Friday, August 30, 2019

Labour Day Classic 2019

I’ll be honest… it was a bit of a struggle to write this post. I mean, Labour Day is my favourite game of the year. I love the game, I love the atmosphere, I love the trash talk that fills this space every year at this time. The thing is though, I’ve been doing this now for ovwe 12 years. It’s getting tough to stay fresh. I’ve made fun of their province, their dreadfully low hygiene and literacy rates, their openness to inbreeding, the futility of their football club, their provincial coat of arms. I’ve made graphs, I’ve talked about Pacman Jones… hell I’ve modified OJ Simpson jokes to make fun of them.

For those who are new around here, the joke is as follows:
Why did O. J. Simpson want to move to Manitoba?
Nearly everyone has the same DNA

Anyway my point is that it’s getting tough to get motivated after so many years. How would I find it in me to do this again? But then I found some inspiration. You see, there are people out there who have been persistent far longer than me. Hell, I’m not even halfway through the time they’ve invested. I’m talking of course about the Blue Bombers. Their unwavering dedication to futility year after year is damn near unrivaled. And if they can commit to 29 years of the same Grey Cup-less reality then dammit I can do another Labour Day post!

Labour Day for years has meant the same thing. We drink, we watch the Riders win, we drink some more, we have a pants optional party and play guitar around the campfire signing in a voice that I’m sure my neighbours assume is either someone experiencing physical pain or a cat yodeling angrily. It’s just how it goes. At least, that’s how it goes every year but 2016. But we’ve all repressed that memory and just pretend it didn’t happen, much like the 2009 Grey Cup and the majority of the 90s.

Anyway onto the game…

The 6-3 Riders take on the 8-2 Bombers on Sunday. The Riders come in on a 5 game winning streak. The Bombers come in on a far less positive streak of continuing to lose their top offensive weapons. Nichols to injury, Harris to a little bit of vitamin S. Though if you watched any of the Bomber/Rider games last season you could argue that the lack of Nichols may actually improve the Bombers chance of victory.

Let’s start with our defense. Its no secret what the Streveler offense means… even without Harris. They will run. I watched the Edm/Win game and literally was calling out plays from the couch. It’s not hard when the only options are Harris rush or Streveler rush but apparently it kept the Eskimos dumfounded. We had best not be. People talk a lot about it being a run-pass option offense but it’s really a run-run option offense. LaPo is no dummy and he will have wrinkles. In the Esks game I noticed they usually had someone coming on a sweep plus the option of a hitch screen. They didn’t have to use those options in that game but I bet they will on Sunday. I also expect Demski to get a ton of touches during Harris’ self-induced vacation. Still our best bet is to shut down the run, assign one or possibly 2 spies on Streveler and dare him to beat us through the air. Having Micah back will be huge. Hughes and Leonard will need to be active parts in keeping Steveler behind the line of scrimmage. Winnipeg has the 3rd most giveaways so while it won’t be as easy as Dominique Davis or Nichols circa 2018 but we should be able to force turnovers.

As much as Winnipeg’s O doesn’t worry me, their Defense is still very good. There are very few individual defensive players who dictate changes offensive schemes to account for them. They have one of those in Willie Jefferson. The line as a whole is very solid. Throw in Adam Bighill. Rose in the secondary. Adamant anti-performance enhancer champion (at least when its not relating to star players on his own team) Jeff Hecht. They are talented and dangerous with the #1 run D and the most takeaways. Fajardo and co will have their work cut out for them. It starts up front. Tough challenge for the O-line. You can’t stop Willie Jefferson, you can only hope to slow him down enough not to completely destroy you. We will need Fajardo’s mobility. While Winnipeg has good D we can’t get too far from what’s been working for us. Run Powell hard. Rely on vets like Roosevelt and Arceneaux to move the chains. Milk that Shaq Evans crosser. Try and get an explosive play from Moore or Thiggy. Most important will be not turning the ball over.

The game matches up like this. They have a great D. We have a pretty good D. We have a pretty good O. Their O is serviceable at best given their personnel. I say that and 30,000 screaming fans give us the advantage. LaPo will coach as much as possible out of Streveler but even he has limits given what he’s working with. As long as we don’t give them momentum through big plays, turnovers or dumb plays on special teams (legit concern), we should have the advantage. Plus… we don’t lose on Labour Day. Far worse Rider teams have prevailed on Labour Day. Closer than it should be but…

Riders by 10.

If you encounter Bomber fans this weekend be kind. There is legitimately a generation of children in Manitoba schools who think that the Canadian constitution outlaws Winnipeg winning the Grey Cup. The only reason they may know it’s a possibility is because their uncles are still in the same grade as them and can tell them.

Enjoy the game!

Monday, August 26, 2019

Monday Morning Sentimonies: We’re Going Streaking!

Riders 40 – RedBlacks 18

Streaks were the theme of Saturday’s football game. The Riders extended their winning streak to 5. The RedBlacks extended their losing streak to 1 win in their last 7. We’ll never know how far Dominique Davis could have extended his consecutive drives with an INT streak but they mercifully pulled him at 3. The rate he was going he seemed intent on ensuring every member of the secondary got a pick. While the fans may not have got in on the streaking action, a lady in the crowd managed to flash her “assets” on the maxtron… family day indeed.

The game really contrasted where the teams are at at the most important position. We have Cody Fajardo: rising star, point producer, turnover avoider, sprinkler of Jesus. Ottawa had to pull a turnover enthusiast (he literally completed as many passes to the Riders as to his own players) in favour of an only moderately less sucky QB. Based on that fact alone, it not hard to see why we are on a winning streak and the RedBlacks nose diving. I was really hoping they would just let Sinopoli throw… you telling me he could be any worse? I go back to what I said pre-game though… HOW IS THIS THE SAME DAVIS THAT CARVED US UP IN WEEK 2?!?!? Does he have a more talented twin brother?

With the exception of most of the second quarter where they took a nap, I thought our offense did well. They capitalized on turnovers, they didn’t turn the ball over themselves, they didn’t allow a sack (though some credit has to go to Houdini Fajardo on that). I really like how Fajardo is reading the field. On second down he’s leaning on the savvy vet Roosevelt. He’s milking that crosser to Shaq (which is tough to defend when thrown on time). He used his legs pretty sparingly but was effective when he did. He even decided to break trend and look at Arceneaux more than the allotted one token time. I really liked that long pass to Arceneaux, where Manny recognized Fajardo was in trouble and rolling and cut his route short to come back for a completion. That’s why you have vets like him in the line-up. My only real criticism of the O was that we ran with the wind in the first Q and completely abandoned it into the wind in the second, like constantly in 6 receiver sets not even pretending we’re running. But we worked through that and had a good second half so all in all a good day.

Defense didn’t exactly have the hardest challenge but you can only play the cards you are dealt and they stepped up. Ottawa only really got one play (the deep ball past Bouka) on us. Really liked how we locked down the run (though Crokett getting hurt certainly made that a bit easier). We had 7 turnovers coming into the game… we damn near doubled that… in the first quarter. Judge had a big game. Marshall had his redemption game. On his pick he completely bailed on his receiver who was running a streak and jumped the underneath route. Better QBs will make him pay for that, but against Ottawa that was good aggression and play recognition. D played fired up and with a chip on their shoulder and delivered a great performance.

Special teams had a solid day. It’s nice having Lauther back. I know he missed one but the confidence we have in him on 40+ yard attempts was missed. Plus our kickoffs actually went further than 3 yards, so that was great. Even Jon Ryan decided not to be awful. By my count 6 of his 9 punts were actually on or outside the numbers. ALLELULIA!!! His only real bad punt was late in the 4th. The main weakness I’m noticing now is that when he gets close to the endzone he completely gives up on the directional stuff and kicks it right down the middle hoping it will bounce on the 1 yard line and stay out… it never does, it always rolls in. But for as critical as I’ve been of him, this was actually one of his best games in green. He even saved a bad snap on a FG attempt, getting it up off the ground and in position for Lauther to kick (underrated skill).

Look, let’s be honest, we dummied a really bad team. But that’s what we are supposed to do, can’t apologize for it. You gotta win the winnable games and we have been. Back to back with Winnipeg will get a lot harder but you have to be happy with a 6-3 record through the first half of the season.

Buckle up. Next up is Labour Day and you know I love me some Bomber trash talk!

Friday, August 23, 2019

Riders vs. RedBlacks: It Can’t Happen Again

Saturday the Riders (who are riding a 4 game win streak) host the 3-6 RedBlacks (who have lost 6 of their past 7). These 2 teams last met in week 2 in an offensive shootout that cemented Cody Fajardo as a starting QB in this league. The more of the RedBlacks’ games I watch this season, the more I cannot fathom what happened in that game. It’s simply not the same RedBlack offense we saw in Week 2. Ottawa has just 8 big passing plays this year… 3 of them came in that game. I’m convinced that it wasn’t actually Dominique Davis playing in that game but rather a good QB disguised as Davis.

Davis’ stat line Game 2 – 77% completion, 354 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs
Davis’ state line in every other game he’s played in 2019 – 60% completion, 1469 yards (avg 210/game), 2 TDs, 11 INTs

Like, did Davis find a genie to grant him a wish when he played us or what?!? Whatever the explanation, we can’t let it happen again. The RedBlacks have failed to score more than 20 points in all but one game since they played the Riders. I get that some of that can be blamed on having to play Jonathan Jennings but he doesn’t account for all that awfulness.

So let’s start with our defense. Ottawa has 2nd least offensive yards, least offensive TDs (yes less than both BC and Toronto), 2nd most two and outs, 2nd most turnovers. Remember that time Ottawa made that questionable decision to deny their talented OC the chance to interview for a head coach job and then he ended up quitting before the season? Glad to see that decision worked out so well for them. This is a struggling offensive unit we are facing, so on our home turf we need to come out and set the tone early. This is a case where kicking them while they are down is not only acceptable, its encouraged… not literally of course. To their credit, Ottawa has realized their offense is terrible and turned to Joe PaoPao to try and fix things. With Davis struggling, he will likely start by looking to establish Crockett and the run game early. We need to shut that down and ramp up the pressure on Davis. Sure he torched us last time, but I would be willing to bet against that happening again. I would like to see us be aggressive and take the fight to them. It should lead to mistakes and turnovers. Looks like Johnson is still out but Leonard is back which should help. I expect Paopao to try and get back to basics, so in addition to a heavy dose of run, look for them to try and lean on Sinopoli to get their passing game going… or based on their past few games I should instead say: look for them to throw incomplete passes 2 yards behind Sinopoli more frequently.

Offensively you would usually fear taking on a Noel Thorpe defense. But this isn’t a typical Thorpe defense. 2nd most yards allowed, 3rd most points allowed. Injuries to Tindal and Rose in the secondary certainly have hurt them, as has the fact that the only way the O could provide less support is to kick their defensive teammates in the crotch as they are heading onto the field. Ottawa has the second worst run D (giving up 121 yards per game on the ground) that should mean Powell gets a heavy workload. Last game we attacked Chris Randle with Shaq Evans and I’d be all for that again. Outside of possibly Pruneau, no one in that secondary scares me. Evans and Moore should be able to have big gains. Add in some key conversions for Roosevelt and the token Manny catch. I’m OK with Fajardo using his legs when needed but I’d really like him to not get himself killed with a tough back half of the season left to go. Ottawa has forced 23 turnovers so we need to ensure we are protecting the ball. Ottawa allowed a combined 37 points to Edmonton and Hamilton in the last 2 games so they still have the ability to lock things down and make us work for yards and points.

Despite their struggles elsewhere, Ottawa does have very solid special teams. Lewis Ward may have recently proved he is human but can still kick. Leone is a great punter. Even without Dedmon their return game can be impactful. We can’t let our special team struggles be something that keeps Ottawa in this game. Honestly based on how well we have been covering kicks, I would not be opposed to a strategy of exclusively kicking through the endzone or out of bounds. Given that kicking out of bounds would require our punter to kick outside the numbers I guess we can only hope for the kick through the endzone option.

Ottawa is a well coached team and we can’t take them lightly. But right now, they are not a very good team. Unless Dominique Davis’ secret power is playing well exclusively against the Riders, I expect them to struggle offensively. I don’t expect an offensive onslaught from us but I don’t see Ottawa scoring 3 TDs so 21 points seems attainable on our end.  Aggressive D, get the crowd involved, smart methodical drives on O. I would personally like to see Nick Marshall have a 3 pick revenge game (as honestly despite getting torched in Game 2 his coverage could not have been much better).

Riders by 10

Monday, August 19, 2019

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Dickenson vs. Jones

With the Riders on a well-timed bye week I thought I’d take the opportunity to compare where new head coach Craig Dickenson is at as compared to where the man he replaced was at the same time last season. For the purposes of this analysis I’m going to go beyond the obvious things. You know, like the fact that Craig Dickenson awns more than one shirt and seems to not have a deathly aversion to open buttons. And other obvious things, like the fact that this year we actually just signed guys we actually wanted in the free agency and didn’t cut most of them before game 4. No, for this I dug into the stats and came up with the following.

After 8
% Change

Offenisve TDs
Passing Yards
Rushing Yards
Sacks allowed
Points allowed
Passing Yds allowed
Rushing Yds allowed
Special Teams
Punt Return Avg
Opponent Punt Ret Avg
Kickoff return avg
Opponent Kickoff Ret Avg
Net punt avg
Players Dressed

It’s actually a lot of positives, starting with the win column. For me the overall results are not surprising but the specific areas are.

Coming into the season I think we fully expected the O to suck, the D to be a question mark and the special teams to continue being strong. Well instead we got an O that is pretty strong, a D that still has some questions but is mostly good and a special teams that are an utter disappointment.

Let’s start with the O. I don’t think you need stats to tell you that they are infinitely better. 9 offensive TDs last year vs. 21 this season.  The contrast made me wonder if our O is actually good or just seems awesome compared to the garbage we endured last season. So I went back to 2017 when we also had a good offense.  We had 24 TDs through 8 games then so we are actually pretty comparable. It’s nice seeing the turnovers down and the O-line holding relatively steady (especially given the multiple personnel changes). People ask whether its all Fajardo or whether McAdoo has changed. I say it’s a bit of both. Obviously if you look at the offense when Glenn and Fajardo are under centre vs. pretty much any other QB its obvious that good things happen when McAdoo has faith in his QB and pretty much nothing happens but runs and hitches when he doesn’t. But Fajardo is certainly having an impact. I remember hearing Coach McAdoo say that every play he calls has someone going deep. It takes a QB willing to make that throw. Fajardo has no fear of the deep ball and is accurate when he does.

Defense is actually better in pretty much every category. Something that is probably a surprise given the departure of Chris Jones who was one of the best defensive minds in the game. What you are seeing under Shivers is something I predicted before the season… a far less sexy but more steady and reliable D. You aren’t seeing the game changing plays and piles of turnovers that Jones produced but you are seeing a D that is locking things down and not taking risks that lead to big play potential. It would be nice to see the turnovers go up but as we saw in the Montreal game, this D can step up when needed to take the pressure off an underperforming O.

Special teams is the unpleasant surprise. The only real positive has been kickoffs, though stats are a bit misleading there. Our kickoff returns are legitimately better thanks to Purifoy. Our coverage however… sure the returns are smaller but that’s mostly due to the fact that Ferraro has so little distance on his kickoffs that our cover teams can take like 3 steps and make a tackle. Punting is where things have all gone to hell. Returns are down slightly but our coverage has been awful. Look, you’ve heard me rant on Jon Ryan and his inability to kick outside the numbers. I don’t want to beat that dead horse too much more. I'll just say that a casual observer might think “hey our net punting is up by a yard with Ryan”. That is technically correct but this marginal increase in net punting comes at insanely high risks as we have already given up 8 big plays on kick returns compared to just 3 last season. I’d rather a slightly lower net and more reliable coverage than this “kick it like hell and hope for the best” strategy we are running. Honestly did not expect special teams to be the biggest concern in Dickenson’s first year coaching. Hope he gets that figured out.

So the early results for Dickenson have been mostly positive. For me, the big question will be how he does down the stretch. Chris Jones was notorious for terrible starts to the season but then playing great football down the stretch. If Dickenson can likewise have this team peak late in the season good things will be in store.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Who Might the Riders Have Their Eye On Down South

I had a request from a reader to do a post about which potential NFL cuts the Riders would have their eye on. Given that I have like 3.5 readers I should probably make an effort to pander to them. If you are one of the other 2.5 readers and have an idea for a post feel free to send it my way. Better yet, feel free to write out the post in its entirety and send it my way so I can steal the credit. That fits a lot better with my usual effort levels.

So NFL training camps are in full swing which means that soon a lot of people are going to be cut. CFL GMs will be scouring these cuts to see if they can find guys to bolster their roster for this year or bring in to develop with an eye for next year. Here are some names that the Riders may be keeping an eye on.

Obviously #1 on the list is WR Jordan Williams-Lambert (currently with the Bears). He is the first beneficiary of the newly reinstated option year. So if he does not stick down south, he comes back to the Riders. Receiver isn’t a huge need at this point but for a guy with his skillset, you find a spot for him. Most likely that would be by bumping out Arceneaux. Usually a concern with WRs coming back from the NFL is that they bulk up but Lambert played at 228 last year and did just fine so that likely isn’t a concern. I’d put odds he comes back around 60%.

Two other names on our watch list are past draft picks DL David Oneymata (Saints) and TE Anthony Auclair (Bucs). Oneymata is not coming north any time soon and Auclair is unlikely at least this year. But both would be boosts to our Cdn talent if by some miracle they did shake loose.

In terms of need, obviously right now, some D-line depth would be nice.  There aren’t many former CFL D-linemen down south. The list is essentially James Vaughters (Bears) and Jake Ceresna (Giants). I would put odds of Vaughters coming back higher than Ceresna as a CFL DT is typically more similar to an NFL one than a DE is (though as I type this I just saw him force a fumble in preseason). But I doubt either ultimately end up here. Ceresna would command good $$ and we already have lots invested at DT. A more realistic name to watch is DL Sterling Shippy (Colts) who was just released as one of the names on our neg list.

Another category of course is former Riders. Sam Eguavoen (Dolphins) obviously tops the list but dude is pushing for a starting job on that D and is quite frankly too talented not to stick for at least one season. LB Brian Peters (FA) is still out there. LB is not a huge area of need but he would be a nice depth add. The one name I’m surprised hasn’t surfaced here is Kacy Rogers. He went to the Jets then the AAF and is now a free agent. LJ McCray is doing a decent job at corner (certainly not the trainwreck Means was) but Rogers would be an impact add in the secondary.

Other “big names” on the radar would be guys like Brett Jones (Vikings). It would be a great story to bring him home but I think he sticks in the NFL and if he comes north there would be a huge bidding war that I don’t think we have the money to win. Defensively guys like Dexter McCoil (FA), Jameer Thurman (Bears), Shaq Richardson (FA), Deon Lacey (Bills) and Kenny Laddler (Giants) would be worth watching. Offensively its Duke Williams (Bills) and Diontae Spencer (Steelers) but don’t expect us to pursue either.

With the exception of Lambert and then possibly Shippy (great name by the way) and Rogers I expect us to be pretty quiet in terms of “name” players come cut time. Though I have been wrong before. I’m married, so my wife would refer to that as “every day”.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Monday Morning Sentimonies: The Two Sweetest Words In The English Language

Riders 17 – Alouettes 10

I’ve seen a lot of weird wins over the years. I’ve seen ugly wins, wins we probably didn’t deserve, wins we did deserve but did our best to try and give away, wins that leave you not feeling all that great. Friday was a new one for me. I mean, we won… but it was hard to feel real great about. Player of the game goes to Zeus (the god of lightning, not the guy who wrestled Hulk Hogan in No Holds Barred, just so we're clear) as lightning ended the game with just over a quarter to play.

Look I get that there needs to be a rule about when to call games and that inevitably someone won't like that rule. I don’t know what the right time is but 60 mins seems way too short. Given that they have to wait 30 mins after lightning strike, essentially any storm over 30 mins ends it. But don’t just yell at “stupid Ambrosie” or the “bush league CFL”, this was a provision jointly negotiated with the players so they are equally to blame. Also, clearly if the roles had been switched and the Riders had lost there would have been wide-spread riots in the prairies. But don’t pretend for a second that all the non-Rider fans currently crying foul would not have been laughing their asses off and enjoying our pain had we lost. We are all hypocritical and self-interested, some of us are just honest about it.

But enough about the weather, complaining too much makes us seem like Grandpa Simpson

The game itself, was essentially 3 good, plays. The Riders made 2 while the Als only made one so we won. Well, I guess you could throw in the fact that our kicker can actually split the uprights on a somewhat regular basis as another key to victory (man Bede is erratic).

Let’s start on defense, as they literally won the game for us, scoring not one but 2 TDs on essentially the same play. The first one with Moncrief gave me flashbacks to Jackie Mitchell killing Dave Dickenson. I was already coming out of my chair when he came off the edge. I barely saw the TD because I was screaming so hard at the hit. Then Judge thought he should get in on the action and did it to Shiltz. The hit wasn’t as devastating but the end result was just as sweet… though Charleston Hughes’ slow mo runs to the endzone always cause a bit of anxiety as to whether he’ll get there before a defender gets him or his lungs give out. TDs aside, the D did their job. Allowed only 4 points, held Jeremiah Johnson to 3.8 yards per carry. Hell the only thing they didn’t seem to have an answer for was the offensive juggernaut known as Spencer Moore. Let me reiterate though that Antonio Pipkin is not good (like at all) … and Matt Shiltz is only slightly better. Still with a depleted front 4, the D did a good job of stepping up and helping out a struggling rest of the team.

Offense was a grind. Pre-game I listened to an interview with Fajardo where he said Montreal drops a lot to take away the deep stuff, forces you short and rallies well to the ball. Turns out the kid knows what he’s talking about. Lots of dink and dunk. But Cody showed good patience. Leaned heavy on his veteran in Roosevelt to find the space and most importantly, protected the ball. One thing I did not like was how little we ran. I get that Montreal was scheming to limit the run so adjusting to take the passes they give you makes sense but at some point you gotta feed your star back the ball. Anything less that 10 touches for Powell, especially in a game like this, is unacceptable. Still by virtue of not turning the ball over… and not letting our QB get repeatedly drilled on LB blitzes, the O did just enough to get by. By the way, I totally called the token catch for Manny.

Special teams is awful. Well I guess I should specify that our punting is awful. The rest seems to be fairly adequate. It starts with everyone’s damn hero, Jon Ryan. When the best thing I can say about the highest paid punter in the league is that “at least this game some of his punts went in the direction of the sidelines” that’s a problem. At least twice this game he send line drives to the middle of the field. One resulted in a 42 yard return. While you are all wetting your pants over his distance and his hang time, I’m focusing on the fact that only about half his punts go outside the hashmarks. Again, highest paid punter in the league should be at least somewhat consistent. In fairness to mister Ryan, our coverage has also been awful. I really don’t understand how Dickenson is letting this happen. This is his specialty. Hopefully the bye week can been used to sort that out.

Overall it was somewhat of a let down in terms of a win but it was a win. The only 2 plays the Als made where punt returns. Their offense was doing nothing. Hell their offense was actively trying to lose the game. Their D was limiting us but not getting any turnovers. We were the better team so there is no need to apologize for the win.

With 5 wins we are right in the mix with the top teams in the west and getting a much needed bye to rest up.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Riders vs. Alouettes: Le Road Trip

Friday night the Riders roll into Montreal looking for their 4th straight win. They will face what has to be the surprised team of 2019 in the mysteriously not awful Alouettes. Apparently all that was needed for them to emerge from their 4 year slump was to fire their head coach after the preseason and fire their GM after they finally started winning. Had they stumbled upon this knowledge years ago, who knows where they might be now.

Despite being a train wreck for a number of years now, Montreal remains a tough place to win for the Riders. They are 2-5 in their last 7 trips to La Belle Provence having been beaten by double digit margins 3 times. When you look at the state of the Alouettes over that timeframe it becomes apparent that there must be more than football talent at play here. Possibly some kind of off field distraction. I can’t think of any potential distractions in Montreal, in the evening, that would tempt young men… particular men who have been enduring the infamous Regina social scene for 2+ months. Let’s just say if I was Jeremy O’Day I would offer the plays a deal: Don’t leave the hotel Thursday night, win Friday and the first round is on me Friday night. Can you write off a lap dance as a business expense or would that count against the cap as a player bonus?

2019 is quickly becoming a year of injuries. Pretty much every team has dealt with injuries to top players (especially QBs). The top teams in the standings come November may not be the best teams on paper but rather the teams that are best able to overcome their injuries. This will be on full display Friday. For the Riders, pretty much our entire D-line is on IR. Shaq Evans is questionable. Brett Lauther is still out (why is it our kickers always follow up a great year with injury? Same thing happened to Crapigna). For the Alouettes, Vernon Adams is out and so is William Stanback. Those 2 account for 10 of the 16 offensive TDs Montreal have scored. This game will come down to which depth players can step up and which coaches put their depth players in the best position to be successful with their schemes.

A big reason behind Montreal recent return to relevancy has been their defense. We knew coming into the season that they had the talent on paper: Muamba, Loffler, Campbell, Evans, Ackie. The question was did they have a coach who could get them playing to their potential. There were rampant doubts about Bob Slowik given that his only CFL experience was a guest coaching spot in 2018. Well it took him a while but he proved many wrong. Here are the yards allowed by the D starting from Game 1 through to last week: 607, 526, 436, 365, 320, 241. Notice a trend? Add to the steadily improving yardage, 18 turnovers (leading to the second most points off turnovers in the league). This is a physical unit that has playmakers. Their main weakness is their front 4. They have just 5 sacks (by far the worst in the league) and allow 5.2 yards per rush (3rd worst). That’s where our attack needs to start. Establish the run with Powell (with some Thiggy mixed in) and take the physicality to them. Their secondary is very good. In addition to the guys previously mentioned, Greg Reid is playing some solid ball. That leaves CB Ryan Carter as the place I would focus my attention when passing. Possibility of no Shaq hurts (last year I would have laughed if you told me I’d be typing that) but Stafford can be a deep threat even on a limited playbook. Roosevelt, Moore and Manny will have to step up. Oh, who am I kidding? Moore and Roosevelt will have to step up and Manny will get his token catch. Fajardo needs to be smart with the ball and not create turnovers and smart with his body and not take unnecessary hits. Muamba has a bit of a history with hits on QBs that lead to fines. We need Cody healthy come November and limiting the hits now will go a long way in that regard. Hell the way our injuries have been piling up, just getting to the bye week would be a victory.

Defensively we get lucky for the second week in a row with a team missing their QB and top offensive weapon. Now the back-up RB is Jeremiah Johnson who has 30 TDs over the past 4 seasons so he’s no slouch (though he is a downgrade from Stanback). It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that if a team is missing all but 1 starting D-linemen you should run… a lot. Expect a heavy dose of Johnson. They are the #1 rushing team and I don’t expect that to change. That will also help mask the fact that Antonio Pipkin is not very good. I have never understood the hype on this guy. Career completion % of just over 50%. 4 passing TDs as compared to 8 INTs. He had 2 decent games and then defenses got film on him and he hasn’t done much since. Coming into camp I was surprised that Pipkin was viewed as the unquestioned guy over Adams but then again that didn’t even make the list of top things that were weird in Montreal. Do what you need to limit the run and force Pipkin to throw to win… I honestly don’t think he can do it.  With our tackles hurting, Elimimian will need to step and have a big game to help them out in the middle. One thing Montreal does really well is protect the ball. They have turned the ball over a league low 8 times. Ball control, strong running and defense is how they have been winning. They have the 2nd least passing yards and a league low 60% completion rate. We will likely need to send some blitzes to get pressure so there will be additional pressure on the secondary but if we can limit the run and get pressure Pipkin we’ve got a good chance. 

Montreal allows the most punt return yards and as last week showed are susceptible to big returns. In a game where we are depleted and on the road, winning the special teams battle would be a huge boost.

I saw this as being a tough game even before I got to page 2 of our injury list. Generally speaking we have been winning the battle in the trenches and while we should be OK on offense, its going to be a grind on D (Henry and Dabire don’t scare anyone). I’m envisioning a game very much like the Hamilton one. Very close, we’ll go through an extended part of the game where we just quit playing and a narrow victory that is best described as ugly... or since the game will be played in Quebec, laid. 

Riders by a William Powell TD in the final 2 minutes… then start the bye week off in style and put it on O’Day’s tab!