July 6th seems eons ago. That was the last time these 2 teams met. You may recall that Nick Arbuckle, in his first start ever, led a dismantling of the Riders (not the first, nor sadly likely the last time an unknown QB will embarrass us). The loss left the Riders with a 1-3 record, tied with BC for last and questioning pretty much everything from personnel, to coaching to whether the failed unveilings of the 13th man banner were to blame. We have lost one game in the 3 months that has passed since then… I repeat one game in three months! Now we are in a battle with Calgary for first place. The early season mass hysteria is a distant memory… though we’re Rider fans so we are ready to break it back out at a moments notice.
For a second week in a row, the opportunity is massive. Win and we have a 2 game lead for first with 3 games remaining (all against the bottom west teams). Though unlike last week, where our opportunity was against a team that couldn’t pass on our own turf, we now must face a team that is really good at passing on the road. Calgary has not lost more than 2 games at home in a season since 2011. They have just 12 total home loses since 2012… the Argos managed that in just 14 weeks. Point being Calgary is a tough place to win. Though we have won our last 2 visits there.
Defense will have an entirely different test than last week. Unlike the Bombers who live on the run and don’t/can’t pass, the Stamps live on the pass and don’t really run. They have the #1 passing attack and the #8 running attack (due in large part to having a new RB every week due to injury). We need to keep them one dimensional. Mitchell can hurt you with his arm but taking away the run will allow our D-line to pin their ears back and pressure him… which is the key to beating him (especially with Derek Dennis out due to injury). Begelton and Rogers and their combined 15 TDs are the big concern. Though keep in mind that the last time we played the Stamps our starting CBs were Blace Brown and Solomon Means. Saying Marshall and McCray are an upgrade is like saying prime rib is an upgrade over expired hotdogs that have fallen on the ground. One thing I’ve noticed about Mitchell this season is that his INTs are up. He has 8 in just 7 games. At that pace he will throw 12 INTs on the season in just 11 game. That’s almost as much as he threw in all 18 games last season. Part of that is likely due to his ever changing cast of receivers. Be aggressive and take advantage of turnovers when the opportunity arises. None of this dropping multiple INT opportunities like last week. Turnovers cost the Stamps against the Als, and while I don’t expect them to turn it over 5 times again, the way our D is playing 1 or 2 should be enough. Judge sits this week in favour of Teitz… that’s a downgrade but at this point far better to rest Judge and make sure he’s good to go for playoffs.
Offensively we get another stiff test in the Stamps. They have the #2 run D. They force more turnovers than anyone. They held the Als to just 1 TD and were it not for a punt return TD may be currently tied with us in the standings. This will be another grind. If we could somehow convince Fajardo that the 4th quarter started a few minutes into the game that would be helpful. We are averaging 3 first quarter points over the last 4 games and another slow start in Calgary will be tough to overcome. Tough to run on the Stamps but we gotta try. Lean on Powell but it might also be time to get Thiggy a bit more involved whether running or short passes. I wouldn’t completely avoid Tre Roberson but he did have 2 picks last time we met so some caution would be advised. I think this is a game where we will need to spread the ball around and lean on guys not named Shaq. Much like last game, if we can protect the ball and at least move the ball enough to give the defense a decent rest then we can endure limited point production. That said when we get our chances, we need to find the endzone and not settle for FGs and punt singles. The Stamps actually have an offense so we need to bring our best.
One interesting thing I found is that only 1 of Calgary’s 5 loses have come against the West. In any other year that would be unheard of. If the game was in Saskatchewan I’d feel pretty good about our chances. But as mentioned, Calgary is a tough place to play. Plus Mitchell is 4-1 since returning as the starter. This is a potential West Final preview (though with any luck the location will be different come November). This is our toughest challenge to date but I think we are up for it. We will go toe to toe with the Stamps and pick off Bo at least once. My gut tells me to go with the Stamps in this one in a close game… but the way Fajardo has been sprinkling Jesus I’m hard pressed to pick against this team right now.
Going to stick with my gut and say Stamps win by 7 in a game where they go up early and we make a too little too late comeback.