Friday, September 22, 2023

Riders vs. RedBlacks: No Clue

Friday the Riders are in Ottawa to face the 3-10 RedBlacks. It has not been a great summer for either franchise. Ottawa will be looking to win their first game since July 23, going 0-7 since. The Riders have not won a road game since June 23, going 0-4 and getting outscored 142-40. If the RedBlacks lose it will pretty much officially secure their place as the worst team in the CFL. If the Riders lose, Ottawa may have some competition on their hands for that spot.

Here's the problem. I have no clue which Rider team is going to show up any given week. There’s the version that can go toe to toe with the best teams in league and win. There’s the version that can squeak out improbable scrappy wins. There’s the team that can find ways to lose. And lastly there’s the team that can look like they spent the week practicing macramé instead of football. Much like a present from an elderly relative, you’re not sure what you are going to get, but you’re pretty sure you won’t like it.

Riders are tough to figure out at this point. Their 6-7 record is mediocre but the stats under that would point to a team that should be much lower in the standings. Least TDs scored and most points allowed stand out. Ottawa by contrast has somewhat respectable stats but can’t win a game to save their soul.

Normally I start with the defense, but this time around offense is our only hope. In our last 4 road games, they have produced an average of 10 points per game. They legitimately may need to triple that for us to have a chance. We are mostly healthy on O (minus Morrow but Hickson is an able fill in). Hell in news that I don’t think anyone is as excited about as me, Evan Johnson is being benched! I have only been hoping for this for 2 years. Blake is healthy enough to start and that really gives us a pretty good interior with Godber and Ferland. Here’s the scouting report on Ottawa’s D. The are excellent run stoppers (#2 run D), god awful pass defenders (the most passing yards allowed) and generate a ton of turnovers (most in the CFL). So while we certainly need to try to have a semblance of a run game (good news since “semblance of a run game” seems to be our specialty) we are going to win through the air assuming we don’t throw picks. I would avoid the side of field with Dandridge and Webb and pick on the other side. If Dolegala insists on focusing almost exclusively on outside passes Dandridge will get 1 if not 2 INTs. Crossers and seams are there. Mix them in every now and again. 

Defense… yikes. They have been struggling and injuries are not helping. D-line depth is decimated with Lanier, Brown and Dheilly gone. So in a game where the key to victory is the D-line containing Crum we are starting a rookie and have 2 practice roster guys for depth. The good news is that it does not exactly take a rocket scientist to figure out Crum. He loves to run. Take that away and he sucks. He can’t pass. Lowest average gain per pass and he has just 5 passing TDs in 9 starts (that’s as many as Taylor Cornelius for comparison). Ottawa has the worst passing attack in the CFL. They have just 10 passes over 30 yards all season (Dolegala has 7 in his 5 games). He also takes a lot of sacks. Only Fajardo has been sacked more and at this point I think its safe to assume that Cody’s being served up as some sort of ritual sacrifice by Maas. The way our secondary has been playing, we may be the cure for a struggling pass attack. Assuming Ottawa watched film (or just heard me cursing from across the country), they should know that a heavy dose of Davonte Williams would be a good idea. I’m honestly just hoping our D survives. Keep it under 25 and hope the O can win one for once. Keep Crum contained and make him pass. Limit the run. Maybe pretend you know basic tackling angles they teach in peewee.

This game may honestly be decided based on which coach makes the worst decisions. Both Dyce and Dickenson have made some doozies this year. Were it not for Mike O'Shea one might assume there is something inherently wrong with special teams guys.

As I said, I have no clue what to expect. Ottawa sucks and we should beat them but they have been competitive in every game and when it comes to road games we have been the opposite of competitive. 

So I am going to be a negative Nelly and say road game + injuries = a loss. Legitimate chance they come out fired up and win but if I’m playing the odds I’m not betting on it.

Ottawa by a late TD.

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