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.