Saturday night the undefeated (and universally hated around these parts) Stampeders are in town to face the 3-2 Riders. It will be both teams' first game against a Western opponent this season. The Stamps will be looking to continue their seemingly never ending string of regular season dominance (if only they handed out rings for that). The Riders will be looking to prove they are good enough to contend with the top teams in the West. Its one thing to sweep an East team, its another to beat the top team in the CFL.
I start as I always do with the defense because much like Obi-Wan Kenobi, they are our only hope. Calgary has the number 2 offense and can beat you in a number of ways. They have a strong ground game in Don Jackson and they have 3 receivers who could all be #1 guys if they were on separate teams in Rogers, Jorden and Daniels. Of the 3, Rogers is the biggest threat as he boast damn near a TD per game average over his CFL career. It will start up front with our D-line. This will be the best O-line they've faced to date and getting pressure on Mitchell will be key. I am really hoping that history repeats itself and Charleston Hughes makes Derek Dennis look like a fool, only this time with us on the right side of that. As dangerous as that passing attack can be, our best chance is focusing on eliminating the run and making them one dimensional. That would allow the D-line to pin their ears back and Jones to dial up all his crazy coverage schemes (you just know there is one where Zach Evans ends up in pass coverage 20 yards downfield). Given that 2 offensive TDs is our max (and something I'm not sure we'll manage against the top D in the CFL) our D will need to this under 20 to have a chance. We've only allowed over 23 once this season so it should be doable. Calgary has committed the least turnovers and we will need to muster 1 or 2 of those. The absence of Derrick Moncrief is a big blow to us. Looks like Elam steps in (though who the hell knows, Duron may end up there too).
Side note: you can bet Bo Levi
Mitchell will be looking to avenge his pick 6 to Duron last season (Hey
Bo, he's still your best receiver). While I fully expect him to get it,
I would love nothing more than to see him throw an errant throw and
Duron do it again.
Offensively, I'm honestly worried. We played like utter garbage most the first half of the Hamilton game and have needed a defensive or special team TD in every one of ours wins to support our sad sack O. Calgary has allowed just 9.2 points per game, granted its been while pummeling East teams but they have been impressive. Most takeaways, most sacks, least yards. The only real advantage I see for us is that our complete lack of a credible passing attack essential neutralizes the #1 pass defense in the CFL. Take that. We are going to need to stay committed to the run or our O-line will get destroyed by Micah Johnson and Ja'Gared Davis. I'm still somewhat in shock that Messam got double digit carries last game. It would be nice to keep that up. We also need to lean heavy on Thigpen. Outside of Roosevelt, he is really our only other consistent offensive threat. You can bet Calgary will be keying on Roosevelt so we either need to attack using other guys or find ways to get Roosevelt some space (like his TD last game). Roberson on corner and Berger at safety are the weak links in that defense so that is where I would look to attack. While I do think our offense can muster more than the 9.2 points Calgary has been allowing, I don't see a huge night. Best we can hope for is turnover free ball.
Specials teams could be a factor in this as the game features the top 2 punt return units in the CFL. I expect this to be a low scoring game overall (as the teams sit 1 and 2 in offensive TDs allowed) so if a team can break one it could go a long way to determining the outcome.
As much as I would like to tell you that my gut says a major upset is coming, I don't have a good feeling at all about this game. A few plays go a different way (like say Hamilton not attempting the worst onside punt attempt I've ever seen) and we could be 2-3. Calgary is a team that does not make mistakes and is very tough to beat as a result. I think we will keep the game closer than many expect and prove that we will be no pushover in the West but in the end we aren't quite ready to knock off the top team.
Stamps by 8
Agree on most counts but I'd like to see the Messam experiment end. RB's don't get into a rhythm unless they have a dozen carries or more & they should see if Tre or Thigpen can carry the load. Messam is awful. At less than 4 yards per rush he's the worst in the league & yet averages about the same # of touches. As for Duron at LB, c'mon. Does our depth at LB suck as bad as DB? Aren't we carrying over half a dozen LB's every game & they're lousy at everything but special teams? How soon before Watford is playing DB? And get some guys on OL who are up to the task who are not named Steele. Still Riders do stack up fairly well on defence. But the Stamp offence is MILES ahead of Riders. In 5 games only 4 TD's when starting in our own end. Pretty much a game & a half production for 3 of the other Western teams. LWOS did an interesting analysis of the past 20 Grey Cups a couple of years ago whether defence actually does win championships. Conclusion - it's about 50/50. Bigger conclusion - some teams known for their defence also had good offences. The Patriots have always been a great offence with a mid-pack defence most years. It may be comforting to think it's true but look at Jones' Grey Cups. The Cups with Mtl, Calgary & Edmonton came with teams that allowed the fewest points but also offences that ranked 2nd, 2nd & 3rd in PF. In Toronto the defence ranked 7th. Argos got hot on offence the final 3 games scoring 106 points, still lost one of them as the defence gave up 110 those 3 games. The playoffs were all Ray & Kackert. They had a mediocre defence. You pretty much have to have a decent offence to go far in the CFL. Most teams last year averaged 27 PF or more & the best defence still allowed over 20. You're pretty much looking at putting 3 TD's minimum on the board to win. Still I see Riders at keeping it close as well. Mitchell isn't very mobile. The chess game will be can Mitchell find the open receivers when Riders send everyone. This isn't Hamilton. Mitchell & Reilly can burn you over the middle on quick reads as the receivers can read the blitz on those teams as well as anyone. This is going to be interesting.
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