Monday, September 30, 2019

Monday Morning Sentimonies: As It Should Be

Riders 41 – Argos 16

The Riders notched their 9th win of the season and clinched a spot in the playoffs with a convincing win over the worst team in the CFL (I mean realistically the RedBlacks are the worst but so far the Argos have the worst record). Things went pretty much as expected. It certainly didn’t seem that way through the first quarter and into the second as the Riders still seemed to mentally be on their bye week. The sad thing was that even with the Riders sleepwalking through the game, it was never really in doubt. Then Dickenson gave a rousing halftime speech which I assume amounted to “Hey, remember that these guys suck?” and the team responded yes and proceeded dominate the remainder of the game.

Defense played solid throughout. 4 turnovers, 6 sacks and just 3 points allowed through all but garbage time (though I guess you could argue that much of that game could be considered garbage time). The rest seemed to do Hughes some good as he notched another 2 sacks. It’s nice that even though he’s banged, up he’s not experiencing the second half drop in production he did last season. A big part of that is the presence of Micah Johnson. At times he just manhandled up to 3 would be blockers. Regardless of the score, Elimimian plays at one speed: “Looking to inflict pain”. Cam Judge just continues to make plays. Chapdelaine doesn’t believe in the run. On the opening drive Wilder ran 3 times for 19 yards resulting in a FG… he got 4 more carries the entire game. As Mr. Burns would say “It’s called playing the percentages. Its what smart managers do”. With their refusal to run, shutting down Derel Walker was the key and we held him to 46 yards… 42 of which came on one pass. Defense had a strong performance.

They sure took their sweet time getting going, but once they did offense was fun to watch. Fajardo must wish he could play the Argos every week because he puts up big numbers against them (I guess everyone does though as they are the worst defense in the CFL… damn that Chamberlain). 3 TDs through the air while competing 82% of his passes and another TD on the ground, while running for 80 yards. It was a performance that gave many a Fajardon. A lot of credit goes to Roosevelt who made some tough catches early when our O was struggling. Kyran Moore had a big game, living up to his nickname of Swerve. I love how late in the game we were just like “Screw it, Bryan Bennett do you want a TD too?”. I am willing to bet that you screamed just like I did when Manny finally scored. The reaction of the whole team tells you how much he means to the team. Also, as a child raised on wrestling in the 90s I’m a big fan of the Bushwhackers celebration.

It was such a good game that the special teams decided to play good as well. Good punt returns, good coverage and hell I even saw Jon Ryan make the nicest punt of his entire Rider career. It was so impressive that I won’t mention earlier in the game when Coach Dickenson was seen on the sidelines trying in vain to get him to punt in the vicinity of the numbers.

The one negative was that even in a blowout win over a really bad team, we still managed to take over 100 yards in penalties. We are entering a very important stretch of the season and if we can’t get this reigned in, it will burn us.

It was an easy win over an easy opponent but that’s what was supposed to happen. I’ve probably overused this line this year but you can only play the cards your dealt. Our playoff spot is secured but we have bigger goals in mind. With 5 games left we are tied for first place and targeting a first round bye or at least a home playoff game. Gotta win 3 of our final 5 minimum to have a shot at a home playoff game. If we want first then our next 2 games against the Bombers and Stamps are crucial.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Riders vs. Argos: Back At It

Rested after the bye week, the Riders return to action Saturday in Toronto facing the 2-10 Argos. The Riders will be looking to keep pace with the top teams in the West. The Argos will be looking to win just enough games to keep pace with Ottawa in the race to not finish last. Still the Riders would be wise to not overlook this opponent. Gotta win the winnable games and even a team playing as poorly as the Argos won’t be beat with half-assed effort.

Offensively we get a big boost with the return of Brendan Labatte who will make his 2019 debut. Not that our O-line has been playing bad, but adding him can only improve that unit. The Argos have the worst defense in the league, allowing the most yards and points. The only way to increase your odds of scoring over the Argos is to hire an actual prostitute. They have also been allowing the most big passing plays which should have Fajardo and Shaq Evans licking their lips. But as much as we will have our chances to bomb it deep, we can’t forget to start with a strong running game. The Argos allow the second most rush yards so pound it early and often and that will set up the deep shots later. I would also look to feed the ball to Manny and Roosevelt. It’s a matter of time before one of them (likely Manny) sits in favour of Williams-Lambert. Bet these vets are eager to make it a tough decision. With the Argos allowing over 30 points per game we should be able to score so we don’t need to take unnecessary risks. Play our game, protect the football, sprinkle some Jesus. Argos get Jonathan Mincy in the line-up who is a great DB. He should help but can’t fix an entire defense by himself.

Defense gets James Franklin… man have things changed quickly for that guy. Not that long ago he was the projected saviour of Riderville. Now when he actually might become available people would probably be mad if we signed him. I mean the Argos had so much faith in him and Bethel 7 names that they traded for a still injured Zach Collaros. He looks to try a rejuvenate the second worst offense in the CFL. They aren’t like Ottawa bad but not far off, which is somewhat weird because McLeod Bethel Too Many Names leads the CFL with 19 TD passes. Part of it is that they play a lot of garbage time due to their awful defense. Part of that is they have nothing resembling a run game… which is a huge shock to anyone who has followed the career of their OC Chapdelaine. With no run game its no shock that they allow the second most sacks. Hughes is rested and Micah is raring to go. They need to set the tone up front and make life miserable for Franklin. In the secondary. Derel Walker is the guy you need to shut down. Edwards and Green are good but Walker is the major threat in that O, contain him, and what little life that O has goes away. Remember though that this is a team that erased a 20 point deficit in Winnipeg so we can’t take them too lightly. That said, by virtue of not being Winnipeg odds of the massive choke against an eastern team go way down. Last time we played the Argos back in Week 3 Franklin got the start and threw 2 picks while putting up only 1 score. I don’t see it being quite that bad but still our D should have the edge once again.

As long as we show up and put in full effort we should win this game and clinch a playoff spot. Our next games include first place Winnipeg and then 3 straight western road games. Let’s make sure we get the easy wins when we can.

Riders by 15.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Monday Morning Sentimonies: Dickenson vs. Jones Part 2

Last bye week I did a feature comparing where the 2019 Riders were at as compared to the 2108 ones under Chris Jones. Given that we are just coming off our last bye week and about the start the final third of the regular season I thought it would be good to check back in on that comparison. This idea for a Monday post narrowly beat our one where I was going to do an ode to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and just have like 25 gifs of people choking.

After 12 Games
% Change

Offensive 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

The first thing of note is that we currently have one more win than this time last season. The little extra cushion is good because last year we went 5-1 down the stretch and I think our schedule is tougher than last year. Last year the big key was that we were 7-3 against western opponents. We currently sit at 3-2 with 5 division games left. Our odds of a second consecutive home playoff game ride on winning at least 3 of those… that and hoping the Bombers continue to blow big leads.

Offensively the numbers are obviously way up. Though take that with a grain of salt because saying we are way better on offense this year is like saying someone is way taller than Weston Dressler. I think a big key has been limiting the turnovers. Sacks allowed are up but that’s because we are actually running plays this year that may result in a sack instead of exclusively running inside runs and hitch screens. We’ve seen how hot and cold this offensive can be so consistency will be the key going forward. We can’t afford to regress back to those 1 offensive TD games.

I continue to be impressed by how our defense is grading out. Its weird to me because to the eyes it would seem last year’s D was better. But if you exclude turnovers and defensive TDs, this year’s D is actually performing better. Less points allowed, less passing yards and more sacks. Jason Shivers is not as creative or unorthodox as his mentor but he’s shown the ability to call a solid D, even with rotating parts along the D-line.

I’ve already spoken at great length about our special teams. Kickoff stuff is great. Punting stuff is a stress inducing rollercoaster ride. The pace of improvement has been disappointingly slow (especially when our head coach’s specialty is special teams) but it is improving. I think Chad Geter is a big boost to our coverage unit. I still struggle with how we suck so much at punt returns when we are so good at kickoff returns. I just hope that a certain punter doesn’t take issue with my “made up stats” that don’t attest to his greatness.

The one thing that is super concerning to me is the massive increase in penalties. Its not even subtle anymore. I would have lost money if you would have bet me that Chris Jones would run a more disciplined operation (though I guess most of his “creativeness” came off the field). This is one area that needs to be cleaned up in a hurry. I notice it the most in the secondary but it is happening across the whole team. In 2018 we took 137 penalties total, we already have 130 through just 12 games. Dickenson needs to reign the guys in a bit.

I honestly did not expect us to be where we are now coming into the season. I definitely didn’t think we’d be where we are after Collaros got Lawrenced (yes he’s now done it so many times that it qualifies to use as a verb…).

Friday, September 20, 2019

Friday Rant

With the Riders on bye I’m going to take this opportunity to get something off my chest. Now I am a man known for his rants. Ask me about Jon Ryan, Brandon Bridge or any of the other players to grace the Prophet hatred list and just watch the words start flying as my blood pressure visibly increases. Add a little whiskey and things really get going. But most of my rants are football related.

I guess today’s rant is football related though very loosely. I’m talking about the fact that the Riders apologized for the A&W beyond meat commercial that featured Rider fans.

Look, I think those glorified dog food patties are stupid and personally won’t partake in one. But I don’t begrudge anyone who does. Nor do I feel threatened by their existence. I won’t eat them but if others will, good for them. The fact that even having Rider fans appear in an ad can be seen as the Riders “insulting” beef producers is ridiculous. That’s like saying Mothers Against Drunk Driving can’t advertise via the Riders because that is an insult to Pilsner. If people just don’t buy these beyond meat burgers then they will go away. If enough people buy them to keep them around, so be it why should people care. I get that agriculture is central to our prairie identity but guess what? Those plant based burgers are made from… wait for it…. Things grown by farmers. So while your ridiculous “we can’t even acknowledge the presence of these things” stance may support cattle farmers, it also shows a lack of support for other farmers.

Finally, A&W is a sponsor. That means they give money to the team. The Riders would be stupid to turn away sponsorship money. If they did, they have to raise our ticket prices. Unless its illegal, I say let the Riders peddle whatever stupid crap will keep that sponsorship money flowing. 

I’ll end with this thought, if you are so insecure that an ad about a product you have no interest in buying causes you to freak out and write complaint letters, odds are good you are the kind of person that needs to buy a massive truck to “compensate” for other shortcomings.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Monday Morning Sentimonies: No Lightning Needed

Riders 27 – Alouettes 25

Part of me loves those super close games. The game on the line, the roar of the crowd, the tension in every play, the eruption when we win. The heart part of me does not like these games. It much prefers the decisive victories and does not enjoy the tension-filled games as it takes years off my life. Some day I will die in the stands when my heart gives out as I curse shotgun formation on 3rd and 1 or tell someone a bad play was their fault for starting the wave on offense.

Anyway, if drama was your thing, Saturday was for you. The Riders yet again had to drive the field in the dying minutes of the game to score the game winning points. Had you asked me during the opening quarter if I envisioned a scenario where a game winning drive was possible I would have laughed in your face. I have seen the Riders checkout mentally early in advance of the bye week before and thought they might be doing so again at first. Through the first quarter our offense had done nothing. Like less than 50 yards net nothing. Like, almost more penalty yards than offense nothing. Like, I can’t afford to get drunk enough at stadium prices to endure 3 more quarters of this nothing. Fortunately we woke up mid-way through the second quarter. And promptly went back to sleep for most of the third waking up just in time for an exciting finish. Equal parts frustrating and exhilarating… that’s Rider football. 

I though the D had a very solid game. Through the opening half when the offense was doing their best impression of the majority of the Riders of the 80s, they were the only thing keeping us in the game. They allowed a bunch of yards but limiting Montreal to 3 FGs to start the game was huge. Even one of those becomes a major and it’s a very different game. Full credit for locking down Stanback. 57 yards rushing is peanuts for him. The flip side was we allowed a ton through the air. But as mentioned they tended to lock down in the redzone and held on long enough for their offense to start doing something. Micah Johnson stepped up and had a big game, helping somewhat fill the Hughes void. Chad Geter made an impact in his return too. Very happy to have him back (he was good on special teams as well).

The O, as mentioned, took way too long to get going. After the end of the first I was wondering if the glory days (few games) of a good offense had passed up by and we were back to 2018. Fortunately Fajardo answered the bell and put 3 TDs on the board. The biggest key was Powell. We finally fed him the ball 15 runs and 3 more catches. Go figure that good things happen when you lean on your stud RB. Let’s see more of that. Fajardo looked like garbage early with many errant passes. But he recovered and most importantly protected the ball. I liked his deep ball to Evans (nice to get back to that). I like how he knows that Roosevelt is his guy. And I like that he did what your QB is supposed to do. He lead the team and produced when it mattered most. Someone should tell him that if he did that a bit earlier in the game he wouldn’t have to have all these last minute drives.

Specials teams had a much better day… well except Brett Lauther. I was not expecting him to be the kicker I’d be cursing. The 4 points he missed could have been very costly. But he recovered. Ryan had a good day kicking and the cover teams were much much better. Hopefully they can keep that up.

So there you have it world. The Riders beat a good team with all their best players playing. No more asterisks. No more ya-buts. We won. It was ugly. It was a struggle at times but we won. We head into our last bye week with 8 wins (one more than we had at this time last year) and went 5-1 over the middle third of the season. I'll gladly take it.

Other random thoughts:
-        I really thought we missed a huge opportunity on 80s night to replace the 4th quarter stretch with a Body Break. It would have been the only thing better than the Rider sing along
-        If I were running music, as soon as the midway point of the third quarter hit I would have started blaring Thunderstruck. I’m a dick like that.
-        I don’t know how Shaq Evans didn’t die on that hit.
-        I don’t know how Quan Bray wasn’t cut on the spot. He fumbled the first punt twice. Once a penalty on our part bailed him out. The second time Bouka straight up missed the ball. Add in his massive drop on that sure TD in the 4th . That’s a rough night.
-        Craig Dickenson needs to get the undisciplined crap cleaned up. We are taking way too many penalties. Added another 87 yards worth on Saturday and many were either preventable or dumb after the whistle crap. He’s gotta reign the boys in a bit before it costs us big.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Riders vs. Alouettes: Looking To Bounce Back

After suffering their first loss in over 2 months, the Riders are back home Saturday looking to get back to their winning ways. Their opponents are the 6-4 Alouettes… it has been so long since Montreal has had a winning record that my spell check flagged that statement as an error. The last times these two teams squared off the only thing that was more thunderous than the storm that prematurely ended the game was the hits Rider LBs were putting on Antonio Pipkin leading to TDs.

Based on how our season has been going, I kinda assumed that by this point in the week Vernon Adams would have been diagnosed with bubonic plague or Stanback would have been arrested, or the majority of their defensive starters would have abruptly quit football to join the Movementarians. That’s just how things are supposed to go aren’t they? It’s too bad Regina doesn’t have a notorious night life to distract visiting players. Our night life is more the kind to encourage players to stay in their hotel rooms.

This will be a good measuring stick game for this team’s ability to overcome adversity. They just laid and egg and got whooped on the road. Now they are home but facing a strong opponent. Are we really a good team? Are we a team that plays well against bad teams and depleted teams? I guess we will find out.

It needs to start with the offense. For all the hype around how improved they are this they have quietly regressed a great deal over the past 5 games. If you exclude the Ottawa game (because, let’s face it, they are brutal) the offense has produced a TOTAL of 4 offensive TDs in 4 of the past 5 games and only once produced multiple TDs in the same game. Through the first 6 games we had 12 big passing plays. We’ve had only 4 over the past 5 games. To be fair we’ve faced some of the league’s top defenses in that timeframe so some struggles are expected but you can’t win many games scoring a solitary TD (especially when our special teams are a liability and our defense isn’t scoring much). I personally believe our offensive struggles are rooted in our lack of commitment to the run. Through the first 6 games we were running an average of 26 times per game (most in CFL). Over the past 5 that has dropped to 16 times per game. It’s all linked. Run less, defenses key on your pass game, deep ball gets taken away, you produce less. So this needs to be a game where we turn Powell loose and give him a chance to show he can go toe to toe with Stanback. O-line needs to step up and provide better protection, though the simple fact of not facing Willie Jefferson will help in that regard. Winnipeg leads the league in sacks, Montreal is second last with just 15. Montreal allows the second most yards so if we are patient, extended drives will be there. As discussed last time though, they drop everyone to force you to take short gains and rally well to make the tackle. This will be a grind. So commitment to running and smart decisions by Fajardo are needed. That said, we need to at least try to stretch the field. Shaq’s size, Moore’s speed, Arceneaux’s ability to have people forget he exists because he’s targeted so rarely. We gotta take some shots when they are there.

Defense struggled last game and it was in large part because they refused to use their arms when attempts to tackle. You think dropping your shoulder recklessly is going to stop Stanback? Wrap up! If we don’t do that this game, we won’t win. Montreal plays pretty safe O as they have the least giveaways... and also the second least passing yards. Stop Stanback, keep Adams in the pocket, win the game.

Special teams needs to stop sucking as well. The old adage that you have to win 2 out of 3 phases to win the game holds true but we’ve rarely been able to count on our special teams (punting in particular). Jon Ryan got testy with Derek Taylor on twitter for posting stats showing he’s not that great. If only he cared as much about actually being an effective kicker as he did wishing people thought he was a great kicker. It’s entirely possible to respect Ryan’s abilities and all the great thing he has accomplished in his career and admit that he’s not doing good this season despite being able to kick it far. Everyone involved from coaches down to players needs to be better if we want to get back to winning.

Couple bonus stats for you
-        All 4 Rider loses have come in games where we lost the turnover battle. That will be a key in this game
-        Als are 5-3 in games decided in the final 3 minutes… I guess that’s why managing to avoid the last 3 minutes last game was so key 😊

Honestly this game could go either way. I think our D will have a bounce back game. I have no clue what to expect on special teams. That leaves the O needing a solid game. Montreal has a good D so that’s no guarantee. My gut tells me this will be an ugly game with many curse words coming from my mouth. But in the end, give the edge to the home crowd…

Riders by a Lauther FG from 50 yards out.