Saturday the 10-5 Riders head to Loserpeg for their 3rd and final meeting of the year with the 8-7 Bombers. I’ve had this game circled on my calendar for a while and not in a good way. Having to travel to Winnipeg on 5 days rest is by far the toughest turnaround on our 2018 schedule. We already wrapped up the season series… well more correctly speaking, Matt Nichols already gift wrapped us the season series with his dreadful Banjo Bowl performance. The Riders need just 1 win over their final 3 (along with 1 BC loss) to clinch a home playoff date. The Bombers could still conceivably finish out of the playoffs and damn if it wouldn’t feel good to play a role in that. The Riders are on a roll having won 7 of their last 8 and 3 in a row. Though for context remember that our last 3 games have come against 2 teams not making the playoffs and 1 team playing like they don’t want to make the playoffs. None of them were convincing wins.
Let’s start with the defense, those glorious game saving bastards. This will be a stiff test for them as Winnipeg remains the most productive offense in the league. In fact they have scored twice as many offensive TDs as we have (yet somehow turned that into 2 less wins). I expect 2 things to be very different from the Banjo Bowl. First, Matt Nichols is not current in the midst of a mental breakdown and is unlikely to serve up 2 pick 6s (Though if I am Willie Jefferson I would be waving my arms all game seeing if it gives Nichols PTSD). Since his Banjo Bowl meltdown Nichols has been improving. Turnovers are down, completion % is up. But he’s still not doing anything spectacular. Averaging just 233 yards per game and he faced 2 not great defenses. The other difference from last meeting, which I think will have a far great impact is Weston Dressler. The Winnipeg O really seems to struggle when Dressler is out. He is a reliable chain mover that they didn’t have last meeting (UPDATE: Looks as though Dressler may not play now). Priority 1 remains the same: contain Harris. They are 2-6 when he doesn’t get 18 touches. I would gladly take the chance that Nichols wins the game with his arm and focus more effort on stopping Harris. Get pressure on Nichols (because he seems to hold up to pressure about as well as a Styrofoam plate) and take away the underneath stuff. Only one QB is worse than Nichols on the deep ball (and that’s the recently benched Bethel-Thompson). Let’s not make life easy on him. Winnipeg turns the ball over 3rd most in the league and we will need a few of those to have a chance in this.
Offense… I honestly don’t know what to expect. Maybe someone should tell them that the mid-field stripe is not the endzone. We seem to move the ball fine out of our zone but stop abruptly upon hitting the opposing side of the field. This isn’t half-court basketball. One thing for sure is that we need a run game. We had none on Monday and seemed to have no interest in trying (it was like McAdoo circa 2017). Collaros has a slight tendency to throw picks and Winnipeg is a very opportunistic D. Without a run game to take the pressure of Collaros and the pass game we are screwed. Receivers have quickly become a MASH unit. Roosevelt and Lambert are out. Moore is banged up but looking promising. Thank god Stanford was shipped out of town or Collaros might think about trying to pass to him again. Caleb Holley looks to return and he better play like 2016-17 Holley because 2018 Holley (pre-injury) was not very good. We need to lean on Thigpen (which I doubt we do) and we need Kenny Shaw to step up (which is possible). O-line will have their first big shuffle since we realized that Harrison was god awful (yet somehow deemed better than Bond in camp). Labatte to centre and then one of Blake, St John or Vaughn to guard. Regular readers (and those with functional eyesight) will know that I think Labatte is a far better centre than Clark (well pretty much better anything but TD catcher). Be interesting to see how they adjust to the shuffle. With all the injuries and the short week I’m honestly expecting next to nothing from our O (so the usual). Best I’m hoping for is limit the turnovers and hope the D can bail us out.
Want some stats to support the Riders’ chances of winning?
- The Bombers are a woeful 2-5 against West teams (worst in the west)
- The Riders are 5-2 against the West (no one has more west victories)
- The Riders are also 5-2 on the road.
Want some stats to support the Bombers’ chances of winning?
- We are shuffling on offense due to injury
- We are playing on 5 days rest. They are not.
I think the Riders are capable of winning this game but I do not think it is likely. We are good in close games (mainly because all we really do is close games) , the Bombers are not so if we can keep it close we have a chance. It will take a TD on either D or Special Teams (which we are capable of) and grinding it out on D (which have also been known to do). But again I would say us winning is possible but not probably. The short week plus travel proves too much to overcome.
Bombers by 10