, November 16, 2018

Obligatory Playoff Commentary

There is plenty to dissect in the wake of the 2018 Rider season. What went wrong? Where to from here? Who stays? Who goes? Who gets signed in free agency and cut by August? But I will save all that for the long offseason. We will have 6 months of no football coming up and will need something to fill it. If I use up all my Rider material now, there's no telling what depths I'll have to sink to come February to fill space on this blog. Top options could include: past players I've had unjustified hatreds of, live blogging of me shopping for groceries, how POG should make a comeback and so on.

For now let's talk football while we still can. It's never as much fun when your team is out of it but if we let that stop us there are large portions of the 80s and 90s where we would have stopped watching football in September. Let's take a look at the match-ups.

Out East the RedBlacks host the Ti-Cats. Like most Rider fan I'm all in on the Ti-Cats as the team I'm cheering (I'm sure that can't mean good things for Hamilton... I'm sorry). It's been a long time since they've had a Cup. They don't currently have any players I have. Lots to like here. The thing is I think they will be in tough. It's one thing to whoop a hapless Lion team at home. Its another thing to go into to Hamilton and take out Noel Thorpe's defense with so many top offensive weapons out. What Hamilton does have going for them is Trevor Harris' playoff record. He's not exactly known as a crunch time performer. As much as I'll be pulling for Hamilton, I would bet on the RedBlacks to have a strong D and adequate QB play and win.

In the West, I have been going over scenarios that could result in both teams losing. All 44 players on both team are declared ineligible to play.  Both teams smotten from above. Immigration issues found will all import players. Both coaches renounce violent conflict and declare a peaceful truce and tie. Unfortunately those seem unlikely. Someone is going to win. As difficult a choice as this is, I guess I'm going with the Stamps. A) I'm fickle and want to see the Bombers' misery passed down to my grandchildren. I know that makes me a bad person. B) We can count on the Stamps to choke the following week anyway. Its win-win.

So let's enjoy the second last weekend of CFL action. Given how things have been going somehow David Watford will end up taking a head shot this week. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Tuesday Morning Sentimonies: Fitting End

Riders 18 - Bombers 23

The 2018 season came to a disappointing but fitting end on Sunday. In a season that was marked by an inability to produce offensive points, that was unsurprisingly what did us in when it mattered most. We were just 1 TD short but really the game put our offensive shortcomings on full display. 

Our offense wasn't very good at the best of times and Brandon Bridge starting is about as far opposite of best of times as it can get. I am not exactly a charter member of the Steve McAdoo fan club but I won't put this one on him. The plays were there. Receivers were open. We had our chances. He just had the misfortune of having to start at QB who could not come within an area code of hitting his receivers. Bridge missed at 2 open receivers for TDs on the same drive. He couldn't see wide open receivers. He threw short on deep passes, inside on outside passes, into the goal posts while overthrowing a WR in the endzone and generally displayed not ability to make a play if the first read was not there. Its not McAdoo's fault that Odell Willis knocked our good QB out of play. You could certainly blame the GM for getting this far into the season with a back-up QB who the best thing you can say about him is that he's better than Tino Sunseri. The only positive thing I can say about Bridge is that it was the best I've seen him run. Not awkward, decisive, resisted the urge to do his terrible attempt at hurdling.  I thought we did a pretty good job of hiding his shortcomings in the first quarter, things slowly unraveled from there. I thought we failed to find ways to get speedy guys like Moore and Thigpen more involved. I do think we could have won if Collaros had played but coulda's count for as much as Alouette playoff tickets. He didn't play. We didn't have a good enough QB backing him up. End of story.

Defense played good... the only problem is that we are built to win with great defense. Good just doesn't cut it. The only real knock on the D was that they had no answer for the Bomber OL and Harris in the second half. We couldn't stop the run when it mattered most. We also weren't able to force a turnover. Still 3 sacks and only 23 point allowed is a pretty good day especially given that the Bombers were the top scoring O.

Special teams did their jobs. We got solid returns, made all out kicks and kept their returns to a minimum. 

Losing sucks. Losing to the Bombers sucks more but they were the better team on Sunday. I now feel so dirty I need to go shower (something most Bomber fans don't feel the need to do). It was a good season, we have a lot to be proud of and a solid foundation to build from. But if we don't come up with a better plan at QB its hard to see a different finish in store.

Kudos to the fans that showed up and got loud. For me, nothing beats the roar of the crowd on game day. See you next season.

Obligatory comment on the head shot (again): Look the missed penalty did not affect the outcome of the game but it sucks balls to have it happen to us in back to back games. To me there is a pretty simple solution. The eye in the sky can be used to correct an offside call but yet in a league that preaches "player safety" it can't be used currently to call head shots. That makes absolutely no sense. I'm also all for ejections and suspensions for malicious head shots but those changes are not as easy to implement as simply letting the replay official call head shots.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Riders vs. Bombers: West Semi-Final

Playoffs baby! This is what it’s all about. Throw the regular season results out the window because this is one game, winner takes all and anything can happen. Actually don’t completely throw the regular season results out the window because much of the following analysis is based on that. Man, this is a terrible introduction even by my low standards. It gets better from here, I promise.

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday the archrival Bombers are in town for the first ever home playoff game at new Mosaic Stadium. It won’t quite be WSF 2013 cold but it’ll be a chilly day. I suggest plenty of layers to keep your outsides warm and plenty of hard alcohol to keep your insides warm. It will be fairly easy to smuggle in a bottle of fireball or something similar because even a rigorous pat down wouldn’t find it through all your layers. Not that I would I ever encourage or take part in that type of thing (the booze smuggling or the rigorous pat down).

The Bombers are a good team no doubt but I’m getting kind of sick of how much people are pumping their tires without giving the Riders their due. People are quick to point out that the Bombers won 5 of their last 6 games. So did the Riders. In fact they finished 9-2 over the last 11. People are quick to point out that the last time these 2 teams met we got embarrassed. What they conveniently leave out is that the Riders were playing on 4 days rest. They also forget what the season series between the teams was. People point out that the Bombers scored 28 more offensive TDs than us. I don’t have much of a comeback to that one. It’s a fact, our O sucks. But let me ask you this, would you rather 53 TDs and 3rd place or 25 TDs and a home playoff game? I’m not saying the Bombers aren’t good, I’m not saying they can be taking lightly but can we at least remember that the Riders are pretty good team as well? Also, F&@# the Bombers!

In a cold playoff game between the top 2 rushing teams in the CFL you can bet that the ground game and the trenches will be the story of the game. Defensively its no secret that containing Harris is priority #1. The Bombers are the #1 rushing attack but the #6 passing attack. In the last 2 meetings the Riders actually held Harris to 73 total yards (granted in the second game it was due to them not having to run to beat us). So we know we can do it. We are also the #2 rush defense. Winnipeg has a great O-line but out D-line needs to flex its muscle and show they are better. The other thing to contain is Dressler. He is the key piece in keeping that passing game rolling. Nichols is not great on the deep ball so if you limit Harris and contain Dressler (both easier said that done) he will struggle… maybe not utterly embarrass himself Banjo Bowl style struggle but struggle nonetheless. We need to create turnovers, its no secret that that’s how we win games. I expect a conservative start to the game but you can bet LaPolice will have some tricks in store for us. Gotta keep the Bombers under 30 points. They 2 and 7 when scoring less than 30.

Offensively… please god do something… anything… preferably not involving either Drew Tate or Brandon Bridge. Collaros will play the main questions are a) do we get good Zach or the one that throws equally to both coloured jerseys? And b) will he finish the game? My honest hope is that Collaros is not the story of the game. Our best chance of winning lies in Cam Marshall and Marcus Thigpen. They average 6.5 and 8.5 yards per carry respectively. You want to win? Feed them the ball. Marshall has been a beast over the past 2 and we all know what Thiggy is capable of (remember the East Semi last year?). Bombers are #3 against the run and Bighill can certainly shut things down but we can and should run on them. When Collaros does throw he needs to be smart with the ball and really work those medium passes. Use Moore’s speed, Lambert’s size and Roosevelt veteran savvy. We can’t be afraid to push the ball downfield but we can’t live and die by the deep shot. Like always my hope for the offense is just don’t hurt us. Control the ball, run hard and grind out a close win. That’s our success recipe. Santos-Knox is questionable which would be a big loss to the Bomber D.

In 3 meetings O’Shea really didn’t pull out any tricks especially on special teams. We know that special teams is a strength for us. The Bombers have the second worst punt returns and kickoff returns so I have the suspicion that something is in store. A fake punt. A reverse. Something. We are going to need to win 2 of 3 phases to win this game. We know that offense is unlikely to be one of them so need to win on teams.

I think this will be a very closely contested game and lord have mercy on my heart. But I’ll give you 3 stats that I think are very telling for how this will go:
1 – The Riders are 7-3 against West teams. The Bombers are 4-6
2 – The Riders are 6-3 at home. The Bombers are 4-5 on the road (only one road win came against a team that made the playoffs).
3 – F*#% the Bomber!

Riders by a Thigpen TD.

See you in the stands. Be loud. 

Side note:
Prepping for this game reminded me of the last time these 2 teams met in the West-Semi in 2003. Lots of pre-game hype about how Mike Sellers would run at will over us. He did not and Kenton Keith did the running at will.  That was pretty much how playoffs went in the Barrett era. Keith would dominate the West-Semi and then teams would game plan for him in the West Final and we had no back-up plan. Any way I found some highlights on YouTube... though they aren't really highlights just a random part of the game.


Tuesday, November 6, 2018

All Bets Are On

I watch a lot of sports. At this point it’s essentially the only reason I have a TV. Obviously football is my first choice but if there is no football on, I will watch pretty much anything: hockey, basketball, baseball, curling. The day the ESPN does the Ocho may be one of the greatest ideas ever. And as soon as I can figure out whatthe hell cricket is all about, you can be sure I'll be trying to start a fantasy cricket league.

Aside from alcohol and fried foods, there are few things in life that go with sports as well as gambling on sports.  I bet on a lot of different sports and in the process pretended to know a lot more about the intricacies of various sports than I actually do. We now live in a digital world and that means that like most things, sports-related gambling has moved to the internet. In the process it has become a huge industry that continues to grow.

The opportunities and options when it comes to sports betting have never been greater. Especially in the UK, where people like to use various online bettingsites. In fact it’s gotten to the point where there’s so much out there its tough to know where to start but there are resources out there that can help. Speaking from personal experience there is no better way to add excitement (and a fair bit of cursing) to watching a game than having a financial stake in the outcome. It can make a great game even better and a game you'd never watch under normal conditions exciting TV.

Sports betting is a risky venture but the potential rewards are there for those willing to take on the risk. With the CFL offseason just around the corner (unfortunately) it’s a good way to get into other sports to pass time over the offseason.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Monday Morning Sentimonies: West Semi Final

I think I speak for all Rider fans when I say, Thanks for nothing BC! 

It was highly unlikely that Calgary would lose when playing a team that did not care about the results (and if they had it would have been cause for major concern in Cowtown) but it was fun to dream. Many have correctly pointed out that if we had beat Montreal earlier in the season we'd have finished first but there's no point getting into the coulda, woulda, shouldas. There's no shame in finishing second. There is especially no shame in hosting a home playoff game. The first in 5 years... unlike the 11 year drought, we don't need to record a song about it but its still something worth celebrating.

I'll have my usual detailed pre-game analysis on Friday but for now let me just say that we beat the Bombers 2 out 3 times and there's a big difference between playing one the road on 4 days rest vs. playing at home with 2 full weeks rest. This will be damn good game.

I spent the bye week reminiscing about past West Semi Finals played here in Regina. So today I will share some of those memories with you. My trip down memory lane dates back only to 2007 because as we all known, home playoff games were outlawed by the government prior to that... at least that's what our parents told us. 

2007 vs. Calgary - What I will remember most about this game was the noise. One of the loudest games I've ever been at. DJ Flick scoring at TD right off the bat only upped the volume. Good times.

2008 vs. BC - The opposite of good time. Defense played an unreal game but were unable to overcome the fact that Michael Bishop was their QB. I also distinctly remember when they mercifully pulled Bishop and put in Durant to a large cheer. Durant proceeded to trip and fall down on the way to the huddle. This was a game that made you thankful that alcohol is a thing. Bishop had a habit of that.

2010 vs. BC -  A roller coaster of emotion. The game went to double OT and we were a play away from needing Warren Keane to hit a 42 yard FG to tie. Remember Warren Keane? No? That's why that was such a scary moment. 2 plays later Jason Clermont strolled into the endzone for the win. Clermont received a standing O anytime he touched the ball that season. This was one of the few  ovations that Clermont actually deserved.

2013 vs. BC - By far the coldest game I have ever been at. I'm not a person who nurses my rye and cokes (you're shocked I'm sure) but that day you essentially had to pound your drink or it would freeze solid. I'm not sure that it would have been possible to go to the bathroom. For one I was wearing so many layers that I'm not sure I could have found my um... equipment. But even if I had gotten through all the layers, I'm pretty sure I had an inny by that point. There was also a football game played. Nervous start to the game but Durant eventually used his legs to carry us to victory en route to a home Grey Cup.

What does 2018 have in store? The first in the new stadium? Hopefully more memorable things than the temperature's effects on my bathroom visits or QBs tripping on the way to the huddle. I'm freaking pumped, nothing beats playoff football especially when its a home game.

Lastly I feel compelled to comment on the Drew Tate signing. Those are words I never imagined I'd be typing this year. Like most of you I'm confused. I honestly had to double check the date on the tweet to make sure it wasn't someone jokingly retweeting a headline from 2007. Like most of you I also hate Drew Tate. Like most of you I also immediately assumed that this could not mean good news for Collaros. Now Rob Vanstone has reported that Collaros is fine and expected to be at practice when it opens but I'm still not 100% confident. 

I thought about it a lot and here's where I landed. Collaros will start the game (concussion or not he just will). But should he not be able to finish,do you really feel confident with Bridge? Personally I rank him slightly ahead an inanimate carbon rod in terms of chances of victory... possibly behind.  All we trust Bridge to do is hand off (rightly so, have you seen him attempt other things?). Given that, is there really a difference if its Tate handing off or Bridge? Now you could rightly question the logic of waiting until this point in the season to address the fact that you don't trust your back-up QB but Chris Jones tends not to care much for the conventional approach. With any luck neither Bridge or Tate will see the field for the remainder of the season.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Bye Week Thoughts: Tracking The Progress

With the Riders on bye the only football we have to worry about this weekend is praying to your deity of choice that the BC Lions beat the Stampeders. I would love nothing more than the Lions to win one for Wally but I don't see it happening. Simply put, the Stamps care about this game and Lions don't. Wally Buono isn't likely to risk playing Lulay in meaningless game and if you think Jonathan Jennings is good enough to take down the Stamps then you probably also thought Michael Bishop was an under appreciated talent. The good news for Rider fans is that I bet on the Stamps with money at stake this week and that is usually enough to curse any franchise.

But regardless of the outcome of that game, the 2018 regular season will be viewed as a success for the Riders. Chris Jones delivered a home playoff game in his 3rd year on the job (and if he wins a Grey Cup his green shirt will be immediately inducted into the Plaza of Honour). As I did at the 6 and 12 game mark, today I'm going to dive deeper into the progress the Riders have made as compared to the same point a year ago.

After 18 217 2018 Difference % Change
Wins 10 12 +2  
Points 510 450 -60 -12%
Offensive TDs 48 25 -23 -48%
Passing Yards 5282 3971 -1311 -25%
Rushing Yards 1478 2014 +536 +36%
Sacks allowed 44 27 -17 -39%
Turnovers 28 35 +7 +25%
Points allowed 430 444 +14 +3%
Passing Yds allowed 4890 4425 -465 -10%
Rushing Yds allowed 1734 1655 -79 -5%
Sacks 27 45 +18 +67%
Turnovers 40 41 +1 +3%
Special Teams
Punt Return Avg 12.2 11.9 -0.3 -2%
Opponent Punt Ret Avg 9.8 9.2 -0.6 -6%
Kickoff return avg 23.4 25.3 +1.9 +8%
Opponent Kickoff Ret Avg 19.6 20 +0.4 +2%
Net punt avg 34.9 33.4 -1.5 -4%
Penalties 147 137 -10 -7%
Players Dressed 81 71 -10 -12%

Obviously the first line is the most important one. A 12 win season is quite an accomplishment. What makes it even more impressive is how we got there. We went 7-3 against western opponents (by far the best record in the division). There were questions coming into the season as to whether the team had improved enough to be competitive in the stacked West division. Well they answered that emphatically. 

Offensively, the early season trend of running being way up, sacks being way down and everything related to passing and scoring dropping faster than Ty Long trying to draw a roughing the kicker call continued. For context we scored just 1 more offensive TD than the expansion RedBlacks in their initial season. They managed 2 wins out of that, we managed 12. To me the story here (at least the positive one) is the O-line. There were huge questions about this unit coming into 2018, many of them coming from me. But once Cofield and Bladek joined the starters they really stepped up as a unit. The last few games also proved we have depth there. For an offense with as little firepower as we have the turnovers are a concern.

Defensively, I would have to learn 3 more languages to find enough words to adequately describe how awesome they have been. The additions of Hughes, Evans and Brooks to the D-line had the desired effect on sacks. It also freed Jefferson up from the triple teams he got last year to actually display his game changing abilities. The only negative was a slight increase in points allowed but to me the fact that we only allowed 14 more points than last season despite more offensive turnovers and next to no offensive support at times is impressive in and of itself. Turnovers were actually about the same as last season. We just took a lot more of them all the way back.

Special Teams continues to be an area of strength under Craig Dickenson. We had 5 kick return TDs and a lot of big gains from many different returners (Jones, Thiggy, Moore, Purifoy, Marshall) that tells me our blocking is doing well. Coverages were also rock solid. Punt return yards allowed went down despite allowing a lot of punt return TDs. Bartel statistically had a down year but I believe our strategy was to sacrifice distance on his kicks consciously in favour of hang time and placement to allow our cover guys to handle things. Not included in this chart is the fact that Brett Lauther had better kickoffs and was more accurate (and longer) on FG attempts. I liked Crapigna but given the choice between the 2 Lauther is far ahead at this point.

The last 2 stats are important in my opinion. Penalties are declining and this was despite starting the season with more penalties than last year. Finally the Players Dressed category is getting to a great spot. Remember that Jones set a record by dressing 100 players in 2016. The side benefit is that we are probably saving a bundle in sewing costs when it comes to putting names on jerseys.

Hopefully the trend of improvement over last year continues into the playoffs.