Friday, October 29, 2021

Riders vs. Alouettes: Heading East

Saturday the Riders are in Montreal to take on the Alouettes. The Riders are 3-5 in their last 8 trips to La Belle Provence. I’m hoping Covid restrictions will deter the “temptations of the night” that may have played a factor in our struggles there.

At first glance these teams would appear even matched as they both have a 6-4 record. But let me point out that 4 of Montreal’s wins came against Edmonton and Ottawa (3 times). So while the Riders boast a 6-0 record against teams not named Bombers or Stampeders. The Als boast a 2-4 record against teams that aren’t dumpster fires. I’m not saying we can take the Als lightly. I’m just giving you some context because the numbers overinflate how good they are in my opinion. Montreal gets to play Ottawa 4 times this year. If you can’t lead the lowly east division with 4 out of 14 games against the RedBlacks then your fans should get to pelt you with tomatoes while serenading you with boos.

Defensively the game will pit the Riders’ #1 Run D versus the Als’ #1 rushing attack. Stanback is a beast. In the 8 games he’s played he’s got under 80 yards just twice. Priority #1 is slowing him down. Yeah Montreal has a passing attack (which I’ll get to in a second) but if we let Stanback run all over us then we are in trouble. Limit him and we have a chance. The Als have a decent O-line but we handled Calgary’s pretty good and they are better than the Als. So limit the run game and it comes down to Matt Schiltz under pressure beating us. Were it not for the last game I would have openly mocked the prospect of Schiltz as a starter (as I did when we faced him in 2019). But he looked pretty good against the Argos. Not an all-star (completed 67% of his passes for just over 200 yards) but competent. He has the #1 and 3 receivers in the CFL in Lewis and Weineke (who also leads the CFL with 8 TDs) so we can’t discount them. What we need to do is take away the deep shot (something we have admittedly struggled at). Schiltz is a decent long ball thrower. But if you can take that away, he is the worst QB in the CFL on completion % for passes 10-19 yards… like worse then anything Ottawa has fielded. If he has the run and the deep ball he can do damage. Make him string lengthy drives together using his arm that’s advantage us. Montreal does lead the league in offensive points and net yards, and us much as it seems wrong to write, I think they are a more explosive offense then we faced in Calgary. But again to be bring context the numbers, the Als have only topped 30 points once when playing a not last place team.

Offensively we can’t rest on the laurels of last game. Sure it felt good to find the endzone twice but 20 points is hardly output worth being proud of, particularly when facing a team that can actually put points up. It would be nice if the o-line wasn’t a complete embarrassment. The Als lead the CFL in sacks, though I feel that’s a misleading stat because 17 of their 38 sacks came against Ottawa. If we apply my rule that stats against Ottawa count half then they really are only #3. Still they can get after the Qb… and we can certainly let them. Ackie likes to blitz a lot from the LB spot. We gotta run the ball. Powell had 2 first half carries last week and that’s ridiculous. This will be game 2 for Shaq so look for him to play a bigger role. I think Duke will be a 2-3 catch a game guy but they will be important catches. Still need Lenius and Moore to utilize the space that Shaq and Duke give them. Montreal has some decent talent on D. The place to attack them is the middle. Their MLB and Safety stand out on the depth chart as not being the most experienced or renowned. Run the ball, move Cody around to help the OL and most importantly score. We tend to have a down week after scoring multiple TDs and we can’t do that this week and expect to win.

Special teams could factor in this game. On the positive side, Montreal allows the 3rd most punt return yards, and 2nd most kick return yards. After playing a smothering Calgary’s cover teams, this may be our best chance to break a big one. On the other side we will have a new punter in Kaare Vedvik (side note: Roy Shivers would have killed for a punter like Vedvik… for obvious reasons). Ryan’s absence also means a new holder on FGs. Hopefully that doesn’t impact things.

Riders by a lightning strike. Is it too soon to make that joke?

Seriously, this is going be a tough game in a place we tend to struggle. I really want to laugh off Matt Schiltz but this is just the kind of game we would make him look like a star. Since it seems to be working for us, let’s stick with the really ugly, rage inducing, roundabout, last second path to victory.

Riders by a Moore TD.

Monday, October 25, 2021

Monday Morning Sentimonies: We Won!

Riders 20 – Stamps 17

The way that game started out I was pretty sure that history was about to repeat itself a third time. It had all the familiar elements of the first 2 games: defense caught sleeping early, offense that couldn’t do anything. Yup I knew where this was headed. Only this time ended up being different. We didn’t let Carey run all over us. We made plays on both sides of the ball. Hell we found the endzone! Twice! We fought and we came away with a much needed win. My whiskeys of sorrow became celebratory whiskeys.

Shaq and Duke got all the talk both before and after the game but holy hell can we stop for a second and appreciate the performance our defense turned in! The names on our starting depth chart caused concern for even the most optimistic of Rider fans. The only thing thinner than our LB and DB depth is the material in Ned Flanders’ ski suit (feels like I’m wearing nothing at all). So it would have surprised absolutely no one to see them lay an egg, especially with Kamar Jorden back in the line-up. Instead they racked up 4 turnovers, 4 sacks (against the O-line that has allowed less sacks than anyone) and held Calgary to 10 points through 59 minutes of play. Jason Shivers and his players deserve a ton of respect for that performance. I know it makes me petty but seeing Bo Levi throw a pick is still among the most satisfying things in football. Seeing him throw a hat trick of them to the well known defensive forces known as Dearborn, Webb and Clark (and their combined 0 career starts)… well I damn near needed a cigarette after that. Webb made a great play and bailed out Clark who fell down leaving his WR wide open (in theory). Clark just straight baited Bo into his pick. I know its only one game but given that Campbell and Brown haven’t exactly been lighting things up, I am interested in seeing more of those 2 going forward. Hell of a performance by the D… and everyone contributed. I saw Pinckney out there a lot, Herdman saw time, Dearborn, Leonard played a lot of LB. Just really good work by Shivers using a talent depleted roster in the best way he could. We even managed to keep the penalties down (except for that goal line offside that we all saw coming).

About the time that Cody threw that pick I had resigned myself to never seeing a TD again this season. And for the first half I was pretty close in that thought. Maybe the receiver screwed up but that pass had a better chance of being completed to 3 different Stamp defenders than a Rider.  Our O-line still couldn’t figure out how to block a 3 man rush. It was embarrassing. Brett Boyko makes me long for the days of Charles Thomas. I think an actual pylon could provide more protection. But in the second half something clicked. I’d like to think it had something to do with remembering that a handoff to the RB is a legal football play. In the first half, Powell had two carries… two! The second one happened to go for 12 yards but why go back to that? In the second half Powell got 7 carries and low and behold we found the endzone. Go figure. Shaq and Duke did exactly what I expected. Didn’t go off but got a couple key catches and most importantly opened things up for Lenius and Moore (who both scored). You can just tell that Cody trusts Shaq. He was throwing him balls that had a super tight window that he wouldn’t throw to others. Shaq rewarded his trust with catches. Even though it wasn’t completed, I like the call to bomb it to Shaq at the end of the half. We needed a spark and Cody made a good read with Evans one on one. He also placed the ball well. That was a true 50/50 ball. Since I am often critical of our bad calls I should also say that I liked the 3rd down gamble and I actually liked the play call (I thought for sure Cody was going to unsuccessfully run for it). Now its not all rainbows and unicorns. The first half was the same old ineffective crap (like a swing pass for negative yards on 2nd and 11) and 20 points isn’t going to be enough to win every week but we finally saw some life out of a relatively lifeless unit. With the way our D has been playing, that can be just enough for us.

It was a much needed win that put us back in control of our own playoff destiny. Long way to go yet but I’m gonna enjoy this win after how the first 3 weeks of October went.

Friday, October 22, 2021

Riders vs. Stampeders: The Thrilling Conclusion

The third and final edition of Stamp-toberfest goes down Saturday in Cowtown. I spent the bye week reflecting on how much things have changed since this 3 game series kicked off at the start of the month. They were 2-5 and hanging out in the basement with the Elks. Were 5-2 and still had a mathematical chance at first. They were on the verge of missing the playoffs. We were a sure thing. The Stamps were philosophically against running the ball. Bo Levi led the CFL in interceptions… well I guess not everything as changed. We somehow went from a legit chance to bury them by simply winning 2 of 3, to praying we can salvage a solitary win to keep us relevant in the race for second in the West. October has not been a good month. 

But both the team and their prophet are refreshed after a week off and ready to try and get things back on track. I mean I can’t promise that. I fully intend to be as error prone and nonsensical as I ever been, just a more refreshed form of nonsensical. But the team is looking to get back on track and they should have two huge (both figuratively and literally weapons) to help them in that regard in Shaq Evans and Duke Williams.

So let’s start on offense since Duke and Shaq are all the talk. I do agree that these two boost our offense. But I will remind you that over the bye week neither converted to an all-star level offensive tackle, so they are not the miracle cure that some are expecting. The deep ball still requires some amount of protection for Cody to throw. But I do think that their presence will help in 2 key areas. The first is Fajardo’s confidence. Its obvious Shaq is his guy. He trusts him. Its also obvious that he doesn’t trust the others (he even said so before quickly apologizing). At the start of the year Fajardo just seemed to be reacting to plays naturally and not having to think about it. Without trust in his guys he’s second guessing his reads and not throwing some throws that might be there even if they are tight. Duke is a big, but more importantly, a physical receiver. He will fight for a ball and everyone on the field know it, Cody included. The other way it will help (and Commenter Gov touched on this in the comments of the last post), is the ability to win one on one match-ups. The answer to protection issues is leaving more guys into block (FB, RB, extra OL) but that leaves less receivers to get open so they need to win their match-ups. I like our current guys but none of them strike me as someone that can absolutely get open when they need to. Shaq and Duke can.  So you can leave more protection in if you know your receivers will be able to make use of the time it gives your QB. I honestly don’t think either Duke or Shaq go off in game 1. Duke needs to round back into CFL form and Shaq is just back from injury. But if they can 2-3 key catches that may be just enough to win in what has been a very tight series.

I hope in all the hoopla around the new receiving weapons we don’t forget about a guy named Willie Powell. The more workload we give him the easier it makes life on the O-line and Fajardo. I also despise how often we go empty backfield (we might as well just yell out, please come sack Cody at this exact spot as he tries in vain to pass) and how often we do that stupid switch motion where Powell goes out to receiver and Lenius comes in to block. It’s fooling no one. Stop it. We also need to use the attention that Duke and Shaq will draw to our advantage and not forget about guys like Moore and Schaefer-Baker who should have more space out there. I think Jamar Wall is an underrated piece that Calgary D that has been a key part in their resurgence. They went 2-4 during his 6 game absence and are 3-0 since his return. He’s not the only factor but he’s an important one. Honestly I know everyone wants to see us chuck it to Williams on the first offensive snap. If it were me I would run Duke deep and look like we are throwing there and then hit a crosser or an out underneath that. It will be open. In true Maas style the more likely scenario sees us pump the deep shot and check down do the swing route. The swing route is a lot like Sex Panther… 60% of the time it works every time (though 60% is being awful generous). 

Defensively for the love of god can we not spot them a TD to start the game?!? Last 2 times we have and then late in the first smartened up and started playing actual D. Its kinda wild to me how relatively consistent our D has been despite a constant churn of injuries. This week the wheel of injury will see Campbell and Brown sit (jury is out on whether that is a bad thing or not), Leonard is trending out (which would be a huge loss).  Also as of writing this, Bouka is out and Oneyka is not looking promising. Honestly not sure how we will coble together a secondary... so that's concerning. Who we really need back is Edem to solidify the safety spot and get Purifoy back in his normal spot but that’s a ways off yet. Key will be shutting down Kadeem Carey. He killed us last game and at least half his yards came after the initial guy should have made the tackle. Despite his resurgence, Bo is still throwing picks so putting pressure on him to win with his arms will help. Calgary has an extremely good OL so the challenge is big for our DL but we need to see some disruption from them. Ucambre Williams is out with an injury so that does create a potential weakness to be exploited. Kamar Jorden looks to be back for the first time this series… which is not good for us given our struggles to contain receivers with half his talent. I’ve just come to expect with our D that they will turn in a performance that is ugly but ultimately good enough to give us a chance to win. We are like the football equivalent of a girl with a butter face. (Google it if you don’t know the term).

There’s been a lot of negativity around the Riders the last 3 weeks (and I have been a large part of that) but here’s the thing… despite not playing great football on either side of the ball, we lost to Calgary by 6 and 3 points respectively. We have no offense, a defense that takes a quarter to wake up and we are still one TD or one defensive stop away from victory. The Stamps are a team on the rise and Calgary is never an easy place to play. So there is a legit chance we lose a third straight time.

That said, maybe its just my green coloured glasses or a deep seeded desire to have my hopes built up and then crushed (which is mandatory for long-term allegiance to the Riders)… but I have faith in this team to show some grit. Any chance of a home playoff hinges on a win. Hell another loss and the possibility of missing the playoffs creeps into the picture. We have been close despite playing some bad football. The combination of a bye week to refresh minds and bodies and a morale boost from Evans and Williams should be just enough to limp us across the finish line on the third attempt.  

Riders by a Lauther FG… but like picture the ugliest scenario that leads to a win in your mind and it will be an uglier win than that. Beggars can’t be choosers at this point.

Monday, October 11, 2021

Monday Morning Sentimonies: We Suck Again

Riders 19 – Stamps 22

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Defense sleeps through the opening of the game, has trouble tackling but otherwise plays good enough to win. The offense is so useless that you can’t fathom how most of them tie their shoes and it leads to a close game where we ultimately fall short. If it sounds familiar its because the exact thing just happened two weeks in a row. Two weeks ago it looked like we had a chance to bury the Stamps in the standings. Now we let them right back into the mix for second in the West.

Look, in the wake of that dreadful performance lots of criticism is being thrown and Fajardo and Maas. Most of it is warranted. But even the best OC’s and QB’s would struggle to field a competent offense with an O-line this bad. They offered Fajardo all the protection of a condom with holes in it. It wasn’t a matter of whether we let a defender through for most of the night, it was a matter of how many we let through. There were times that Fajardo didn’t have enough time for a 3 step drop and quick pass. Until the line gets better, there will be limits on what Maas and Fajardo can do.

Now I’m not absolving Maas of fault here. He does some really dumb things for a guy with a bad O-line. We routinely ran empty backfield sets. So we gave no illusion of running and had no extra blockers to help. When you know your line is garbage, why would you do that? We also have all this ridiculous pre-snap motion where Powell motions out to WR and Lenius motions to RB. Nobody is fooled by the this so the end result is we put the better blocker out to catch passes and the better pass catcher into block. Why? And somehow with an offense that can’t complete a deep pass we thought the answer to that problem was to target Powell deep? In what world does that seem like a good idea when we have all these big tall receivers on the roster?!? Why do we not run more slants? We have the big bodied guys to do it. It fits within our offensive capabilities and philosophy but we don’t use it. We had receivers dropping passes yet again. I hate to rag on Fajardo with all this crap working against him but he’s still not doing himself any favours. There was a play where Fajardo forced it to Schaefer-Baker on the sidelines. Had he looked just slightly to his right, we would have seen Lenius open on the seam for a massive gain.  Bottom line is our offense is not even close to good enough to win us games. Unless Evans and Williams recently learned to play offensive tackle, they will not be the miracle cure for what ails us.

Defense is really difficult to peg down. They start slow. They struggle to cover and tackle. But game after game they get the job done despite not looking great in the process. They allowed a solitary TD. They got 3 sacks. They even avoided penalties for the most part (except for that time where Bo talked the refs into a ridiculous flag that came out 15 minutes after the play was over). They forced 3 turnovers and you know what our offense managed to do with that? 6 points! I cursed a lot at our D on Saturday but they consistently do enough to give us a good chance to win. Which more than I can say for other phases of our team.

This bye week might be well timed because we are in a mini-tailspin and some time to clear our heads might be helpful. I honestly assumed that we’d easily take 2 of 3 from Calgary and suddenly we are staring down a very good chance of being swept and starting to keenly watch the math on a crossover.

Other random thoughts:

·        Was Campbell legit hurt? Or just really committed to the protecting his pride by claiming injury was the problem?

·        Brett Lauther channeled his inner Jaime Boreham and unloaded on that special teams tackle. He is giving his all these last few weeks.

·        Jon Ryan had a crap day punting.

·        While we are speaking of people I used to notably hate on, Dan Clark also had a crap day.

Friday, October 8, 2021

Riders vs. Stamps: Let’s Try This Again

Saturday, Stamp-toberfest shifts to Regina, as Round 2 takes place at Mosaic Stadium. The Riders will be looking to atone for the defeat last week and hoping the hometown crowd will give them a needed boost.

I could sum up my analysis of this game with 2 points. If the Riders wants to win they need to A) start playing defense before the 3rd drive and B) start playing offense before the 4th quarter. That’s it. That’s the recipe to success. /End blog post. Last week we spotted the Stamps a 14 point lead and scored just 7 points over the first 3 quarters and still had a chance to win, on the road. Our problems are many, but in spite of them we still have chances to win games. Imagine what we could do with a full 60 minutes out of both sides?

The talk of the week has been Fajardo’s post game comments. Look, dude got fired up after a loss. Anyone whose played team sports has had teammates be pissed in the moment and it works itself out over a post game drink. So I’m not too worried about it. At least he cares. I think the key point in his frustrations are less about the receivers and more about not feeling confident chucking it deep when you absolutely need a first down (let’s maybe try plays that do make our QB feel confident).  One final point on this, to be fair, Fajardo also needs to throw up balls that give his receivers an actual 50/50 chance. A lot of the recent passes have been more like 45/45/10 balls with 2 defenders having a better shot at it that the receiver.

Okay onto the game…

Since we are talking offense already, let’s start there. One thing we desperately need to fix is our tendency to start as slow as if we were fielding 12 senior citizens who recently had hip replacements. We average 4.3 first quarter points and if you exclude that Game 1 explosion against BC the number is 2.9 points over the past 7 games. Less than a FG is what we average in the first quarter! Very difficult to win with that. We now have film on how Calgary is going to defend us, use that and come out with an aggressive attack. We need a first quarter TD to swing momentum to us and get the crowd engaged. As bad as his last game was, I’m going back to Lenius. He’s been reliable up until last week and as awesome as Schaefer-Baker is, pinning everything on him is not going to be helpful. We also need to keep getting Moore moving up field. He’s as good at avoiding the first tackle as anyone but the negative yard swing passes aren’t working. He’s a good receiver, use him accordingly. Powell has been delivering so don’t forget about him. But it’s going to start upfront. O-line has not been good enough. Lauderdale is practicing and the line seemed to suck less with him but even if he plays, I don’t think we can suddenly expect our line to suck less. That means helping them out with St John, Dupuis and Awachie in as extra blockers. Also let them run block more (Jefferson is a good run blocker but really struggling in pass protection of late). Moving Fajardo’s launch point with roll outs will help too.

Defensively we need to see two things. Start playing before spotting a 2 TD lead and tackle! Way too many missed tackles last week. A suggestion might be to try using your arms in the tackle attempt rather than assuming your shoulder is enough to get the job done (our DBs are really bad at that). I want to see Micah get another chance to put hits on Bo. I also really want to see Bo throw another pick because the crowd will be all over him. I’m fairly confident in our D. Last game if you exclude the first drive (where they were clearly not prepared) and the second drive (where our offense stupidly gifted Calgary the ball on our side of half) they allowed just 150 yards the rest of the game and that’s with a ton of missed tackles. Obviously Calgary will have some new wrinkles but if our D-line can be disruptive upfront again, then we should be ok.

If Calgary wins, they take the season series and are right back in the battle for second in the west. We win and we go up 3 games on them with 5 remaining. After the bye we have 4 of 5 on the road to finish the season. Can’t afford to waste a home game.

I could do without the last second dramatics… but unfortunately I think that’s something we are going to have to get used to. We don’t believe in style points or doing things the easy way. So, while I see us winning, I don’t see me enjoying the roller-coaster ride that leads to said win. 

Riders by a Fajardo TD super late in the game.  I have a feeling after showing his frustration, he’s going to take the team on his back and will us to victory to the tune of like 75+ yards rushing… I just hope he doesn’t break himself in the process.

Monday, October 4, 2021

Monday Morning Senitmonies: Beaten By A Dead Horse

Riders 17 – Stamps 23

There was a huge sense of deja vu watching the game on Saturday. It played out almost the exact same as the week before. Defense started out struggling but eventually shut it down and did their job. Offense was MIA for the bulk of the game and showed up super late in the game to make for a dramatic finish. But this time around we proved that is not a sustainable plan. We are not a good enough team for the defense to take the first quarter off or the offense to take most of the game off and expect to win. Calgary is not a great team as was without their best 2 receivers and we let them off the hook.

Jason Shivers seems to be really good at in game adjustments and his D consistently adjusts to lock things down. He’s not been doing great at game prep though as 2 games in a row we’ve come out super flat and put us in an early hole. I don’t want to rag too much on the D too much. The allowed 9 points over the final 3 quarters, forced 2 turnovers and had 3 sacks. They gave us a chance to win as they usually do. The sad thing is their performance could have been even better if not for their early game nap, more untimely penalties and way too many missed tackles. So many time we had a body on the ball carrier at the line of scrimmage only to give up 7 yards because we couldn’t secure the tackle. Nick Marshall needs to be benched pure and simple. Look he has one skill: coverage. He can’t tackle in the open field to save his soul, or even attempt to use his arms when tackling. Add to that the fact that he gets beat more than he should and most infuriatingly consistently takes stupid penalties. The definition of 2021 Marshall was on the first drive, he got beat, gave up 32 yards and added an idiotic penalty on top of that. At this point his negatives outweigh the positives and maybe some time on the bench would smarten him up.

As for our offense, I got asked after the game whether its Maas or Fajardo that’s the issue and I’ve been thinking on that one for a while. The honest answer is that its both. Actually there’s a third factor… our O-line is not very good (Jefferson has been awful in the last 2). Better protection up front would make both Maas and Fajardo look a lot better. Here’s my case for why its Maas. Really weird play calling decisions. Going for its on 3rd and 2 early was a bad decision. Just punt it and help out your D. But if you are going to go for it on 3rd and 2 from your own end why on earth would you call the one play that we suck more than anything at?! We suck at the deep ball. Take 5 yards and keep the drive going. Yes Moore was open and yes Cody made the right read but that doesn’t change the fact that it was a terrible call. Another thing I hated was that Kyran Moore (our best receiver) was reduced to not running routes beyond the line of scrimmage for the majority of the game. You noticed instantly the boost it gave us when Moore actually started running real routes and picking up yards. Use your playmakers to make plays not stand there waiting to get hit on the world’s most obvious swing passes. I didn’t like the bomb to Louis either. We had time on the clock and the play that is least likely to succeed for us this season is a long bomb (especially when its into double coverage). It just doesn’t make sense that we spend all game on the high percentage plays and then get risky at the exact moment we should not.

As for Fajardo, he’s a tough SOB but I’m guess he’s nicked up way worse than he’s letting on and its affecting his play. He’s also making some bad reads and forcing balls where there is obviously too much coverage. He’s also just plain missing guys. I said I hate the 3rd down gamble to Moore but it was there and Cody missed it. He also managed a time count on the first play of a possession change, that’s rookie mistakes. Also didn’t help him that Brayden Lenius’ head was somewhere in a different timezone. I like Lenius and bad games happen but it was obvious to everyone but Maas and Cody that it was a waste of a play to target him late in the game. The only positives on O were Powell (he got a healthy workload and made the most of it) and Baker. What more can you say about this kid?

Speaking of positives… Brett F’N Lauther!! Dude has shook off an early season slump to be back to automatic on his kicks and those onside kicks were a thing of beauty. His placement was great and he read the kick coverage perfect to identify that the dribble up the middle was open. He also sacrificed his body to ensure he made the play. We got 99 problems but a kicker ain’t one.

The frustrating thing is that despite all the issues I just listed, that was a winnable game. We aren’t a bad team but we are reminding me a lot of the Barrett era Riders of late. Good enough to hang with anyone but too inconsistent for sustained success.

Other random thoughts:

-        I would much prefer he didn’t do it but that hit by Fajardo to prevent an INT was an earthquake! Can you imagine having to be that defender in the film room watching you get decleated by a QB?

-        Not sure what Jamal Morrow was thinking on that missed FG return. Thought about conceding (which he should have) and then just briskly jogged out to offer himself up to the defenders.

-    Still can't believe Rob Black used the term "unmolested". How is that in your vocabulary?

Friday, October 1, 2021

Riders vs. Stampeders: Stamp-toberfest

And thus begins Stamp-tober. Over the next 4 weeks, we will play Calgary 3 consecutive times (2 road games, 1 home game). We have a bye in there, Calgary does not. When the schedule came out I knew this would be an important set of games. I assumed it would go a long way to determining a tight race for spots 1-3 in the West. I was partially right. Its an important set of games, it will go a long way to determining where we fall amongst the tops in the West. But in my wildest dreams I never imagined it would be a do or die series for the Stamps and that we would have a chance to absolutely bury them. Even if we take 2 of 3 that leaves the Stamps 3-7 with 4 remaining games. That kinda of record is qualifies you for consideration for honourary membership in the East Division. Can’t take this series lightly or underestimate the Stamps but the opportunity is huge. The rivalry may not be as heated as during the Burris-era but sticking it to the Stamps still feels great.

The current state of the Stamps is difficult to fathom. Things have never been this bad since Hufnagel came to town (there was plenty of bad pre-Hufnagel). Losing record, 1-3 at home, at risk of missing the playoffs. We are just not used to seeing it… not that I’m complaining. But as lowly as the Stamps are I don’t think they can be taken lightly. Of their 5 loses, 4 of them have been by 6 points or less. They have been competitive in most games just falling on the wrong side of the win column in the end. I expect an equally competitive outing this time around. Dickenson shared a stat yesterday that the Stamps are 14-2 off a bye over the last 10 years. They may be a hurting unit but if we expect them to just lay down for us we have another thing coming.

Their defense is actually pretty good. They allow a ton of yards (2nd most) but not a ton of points (4th least). They only have 12 sacks on the season and 7 of those came in one game against Edmonton (and if you watched the Tuesday game you know that Edmonton related need to come with an asterisk now). Their D-line is playing noticeably better over the last couple games but I don’t think they are that formidable (which is good news because our O-line was also not that formidable last week). I think the strength of that D is the linebackers led by Thurman and Sankey. Thus far the way to beat the Stamps has been through the air. No one allows more passing yards than the Stamps (some of that has to do with the relative mediocrity of their D-line). I want to see a similar plan of attack as last week (just not waiting until late in the game to get it working). We quietly now lead the CFL in rushing attempts and Powell leads RBs in attempts so apparently if I complain enough good things happen. Keep a consistent run game, spread the ball around with accurate passes and mix in some downfield shots to keep the D honest. Obviously something clicked with Louis last game and having him be a reliable option would be a huge boost. O-line needs to suck less and clearly need some more help with TE sets or FBs chipping in with blocking. Fajardo has been sacked the most of any QB. I’m sure he’d be OK with changing that up a bit.

I’m assuming Bo Levi will start and under normal circumstances that would be cause for concern. But man has he been awful this year. Obviously injuries are a major factor. Early on it was his broken leg and more recently it was playing on his leg that magically recovered the instant his back-up started playing half decent. A bye week will likely help him but he’s not 100% and its showing in his play. He’s tied with Fajardo for most INTs in the league with 7. The thing is, Bo threw that in 4 games compared to the 7 Cody has played in. He also has the lowest completion % among QBs who have played in more than 1 game.  He is 33% on passes 10-19 yards (for comparison Cody is 74%). For context, we have been complaining about our short pass game… well the Stamps average less yards per pass.

What they do have is pretty solid protection up front. They have allowed the least sacks. What they don’t have is a run game. Last week we faced the most run averse team in the CFL, this week we face the 2nd most run averse team in the CFL (69.9 y/game). So we know they will be throwing (lead the league in pass attempts). Finally getting Leonard back from his prolonged time out should give a needed boost to our pass rush. We have not had both Micah and AC play in the same game since Week 3. Hopefully AC is fired up to make up for missing time. Be strong up front, keep the run game in check and don’t get beat over top. Outside of Kamar Jorden (who is a flat out stud), Calgary’s WRs are underwhelming, decent but not great. Sounding more and more like Jorden won’t dress do to injury which is a big blow to the Stamps. If we don’t allow to big plays and force them to string together drives I see them stalling and making mistakes (Stamps have the most INTs and second most fumbles).   

I keep waiting for the Jamal Morrow breakout game. It’s coming but I doubt its this one. Stamps have the top kick coverage in the CFL and are the only team not to allow a 30+ yard return.

Stamps are 0-5 in games in which they score 20 or less. They are also winless when allowing 23 or more. So based on that we need our D to hold them under 20, which I think is realistic. And we need our O to score 23 (which has happened every time we didn’t play Winnipeg). I’m less confident about that but in their own very ugly way, I can see them getting there.

We need 2 of 3 but winning the first is super important as it sets the tone for the series. Much better to come home off a win with the pressure on them. Then come home off a loss with the pressure on us. I want to see some killer instinct here. The horse is limping and we all know what you do to a horse with a bad leg.

This will be a tough grind, but as they have been doing, I expect the Riders to find a way to come away with a win here.

Riders by a Powell TD.