Sunday the Riders travel to La Belle Provence to face the Alouettes. Normally when we face an opponent that is in an embarrassing state of disarray as the Als are I would spend a large portion of this write-up pointing out and making repeated fun of all their faults. I mean I could probably do a couple pages on the wonders of Kavis Reed’s leadership alone. But alas, I can’t really bring myself to do this for the simple fact that… we’ve lost to this dumpster fire, at home. It was a long time ago and I think we’ve made strides as a team since then but still, it’s a thorn in my side.
Plain and simple this is a game we need to win and should win. We are in the driver’s seat for 2nd in the West while they are on pace to miss the playoffs for a 4th straight season (a near statistical impossibility in a 9 team league). The sad part is that they don’t even get to benefit from their futility as they don’t have a 1st round draft pick FOR THE NEXT 3 YEARS. I know the Riders aren’t big on doing things the easy way (see last week) but this is the easiest game remaining on our schedule and we need every win we can get in what will surely be a dog fight in the west down the stretch.
Its no secret that our defense has had its struggles of late. By no means has it been playing terrible football but its not been playing the dominant kind of defense we grew accustomed to and quite frankly need. Well this game is a golden opportunity for them to re-establish their dominance. The Als’ offense is awful. How awful you ask? Worse than the Riders. Yes, that awful. They have scored less offensive TDs than us, have the least yards, the least points, most INTs thrown. While many will point the finger squarely at Johnny Manziel, for me, the core of their problem starts with their O-line. It is god awful. They would probably be better off starting cardboard cut-outs of other famous O-linemen then their current group. One could point to the fact that Kavis Reed traded away a stud Canadian guard in Ryan Bomber for an import DB, or the fact that after acquiring Landon Rice as part of he Manziel trade they cut him and he proceeded to sign back with Hamilton as possible factors in the state of the Montreal O-line but who am I to questions Kavis Reed’s forensics. They have already allowed 48 sacks. For context, last season the Lions allowed the most sacks all year with 49. The Riders have allowed 14 sacks the season, the Als allowed 17 IN THE PAST 3 GAMES! Its been a while since Charleston Hughes notched a sack but I guarantee that ends on Saturday. Anything less than 5 sacks against the Als should be considered a disappointment by our D.
Two things to be weary of with the Als O. One is William Stanback. He has an impressive 6.4 yards per carry and is one of the few bright spots in Montreal. No one runs less than the Als so its not a massive concern but we need to limit his impact when he has the ball. The other thing is the scrambling/improvisation of Manziel. He’s a guy that if you can keep in the pocket and make him beat you with his arms… especially in that offense, and especially behind that line, he will crumble. The front 7 need to assert their dominance in this one and I expect them to. This is an offense that averages under 17 point per game, I like our odds of keeping them under that.
As for our offense, well let’s just say I’m not nearly as optimistic. The big news is that we are resting Roosevelt thus taking one of the 3 people who have actually crossed the goal line out of our offense. Kenny Shaw steps in which could be a good thing is he’s anything close to his Argo days but who knows. That leaves Josh Stanford as our most experienced WR… let that sink and fill you with a sense of dread. I would play Rob Bagg if it was up to me to add some veteran presence to the receivers but I doubt we do. With Roosevelt out that means we need to lean on Thigpen, Williams-Lambert and Kyran Moore (in that order). Pound Mason to keep the D honest but make sure Thiggy is involved early and often (note to Steve McAdoo: those 2 concepts are not mutually exclusive). He can turn any play into a TD. In the passing game Lambert becomes your go to guy (please not Evans or Stanford) and Kyran Moore needs to be kept involved because he too has the speed to turn any play into 6. Montreal is not a very good defense: 2nd most points allowed, most yards allowed, least takeaways. They have been playing somewhat better in recent weeks, though that is relative to the utter awfulness of the start of the season. Collaros needs to limit his INTs. Montreal has 21 points off the league low 20 turnovers they’ve forced (that's an amaing 1 point per turnover) so if there was ever an opponent for him to get his groove back its this week. It would be nice to see 3 TDs again but more realistically I’ll settle for 2 TDs and doing something of value in the second half leading to Lauther kicking FGs in the 40 yard range. If we can sustain drives, that defense will tire out as the game goes on and their offense offers no support.
Montreal has always been a tough place for the Riders (can’t imagine what there could possibly be to distract you there). We are actually 1-5 in our last 6 visits to McGill Stadium. So we can’t afford to look past this game. The good news is that the Alouettes themselves are 1-10 in their last 11 visits to McGill stadium. Based on our season so far its tough to be hugely confident in the Riders even in a game like this but I just don’t see us losing this game. Our defense should be able to win this game by themselves. I don’t expect a lopsided beat down because we don’t do things the easy way but I do expect a win that does not come down to the opponent missing a kick.
Riders by 14.