Well here we are. People saw this matchup coming early in the season. All that was left to be decided was where would it be. The Riders September swoon and the Stamps avoiding any sort of significant downturn with their injures ensured the game would be played in Calgary. Calgary had the edge during the season, finishing 6 points ahead and winning 2 out of 3 head to head. In the big picture, these teams were pretty close. They each won at home by 15, and Calgary won the rubber match in a close one in October. As for the rest of the season, it was the 4 game losing streak that was the difference. This one's for keeps; winner goes to Regina to represent the West in the Grey Cup.
Probable starters: Riders - Durant, Stampeders - Glenn. Outside of possibly the 2009 West Final, that might have been Darian's best playoff game. He wasn't putting up numbers early, but that was mostly because BC's offence owned the football. He did get fortunate on the one deeep pass, but sometimes you just trust your playmakers to bail you out. He really puts a defense in a bind when he runs like last week. The only thing more I would ask it to take the check downs a little more. As expected Kevin Glenn gets the start for Calgary. We've all seen him long enough to know his strengths and weaknesses. He's not the most athletically gifted QB, but he's smart, has a quick release and is accurate. He's probably not going to win a game for you by himself, but he won't make the huge mistake to lose either. Based on what we saw 3 weeks ago, if Glenn falters, Hufnagel probably has no qulams about going to Drew Tate. Edge Riders
Probable starters: Riders - Sheets, Stampeders - Cornish. There's a lot less fireworks here this time with no talking before hand. Sheets didn't have a spectacular game against the Lions but got some critical yards in the fourth quarter and got the big play on the screen to set up the first TD. I noticed a lot of hustle in him blocking too, and not going for hte cut block all the time in pass protection. Jon Cornish probably wins the MOP and Most Outstanding Canadian award this year. Really there isn't a lot to choose between these guys this year. When that happens, pretty much have to go with the numbers. Slight Edge Stampeders
Probable starters: Riders - Dressler, Getzlaf, Simon, Smith, Bagg, Stampeders - Price, West, Fuller, Arthur, Sinopoli. There it is, Chris Getzlaf will play according to Coach Chamblin. We know how much Darian likes looking for him and his history against the Stamps so this is big. I know some people were down on the signing, but it's hard to believe that when the Riders Big 3 are mentioend at receiver, Geroy is not one of them. As was said to me today, if he makes a play that is the difference a la Jason Clermont in the WSF in 2010, getting him here would be worth it based on that. Hard to believe that Jabari Arthur is going to be the Stamps more experienced receiver heading into this game. Yeah, I am not buying that Nik Lewis Lewis will play. Anthony Parker is actually next in line with receiver seniority. Price, West, Fuller, and Sinopoli are short on experience but long on talent and big play potential. There's not a lot to chose between these two groups, but I'll give the edge to 3 1000 yards receivers and experience. Slight Edge Riders
Probable starters: Riders - T - Heenan, Fulton, G - Labatte, Best, C - Picard, Stampeders - T - Federkeil, Wilson, G - Harrison, Gott, C - Jones. Again these are two of the top two units in the league. I think there has been a marked improvement with the Riders since the return of Chris Best. I am a bit concerned over our inability to open holes for Sheets last week. However our pass protection was good, and our guys did a good job of getting out on and making plays on screen passes. I don't think Tyler being on the 46 vs Lee means much other than if sometihng bizarre happens in the next 24 hours, we will have a veteran coming in. Calgary's line play has been impressive based on the injuries they suffered. Tsoumpas who is considered their best lineman has not played the 2nd half of the year due to a concussion. It's tough as a Rider fan seeing Saskatchewan product Brent Jones having such a great rookie season since he was there in the draft. If the Riders were scared off by his med school aspirations, I guess we spin it green by saying the Rider brass regarded his intelligence and ability to get into med school higher. Overall I think the Stamp line has been more consistent, and their run blocking has been better the 2nd half of the year. Edge Stampeders
Probable starters: Riders - DE - Chick, Foley, Hall, T - Shologan, McElveen; Stamps - DE - Hughes, Law, DT Bishop, Turner. The most significant piece of news is the Stamps are missing both of their starting defensive tackles with injuries sustained in that nothing game against the Lions, which is why Freddie Bishop and Junior Turner are listed as starters. Etienne Legare will get some action too from what I hear. Normally this would cause a lot more excitement for us, but I think we are a little leary about writing off the Stamps line since they have survived injuries all year. It will be interesting to see if some of the Hughes's and Law's success was from the starting TDs controlling the middle. The Riders are also missing a significant player in Tearrius George, but luckily have veteran Jermain McElveen around to fill in. Our line did not live up to it's billing last week. Alex Hall in particular got caught inside a lot on the run, and we didn't see a lot of pressure on the QB. Our guys should be back to their usual standard and have a better game this week. Edge Riders
Probably starters - Riders - MLB - McCullough, OLB - Brown, Butler, Stampeders - MLB - Simpson, OLB - Mayo, Raymond. Our linebackers also had trouble with the Lions running game last week. That's really the only conern with our group is having two converted DBs at OLB. The positive is their pass coverage. I know a lot of people are concerned about Mike McCullough in the middle with Rey Williams out, but Mike has been just fine. Cornish actually had a bigger day in the August game in Calgary with Rey in the lineup vs Mike. Am I saying we don't miss Rey Williams? No, but just saying that we've been ok. Simpson is a good MLB and Deron Mayo has done well filling on for Malik Jackson. Keon Reymond is their cover backer. IIRC, Getzlaf has had some big games in the past on him. Even
Probable starters - Riders - CB - Williams, Jackson, HB - Anderson, Maze, S - Brackenridge; Stampeders - CB - Bennett, Randle, HB - Smith, Brooks, S - Fraser. As I mentioned last week, with Macho Harris out, this is the best secondary we have put out this year. Tristan Jackson's play at corner has been a real pleasant surprise for me. As much as I am not a fan of a lot of Dwight Anderson's antics, I thought his comment about not remembering his comments due to be concussed were hilarious. BC didn't throw the ball a lot last week, but I thought our secondary was impressive, especially when the Lions tried to hit Arceneaux deep. A lot of times we had good coverage, but Lulay was dead on with his throw. The Stamps have a good secondary too and apparently are miffed that none of them were all-stars. Fred Bennett and Brandon Smith are probably their two best guys. Bennett probably deserved an all-star nomination over Dante Marsh. Edge Riders
Probable starters - Riders - Sanders, Stampeders - Taylor. Jock Sander picked the prefect time to have possibly his best game of the year returning kicks. He had the big kick return right after a BC TD that allowed the Riders to get momentum back. Even though he only had 3 punt returns, he got some critical ten yard returns that helped in field position. Larry Taylor's numbers for the year on kick and punt returns was almost identical to Sanders. BTW, late in games, I would love to see Dressler back there. Even
Probable starters - Riders - Milo, Stampeders - Parades. No doubt about it, Rene Paredes is the premier kicker in the CFL, no argument here. However I do take exception when I would hear comments in Calgary about how "it wasn't even close". Chris Milo's 88.5 percent was nothing to sneeze at. Milo showed us something hitting that clutch FG in the fourth quarter giving us the lead in those conditions last week. Edge Stampeders
Probable starters - Riders - Schmitt, Stampeders - Maver. I think Rick Schmitt is the best punters in the league. We all rave about his hangtime but one part of his game that goes unnoticed is that he is pretty good into the wind. Maver is proabably the #2 guy in the league. Edge Riders
When the Riders have the ball
After last week I don't have a clue on how Kory Sheets will do tomorrow. Last week I thought he would be effective since he did well in the last two matchups against the Lions, but they did a good job of limiting his effectiveness, outside of the screen pass. So despite his lack of success in the last matchup here, the Riders need to try and get him going. I think eveyrone is going to expect us to try and run between the tackles early to test the defensive tackles. If the running game gets going, that could really open up playing passes and Darian running around the outside. Not to mention it will make Hughes and Law respect the run vs turning the pass rush loose. We saw a couple of two back sets with Hughes at FB last week. We may see more of that. I know he doesn't have the best hands but we have to involve Sheets in the passing game. We got the big screen last week, and he had a big game catching the ball last year in the WSF.
I hope Getzlaf's knee is in good enough shape to run his patented corner route. That's our bread and butter to the slots, particularly off play-action. I can't believe the Lions had LaRose man to man on Dresser on the goal line last year. I doubt we have the good fortune of Fraser man to man with Dressler at any time tomorrow. Brandon Smith particularly is a good half but we have had success inside on the Stamps. The big matchup is Taj Smith on Fred Bennett. Bennett is a good one and it will really help us spread out the passing attack if Smith can have success on that matchup. Here's the requisite Geroy is a veteran and will know how to play in these conditions so get him the ball comment.
Last time here, the Stamps d-line owned the battle with our o-line. Chris Best being back and the Calgary tackles being out should help. Bottom line, our guys have to step up and play better. Darian can help too by not just standing in the pocket and holding the ball too long. Once 3 seconds pass, he had to take off or take Sheets / Sanders on the check down. He has to know the rush is getting there after that. Two plays that stand out for me in the last game are watching plays where Geroy had to take on Law 1 on 1 and another play where Sheets had to take Hughes. I don't know if we get forced into that matchup via formation, but if there is anything Cortez can do to avoid that happening he has to. We will never ever win those blocking matchups. If that is the situations, swing those guys out in the pattern and hit them on a hot route. There's more of a chance of them breaking a tackle than blocking a DE.
Both teams last week did a great job of ball security. We will need the Riders to continue that this week.
When the Stampeders have the ball
I think we should just ignore Cornish and concentrate on the passing game….just kidding. The Riders need to control Cornish. Notice I did not say stop. He's going to get his yards if he gets the ball. I don't care if he gets 80, 90 yards or so. What we have been burned on by him in Calgary is the big run where he rips of 20+ yard gains. We have to gang tackle him and control those. As usual, wrap him up, he will just bounce off it if you try and throw a shoulder into him. Based on what happened last week with Logan, the Stamps might throw in a few wrinkles with two backs where either Walter or Taylor join Cornish in the backfield. Our defense has to do a much better job of staying in their gaps. BC runners got a lot of yards on cut backs. Alex Hall in particular has to do a better job of staying home. Glenn isn't going to hurt you much by faking and running but he will use it to buy time to throw. If Tates comes in you know he will use that play to take off. I also wouldn't be surprised to see them go with the big formation with 2 TEs to get big bodies on Butler and Brown.
Like the Riders, if the Stamps can get Cornish really going, it will open up the play action pass. The Stamps have talented receivers across the board. However the Riders have a talented secondary. This will be a good matchup. Once again, tackling will be important. The Stamps like to throw short route and let their guys turn them into big plays running after the catch. They got one with Fuller last game where Thomas used one of those shoulder hits I hate and ended up knocking Tristan Jackson away instead. West has had some big games on us in the past. If there is one matchup the Stamps may go after it will be him on Jackson. Like on the other side of the ball there was one play that really stood out for me from the last game. I hate to draw your attention to this but remember the Fuller long pass that set up the go-ahead TD? Fuller came out of the backfield on that play meaning Weldon Brown had to pick him up man to man. I don't think we need to panic and get out of those matchups. Weldon got beat that time, but that's why we have converted DBs at OLB. So that we can play those matchups and not have them as mismatches. Last year in the playoff game, we gave up a few big plays but Calgary's big receivers like Price going up and making plays. We have much more phsyical DBs to battle this year. I am sure that was by design in our off-season planning.
Our pass rush needs to be better this week. Easier said than done with a good Calgary o-line. However, we assembled these three ends for a reason; to get after the QB. They have to be effective this week. The big task for Shologan and McElveen is to plug the middle on first down. Our line needs to occupy the Calgary big guys so that they can't get out on the Rider linebackers. Lastly, don't get caught up in the emotion. No killer 15 yard penalties.
I honestly can't get a feel for how this game is going to go tomorrow. In the most recent matchup last year, I thought the Riders could play with the Stamps, but based on our play all year I was worried about our ability to close out the game. Ugh, that ended up pretty accurate. That's not the case this year. I do find it curious that a lot of people who are normally more pessimistic than I am say they have a good feeling tomorrow. Who knows if that is a good sign or not?? All I know is that if the Riders bring their A game they can beat this Stampeder team, even on the road. But it's going to take their best effort. Win the turnover battle, no stupid penalties, no easy points given up on special teams. When we get in close, we need TDs, not settle for field goals. Other mistakes like missed tackles and dropped passes also have to be kept to a minimum. There seems to be a quiet confident avout this team right now, I even see it on Coach Chamblin's interviews. This is what this team was put together for; winning game like this one.
My score: Roughriders 25 Stampeders 22
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