Saturday the Riders travel to Cowtown for the 3rd an final meeting of the year with the league leading Stampeders. The teams split the first 2 meetings (in both cases based on huge opening quarters). Calgary will be looking to cement their status as 1st in the West. The Riders will be looking to inch close to a home playoff game (don’t bother me with the scenario where we can still get first. The Riders have to win out and the Stamps lose 3 straight. This is what we call a pipe dream). More importantly the Riders will be looking to put just a god awful week on and of the field behind them and show that they are still a viable contender in the West after stinking up the joint in Winnipeg… and given how stinky Winnipeg is to begin with, its saying something that we managed to make it worse.
The task is daunting. Calgary is the best team in the league and they are dominant at home. Since 2014 they have lost 6 home games TOTAL. Add to that the injuries that have been mounting for us and the fact that we have adopted a bold “offense is optional” approach to the season. On the flip side though, Calgary is facing as many injury troubles as we are. We also beat them in the last meeting… and I wold argue, outplayed them for 3 of the 4 quarters of the first meeting. Calgary is tough but we know that we can beat them.
Let’s start with the defense because truthfully they are essentially our LeBron James and the remainder of the team is his previous supporting cast in Cleveland. I’m convinced if you go back and watch film you will find many defensive players making this face to the O.
Formula to beating Bo is simple (its just not easy). Take away the run and pressure him. He is used to a level of protection usually reserved for foreign leaders and when he doesn’t get that he gets visibly flustered. It’s crazy that we need to be worried about WRs when facing a team that has lost 4 top tier receivers but Rogers and Matthews are dangerous. No one throws deep more than Bo so we need to stay disciplined in the secondary. Take away the big plays, force the long drives and hope that our pressure disrupts things. Calgary has been uncharacteristically prone to turnovers this year. Last year they had 25 total, this year they have 32… and 8 of those came in the 2 games they played us. Gotta force turnovers and quite honestly gotta find a way to get one to the house.
The best thing I can say about our offense is that it kind of neutralizes a big strength of the Stamps. They have the #1 D (allowing just 17 ppg) but it really doesn’t matter how good your D is when facing an O this bad. Take that Stamps. I know we all know that our offense is brutal but for context: the Riders only currently have 22 offensive TDs. That would put them on pace for 25 TDs on the season… or more correctly if you go based on the past 2 games that puts them on pace for 22 TDs. That would be the lowest total since the 2014 RedBlacks put up 24 in their inaugural season. It would be the least of any playoff team since the 2010 Argos put up 29. It would also be worse than both the 2011 and 2015 Riders (remember how awful those teams were?). So this offense ranks among the worst in the past decade. Were it not for a super human defense and a damn good special teams group we realistically aren’t a playoff team and the calls for a coaching change would be deafening. Much like Roy Shivers’ downfall was his unwavering faith in Danny Barrett (and Barrett’s downfall was his unwavering faith the Nealon Greene) I can’t help shake the feeling that Jones’ downfall will one day be his unwavering support for Steve McAdoo.
But enough about how bad our O is. Let’s talk about what we need to do to have a chance in this. Interesting stat for you, the Stamps have only allowed over 21 points 6 times this season… and twice was against us. Granted we had 3 defensive TDs against them but still we seem to play Calgary better than pretty much anybody. It starts up front. Our make shift O-line will need to play their tails off against one of the best front 4 in the CFL. The combo of Singleton and Thurman (a very underrated LB) make running the ball hard but we still need to try. A solid mix of Mason and Thigpen to keep the D-line from pinning their ears back. Collaros needs to put on some glasses and start making better decisions on his throws. A good suggestion would be that if the ratio of defenders to receiver is greater than 1 to 1 maybe try throwing elsewhere. Our receivers also need to up their game. Sounds like we get Lambert back which is a boost. I also expect Moore to rebound from a brutal showing in Winnipeg. If Brandon Smith sits again due to injury, we need to attack the rookie Amos in that HB spot. Honestly if the O can put up 1 TD, 3 FGs and not turn the ball over we have a chance in this. Based on the last 2 games though, that seems to be asking a lot.
To beat a team as good as Calgary you need to win at least 2 out of 3 phases. That means special teams will need to be difference makers. A return TD would be huge or even forcing a fumble on coverage.
On paper even though they are beat up, the Stamps should win this game. I know we are not as bad as we looked in Winnipeg but between our offense and the mounting injuries we are in tough up against the #2 offense and #1 defense in the league. But as we all know games aren’t played on paper and this wild and whacky CFL season has proven that. Fact is we have played Calgary better than anyone this season. Fact is we have beat Calgary once already. Fact is no one has more road wins than us. Fact is you are sick of me saying fact is by now.
I just have this gut feeling that this is one of those games where the Riders defy logic and come about and play rock solid football. So logic be damned, I’m going with my gut.
Riders by a long Lauther FG (he’s well rested after literally doing nothing last week).