Saturday night the Ti-Cats are in town looking for their first win of the season. This marks a time of the year that always entertains me to no end. Week 2, people when people ridiculously overreact to what happened in week 1. The Ti-Cats have gone from potentially going undefeated to in deep trouble. Ottawa has gone from laughing stock to people wondering if we undervalued them (they produced 70 yards of offense and won on a fluke pick 6!). Bethel Thompson is on pace to throw 5000 yards in a shortened season. Collaros is an unstoppable force (absolutely… until he gets hurt). So many things to overreact to. The great part about the Riders is that people aren’t sure what to overreact to. Do we overreact to the unstoppable first half? Do we overreact to the nightmare inducing second half?
While we did learn some things in Week 1, I generally do not put much stock in Week 1 results. It’s a small sample size for one. Remember that last season Ottawa started 2 and 0 by knocking off Calgary and Saskatchewan… how did that turn out for them? Also, given that no one played football for close to 2 years, we all expected some growing pains as teams learned how to play football again.
So where does that leave us for the upcoming game?
Well both the Riders and Ti-Cats took similar approaches offensively to game 1. They both came out firing early and looked unstoppable and proceeded to do nothing afterwards. The difference is while the Riders built up a big enough lead before shutting it down, Hamilton was content with just 1 drive. Both will be looking for a bit more sustained production.
Offensively we will be facing a far bigger challenge up front. Last week we played a line of Tavai and 3 rookies and survived ok. This week we play what I consider to be one of the top lines in the league Davis/Laurent/Wynn/Howsare. Considering what I saw out of Jefferson and Boyko that’s concerning. Even without Laurent, that D-line got 3 sacks against a very solid Winnipeg OL. Very solid we are not. As of writing this Dylan Wynn is questionable to play which would be some welcome relief. We will need Maas to draw up a game plan to once again compensate for that weakness. We need to run, and not just in the first half. If Powell gets anything less than 15 carries we have failed. You can bet we will once again be looking to use short passes (hooks, crossers, outs) to get the ball out quick. But with the benefit of game film, I would expect the Ti-Cats to adjust up to take those away. We are going to need to push the ball further down field once in a while to keep that D on their toes (like we saw early against BC). Obviously deep shots to Shaq come to mind but I think we also need to look at deep posts to Moore/Lenius or even 10-15 yards to passes to Picton on the wide side. Also, the next evolution of an offense heavy on hooks and slants is double moves and turning those short routes deep.
Defensively we have to play a QB who is neither a raw rookie or legally eligible for disability payments (though given how the latter carved us up maybe that’s OK). Much has been made about Hamilton’s offensive struggles but remember that they are missing Posey and Addison (you add that to Banks and Acklin and good luck) and were missing Van Zeyl. Winnipeg (who has one of the top D-line out there) utterly embarrassed the Hamilton pass protection. That was the difference in the game. And it shows us the blue print of how to win this game. We unfortunately don’t have a Willie Jefferson and Jeffcoat to do that with. Leonard had a solid game 1 so he will be fine but other than that 1 run stuff I will say I was underwhelmed with Adams. He needs to pick up his play and we need a more consistent push from the interior. If we had had more pressure I don’t think our secondary would have looked as bad as they did in the second half. I expect them to try and get Banks involved early so we need to look to contain him. Also no cheating up and looking for easy picks (looking at you Marshall). Acklin and Banks can kill you if they get behind coverage. Masoli is a very hot and cold QB. At his best he can surgically cut you up. At his worst he churns out turnovers like he’s trying to start a bakery. We want the latter and pressure is key to that.
Now that they have an actual game under their belt, I expect a better performance from the Riders… at least a most sustained performance (not sure you can get better than that first quarter). But balance that with the fact that Hamilton is a better team than BC and will also be playing better now that they have a game under their belt. I have faith in Maas to call a solid game plan. I’m less confident in whether our front 4 can get the push we need to be solid on D. Its possible, but I’m not betting on it at this point.
Expect a much closer game. I doubt Hamilton we will be so kind as to spot us a 4 score lead. I think offense will need to win us this one.
Riders by a Lauther FG.