One week ago, the Riders really tested our nerves before prevailing in a real gut-check win in Winnipeg. Now coming off a nice rest, they get one of the worst teams in the league coming to town in the Als. With the west so tight this year, there is no such thing as an unimportant game. Every other Western team will probably beat Montreal at home (Calgary and BC already did), so we can't give this one up and make it a game we have to make up against our division rivals. Saturday we will the guys run out in the new signature jerseys. No need to discuss that in any more detail here.
Probable starters: Riders - Durant, Alouettes - Brink. Having extra time gives the fans more time to engage in the Darian Durant debate. Absolutely he could play better than he has recently. But dimissing all other factors like the new receiver as excuses is ridiculous. Despite the offense struggles last week, Darian did not panic and give up turnovers while his counterpart did. There is a big reason why the Riders won that game. I was all set to use a line from one of my favorite NFL football analysts. Despite the Als screwing things up by changing their roster, I am going to use it anyway. Troy Smith is not very good at football. Therefore he is off the roster, possibly for good. Long time Bomber Alex Brink gets the start for the Bombers. That does not scare me. Neither does the idea that the Als may use all three quarterbacks including Jonathon (straight out of) Crompton and Tanner Marsh. Edge Riders
Probable starters: Riders - Ford, Messam. Alouettes - Whitaker. There was the odd time last year where the Riders came with a 1-2 punch out of the backfield with Sheets and Sanders. However we haven't seen the type of combo that Ford and Messam gives us in a long time. If Messam can keep it up and show us his 2011 form, look out. Brandan Whitaker has been in the U.S. so far to be with his wife after the birth of a new baby (Congratulations). If he does play, it will be on very little practice. If he does not play, Tyrell Sutton takes his place. I don't recall much of his play from last year. Whitaker is one of the better backs, but things are up in the air this week. Edge Riders
Probable starters: Riders - Williams, Bagg, Getzlaf, Swain, R. Smith, Alouettes - Green, Carter, London, Stafford, Stalla. Taj Smith makes his triumphant (?) return to the Rider lineup, and now has to somewhat redeem himself in everyone's eyes. I could be wrong, but I think when all is said and done, we will see him on the majority of offensive snaps on Saturday. Even though he is not listed as a starter. I will admit as we get closer to game day, I am feeling less and less strong in that conviction. With as little a passing game as we had on Thursday, it's hard to comment on the receivers. I still think a guy like Swain will become a big part of our offense but I am concerned about Schillens. People who were excited to see Chad Johnson play in Regina will be disappointed. I think that experiement has seen the beginning of the end. The Als get a lift with SJ Green back. He's a top receiver in this league when healthy and someone can get him the ball. Duron Carter is a talented receiver too, but did people see him celebrating a big catch with his team down by over 20 last week? The apple didn't fall far from the tree. Even
Probable starters: Riders - T - Fulton, Heenan, G - LaBatte, Best, C - Picard, Alouettes - T - Bourke, Perrett, G - Matte, Bomben, C - Broduer-Jourdain. The Riders line exerted their will in the 2nd half of that game and deserve a lot of credit for the performance by Messam. Under difficult circumstances they did a decent job of protecting Durant. Fulton being hobbled this year worries me. Since he missed a day of practice Adcock may be on the roster again this week. Josh Bourke was a question mark going into this week but will suit up for the Als. That's a good thing for them based on the Rider ends, but he's better be mobile enough to handle the outside rush. The Als line is decent but a far cry from the day where they pretty much always got the edge during most of the 2000's. Edge Riders
Probable starters: Riders - DE- Chick, Foley, DT - George, Walker, Alouettes - DE - Bowman, Lavarias, DT - Cash, McElveen. I hope we don't jinx John Chick with all the accolades. He's deserving of every one. After a player of the month in July, he's followed it up with two more great games in August. Whether the rest of the line is opening things up for him or vice versa doesn't matter. The whole line is playing well, and that includes Guyton and Lee when they come off the bench. John Bowman iss still a premiere end for the Alouettes, but there's only so much he can do on his own. Scott Paxson who made a big play in the Als win over the Lions will miss this one. Looks like the Als are moving Lavarias from MLB to DE where he played last year and ex-Rider from last year McElveen will start at DT. Edge Riders
Probable starters: Riders - MLB - Peters, OLB - Hurl, Harris, Alouettes, MLB - Woods, OLB - Hebert, Cox. There is good news and bad news for the Riders at linebackers. After a 6 game delay with the broken thumb, we see the debut of hyped MLB Chad Kilgore, although it looks like he is not starting. On the downside Weldon Brown is out with an injury, and Macho Harris will step into this spot. This is a bit of a surprise as I thought we would either slide Peters out or put Turenne / Thomas in here. I would prefer that to disrupting the secondary too but that's why I am not the coach. This is the strength of the Alouette defense. ACox and Hebert are as good a pair of OLBs in the league. They can both be a couple of dirty SOB's though. Just ask Jon Cornish. Lavarias moves to DE so that Bear Woods can start at MLB. His name of course is a reminder of one of life's more famous rhetorical questions. Edge Alouettes
Probable starters: Riders - CB - Jackson, Williams, HB - Maze, Turenne, S - Brackenridge, Alouettes - CB - Tisdale, Smith, HB - Parker, Brown, S - Brouillette. Despite Drew Willy's 300 yards, I thought our secondary played well last week. Denmark got the one long one, but two of hte big plays to Kohlert should have been stopped by Macho Harris who was right there and made a bad play on the ball in one instance and fell in the other. Brackenridge and Maze are playing great ball after slow starts. The emergence of Legree as the 6th DB allows us to run the same 2-deep scheme as last year with T-Brack and Butler. As I mentioend earlier, I would have preferred to leave Macho where he was, but with hikm sliding to LB, Turenne steps in. Turenne is like Michael Myers or Jason from Friday the 13th. For the most part, fans want him gone, but he just won't go away. The Alouette secondary is a good one. Geoff Tisdale is a ball hawk at corner and the halfbacks are solid. Edge Riders
Probable starters: Riders - Jackson, Alouettes - Bowling Tristan Jackson had another big return for the Riders last week. I can't say enough about the spark he has added to our return game. Ryan Smith will back him up. I can't say Bo Bowling has ever wowed me with his return abiliites. Edge Riders
Probable starters: Riders - Milo, Alouettes - Whyte. Just when I thought Milo had found his form again, he has a game like Thursday. Misses from outside 40 like his first miss will happen, but a 30 some yarder to put the team up 8 late in the game has to be made. That miss was unacceptable and thank goodness it did not lead to a miracle Willy comeback. Sean Whyte is not great at 82% but he's higher than Milo. Maybe the ice bucket dunk wakes Chris up. Edge Alouettes
Probable starters: Riders - Bartel, Alouettes - Whyte. Bartel is having an odd season. There are times where his ball just does not look good when he punts it. His line drives to the corners can be effective. Would you believe his average and net are comparative and higher than his predessor? Sean Whyte has better numbers though, in both categories. Edge Alouettes
When the Riders have the ball
So what will the Riders running strategy be? Will we continue where we left off last week and go striaght to Messam? Or will it be Ford early and then unleash Messam on a tired D in the second half? I am guessing that Ford starts but we will see Messam earlier than last week. John White of the Esks, who is more like Ford has a big game last week vs the Als D. The Eskimos took advantage of an aggressive Als D to burn them on a couple of misdirection plays. We haven't seen a lot of that but those and draws should work. Messam might be pretty jacked for this one since the Als wanted him to be a FB and didn't want to give him a chance at tailback, which led to his relseas. On the other side of the ball, Jermaine McElveen will be jacked to play us.
One concern for me in this game is that the Riders seem to have trouble with aggressive defenses that blitz alot, and that is what this Als defense does. We had trouble with them in both games last year. We had Sheets in game 1 but he averaged less than 4 yards per carry. The numbers for this D are not that good this year but that could be the amount of time they are spending on the field. Another problem could be with their craptacular offense, the D might be pressing too much to make plays and being more aggressive than usual, even for them. As they take chances looking to jump routes etc, they could be missing assignments leading to big plays. Whatever the reason, this Als defense is statistically near the bottom in a lot of categories. As I said above, misdirections, screens, play action could lead to big plays.
What the Rider need to be wary of is that the Als will be looking to make that big play. Darian has to be aware of them jumping short routes and the ball carriers have to secure the ball as guys try and rip it out. This is where quick passes to guys like both Smiths and letting them run with it can work. Getzlaf vs the halfs will be a good matchup. The Riders need to stop Cox and Hebert from causing havoc at or behind the line of scrimmage.
When the Alouettes have the ball
I am guessing all of you are familiar with the saying "if you think you have more than 1 starting QB, you actually have none" this may apply as the Als have said they will use more than 1 QB. It's hard to say what the game plan will be. My best guess, much like Troy Smith reading a defense, is that with Brink in we will see a pretty conventional offense. With Crompton or Marsh we will see more running, read option etc. When Brink is in, our front seven can line it up and go after him. When the other two are in, the D needs to be mindful of contain and keeping the QB inside. Chick and Foley have not only been rushing the passer well, but they have also been disciplined and I expect they won't get burned. The Als should try and run with whoever the tailback is to help their QBs and to slow down the Rider pass rush. Maybe we will see a two back set with Diedrick coming in to play FB or some TE sets. We hae to be prepared for teams doing all kinds of things like that to get more than one body on Chick.
The only thing that really concerns me in this game is the athleticism of Green and Carter. They could make some nice plays going up for the ball if the QBs just lay it up. We need an active game from Brackenridge to help out on those deep throws. Our tackling has to be sure to not let these guys turn short routes into big plays. If we play sound, disciplined ball, I don't think this Als offense is capable of putting a long drive together, even with the changes. We just need to avoid the big plays. Even though he is listed as a WR, look for the Als to move SJ Green inside to gry and match him up on Turenne.
The Riders are simply a better team than this Als team. We had trouble with that last year cause we lost 4 fumbles in the first game, and in the 2nd game, Darian threw 3 picks, we had a fumble, and the team got stopped on 3rd down from the 1. THe formula to lose this game would be to commit turnovers like that, take bad penalities, and have breakdowns on D leading to big play. The recipe to win will be to play smart sond football. I have faith in this team coming to play, in which case we should see a win.
My score: Roughriders 31 Alouettes 13
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