Let me quell the rumours right now. I can account for why I was not available after the game on Saturday. I was simply having supper with my nephew. I was nowhere that I should not have been. That's my story and I am sticking to it! We wouldn't have had much time to enjoy that dominant win on Saturday anyway with a short week ahead. The Taj Smith incident took away any doubt there could have been about that. This is probably the biggest Rider / Bomber game since the 2007 Grey Cup and biggest regular season game since Banjo Bowl of that year. It's being billed by other parties as the game of the week. The Riders have a tall order going into Winnipeg on a short week and missing a key memboer of the offense.
Probable starters: Riders - Durant, Bombers - Willy. I imagine the storyline of Willy being an ex-Rider and Durant's understudy will be beaten to death in the next 24 hours. Darian's game is coming around. Last week was the first time he actually got to put up some numbers in the 2nd half of a blowout vs shutting it down. Granted it was the Ottawa secondary, but I don't recall a pass into traffic. I figured Willy would play well for Winnipeg, but he's doing better than I thought. He proved in the Montreal game that you can throw the kitchen sink at him and he will stand in and make plays. I have been impressed the way he keeps looking downfield when pressured and looking for targets. Sure he has gotten lucky at time. For example, if Geoff Tisdale squeezes the ball in Montreal, we are talking about a game ending pick vs a game winning drive. But you have to be good to be lucky and vice versa. He's got better numbers through the first 6 games but I'm not ready to annoint him better than Durant. Edge Riders
Probable staters: Riders - Ford, Bombers - Grigsby. I was surprised to see that Ford averaged less than 4 yards a carry last week. I guess that can happen when you have a few short yardage carries, including two 1 yard TDs. I was also surprised to see Grigsby's average of less than 5 yards a carry. It makes me wonder if Paris Cotten will eventually take over. Funny stat, Allen still leads the Riders in rushing yards, total yards from scrimmage, and is still in the top 10 in russhing. I still have concerns about Ford's pass blocking and dropping a critical pass like the third down one. I guess that's why you shouldn't be throwing on third and 1! Slight Edge Bombers
Probable starters: Riders - Schilens, Bagg, Getzlaf, Swain, Smith, Bombers - Kelly, Kohlert, Denmark, Bryan, Feoli-Gudino Bigg From the depth chart it looks like Schilens is going to be moved outside to replace Taj. So the starting 5 we had in to start the year got back together for exactly one game. Ryan Smith moves into the starting 5 when we go five-pack. The only possible good thing is that maybe Schillens will get more involved at the WR spot. We might be able to get him some quick throws vs him having to read more coverage on the inside. Cory Watson, although not listed as a starter will be back for Winnipeg. He along with Aaron Kelly have the ability go up and come down with jump balls. We haven't seen Romby Bryant since he sped by Chris MacKenzie in 2012. Feoili-Gudino is an example of how some of these Canadian guys just need an extra year or two to get up to speed. Edge Bombers
Probable starters: Riders - T - Fulton, Heenan, G - LaBatte, Best, C - Picard, Bombers - T - January, Howard, Greaves, Goossen, C - Morley. When I saw how LaBatte got rolled up on, I feared the worst. Great to hear that he could have even come back in that game. It's also comforting that Dan Clark and Cory Watman have stepped in admirably when called upon. Some people have commented on Fulton. I was looking forward to him being injury free this year, but in game 2, he seemed to hurt his knee again. I wonder if it's bugging him. If Patrick Neufeld had been in this week, that would mean 3 ex-Riders on the line, and the o-line coach too. Bob Wylie has them playing pretty well, the Eskimo game is the only one wehre the Bomber line has struggled badly. Edge Riders
Probable starters: Riders - DE - Chick, Foley, DT - George, Walker, Bombers - DE - Vega, Peach, DT - Turner, Anderson. Not sure why Anderson is listed as a backup on the Bomber depth chart. I thought he ws a starter. He made waves this week calling the Rider offensive line dirty. Someone quick, call the wah-mbulance. John Chick is playing absolutely unreal right now. It's been a while since I have seen a TV broadcast zero in on all the extra that the opposition is doing to watch him. I believe him when he says that this is the best football he has played. The whole line is playing well, inlcuding Walker, and Guyton when he comes in. The Bomber line is very good too. I am impressed at the speed they show when tracking down QBs. They are good but the Riders are playing better right now. Edge Riders.
Probable starters: Riders - MLB - Peters, OLB - Brown, Hurl, Bombers - MLB - Wild, OLB - Dunn, Sherman. Sam Hurl had his best game of the year in game 4 against the Argos and Peters did the same in Ottawa. His pick may have been lucky, but that's what happens when you hustle to the ball. I know that people were not happy with the missed tackles on the one big play by Walker, but I defy you to find any linebacker, even the best ones who don't miss once or twice in a game. I think when healthy Johnny Sears plays on the outside for the Bombers but since he is out, Desia Dunn is in his place. The difference makee for me here is Ian Wild in the middle for the Bombers. Edge Bombers
Probable staters: Riders - CB - Jackson, Williams, HB - Maze, Harris, S - Brackenridge, Bombers - CB - Bucknor, Randle, HB - Washington, Johnson, S - Leggett. The Rider secondary has picked up their game in recent weeks as well. They will get a bigger test this week against the Bombers than they have had against the injured Argos and the well, brutal Red Blacks last week. The only concern I have in the secondary right now is Macho Harris is getting caught looking into the backfield and getting beat deep imo. It happened once against Toronto, and twice against Ottawa. Once in Ottawa it was a completion, and the other time he drew a PI call. Chris Randle has been playing well for the Bombers since coming over from Calgary and I've always been impressed with Demond Washington. Edge Riders
Probable starters: Riders - Jackson, Bombers - Woods. Tristan Jackson has been absolutely dynamite since he began returning kicks again. I do have concerns about his ball security and hope last week was a one-off. If he needs to be spelled Ryan Smith will fill in. Even though Aaron Woods is listed as the Bombers' pimary returner but Washington will step in on occasion, and is dangerous returner. Edge Riders
Probable starters: Riders - Milo, Bombers - Hajrullahu. We haven't needed his kicks, so it's gone unnoticed; but Chris Milo seems to be getting his game back on track. He's hit his last 6 kicks in row to get his average up to 76. He needs to get up over 80. The H man has been fantastic for Winnipeg, hitting almost 94% of his kicks. Edge Bombers
Probable starters: Riders - Bartell, Bombers - Hajrullahu. The H man has done an admirable job filling in for Renaud since Renaud got hurt. I think he's done well enough that Renaud needs to be worried about the Bombers continuing to go with one guy for both jobs. Both Bomber punters haven't kicked as well as Bartell so far. Edge Riders
When the Riders have the ball
My impressions of the Bomber defense is that they are aggressive to the ball and they get after the QB. The best way to combat that will be to get the running game going. This also fits with the conventional wisdom of how to attack an Etch defense. The reason being is that the D gives so many different looks that sometimes there can be a gap or two left exposed if just one guy is out of position. Look for the Riders to give Ford a chance to get going. He should be fired up going up against his former team. If Kuale is not in the game, the heaviest Bomber linebacker is 208. If the O-line can get a hat on the defensive line then the run game can be successful against those backers. Look for a lot of the two TE and / or FB sets.
Being able to run the ball is critical because Etch's D is at its best. It's not that he just bring extra pressure. He'll give all kinds of different looks and sometimes he will only bring 4 or 5 guys. But with 8 or 9 guys lined up near the line, the offensive line has to figure out real fast on who's coming and pick them up. He won't always bring pressure either. I've seen defensives where he will bring 2 or 3 guys and drop everyone else into coverage. I'm glad we have the 5 starters back on the line because I think you stand a better chance with the vets. Darian has to do his part in reading the pressure too, and get the ball out vs holding it too long. The positive for the offense is that if you can identify the defense in advance, the opportunity is there for a big play. Hamilton showed that last week when Gable got behind Sherman for a TD. We could hit a big one to one of the slots or to Wild down the middle. As I alluded to earlier, we need to get Schilens involved even though he will be playing his first game at WR. I think we should run plays like a hitch screen or the quick pass like the one we opened the game iwth last week. Let him use his size advantage to try and break some tackles. Darian should try and throw up a jump ball or two and see if Schillens can come down with it
From what I understand the Riders were caught off guard by the crowd noise last year and had trouble adjusting to it with their line calls. No excuses this year. The Riders know it's coming, and they need to be prepared. Perhaps the practices in Regina with speakers last week were not to prepare for Ottawa but were done with Winnipeg in mind. The crowd noise is another reason to get off to a good start. Falling behind, being forced to pass, and having to deal with the nosie will be a big problem.
When the Bombers have the ball
Well is this a case of the stoppable force versus the movable object. Even with a better effort the last two weeks, the Riders are still the worst in the league at giving up yards per rush. Conversely the Bombers are the worst team on a per carry basis on running the ball and Grigsby's average is in the low 4's. If the Bombers do try and get the running game going, the Riders need to control it.
Like any QB, Drew Willy will struggle if we get pressure on him. This happened to him in the Edmonton and Montreal games. The Bombers scored 34 on Montreal but 14 of those came directly from turnovers. Ideally the Riders need to be able to get good pressure by just bringing the front four. Willy has showed remarkabloe poise when blitzed and will take a hit to deliver the ball downfield. He will take checkdowns or is willing to take a sack vs putting it up for grabs (the miss by Tisdale notwithstanding). Although Willy is not a runner like Durant, he is mobile enough to move around in the pocket and wait for a receiver to come open. When the Riders get a chance to get Willy, they have to wrap up and not let him get away.
Based on reputation Willy has gathered for last minute heroics, how interesting will it be tomorrow if he gets the ball in the last few minutes with the Bombers needing a score to tie or take the lead?
Getting off to a good start is important to both teams in this game. Neither team wants to fall behind and be forced to the air, since getting after the QB is a strength for both defenses. The Riders will also have the trouble of dealing with crowd noise if it happens. If the Bombers fall behind, the Riders can stick with the run game, which is not a strenght of Etch's D. This is one of those games that was going to be a tough one, even before the Bombers showed they are a much better team. Every intangible is in the Bombers favor in this one. They are at home, they've had more time to prepare, their crowd will be raucous, and the Riders have to deal with the Taj Smith not being and the circumstances why.
In my opinion it doesn't mean that the Bombers will be the better team by the end of the year. It doesn't condemn the Riders' ability to be up for big game. But for one game, one day, tomorrow, I think the Bombers are going to be the better team.
My score: Blue Bombers 25 Roughriders 21
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