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.


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