Saturday the Riders are in the Maritimes for an afternoon game against the undefeated Argonauts. As the title of this post implies, we are all hoping that the Riders’ only touchdown isn’t on the plane ride in. Early in the week I would say that my optimism was next to non-existent. Toronto is good in all phases of the game and hasn’t lost. We are fielding a back-up offense that couldn’t find the endzone if you put them on the 1 yard line and pushed them forward.
But I am officially upgrading us to “So you’re saying there’s a chance” because for the first time this season the injury situation actually improved, after seemingly endless weeks of adding to the IR. We did lose Mitch Picton (which is not great) but we are getting back Godber, Lanier, Wieneke and for the first time this season Brayden Lenuis. Now this suddenly doesn’t fix all our issues but it certainly gives us a boost when we really need it.
Offensively Toronto presents the greatest challenge we’ve faced all year. They average 37 points per game (10 more than the next best). They are #1 in rushing and #2 in passing. They allow the least sacks. They have the least turnovers. Chad Kelly is fearless and though some of his passes would make any coach cringe, he’s making it work. We need to see the D-line we saw in BC show up again but even more ferocious since our best lineman will be back. Toronto doesn’t give up a ton of sacks but we need to get pressure and make Kelly uncomfortable. With the risks he takes, the more pressure we put on, the more likely he is to make a costly mistake. We also need to be sure tacklers. Oulette is a powerhouse of a runner. If we are soft in tackling our decide not to use our arms he will run all over us. With how productive our offense has been, if the D can’t keep this under 25 then we might as well grab a bottle of screech and hit ye olde maritime pub early.
There have been 2 polar opposite sides presented this week about Fine’s performance last week. Side A – he wasn’t that bad (high completion, put up yards, looked competent). Side B – That was like watching paint dry and produced as many majors as the non-exitent Rider Prophet naval academy. I think the truth is somewhere in the middle. No Fine wasn’t awful. You might even say he was… fine (I’ll show myself out). He wasn’t a trainwreck and with better coaching might have been competent. But I don’t give a crap that his completion % is 77%, you can’t win games without scoring a TD. It’s that simple. Hopefully getting some actual starting WRs like Lenius and Wieneke back will help open up the passing game. Also, hopefully getting Godber back will help our run blocking up the middle return to mildly competent. Argos have the #1 run D but the #8 pass D. So we are going to need to pass in this one…and not just 5 yard check downs on 2nd and 9. Can’t be reckless with the passes though. This is the team that picked of Vernon Adams 6 times. Let’s try and get some medium crossers going. We hit a solitary one to Emilus last game and then it disappeared. Also, let’s try and use Alford in the pass game. Give him a sweep or swing pass. Or, here’s a radical idea, line him up at receiver and use him as a decoy since the only reason he’d be on the field is a designed play. Something. We heard all offeason about how Kelly Jeffrey would reinvigorate the run game and get Alford involved in the O. That has amounted to 1 pass attempt to Alford in game 1 and a running attack that is only slightly more useful than CFL stats.
If you want one stat to give you some hope that we will emerge from Touchdown Atlantic with more than tear-soaked lobster bibs its this: Toronto is #6 at defending punt return and #9 at defending kickoffs. Given that Mario Alford is legitimately our best chance at finding the endzone, if there was ever a time for him to be a gamechanger, its this game.
I legitimately think there is a chance we could steal a win. But I damn sure am not betting on it. Toronto has never scored less than 30 points. It would take the Riders 2-3 games to put up that many points. I do think the D will keep it closer than some expect but we aren’t winning this game.
Argos by 10.