Can we rewind the clock and go back to Labour Day weekend? Things were good then. The team was 8-1 after that game, we were relatively healthy, noone had been arrested. All was good. Not many teams go through seasons without some sort of down time. If not, we would have 15-3 or 16-2 teams every year. The Riders have hit that downtime now. The important thing now is for the team to pull out of it and get back on track. We start a pretty whacky part of our schedule nowm where for the next 5 games, every other game is against the Lions, after not having played them the first 11 weeks. Both teams are not fielded the lineups we would have anticipated even 2 weeks ago.
Probably starters: Riders - Durant, Lions - Demarco. I'm not going to repeat the same stuff that's been said about Darian the last two weeks. Yes he hasn't been at his best, but with lack of protiection, guys running wrong routes, and dropped passes, he isn't getting help. If there is one thing that does concern me right now is he is locking in on his primary receiver. Maybe it's because he doesn't trust he has the time to find secondary targets. My big concern right now is how his injured finger will hold up. Demarco is going to make his first start for the Lions. I really haven't seen him play enough to give you much. Coach Chamblin was raving about his mobility. The Lions picked up Buck Pierce at the perfect time. I expect that he will get some time in this game at some point. Edge Riders
Probably starters: Riders - Garrett, Lions - Harris. The one roster decision that had many concerned including myself was the lack of a true tailback on the roster since the Als games. Sure enough it came back to bite us last week, despite a yeoman's effort from Neal Hughes. Garrett is a good back and the only reason he is not still in Winnipeg is because they found Chad Simpson. Garrett is more of a true tailback from Sanders who can take the ball 15-20 times if needed. I hope Hughes gets a lot of action on passing downs due to his knowledge of picking up blitzes and catching passes. Andrew Harris hasn't had the big rushing numbers of last year. Part of it is due to him not getting as many carries. Part of it is also that his line has not been great. Tim Brown is a nice change of pace back for the Lions. Edge Lions
Probable starters: Riders - Dressler, Getzlaf, Simon, Smith, Bagg, Lions - Moore, Gore, Taylor, Jackson (Arceneaux), Ianuzzi. The Riders get Dressler back so the starting unit is back intact. Kierre Johnson seems to be a poster boy for the saying that just having blinding speed isn't enough as a receiver. This is a bit of a guess here with the Lions depth chart not up yet but the Riders catch a break with Arceneaux out. This is a very good group of receivers for the Lions. Not quite as good as the hype they were given at the start of the year, and I think they do miss the leadership of Geroy Simon, but they are still very good. Edge Lions
Probably starters: Riders - T - Fulton, Neufeld, G - Labatte, Tyler, C - Picard, Lions - T - Olafioye, Fisher, G - Kabongo, Valli, C - Norman. These are two units that are beat up right now. We know full well about the Rider problems on the right side with Best and Heenan out. It looks like Archibald will be miss this game and Kyle Fisher will make a start at tackle for the Lions. This unit has missed Angus Reid all year. As a group they haven't been as good as past years. Even
Probable starters Riders - E - Foley, Chick, T - McElveen, Shologan, Lions - E - Smith, Wilson, T - Willams, Taylor. Don't belive the depth charts. Ricky Foley is not out of the starting lineup. I don't know why they list it the way they did. I am surprised that George is missing his second game in a row. I hadn't exactly focused on his play, so I don't know if he hadn't been playing well in recent weeks. I thought Taylor had a good game last week when he got in for some rotations. You might even see some snaps where all three of our ends are on the field. The Lions have traditionally had a fearsome front four, but that hasn't been the case this year. I think Keron Williams is a more effective end so as a Rider fan I am glad they moved him inside. Julius Williams was a free agent bust and released. Chris Wilson back from the NFL replaces him. Edge Riders
Probably starters: Riders - MLB - McCullough, OLB - Brown, Butler, Lions - MLB - Elimimian, OLB - Bighill, Banks. I listed McCullough as the MLB although you will see Ferri and Peters in there as well. Weldon Brown has been our best defender over the last month. We were ok for most of the game last week, but then on that last drive, we couldn't stop the run as the Argos killed off valuable minutes. I don't think there is a team in this league that can match the 1-2 punch the Lions bring with Elimimian and Bighill. Even though Banks is listed as a starter, you will see him drop into a nickle position with McKenzie coming on the field. The Riders don't match up with this group with no Rey in the middle. Edge Lions
Probable starters: Riders - CB - Maze, Miller, HB - Anderson, Thomas, S - Brackenridge, Lions - CB - Marsh, Parks, HB - Phillips, Bell, S - LaRose. Once again, don't believe the official depth chart. I forgot that last week. Maze will play corner on the short side and Thomas will be the halfback to the wide side. Again for the most part our secondary played well last week and then broke down in the fourth quarter. I though the PI call on Miller in the first quarter was absolutely horrific. One negative with how aggressive our secondary plays is that we see them in the trail position a lot where if the ball is underthrown, they end up running over the receiver and taking a flag. But when you look at what we allow for compeletion percentage, TDs against, and picks, I guess it is paying off. The Lions have a mix of vets and youngsters in their secondary. They use their experience to anticpate and jump routes, but I think they can be beat. Slight Edge Riders.
Probable starters: Riders - Jackson (Dressler), Lions (Brown) - If Sanders is healthy I wish he would get back in there. I think he has more potential than Jackson. Tim Brown has come around in recent weeks and has taken a kickoff and missed FG all the way back this year. We don't say much about the special teams guys, but I think it will be big to have Newman and Steinhauer back tomorrow. These young guys bring an energy to the team that I think has been missing. I particularly get a kick out of Newman and how he's getting the crowd jacked, getting pumped after a big hit etc. Edge Lions
Probable starters: Riders - Milo, Lions - McCallum. Too bad the botched snap ended Milo's streak. Looks like the young guys are now taking over from the old guard in the league. Edge Riders
Probably starters: Riders - Schmitt, Lions - McCallum. Same thing here as placekicking. McCallum is a wily veteran who knows how to use the bounces to his advantage, but he can't compete with Schmitt on length and hangtime. Edge Riders
When the Riders have the ball
I thought Chris Garrett was a bigger back and was surprsied to see how short he was. We give up 3 inches and 10 pounds on Kory Sheets having Garrett in there. I think we are going to see him get a lot of work. Remember, this is a guy who has averaged 6.2 yards per carry in his career and had a monster game in the East final in 2011, so he has big game experience. We can't expect him to give us what Kory Sheets has given us this year. If he does, great! But what we need is for him to be effective so that the Lions have to respect him and not play pass defense all night. We also need him to be able to convert when we get into second and short. Two other big things are for him to hang onto the ball and make his reads in pass protection. I hope Neal Hughes gets opportunities to come in, particularly on passing downs. He showed a nice ability find open areas and pick up first downs last week. With the trouble we have had in pass protection recently, we need a strong running game.
As I mentioned earlier, I think the Lions secondary is long in the tooth in spots and you can get them deep. I hope we see Getz and Dressler on the corner route and try and hit Taj on a couple of go routes. All eyes will be on Geroy and how he does in his first game against the Lions. He'll know how their defenders like to play, but they will also know all his little tricks at getting open. Who will have the edge. One thing you can't really do against the Lions is throw a bunch of short routes and have your guys run for first downs. That is where their experience really shows. They will come up and make plays on those routes and get on your receivers before they can turn it upfield. I don't see that crossing route to Smith working tomorrow. Not mention Elimimian and Bighill patrolling the middle ready to unload. Darian has to make sure he doesn't lock onto receivers cause that is when you play into the Lions's strengths as they will read the QB and go for the pick. The pump and go can worik if Darian has time. And that is our segue for the most important part of this game.
In our Captain Obvious section of this article we say that the Riders absolutely must find a way to protect Darian. I know Neufeld and Tyler haven't played much this year, but they simply have to step up. I know they will get beat more than Heenan and Best, but they can't blow their assignments. If nothing else, don't let guys have a clean run at Darian. That happened too much last week. I don't want to just pick on those guys. The other three have to pick up their game too. Dominic, please be smart about how you play out there. I love your fire and how you have your teammates back' but we can't afford to lose 15 yards of field position. Sometimes I wonder if Darian's foot injury from July is still more of an issue than the team is letting on. I am trying to figure out whey we aren't changing his launch point on passing plays. It seems to me we saw a lot more of that early in the year. I hope we see some roll outs to help him. Changing play calls won't be enough though. We need every part of our game to step up. Don't miss open receivers, make your blocks, don't drop passes, don't line up offside (still can't believe we took a penalty for a WR lining up off-side. Just cleaning up our game will bring back a lot of of the success form earlier this year.
When the Lions have the ball
It's a little harder to figure out what the Lions will do on offense with the Demarco starting at QB. I expect them to use Andrew Harris a lot more than they have. So far this year he has only averaged 11 carries per game. He is a big part of Lions passing game too. I know some of our Lion friends online are not big Chapdelaine fans. I actually admire the variety he shows in their running game. Look for them to use the direct snap to Harris, where the QB will pretend the snap went over his head. They will use misdirection by facking to Harris and the using Tim Brown or one of their receivers on end arounds. 3 Lions receivers have rushing stats this year, which I will bet is the most in the league. Demarco will be a big part of their running game on bootlegs too. Our front seven has to stick with their assignments and not get caught on those misdirection plays. The Lions will definitely target our MLB into trying to create mistakes. If our line can outplay the Lions o-line, they can blow up some of these plays before they get started.
The Lions are probably hoping to generate a lot of their game off play-action and getting Demarco rolling; another reason that stopping the run will be critical. Carlos Thomas is going to have to play well because those roll-outs wil take Demarco to the wide site a lot of times with the slotback running an out. Dwight Anderson will be busy as well on these plays too with the slot from the other side crossing all the way across the field. This is where having pass defenders like Brown and Butler at LB will come in handy. The Rides have played a lot more man this year than past years, but you might see more zone tomorrow to try and fool a young QB, much like what we saw in the 2nd half on Labour Day. The Riders should keep mixing up their looks. Bringing pressure, lining up like a blitz is coming then dropping out. Do what you can to confuse the young QB. If Demarco has trouble, I don't think the Lions will hesistate to go to Buck Pierce. In fact, I would say there is more than a 50% chance we will see Buck at some point. Up front, the Riders need to take advantage of the new OT, if indeed he is replacing Archibald.
As I said with the offense, the D must play smarter and don't engage in that extra stuff than can cost you an extra 15 yards.
This is a hard game to call. Can the Rides snap out of their doldrums from the last two weeks and come close to showing us the team they showed earlier this year dispite the injuries? Will the Lions be able to rebound after playing some pretty lousy football on the road this year? Their only win came in a monsoon in Edmonnton. And now they are trying to do it without their starting QB. It's way too early for the full out panic we have seen in some quarters in Rider nation. But that doesn't mean it's all sunshine and lollipops either. The team needs to stop the slide now. Other teams will make plays on us, but it's time to stop helping them out with turnovers and unnecessary penalties. The Riders just need to play smart like they were earlier this year and they can win this one. It won't be a nice comfortable win like we have seen earlier in the year, but they should come out ahead.
My score: Roughriders 25 Lions 21
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