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
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!