know a few people who are Winnipeg Blue Bomber fans. Hell, I’m even related to one, but then again, he did go through a pretty intense car crash so the trauma may have unhinged him in ways medical science has yet to determine. Therefore, I am not totally unfamiliar with the whiney ways of the Winnipeg fan.
So when they went through their seven game winning streak in the middle of the season, saving Mike O’Shea’s job, it was through basically eastern teams and an Edmonton franchise that was more roadkill than defending Grey Cup Champions.
So in honour of that stretch, I’d like to refer to that as the Winnipeg Blue Bomber schedule, where playing a bunch of crash test dummies helps boost the teams standing and makes them feel good about themselves.
Which is why when I look at the Riders four and probably five game game winning streak depending on what happens on Saturday, I am reluctant to start booking my Grey Cup owners ring for next season. The Riders have knocked off Deadmonton, Hamilton, Ottawa and now Toronto to move into a tie for third in the east.
While the Riders are out of the playoffs, the mathematical chance of them finishing with a better record than the first place finisher in the east is a cause for some smirking and shaking of the heads.
With Montreal coming to town, having jettisoned their two top receivers and top head case in Duron Carter, and now are starting Vernon Adams Jr. at quarterback, a player whom they traded their first overall draft pick to BC for, the Riders prospects of going on a five game winning streak and a 6-10 record are looking pretty good.
The Riders this week signed International defensive back Royce Adams; International defensive back Jose Gumbs and International defensive lineman Kendall Montgomery; then released Gumbs. They also released · National defensive back Raye Hartmann; International defensive back Larry Raper; National running back Jordan Wilson-Ross and International offensive lineman Torian White.
In other moves the Riders added Andrew Lue and Tyler Hunter to the roster and moved Justin Cox and Jeff Hecht to the 1 game IR. The Riders moved Tevaughn Campbell onto the roster in place of Cox and despite some people whining about how Campbell gave up what looked like a few easy touchdowns earlier in the year, he does have the speed and hopefully the physicality to play defensive back.
The Riders are going to do a bit of tinkering with their defensive backfield with Henoc Muamba starting to hammer down one linebacker position, the Riders would like to go Canadian at safety and probably at wide line defensive back along with one starting defensive lineman and maybe a back-up.
The Riders have a project at safety with Kevin Francis, the converted wide receiver turned safety, and Ese Mrabure at defensive tackle has been a pleasant surprise. AC Leonard, the former BC Lion tight end turned defensive lineman has also been on a steep learning curve but seems to be contributing on a regular and more importantly positive basis. The addition of Lue, who the Riders traded with Montreal, is another step towards identifying and developing Canadian starters in other positions so if need be, the Riders can then man the offensive line with Americans.
Then the Riders managed to place Mitchell Baines, the leading receiver in CIS, on their negotiation list. While Baines was undrafted last year and his height and speed would not be considered “measurables” the fact he is leading in receiving indicates he has the ability to get open and get yards afterwards which indicates an ability to read the defense and know what to do. That would be a great help in any offense but more interestingly, goes to show the Riders continuing to move along the Calgary Stampeders strategy for identifying and developing Canadian talent.
While the Riders have overwhelmed their win totals of last year and are poised to double them on Saturday, the revolving door what many are calling #longesttrainingcampever has slowed as the team has identified the building blocks for next season and is working on continuity.
So this weekend all the games have some meaning, probably some more than others, but with the Jays choking once again, this will allow football fans to concentrate on one game at a time.
Tonight Hamilton visits Ottawa in a rematch of last week’s game that Ottawa won by the skin of a disputed officials’ call. This is going to be an interesting game with Brandon Banks suspended for two games for using what seems to be ecstasy in enhancing his sexual performance in Hamilton nightclubs.
Ottawa counters by losing Chris Williams for the season, but they bring in former Rider punter Ray Early, whose Rider jersey I have in my collection, to do their best to hem Hamilton deep. With Jeremiah Masoli in for Zach Collaros, Hamilton finds itself in a situation where if Masoli gets hot, or competent, Hamilton has a chance, but if the bad Masoli shows up, Hamilton dishes up about six turnovers to Ottawa.
Hamilton will be bringing in Kevin Elliot, the former Argo at receiver, along with former Rider Kendal Lawrence to fill the Banks spot on the Hamilton bingo card. I originally thought there would be split of the two games, because no one is stepping away from the pack in the eastern conference, and this week I see nothing to really change my mind. Hamilton’s defense made some changes in the last game with the focus on getting more pressure on the passer through the defensive line.
Hamilton’s secondary is still shakey, and the addition of Derrious Brooks, a former Rider who I had the good fortune of watching in practice, may help in locking down their play. Henry Burris may be able to will his way to victory now and then, but my money is on Bad Hank showing up just when he seems ready to lead his team to victory. It was 30-29 last week for Ottawa, let’s say 29-28 for Hamilton.
Then we move on to the case for a mercy rule in professional sports as the Toronto Argonauts visit the Godless Calgary Stampeders. Calgary is going for the best record in CFL history, although I recall reading somewhere the 1948 Calgary Stampeders did go undefeated. So too did the Riders in several years in the 1920s, but they played only four games then.
This drive may or may not reduce the yawns in Cowtown, who will soon be playing in the oldest park in the CFL, which must drive the unemployed oil workers and the strippers who entertain them nuts, but this match-up provides the closest thing to a sure thing as the only thing between Calgary and glory is Calgary screwing up somewhere in the next month or so.
Watching the Riders play almost a complete game against Toronto was encouraging, but incredibly frustrating for Toronto fans hoping to create a buzz for their team other than through some stupid ticket prices and overbooking the Grey Cup in one city. Toronto dropped the heart of their receiving corps at probably the stupidest time of the year as they are trying to stave off the west and move into a playoff berth.
The result if a junior varsity receiving corps that has youth but not much else going for it. If you are going to host the Grey Cup, you want to at least bulk up for such a run to build fan interest. Add to this a new stadium to play in and the three to five year plan to build fan interest, and you get in the words of Bruce Springsteen, One step forward and two steps back.
So after floundering against the Riders, formerly the worst team in the league, the Argos now find themselves against Calgary with Ricky Ray apparently activated, Drew Willy wondering what Jamaican voodoo he has cross and only the dream of Calgary overconfidence to try to get them through tonight.
What would help the Argos is something that helped the Riders on the last week of 2013 when the Stampeders lost the interior of their defensive line to injury and the gaps allowed the Riders to run through them with Kory Sheets and gave Darian Durant enough time to go deep to bury the Stampeders in a satisfying western final win.
There is a problem when a team clinches so early and now has to balance giving their regulars the game off to not expose them to injury any more than they have to, and trying to maintain the momentum they will need to carry them into the western final. I’m not sure overconfidence will be the problem for Calgary now, but how they manage their roster will be a problem if they have starters going down with injury.
But unless the Argos have a big in with some high priest, that is not likely to help them tonight. Not sure how much Ricky Ray will play, but I think by half time the Stampeders will be freely substituting and while the Argos will make it respectable, consider the Stamps victors by a 32-22 score.
So then we have the game of the week with Montreal and Vernon Adams Jr. coming to town to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. This game marks the reappearance of former Rider offensive coordinator and now Montreal coach Jacques Chapdelaine and is the first game without Duron Carter and Kenny Stafford, who were cut loose by the Dirty Birds earlier this week.
The cuts were made for both football and financial reasons with likely a bonus payment owed to Carter for going over 1,000 receiving yards and his total at 938 threatening to add to Montreal’s over the salary cap by $300,000. Not sure if Stafford was in the same boat with a bonus payment coming due, but add to that situation the fights between Carter and Raheem Cato and Montreal has been going down with all the dignity of the Hindenburg hitting a post somewhere in the swamplands of Jersey.
With that being said, it will be interesting to see if Montreal looks like Toronto did after dumping their receiving corps or if the team rallies knowing the locker room cancer that is Duron Carter is no longer around. While Cato last year had his debut against Calgary go for a win, likely because there was no film on him, its hard to say if Cato has any room or capacity for growth.
The Als paid a heavy price for Adams, a first round draft pick, and now is the time to see if they got taken to the cleaners by Wally Buono or if they have something to build around for next year. Montreal has a proud defense, but again the question has to be asked if this is John Bownman’s last year, and if Noel Thorpe is playing out the string before taking his show to say, Edmonton.
The last Montreal-Saskatchewan game of 2015 was a glorified exhibition game as Montreal started Brandon Bridge and Saskatchewan responded with Keith Price and then Brett Smith (I have both of their jerseys in my collection) and I would expect both teams are going to look at practice roster players activated for the game to see if they warrant an invitation to training camp next year.
So while from the Riders perspective I would expect to see Darian Durant get at least a half, maybe into the third quarter depending on the game, I would also expect to see Mitchell Gale, perhaps Brandon Bridge and/or Jake Waters. Add to this the 80 per cent prospect of rain Saturday and Joe McNight will get an idea running against a better run defense than Toronto if he has truly redeemed his Deadmonton nightmare appearance.
It will be fun to see rodeo star Bryan Neill from Kelliher, now Calgary, in attendance and while the weather makes it clear turnovers will likely be a problem and perhaps injurys too in the rain, the prospect of rampant roster shuffling combined with the fact the Riders are on a roll leads me to believe the penultimate Rider game at Taylor Field will result in a 25-22 win for the Riders.
Finally we have Deadmonton in BC as BC is losing its grip on the western playoffs and may be bumped into the crossover position to the eastern division 2 playoffs.
As much as I hate to give Winnipeg credit for anything other than being the home of organized crime and the font of much of the evil in the world that does not start at the Trump Towers, their sweep of the BC Lions has put Winnipeg in the drivers seat to host a western semi final and speaking as a Prairie football fan, I have to love it when the BC Lions come west in November to play in the cold.
BC needs this game to climb into a tie with Winnipeg but Edmonton if they win can climb into a tie with Winnipeg and considering they already won one game against BC this season, could clinch the season series. Then considering Edmonton has beaten Winnipeg in its season series, if Winnipeg stumbles in the season ending home and home with Ottawa, and Edmonton beats Toronto, Edmonton could find itself in second place, proving if God exists, she has a great sense of humour.
BC has a season ending home and home with the Riders, which includes the final Rider game at Taylor Field, so they are motivated to try to keep pace with Winnipeg and hope for a favor or two from Ottawa. This should be a pretty good game and let’s say BC 31-28, although I would not be surprised if Deadmonton pulls this one out.
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