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.
When the Riders have the ball
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
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