So the Riders go into the bye week with a 37-20 win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats which raised the question of whether or not Hamilton Head Coach and GM Kent Austin has lost his locker room.
Normally that might be a question that would be directed towards the Riders after linebacker Jonathon Newsome was released following a “difference of opinion” with Chris Jones. Newsome was picked up by Ottawa and apparently the difference was over some comment Newsome posted about a Chris Jones impersonator on Youtube.
I met Newsome during the preseason tour of the Riders new digs and he and former Rider Jarriel King sat down for a Q and A. They were both personable, but they are no longer with the team and maybe part of Newsome’s problem was a tendency to wind up injured and not really contributing with say, two quarterback sacks in about a year.
While Jones was crucified for his three man rush against Winnipeg that even with extra guys in coverage couldn’t handle Weston Dressler, this time he went with a four man rush that spelled trouble for Zach Collaros of Hamilton.
It was stunning when the stats from the first half were posted at half time and the Riders were rolling over over Hamilton and the score should have been worse if not for a pick six by Hamilton giving them a touchdown.
The win over Hamilton was only the second complete game win by the Riders in the last two years. I’m defining complete game as any game with a winning point spread of 10 points or more. There is no understating the pressure the Riders were facing after dropping their first two wins.
If the Riders didn’t win, they would have headed into their break with the prospect of going to Calgary 0-3. Now 1-2 is a bit better, but the Riders schedule is a challenging one from here onto Labour Day and if the Riders are going to make a run for a playoff spot, either in the west or as a crossover, they need to at least play 500 ball until after the Banjo Bowl.
Now it gets interesting and perhaps we see how the rest of the CFL may shake out, What will be interesting to Rider fans is the Calgary versus Montreal game with Calgary going through a spate of injuries on their defensive line. Through a combination of depth and coaching, they managed to keep it together against Winnipeg and get a gutsy win last week. However if they get banged up even more, the Riders may be in a position to steal a game in Calgary in two weeks.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. What will be interesting this week is seeing how Winnipeg responds after not making a statement against Calgary last week, Toronto pulling out a great defensive performance against Ottawa, Ottawa going on a 4 game in 17 day suicide march and whether or not Hamilton is listening to Kent Austin or has tuned him out. So let’s go…
Toronto at Winnipeg – Toronto should have lost to Ottawa and Winnipeg should have beaten Calgary in the battle of Ebola versus Bubonic Plague. Argo fans should cherish Vic Butler because I think he is bound back to the NFL on the basis of his performance so far. Toronto has a weakness in their offensive line which means if Winnipeg can put pressure on Ricky Ray, they should be able to limit Toronto much as Ottawa did in the first half of their game.
But…Winnipeg choked in the second half against Calgary and Calgary has a patchwork offensive and defensive line. Toronto has a questionable offensive line, but I like their defensive line and Toronto’s receiving corps will make life difficult for Winnipeg. This will be close in Winnipeg but I can see Toronto winning this one 28-24.
Calgary at Montreal – Calgary’s win over Winnipeg was fascinating considering the injuries the Stampeders are going through and considering they are bringing in names from the past to fill the gaps in the lineup. Their win over Winnipeg was a result of sheer will, but the question is whether or not the Stampeders have the ability to gut it through, especially against a Noel Thorpe defense. The problem with Montreal is that their defense is on the field for longer than is recommended and is getting tired and giving up late drives. They are not getting much help from their offense, but the interesting question is whether that is due to the team trying to get some familiarity with one another, or whether Darian Durant has passed his best before date. Montreal’s defense keeps this close, but after Calgary gutted out the last game against Winnipeg, I would be foolish to wager against them - Calgary 27-22.
Ottawa at Edmonton – Playing 4 games in 17 days not exactly the team or player friendly schedule needed in football and maybe something to speed up bringing in a 10th team to balance things out. After a relatively impressive stretch against Calgary Ottawa shot themselves in the foot against Toronto when Drew Tate, the professional backup, couldn’t handle the extra point snap. It would be easy to blame the loss on the blown snap, but to be honest, Ottawa’s defensive backfield was in Hamilton-like territory in trying to defend against SJ Green. Edmonton is turning the clock to Kendial Lawrence to fill in for John Henry White, but Lawrence was not much of a factor in Saskatchewan or Hamilton last year and got initially cut in Edmonton after the Edmonton exhibition schedule. Personally I think Tre Van will be an adequate fill in, but this combined with finding a substitute for JC Sherritt at linebacker means Edmonton will be going through some growing pains and Ottawa kind of plays Edmonton well so let’s say Edmonton 30-28.
BC at Hamilton – For those of us who own Himalayan cats this is their Grey Cup. Of course Himalayans are generally so laid back that as long as they get fed and cuddled, they don’t care who wins, but Zoey was wondering if Kent Austin has formally lost the locker room and his players are starting to tune him out. The problem with being a one man show (say hello Chris Jones) is having run off an offensive coordinator in Tommy Condell and a defensive Coordinator in Orlando Steinhaeuer, Austin is running out of explanations for why the Tiger-Cats are failing to live up to expectations. Seeing them last weekend in the best stadium in Canada was stunning in the penalties accumulated, the poor offensive line play and the defensive secondary that is going through growing pains. BC on the other hand still has a questionable offensive line but has a pretty good receiving corps and defense. I think this is the end of BC’s three game eastern road trip and they are simply better than Hamilton 29-18. So Zoey eats human grade tuna!
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