Friday, September 24, 2021

Riders vs. Lions: Round 2

It’s kind of amazing the parity between the Riders and Lions heading into their second matchup of the season. They have the same overall record, the same record versus the West, one loss at home, one loss on the road. Can’t say I would have expected that based on how the first game went. Friday’s game is a big one. Not only does the winner take over sole possession of 2nd place. If the Riders win or lose by 3 or less they take the season series.

Normally in the second matchup between 2 teams I would talk about the last match-up and the adjustments needed. But that first game was so weird that there’s honestly not much you can glean from it. The pummeling that was the first half. The second half collapse led by gimpy Reilly throwing some of the ugliest passes I have ever seen. BC is a much improved team since then and injuries and suspensions have changed the make-up of our roster so we are pretty much starting fresh.

Going to start with the BC defense because I don’t think they are getting the attention their play deserves. We all know we hung 3 TDs on them so fast in Game 1 that if you went to get a drink you may have missed them. But since halftime of that game the BC defense has allowed 2 offensive TDs… 2!!! Granted all of those games were against teams with losing record including a one legged Bo Levi and Ottawa twice but that still catches my eye. They #2 in points allowed and takeaways (#1 in INTs). Can’t take them lightly. You can move the ball on them though as they are 8th in yards allowed. Fits well with our offense in that you need to take what they give you and not commit turnovers.

I feel like I could copy and paste this next statement every week but we need a consistent ground game. Powell needs another heavy workload. It takes the pressure off Fajardo and the line and we are pretty good at it (#2 rushing attach in the CFL). I know Schaefer-Baker is not Shaq (at least not yet) but I want to see us use him more in what Shaq used to do… primarily those slants. With his size, if the timing is right its super hard to stop. I want to see more of the variety we saw last week. Get guys like Dupuis and LaFrance the odd touch to change it up. Try and get Moore the ball in space. Lean on Lenius up the seam. BC is 7th in sacks (despite playing the woeful RedBlacks twice) so despite my concern over Boyko re-entering the starting line-up our O-line should be up to the challenge (particualrly with news that Tavai is out with injury). We rediscovered the existence of the endzone last week. Hopefully we can do that on the road for the first time this year.

Defensively it will be a challenge. The past few weeks have reminded us that Reilly is still pretty good when his arm doesn’t have the integrity of a wet noodle. They are #2 in offensive points. Reilly is #1 in completion % and has only thrown 1 pick this season. Though just for a bit of context the defenses he has spent the last 5 weeks carving up represent 4 of the bottom 5 ranked defenses and all 3 of the worst 3. Here’s the thing about BC… they don’t run. 7th in rushing yards, 8th in yards per carry, 8th in attempts. Their answer to concerns around their aging QB with arm injury concerns appear to be go all in on throwing. We have the #1 run D so we should be ok to keep rushing out of the equation. That means hoping a banged up secondary can contain the best QB in the CFL right now. Noodle arm Reilly threw for 200 yards in a half against our fully healthy secondary so there’s legit reason for concern. We need our D-line to step up big time and get pressure and hits on Reilly. In the first match-up BC started Figueroa and Matthews (one of the top tackle pairings in the league). This time around Matthews is out and Figueroa is nursing a sore ankle. Need to take advantage there.

Who had Lucky Whitehead as the top receivers in the CFL through 6 games? Not me. He’s a dangerous deep threat. Honestly if I’m BC I have Whitehead run hook and go’s on Marshall all night long, guaranteed he burns him at least once. Oh and if we happen to keep him from going deep we still need to worry about Burnham. Looks like we get Gainey back which is huge but Purifoy moving to Safety still leaves us with a rookie at HB. My guess is that we want Purifoy at Safety so we have someone we trust to limit the deep shots. Bouka is more naturally a corner than a safety and it shows at times. He’s why limiting the deep shot is important. Reilly is really good at it. For comparison, Reilly completes 55.6% of his passes over 20 yards. Fajardo completes 17.9%.  

Another thing to watch in this is special teams. BC allows the second most punt and kickoff yards and I keep waiting for Morrow to break one. This could be his night and we may need a game changing play like that to get the win. Unfortunately, Yama-sucky is no longer there to save our hides. Jimmy Camacho has been damn near perfect since taking over. Be nice to see Lauther get back to that after a rough few weeks.

Also BC is the second least penalized team whereas we continue striving for the high score. Tough enough to beat a good opponent on the road can’t give them free yards all night.

 BC is going to score in this one. I love the resilience of our D but they are in tough against Reilly/Burnham/Whitehead. That means we need our O to keep pace if we want to win. Last week gave me hope though that was against a defense in a weird transition between coordinators. I’m really torn I think BC is good but look better than they are based on a friendly schedule. They haven’t beaten a team that is currently has a winning record. I have concerns about us but we have found ways to beat any team not named Winnipeg including 2 teams that do currently have a winning record.

Fully healthy I would take us but banged up and on the road that a lot to overcome. I expect a close game. I expect my neighbours to hear me cursing. I sadly don’t expect a Rider win. I just have this feeling that a slight letdown is coming after an important home win.

BC by a Burham TD.

The good news is that I have been doing so poorly in my Pick Em’ pool that me picking BC definitely helps the Riders’ odds.

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