How Big of A Bullet Did the Riders Dodge?

August 2, 2017 - 9:36am

When the Rider media feel free to mock Rider fans following a Rider win, you have to wonder about their medication and why it isn’t working.

Those covering the Riders seemed to be attracted to the discussion over just four water fountains at New Mosaic Stadium for 33,000 plus people and why no one seems to be praising the stadium as not just the best in Canada, but perhaps even the best this side of Uranus.

Of course for some media, this seems to be part and parcel of the Saskatchewan they don’t seem to get.

Not only that but, lost in the Fox News efforts to gin up the ratings for what has become a very lazy football discussion, is the question of how big a bullet the Riders dodged and how the next three weeks will likely determine their playoff fate.

The Riders needed to win just to keep their heads above water after Winnipeg won to put some distance between them and the Riders. Winnipeg is the team the Riders need to catch if they want to finish fourth and cross over to the east. After watching Hamilton implode against Calgary, it seems realistic to think the Riders best hope is crossing over because they haven’t proven they can hold their own against their western competitors.

If it wasn’t for a brain cramp by Toronto defender Johnny Sears who failed to ensure receiver Bakari Grant was down after making a catch, Toronto could very well have come back to win the game they lost 37-28. Ricky Ray moved the ball well against the Rider defense, at least until the defense was starting to rush more than three people.

Add to that the lack of air conditioning in the Argos visiting dressing room and being situated on the sunny plus 40 C side of the stadium and perhaps Rider fans should just take the win and run. And so the Riders will take the win and head off to BC for an important home and home series against the Lions.

The Lions are coming off a disappointing loss to Edmonton where Edmonton lost their kicker and long snapper while the Lions lost a couple of members of their defensive backfield and the comeback of Travis Lulay ran into an effective defense.

The Riders, for their part, will be without kicker Tyler Crapigna who left the Toronto game with a leg injury (which explains the Riders going for two points after a touchdown at the end of the game) and maybe receiver and apparent designated Duron Carter babysitter, Chad Owens, may be ready to come off the injury list.

The Riders are four points behind BC with BC having playing one more game so a win or a split would help to bridge that gap, but more importantly help the Riders get closer to Winnipeg who go to Ottawa this week. Keeping within contact of Winnipeg has to be the Riders goal as they head towards the Labour Day/Banjo Bowl split with the Bombers.

So while the Riders have a 2-3 record, they have only beaten eastern teams and for the team to be competitive, they need to beat a western team. Or two. If the Riders get swept by BC and go to Edmonton and get beat there there, the Riders will be 2-6 heading into their next bye week and then the series with Winnipeg, but by that time the season might be over for the Riders and the team will be looking yet again at next year.

The Argo game was important for the Riders in terms of selling things, which makes the rest of what the Riders do possible. The problem has been the losing and the player turnover has tamped down demand for Rider merchandise, especially jerseys because no one knew who to invest in for an over $200 personalized to some extent jersey.

With the Riders not printing pocket paper schedules mostly due to financial costs, and probably cutting back on other things for financial reasons as well, the emphasis in Rider media seems to be selling the game day experience to keep people coming to the new stadium.

Therefore anything that sniffs of a bad experience, like say a shortage of water, has to be ridculed and stomped out before it takes hold and further serves as an incentive to not go see the Riders. My problem with the Rider media is when you start to ridiculing fans publicly, then congratulations, you start turning people off and considering people paid for the stadium and wouldn’t it be nice for people to think they are getting their money’s worth instead of a Saskatchewan version of Dollarama Stadium in Winnipeg?

So lets see what is going in the CFL this week and how it might all shake out.

On Thursday Calgary is coming off a 60-1 stomping of Hamilton and taking their horse show to Toronto against the Argos and their injury riddled defense. The Argos were beat up against the Riders, losing two key defensive linemen which allowed the Riders to run for over 100 yards in the heat which is a devastating thing for a team to pull off.

Calgary on the other hand were reduced to playing their third string quarterback and back ups of back ups in an ideal situation for a football team to get playing time for all players without having someone go down with an injury. Calgary might be fat and sassy after such a lop-sided win and Toronto might not be as much as push over as Hamilton was, but Calgary seems to have a mult-faceted running game getting untracked and with while Toronto’s defensive line was competent with their replacements, they will be nothing more than more credible opposition against the Stampeders. Calgary wins this one 31-22.

Winnipeg goes to Ottawa in the first of a double-header on Friday. Winnipeg is coming off a classic comeback win against Montreal whose defense should have had Winnipeg finished off with just over a minute left in the game.

Naturally Winnipeg is planning their Grey Cup route, but more importantly, are fat and sassy looking down at the Riders who can do nothing but grin and endure it. Winnipeg is without Weston Dressler for this game while Ottawa is coming off a bye week and a tough bit of four games in 17 days.

Ottawa is probably the best 1-4-1 team in the CFL right now and should have a better record, but Ottawa has been forced to fill some spaces due to free agency losses and have lost due to some self inflicted misfiring. The game in Ottawa should mean Ottawa should win this and I wouldn’t be surprised in Ottawa does win this one, but until Ottawa looks like it can operate without shooting itself, the fact of the matter is that Winnipeg has a better away record than what it does at home. I’m going out on a limb to pick the Bombers to win this one 26-24 because the CFL has been rather tight this year except for games involving Hamilton and Calgary.

Hamilton goes to Edmonton this week and it just doesn’t get any easier for the Tiger-Cats. After rolling over and showing their soft belly to the Stampeders, Hamilton has been tearing it up on some high school field with brawls between the offense and defense, showing a fire that was lacking on Saturday night.

While talk has swirled over whether Kent Austin has lost the locker room, it seems an emotional reaction of firing or demoting Kent from his multi-hat operation is not in the cards and the team will be forced to rely on its own character to dig itself out of the hole it finds itself. It’s not an impossible situation, but the Tiger-Cats are going up against the undefeated Edmonton Eskimos who lost their kicker and long snapper last week to injury and have their own holes to try to fill.

Edmonton is missing a running game but seems to have developed a nice deep passing game with Mike Reilly and the big question is if Hamilton can bounce back and show last week was just a freak show and not the start of 1-17 season. My guess is Hamilton should be able to score more than a punt single, but Edmonton is operating at a high level despite losing a lot of people and should win this one 32-21.

Which brings us to the Riders and BC. The Edmonton BC game took some of the tarnish off of Travis Lulay’s return to the starter ranks and this might be Lulay’s last game as a starter before the return from injury of Jonathon Jennings who shreds the Riders like an office supply company. BC though is dealing with some injuries in their defensive backfield which forced them to cobble together a bandaid secondary against Edmonton.

BC was kind of competitive even with Edmonton losing a kicker, long snapper and running back but the game revealed BC still has problems with a team that can mount a decent pass rush against it. The Riders can mount a decent pass rush, but they suffer from a tendency to rush only three people because Chris Jones has decided to shift character from a blitzing kind of guy to someone who now likes to play a lot of man to man defense.

The Riders showed a promising running game and their receivers are starting to live up to their potential, but if mounting a good pass rush against BC makes them vulnerable, so does mounting a good pass rush against the Riders and their rhythm oriented passing game. Get 38 year old quarterback Kevin Glenn off his rhythm and the Riders can be handled.

I thought the Riders game against Calgary would be a statement game about how far the Riders might climb in the standings by showing how competitive they are against a western team. I think the Riders will be competetive in this game, but since this is a western and not an eastern team the Riders are facing, I’m not convinced yet the Riders are in a spot to start promoting false hope in their fans like the media is. BC wins this one 30-27.

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