Following an epic finish to the Labour Day Classic the players (and fans) have had 6 days to recover and get to do it all over again. This time in the peepee soaked heck hole known as Winnipeg. If you are brave enough to be making the trip, while they are a heated rival you should be ok. I’ve generally found Manitobans to be mostly good folk. I would just recommend that your game day attire doesn’t inadvertently make you look like an attractive farm animal or their cousin, that’s when things can get awkward. I mean awkward by our standards of course… it’s perfectly normal in Manitoba.
The opportunity for the Riders in this game is huge. A win puts them in first place, with the season series against the Bombers in hand. But this won’t be easy. Weird things happen in the Banjo Bowl. I’ve seen the Rider hang 50 on the Bombers. I’ve seen the Bombers pummel the Riders. I’ve seen a parade of craptastic Bomber QBs including Michael Bishop, Steven Jyles, Joey Elliot, Justin Goltz (some of which beat us). I’ve seen Craig Butler commit attempted murder on Buck Pierce. I’ve seen close games, blowouts, games where Matt Nichols singlehandedly tries to give the game away (seriously take a pause here and go watch the highlights of the 2018 Banjo Bowl. It will make you smile). Pretty much anything could happen.
Also, this game could get ugly. There’s already bad blood following the whole Lavar Edwards/Chad Rempel incident. O’Shea was pissed and can’t imagine he’s any less pissed now that Edwards was cleared of wrongdoing and Willie Jefferson was fined for a helmet to helmet hit on Fajardo. So yeah, this could get real chippy. The team that best keeps their composure will have a huge advantage. Someone tell Nick Marshall not to be an idiot… I mean he’ll take his standard 15 yarder but hopefully no more than that.
This will be a game of adjustments. The Riders certainly have some things to shore up. Coaching errors, penalties, poor tackling and some bad decisions by Fajardo. Plus that whole taking a nap on offense for most of the second half and not remembering that Powell is kinda good until the final drive. As for the Bombers, one thing for sure they can shore up is penalties. They took over 100 yards worth on Labour Day which is uncharacteristic given that they typically average a league low 64 per game. Other than that though, I’m not sure. They played a really solid game in all phases except for Streveler… and I can’t see him suddenly learning how to pass. It’s either that or them discovering time travel so they can go back and prevent Andrew Harris from taking steroids… err I mean stop him from inadvertently ingesting a super okay yet unnamed supplement that was mysteriously tainted.
As of writing this both Demski and Whitehead are questionable which would put another serious dint in an already decimated offensive unit. Defensively we need to improve our tackling on Augustine, keep the pressure on Streveler and continue to force turnovers. Offensively we need to run a lot more and cut down on our turnovers. We also need to keep leaning on what’s been working: the Shaq crosser and Roosevelt on second down. This would be the game for Shaq to run a slant and go at some point as you can bet Winnipeg will be cheating up trying to slow that down. Special teams needs to turn in another solid performance like they did on Sunday.
On paper this is another game the Riders should win. Winnipeg has a great defense but not much left on offense (I feel Rider fans can empathize with this as we've seen it a few times here). That said, the raucous (and slovenly, and inbred, and 3rd grade educated) crowd in Winnipeg will make things tough. It will not be so easy for Fajardo and crew to operate this time around. The first quarter will be key. If we can weather the early onslaught and get a lead it will take the crowd out of it. If we have an early screw up (turnover, big return) and give them momentum it will get infinitely harder to claw back. Winnipeg has yet to lose at home.
This will be hard but when I look at what Winnipeg has been reduced to offensively I just have to think the Riders will find a way again.
Riders by a Fajardo rushing TD.
Note to anyone attending the game. Be very vigilant in watching your drinks. I have it on good authority that there are people in Winnipeg who will slip illegal steroids into the drinks of perfectly innocent people without their knowledge.
Seriously though.. go back and watch those 2018 Banjo Bowl highlights.