You weren't expecting a real report for a game like this were you? I mean did you really want to know who had the edge between Chris Garrett and Hugh Charles? All I know about starting Edmonton slotback Kemonte Batemen is that he's not related to Jason Bateman. But I'll give a few thoughts on the game. The most important thing is to have noone we are counting on Nov 10 to get hurt. I just finished watching the Stamps lose their starting defensive tackles and leading receiver. We do not need something like that, especially with Chris Getzlaf already a possible unknown. Remember when Barrin Simpson got hurt in a nothing game to end 2010 and was limited in the playoffs? Lets have none of that tomorrow. If I lived within a couple of hours drive of Regina, yeah I'd be there tomorrow. However with nothing on the line and a playoff game in a week, I'll be watching from my couch. What will I be looking for tomorrow?
Quarterbacks - Whether it is to audition for us, Ottawa, or some other CFL team, Drew Willy will get a good look tomorrow. If the Edmonton line plays to their potential, he will get a challenge from their pass rush. He's going to have a few receivers he's probably worked with on the 2nd team in the lineup for comfort. A lot has been made of Geroy having his best game as a Rider with Drew in Hamilton. If that happens again, it will make for good talk this week on the site. I would think Sunseri will be rewarded with some live reps too.
Running backs - Maybe we expected a big too much of Chris Garrett in his first action in over a year. He had the one big catch for a TD vs BC but overall didn't impress me. Tomorrow is probably his chance to prove he deserves to come back and battle with Matt Brown for a job. Very curious how Jock Sanders will be used tomorrow. I realize he struggled putting the ball on the ground as a returner, but I don't understand why he wasn't used more in the passing game this year. I expected him to be a matchup problem for defenses.
Receivers - When I mentioned receivers Willy has worked with in the 2nd team, I was referring to Eron Riley and Alex Anthony. Ricky Foley gave a shout out to Anthony for working hard all year waiting for his big chance. We did well getting Levi Steinhauer in the 5th round this year. How sweet would it be if we got a 2nd good player in Anthony? I hope Dressler down't see much action tomorrow either.
Offensive line - Chris Best's return is probably the most anticipated roster move tomorrow. If everything goes ok tomorrow, we will go into the playoffs with the same starting O-line that was so successful in the first half of the year. James Lee will start at LT giving big X Fulton a rest. I think Fulton's knee has been bugging him all year and he can use this break.
Defensive line - McElveen is the only regular not listed on the 46 but maybe a guy like John Chick sits tomorrow too. Josh Evens had gotten a lot of playing time in recent weeks and the kid has been pretty good. I think he has a future with us. Look for him and Steinhauer to get action tomorrow. Alex Hall may get the most work out of our ends since he is still getting used to playing for us
Linebackers - Kuale gets the start in the middle ahead of McCullough. That's the good new for him. The bad news is there is little change he dresses in the semi-final. If possiblle I would like to see Butler and Brown not play much. Ferri could play for Brown, but can Regimbald play for Butler? Maybe we can jig the ratio to have Peters play in that spot.
Secondary - Maze gets a rest tomorrow and Miller starts in his place. Other than that the secondary is intact. Ferri and Woldu are the guys who could give the starters a break. I wish Newman was on the roster so that we could save Brackenridge. Am I being too paranoid about the injuries? Maze will be back next week. I hope Rod Williams is too (assuming Harris can't make it back)
Special teams - Hard to say who will get the reps returning kicks. Sanders could use the work to get his game going. I can't think of anyone except him and Jackson who can return punts. Garrett can probably return kicks. If I was coaching here is advice I would give Milo and Schmitt. Ony any weird play like a bad snap, big return, block etc, I would tell them to jus walk way. Let a guy score instead of trying to make the tackle We don't need either of them getting hurt on a freak play.
I don't think we will see an extremely vanilla scheme tomorrow. That will be unfair to Willy and Sunseri. We'll see our base offence, just no wrinkles. Same thing on defines. We will run our base. I am sure you will see the odd blitz or two. But nothing really new.
As for the Eskimos, do we really care? They have more motivation than us in that they probably want to end their year on a good note. If the players love Kavis as much as they say publicly, maybe they will play hard thinking a win can save him? Wait a minute, based on that are the Riders off in the long run if the Esks win big tomorrow?? The only intriguing thing tomorrow for me involving the Esks is the news that Kerry Joseph will end the game at QB for them. I know Kerry wants to keep playing but there ia a chance this is the last time we will see him in Mosaic. I can't think of a better palce for him to get a nice send off from the fans. I hope you folks going do that.
That's it for tomorrow. We do this for real in a week. Btw, if you are superstitious, the last two times I skipped the Riders' last home game because we were locked into hosting the semi-final, we went to the Cup. Let's hope third time's a charm!
Sorry folks, this is going to be another mini-version. I will justify it by saying that there isn't a position on these teams where one had a huge advantage on the other. These two teams hve the best records (along with Toronto) in the league for a reason. The big difference is that Calgary has been the model of consistency and did not suffer through a 4 game losing streak like the Riders. Even one win out of those 4 and this is a real battle for first. That's right, I have a tough time with the batlle for first concept when the Stamps can lose and still clinch in BC next week. I guess that is why I am having a tougher time getting hyped for this game like others. My excitement if the Riders win tomorrow will show itself delayed, like a sober Johnny Fever, 6 days later if the Stamps also lose to BC. Other than that, I am thinking about whether the Riders can win here twice in four weeks. Here's a look at tomorrow's depth charts for both teams.
When the Riders have the ball
We should have known it wasn't our night when the 2nd offensive play of the game resulted in our first offensive turnover of the year. We saw a lot more turnovers in the 2nd half of this year. Even in a 3 score win like last week, the offense turned it over 3 times. Considering we are unlikely to offest that with 8 turnovers recovered, we will not win with 3 turnovers tomorrow. I would say we will have trouble overcoming anything more than one.
If there was ever a game to start the game with play-action it would be tomorrrow. With all the commotion over what Kory Sheets said, you can bet the Stamps will come out fired up to stuff Sheets. I will admit that I wish Sheets hadn't made theo comments about being the best in the league. But the outrage out of Calgary? A team that has had talkers like Lewis and Copeland over the years? Even Hughes before the last meeting. The protests coming from Calgary players, fans, and media is more than a ittle hyopcritical. If you didn't have an issue with the yapping from your team well then shut up about Sheets. I'd love to see play-action on the first play, but outside of that, the Riders are going to try and establish Sheets. We'll see which group of players up front wins the battle.
Despite the Stamps' best efforts to shut them down, Getzlaf and Dressler have both had big games against the Stamps in the past. Brandon Smith and Darius Brooks will draw that assignment tomorrow, along iwth Keon Raymond from the linebacker spot. If the Stamps start putting more coverage on those two receivers, Darian is going to have to make a point of getting the ball to our other three receivers to make plays. I would love to see us get the ball to Jock Sanders more in the passing game too. He's effective in that role, and I don't see why we've don't use that.
In the last game, the Stamps d-line won the battle in the trenches. It was a shock as we had not seen that this year. Since then, mostly due to injury we have seen it a few times. The Rides need to win that battle this time to win the game tomorrow. We hve to keep Calgary's two very good ends, Hughes and Law from causing havoc. Some outside runs cold force them to stay outside and play it honest vs coming hard after Durant every play. I haven't been overly impressed with Devon Tyler at RT. He's going to have to step up tomorrow. THe7 man front with the two tight ends can widen the edge and take some pressue of Durant as well. I love how decisive Darian was running the ball last week. Even if he was only getting 4 or 5 at times, deciding to run quickly got him a few first downs.
When the Stampeders have the ball
Like the Riders wanting to establish Sheets, it will be a surprise to noone that the Stamps will want to establish Cornish. It's not a number like keeping Cornish to less than 100 yards that i am looking for. I think the Riders can win even if he gets 100. What the defense has to stop are the huge runs that Cornish can get; I believe he leads the league in runs of 20 yards or more. Those are the runs the defense can't allow. In the last game, Cornish had a TD late in the half for about 30 yards and then ripped off a 50-60 yarder to seal the game. There's about half his yardage total from the game right there!
Last time the Stamps had a very good scheme on offense. They were able to use the TE or FB to pin the Rider ends to the inside and then looped out a lineman on our linebackers. Between that and tricks like the direct snap, they created some big holes for Cornish. The Riders need to have come up with a way to counter that strategy to have a chance tomorrow. If our line can blow up the Calgary line, then our linebackers can flow to the ball. Everyone also has to stay assignment sharp to take away cut-back lanes. Lastly, our defenes has to wrap Cornish up. We can't go after him with "kill-shots" where you try and send him flying with a shoulder. Cornish is strong and shifty, he will avoid those hits and turn those plays into big plays. It many not look as pretty or draw a shot on the TSN highlight package, but wrap him up with good solid tackles when you get a chance.
Thd Riders can't just sell out to the run and ignore the Calgary passing attack because given the chance, Glenn will hurt you. It will be strange facing a Stamp team without Nik Lewis. IN hsi absence Mo Price and Marquay MdDaniel have turned into the go-to guys. Terrell Maze will probably draw Price. The depth chart puts McDaniel at wide side slot meaning Carlos Thoms will get him. On the short side it will be DA's job. Calgary spreads out their receivers too so Weldon Brown and Craig Butler's coverage abilities become key. Glenn does a good job of spreading the ball around so the Riders can't really just concentrate on one or two guys. Glenn's strength is his smarts and getting the ball off quick. He's not a guy who will scare you running the ball. We need to be able to get to him with pressure and force him into bad throws.
The Stamps will come fired up tomorrow. They've looked in every corner and every shadow to find a perceived slight to them by the Riders to work themselves into a frenzy for the game. The Riders need to fight off that initial barrage and stay in the game early. If that happnes, we should be in for a great back and forth game. Last time and in last year's playoff game, teh Stamps got the early jump, and the Riders were trying to catch up the rest of the way.
There's nothing really scientific about this, but I just have a gut feel that despite going toe to toe with the Stamps we are going to come just short in teh game. If that is the case, hopefully it gives the team confidence for a Western Final matchup after (hopefully) knocking off the Lions in the WSF. If my instinct is wrong and the Rides win the game, I guess we cheer for the Lions next Friday harder than we've ever cheered for them before!
My score: Stampeders 27 Roughriders 24
Well after all the turmoil in September, the great start and the current two game win streak has the Riders poised to clinch a home playoff game this week. I think the excitement level in our fan base would be a lot higher if the first half of the season hadn't filled us with thoughts of a record like 15-3 and first place. Not having to go on the road twice in the playoffs would be a big step in getting to the Cup, so getting a win on Saturday will be huge. To demonstrate how important getting a home playoff game is in recent years, the last time a third place team in the West got to the Grey Cup was Edmonton in 2005.
Probable starters: Riders - Durant, Lions - Demarco. Like the offense around him, Darian's play on Saturday provided some good and some bad. He deserved better on that long pass he dropped in perfectly to Getzlaf. That 2nd interception he threw was horrid in that he didn't see the linebacker in the hook zone at all. That last run for a first down and go dowon in bounds was clutch to seal the game. We need to see the Darian that played in BC two weeks ago. Demarco has probably been what could be expected of a youngster since he started filling in for Lulay. His highlight was his clutch comeback in Regina. The Rider D got the best of him in Vancouver. He played well in Calgary, but threw a critical pick. Edge Riders
Probably starters: Riders - Sheets, Lions - Harris. I thought it would take Kory Sheets a couple of games back to round into form, but he's been very effective since his return. We haven't tested him as a receiver since his return and honestly I haven't watched close enough to comment on his blocking. If Jock Sanders is on the roster, I would like us to throw the ball to him more than once a game. I had a part in here on how the Lions aren't using Harris in the running game enough but Rider Prophet pointed out that Harris actually has roughly the same number of carries as last year, but his average is down. Tim Brown usually gets some touches in a game. Newly signed Stefan Logan is probably going to be on the roster tomorrow Edge Riders
Probable starters: Riders - Dressler, Getzlaf, Simon, Smith, Bagg; Lions - Moore, Taylor, Arceneaux, Gore, Ianuzzi. There was nothing really spectacular that stood out with the Rider receivers last week. When they had the opportunity, they made plays. One notable exception was the drop on the long pass to Getzlaf. In the past, his drops have come in bunches. I hope that is not the case this time around. He did catch a critical pass later in the fourth quarter so that' a good sign. He should hit 1000 this week. At the start of the year if you had to bet which team would be poised to have 3 1000 yd receivers, I think many of us would have guessed the Lions. Unless Arceneaux and Taylor get incredibly hot in the last 3 games, only Moore will reach that plateau for the Lions. Edge Lions
Probably starters: Riders - T - Fulton, Tyler, G - Labatte, Heenan, C - Picard; Lions T - Archibald, Olafioye, G - Kabongo, Valli, C - Norman It's nice to see the Rider line starting to perform well again. I say Tyler get burned a couple of times that led to sacks, and I am getting a little concerned about the shotgun snaps. Overall, the play is a lot better. The Lions' offensive line has had been up and down this year. As mentioned above they hvae had trouble establishing a running game. They are solid outside but have had trouble in the interior. Edge Riders
Probable staters: Riders - E - Chick, Foley, Hall, T - George, Shologan ; Lions - E - Smith, Wilson, T - Williams, Taylor, Westerman. I tried to provide a better picture by adding the guys in the rotation on both teams. Josh Evans got quite a bit of playing time for the Riders on Saturday and did pretty well. All eyes were on Alex Hall, and he made a couple of plays for us. Overall, the entire front line had a good game. The Lions front is performing better in recent weeks, especially with the return of Williams. However, they have been gashed in successive weeks in the run game. Edge Riders
Probable staters: Riders - MLB - McCullough, OLb - Brown, Butler; Lions - MLB - Elimimian, OLB - Bighill, Banks. Welcome back Weldon Brown. I didn't realize how serious hsi knee infection was. He was our best defender when he got hurt, so hopefully he can get back to that level quickly. Lions have the best 1-2 punch at LB in this leage witl Elimimiam and Bighell (only Cox and Hebert are cloes imo). Kromah is listed on our 46. I don't think he replaces McCullough in the middle but will definitelhy help our in game depth if he's on the 42. Edge Lions
Probably staers: Riders - CB - Maze, Jackson, HB - Anderson, Thomas, S - Brackenridge; Lions - CB - Marsh, Parks, HB - Phillips, Bell, S - LaRose. I guess this is as healthy as our secondary gets until hopefully Rod Williams comes back for the playoffs. The only devate right now is if Prince Miller should be in at corner ahead of Tristan Jackson. To be honest, that might be the lineup I go with. I think talent-wise the Rider secondary is as good as the Lions. The Linos use their experience to play more aggressively than than our guys do. They are at their best attacking short passes and tackling receivers before they get the first down. Slight Edge Lions
Probable starters: Riders - Sanders, Jackson, Lions - Brown, Logan. What it looked like to me in the game last week is that Jock Sanders doesn't have all his confidence back yet. I thought there were times he could have attacked the ball before it bounced and saved a few yards. He seems hesitant when he gets it too. I am hoping just one big return can get him going again. Stefan Logan will find his way onto the lineup for the Lions. It must be to kickstart their running game because their return game has been fine with TIm Brown. Edge Lions
Probable starters: Riders - Milo, Lions - McCallum. I know McCallum got the game winning kick a few weeks ago, but overall I think Milo is a better kicker right now and the percentages reflect that. Edge Riders
Probably staters: Riders - Schmitt, Lions - McCallum. Pretty much the same thing as placekicking. I was worried a couple of weeks ago that Schmitt wasn't kicking as well as he was earlier in the year and maybe his leg was tiring, but he looked back on track last week. McCallum had a rough game in Calgary last week. Edge Riders
Let's hope we see an offense more similar to the game in BC than the first meeting in Regina. The odds are in our favour with Heenan and Sheets in the lineup like they were in BC. The Rider offensive success will be affected as usual by how effectivly we run the football. For all their talent and overall good stats, the Lions have given up significant yardage in their last two games to Sheets and Cornish. It stands to reason the Riders will try and establish the run again with the Lions possibly having a few new wrinkles to stop it. I would love to see us get aggressive early but George Cortez has been determined for this offense to start the same way for a while now....run on the first play than a short pass to try and pick up a first down.
When playing the Lions, if you want to throw the ball short and let your receivers and backs run for first down, you'd better throw the ball on time and accurately. The Lions are great at sniffing out those plays and running downhill to make hte tackle. We saw a lot of short completions that led to punts in the game in Regina. We need to work on our timing on that crossing route to Smith too. I don't if he should be sitting down in certain areas or Darian has to time it better to hit him in windoews, but Smith has taken a beating on that play recently. Another thing we have discussed a lot is for Darian to use all his receivers. When we go to the 5-pack, he has 5 good ones. Someone's going to get open; don't lock in on one guy.
I don't recall the Lions doing a tonne of blitzing in the earlier matchups. If they do, the one blitz tha seems to give us trouble is the guy coming late who doesn't line up on the line of scrimmage but comes from the secondary. Our line has had some trouble picking those up, and Darian doesn't seem to see them well either. Samuels got a huge sack for the Esks last week on that type of blitz...and that was after the fake run by the receivers to the line got him to tip his hand! We have to read those and make defenses pay. In general the Lions strength is their ability to read plays and come up and make tackles. They are a hard team to beat that way. I think they are suseptable to bigger plays down the field and that's how you beat them...by attacking, not playing scared.
One last comment about our screen game, and not just wanting to see more of them. It seems like we go to that play when we are 2nd and more than 10, so we get 11 or 12 yards and still punt. I'd like to see us mix in a couple of those on 2nd and 8 or so.
When the Lions have the ball
Demarco had his best game passsing last week in Calgary. In fact he has almost 600 yards passing in his last two games. However in that time he has thrown 4 picks as well. Because he's gotten more reps over these last few weeks, look for the Lions to be a lot less conservative that in the first two meetings. I am interested to see what they will do if Logan is indeed in the lineup. Are they going to use him and Harris together and use his presence to hopefully find more room for Harris? I can't see Logan being in game shape to take on much of a load so I anticipate 10 or less touches for him and some decoy plays hoping the Riders focus on him leaving others open. Based on play to this point, we shouldn't have to worry about BC running all over us. Our run D has been rock solid,and as mentioned the Lions have had trouble running.
The key to controlling the Lion offense will be to limit the big plays. Despite a good defensive effort in Game 1 in Regina, the Riders did give up two long TDs n the third quarter. We saw a much better job in Vancouver. We are going to miss the decent job that Rod Williams did on Arceneaux in Vancouver. That job probably falls on Maze. Carlos Thomas will be tested at the wide side half. Having Weldon Brown back will help a lof with the crossing routes, and he is also capable of covering a slot receiver.
The best way to disrupt the Lion passing attack will be to get a good rush up front. I hope that we can get good pressure with just our defensive line rushing. Screw the three man rush with a spy....bring four guys minimum and collapse that pocket. Force Demarco to make a play. Last week, from what i was following on the radio, it sounded like the Stamps knocked down a few passes. We have lived the frustration of seeing that happen to Darian as well. Demarco is another small QB in stature. If our lineman realize on a particular play that they won't be able to get a hit or sack, I hope they get their arms up to deflect passes or take away the passing window.
There is no bigger buildup needed than to say a win clinches a home playoff game and keep the possibility of first place alive, even if doesn't seem too realistic. Even though the Lions can't clinch 2nd with a win tomorrow, I think for all intents they do, since they will have the tiebreaker on us and two home games upcoming. A lot of factors going into determining who wins a football game, but there is one stat that seems to be very consistent when it comes to this Rider team. If we win the turnover battle we win the game. If not, we lose. If you want to finish ahead of a divsion rival, you can't lose to them twice at home. I expect a solid if not spectacular effort from the team tomorrow. Dress warm everyone...think of it as a trial run for what's to come in November.
My score: Roughriders 27 Lions 22
Those of you who know my superstitious nature are going to think this is all the result of the Riders winning last week. Honetly, I had intentions of thing being back to normal this week, but that got away from me. Once again I direct you to Rider Prophet's excellent write-up at www.riderprophet.com
Good to see the Riders with the win and get some of their swagger back from early in the year. Are we all the way back? Too early to say. Right now let's say on a Joe Thornton scale we are at 2 goals right now. Despite the recent struggles and how tight the West is, the Riders are set up to clinch a home playoff game with wins the next two weeks. With three home games in the last four and all games against Western opponents, it's time to get hot now.
Receiver is the only place where the Eskimos match up with the Rider offense. Even without the concussion problem, I take a healthy Durant over a healthy Reilly at this point. Look for more of what we saw last Friday in BC, which is similar to what we saw earlier this season. The success of this offense will start with Kory Sheets running the ball. Look for him to be even better in his second game back. The Esks have a lot of name talent up front, but it just hasn't translated to on field success. The sum has been less than the whole of it's parts where that unit is concerned. Sheets had success in both games in Edmonton, so I expect him to run well tomorrow too. JC Sherritt reinjured his thumb and is out again so Rennie Curran will man the MLB spot.
If the line opens holes for Sheets and protects Darian, he will find guys down the field. We have gone away from that corner route which was so successful to Dressler and Getzlaf earier this season, particularly against the Eskimos. I hope we go back to that. The big matchup to watch on the line will be how Devin Tyler handles the rush he will face from Willis and Howard. A big part of the Rider success in the first two matchups was keeping the Eskimos ends out of our backfield. It was good to see Dairan get back to playing a clean game again - no interceptions, no fumbles lost. We need more of the same.
When the Eskimos have the ball
The biggest concern on this side of the ball will be a good Eskimo group of receivers going up against our banged-up secondary. Despite what the depth chart has said in advance, in previous weeks we have had Terrell Maze at the short side corner. This would have either Carlos Thoms or Prince Miller lined up at wide side half with Tristan Jackson on the corner. The only reason I can think of where the Riders would keep Maze at half would be that the Esks run most of their passing game through their slots (Stamps and Bowman). If I was a betting man, I would say look for Maze at corner.
I'm really not concerned about Hugh Charles being productive on the ground. The Riders have shut down running attacks from more talented backs. The Esks had success last time faking to Charles and then having Reilly run up the middle. Will they be willing to let Reilly run like that again with his concussion issues? Do the Riders have an answer for it this time?
Alex Hall makes his debut for the Riders tomorrow. Having him, Foley, and Chick on the roster gives us a lot of flexibility up front. Look for many looks including Foley and Hall outside with Chick at DT. Getting a good pass rush will be important to ensure we don't get exposed on the back end.
This is a home game for the Riders in a situation where we need to run the table to have any shot at first place. We are facing a down and out team that has spent all week answering questions about their QB's health and their Head Coach's future. No excuses. The Riders need to jump on the Esks early and give them nothing to get confident or excited about. No turnovers on offense, or blown coverages on defense and special teams that let's the Esks get a jump. If the Ridesr take control early, I'll wager the Esks don't have it in them to come back.
My score: Roughriders 33 Eskimos 18
Sorry folks, been a busy week and away on vacation right now so I didnt get a pre-game column done. I am hoping to catch the game on ESPN3 dowin in the staes right now. Hopefully we win the turnover battle, and Sheets is effective upon his return giving us a shot. Just so you don't go preview-less here is a link to Rider Prophet's pregame write up which is always a good read. This game is sadly like the old days for me. Hope for the best ; fear the worst.
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