Friday, June 14, 2024

Riders vs. Ti-Cats: Going for 2

I am loving this early season tradition the CFL year has started with. If every week could start with Winnipeg losing on Thursday that would be fine with me. It really just starts things out on such a positive note. 

Saturday the Riders look to continue doing the opposite of the Bombers. They will need to be better, Hamilton may not be Grey Cup favourite at this point but it’ll probably take more than a furious 4th quarter to win a second straight road game. Its still so early in the season that its hard to get a handle on teams. Is Hamilton only slightly not as good as a good Calgary team? Or is Calgary only slightly less crappy than a crappy Hamilton team? Are we good or just not a crappy as the Elks?  Lots left to be sorted out. 

Two things need to happen in this game if we want to win and they both start in the trenches. D-line needs to make an impact and O-line needs to find a way to open a least a couple holes for Ouelette in the run game. Win the trenches, win the game. 

Taking a deeper dive at out offense, I do like our chances of a run game better in this one. Hamilton has an OK D-line but a very green group of linebackers. That should be something we can exploit either with the run or short passing game. Jamal Peters (Hamilton’s best DB) did not dress for game 1 and they missed him. He has a chance to play in this once which would make Harris’ life harder. But otherwise this is not a secondary that should scare us. Hamilton allowed an 80% completion rate in game 1 and their leading tackler was their cornerback that is a sign someone is being picked on. Obviously the league is on notice that Bane is an impact player and we need to continue to lean on him but I expect someone else to have a big game. Possibly Schaefer-Baker. I expect Sterns to continue to play a big role (maybe not yardage-wise, but as a move the chains guy). Hamilton allowed over 30 points in game one. If we can play an even 4 quarters (and not just go to sleep for half the game) we should come close to that. 

Defensively this will be a big test for the D-line. Figueroa and Murray are supposed to be their stating tackles but are currently on the 6-game IR. You can pass off week 1 as an off-week for the D-line but if they can’t make an impact in this one then I will start to get concerned. The key to slowing the Ti-Cat offense is limiting James Butler. They lean heavy on him. Tim White was dropping balls like he was hitting puberty in game 1. I don’t expect that to happen again. Fortunately White’s production is tied heavily to the performance of Bo Levi Mitchell. Bo didn’t look great in game 1, though he did rally late to make it look more respectable. But I don’t expect his performance to improve as the wear and tear of the season starts to pile up. D-line needs to get in his face and make his life miserable. Quirky week 1 stat… Bo was the 2nd worst QB at the deep ball… only Zach Collaros was worse (what a world). I have Milligan getting a pick and good odds on a second one… unless Bo just continues to sail his passes.

It goes without saying that our discipline needs to be better. An ejection and 4 fines is probably not going to endear the team to Coach Mace. Though you could have given 40 tries to guess the first Rider to get ejected this season and I would not have guessed Ferland. Hopefully its just an aberration. 

Hamilton is not likely to implode and hand us the game, so we are going to need to find a new way to win this one. But on paper, there aren’t many positions I can point to where we aren’t as good or better than the Cats. If we can get the run game going and have the D-line make an impact we should be able to grind out a win. I still expect us to find some way to make it far more difficult than it needs to be. 

Riders by a Schaefer-Baker TD

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