Saturday will be a first for one team. Either the Riders will get their first road win of the season or the Lions will get their first home win of the season. It’s a big game for both teams. Many are tossing around the term “must win” for the Riders but I don’t buy it. Obviously this is a game we should win and need to if we plan on being competitive in the West but we could survive a loss and still sneak into the playoffs. BC on the other hand… this is damn near must win for them. A loss puts them at 1-6 having lost the season series to Edmonton and then us. That is a big hole. They will be desperate and a road trip to BC will be a different environment than a home game.
This will be a game of adjustments. Teams won’t radically change what they did from last week but will look to add wrinkles to either shore up areas of weakness or take advantage of something they saw on film. BC has a lot to shore up (which is putting it mildly) but the Riders have a lot that can be cleaned up as well.
Let’s start with the offense. I can’t help but open with praise for our O-line. This will be the 5th different grouping of starters in 6 games with Dan Clark as the only guy to start every game (hands up if you predicted the guy recently in a car accident would be the most durable one). I won’t say they have been playing at an elite level but our QB isn’t getting killed (well I guess technically I need to say that the only time our QB is getting killed is when he’s illegally headhunted while sliding on a run play, but that’s not on the OL). Many people fretted about our depth coming into the season. I personally didn’t get that criticism as our depth is as good as its been in years. But guys like Shepley and Vaughn have stepped up. Even Schram has been serviceable when needed. Getting Bladek back should be a boost.
The good news is that BC’s D-line is not very good. Most people focus on how bad the O-line is (and rightly so as their protection is about as rigid as a wet Kleenex) but the D-line has also been pretty bad. They have just 7 sacks in 6 games (Charleston has 8 in 5 by himself). We need to take advantage of that. For all their faults BC does have decent run D but we need to stay committed to the run and stay balanced. That will allow us to really attack when we choose to pass as Fajardo should have the time he needs. The other thing we need to take advantage is the massive mismatch on the corners. Our WRs (Evans and Manny) are big and talented. Their corners are of average height and make Solomon Means look ok by comparison in terms of their talent. Let’s not wait until late in the game to attack that. If they roll coverage to Evans to compensate for last week then send Moore on a seem or feed Manny on the other side. We have the most pass plays of 30+ yards and BC offers us the chance to pad that lead. I really don’t think we need to change much offensively from last week other than to not take a second quarter nap.
Defensively we got some things to fix. There were too many long runs, too many easy completions and too many missed tackles last week. Our offense managed to pick up the slack and the D did hold them to FGs but a QB like Reilly will eventually make you pay for giving up freebie yards consistently (assuming he is able to peel himself off the turf). We need more disruption from our front 4. Hughes had a monster game but it would be nice to see someone else step up. Front 7 needs to make sure tackles the first opportunity. Had we done that last game BC’s yardage would have been cut in half. BC averages just 14.5 points per game at home. Let’s keep it that way. Hammer Reilly, make sure tackles and avoid giving up the big play. That’s the recipe for success. Adding to our woeful league low 4 takeaways would also help. Word is Solomon Means is being benched in favour of LJ McCray. I know next to nothing about McCray but already like him better.
Special teams has been slowly improving after a dreadful start to the season. Big returns were a factor last game and can be again. We need our kick coverage to be sound. It would help is Jon Ryan could not boom massive rouges… even though I’m sure there is a large crowd of Rider fans at BC Place waiting to give him a standing O if he does.
This shouldn’t be as easy as it was at home but man... we should win this. We have a clear advantage on both sides of the trenches and should be able to take advantage of that on both sides of the ball. Only thing I see hurting us would be turnovers or a big kick return but Fajardo is actually pretty good at protecting the ball (provided you ignore what happened against Calgary) and BC is not great on special teams. God I hope I don’t end up regretting typing that.
It will be closer and require more fight but in the end…
Riders by 10
Let’s just all hope that we escape this weekend’s action without a fabricated and ridiculous mascot controversy