Saturday the 1-1 Stampeders come to town for an evening battle with the 1-2 Riders. It will be the Stamps’ first road game of the young season. It will be the first time the Riders face a western opponent this season. While the official standings count wins over east and west teams equally, unofficially wins against the east are worth like half of what they are against the west.
This game could come down to who can withstand injuries better as both are dealing with a number of them. As of writing this, KD Cannon and Nick Marshall look unlikely to go and there is concern as to whether Lauther will be ready. Of course all the Stamps talk is about Bo Levi Mitchell who seems unlikely to play. They are also in trouble up front. After losing Ja’Gared Davis in free agency, the guy who was supposed to replace him got hurt in preseason and the guy replacing him got hurt in Week 2. Add in an injury to Junior Turner and Ese Mrabure and Calgary is essentially fielding any D-lineman with a pulse. They also have a couple nicked up DBs in Roberson and Smith.
Defensively I’m assuming Bo doesn’t play. Actually, as a Rider fan well versed in our longstanding tradition of making stars out of unknown QBs, I would actually feel better if Bo was playing (the long term psychological impacts of Rider fandom would be a riveting/terrifying study). There is one guy we need to shut down if we want to win this game… Eric Rogers. Calgary has 4 passing TDs this season, 3 of them have gone to Rogers. Dude has 20 TDs in 30 regular season games (and that doesn’t include his stellar playoff performances). I would feel better about containing him if Marshall played but that’s looking unlikely. I wonder if Shivers will pull a Jones move and switch to match-ups and have Gainey shadow Rogers… the prospect of either Blace Brown or Solomon Means covering Rogers is terrifying (I have more faith in the guy I haven’t seen play yet). Our best defense against Rogers will be pressure on Arbuckle. Put him under duress in his first start and hope he crumbles. Calgary has the worst run game so far this season (averaging just 3 yards per attempt). With a young QB you can bet they’ll try and get that going but we need to not let them. Lock down the run and force Arbuckle to win it on his own. We will need our new found ability to force turnovers to continue.
Offensively, Fajardo gets to prove whether he is a good QB or just a good QB when facing East teams (two very different concepts). From what I’ve seen, I like his chances. His reads are quick, decisive and usually correct. And his ball placement has been spot on. Tre Roberson has 3 INTs and had a 4th called back on penalty. If he plays we need to be wary of him. With Calgary hurting in the front 4, the best thing we can do is pound them with the run. The Stamps are allowing the 3rd most rush yards per game. Pound it and be smart with the throws (i.e. stereotypical McAdoo offense). But we can’t give up the aggression we’ve shown in the past 2 weeks. The reason we have scored 30+ in back to back weeks is because we’ve been willing to take chances and push the ball deep. A stat that I found interesting is that Calgary has allowed zero big plays this season (passes over 30, runs over 20). We need to change that. Calgary is allowing 32 points per game (which amazingly is 5th best in this zany high scoring season). Three weeks ago I would have placed our odds of notching 30 on the Stamps somewhere close to Corey Chamblin’s win % since September 2014 but now I think we have a legit chance. Fajardo has zero turnovers since becoming the starter… continuing that streak would go a long way to helping us win.
Normally a short week spells trouble, especially when your opponent is the Stamps. But they are more beat up than us so the odds even out. I expect we will find some way to make this difficult but I also expect a win.
Riders by a William Powell TD
Programming Note: I’m headed out on my annual fishing trip and will be off the grid until Thursday. So there will be no Monday Sentimonies. If we win, drink a rye for me. If we lose, drink 2 rye for me and curse at whoever is responsible.