Saskatchewan: 0-4; last in the West Division
Hamilton: 1-2; last in the East Division
THE WEEK BEFORE
The Riders lost their fourth game in a row in a rain-soaked game to the BC Lions by a score of 27-24.
The Tiger Cats lost 17-13 to the Montreal Alouettes on the road.
The Riders continue to lead the CFL in all but one offensive category. The Riders are averaging 504 yards per game: 348 passing and 163 yards rushing. Unfortunately this also means that the Riders’ offence leads all CFL offences in penalties. The Tiger Cats’ offence is last in rushing yards, but second in passing.
Interestingly, the defensive statistics are nearly a complete reverse of the offensive ones. The Riders’ defense is near the bottom of the league in terms of giving up yardage, while the Tiger Cats are the league’s top defence. The Riders also have the most penalized defence in the league. The scariest statistics: the Riders’ defence is allowing opposing QBs to complete an average of 75% of their passes.
0-4 / 4 close losses: Saskatchewan has lost four games but by a total of only 12 points. Only one other time in over 100 years of Canadian football has a club ever lost 4 games in a row all by margins of 4 points or less. The current parity trend has seen this happen twice since 2013 – Edmonton lost 4 in a row by margins of 1, 3, 3 & 3 points in August-September of 2013.
Losing the first three at home: It has been a very rare occurrence that Saskatchewan has started a season with three straight home losses. The Riders have not lost their first four home games of a season since 2011 and before that in 1995.
Making “big plays”: The Riders are unquestionably the best “big play” team in the CFL with 18 long gainers so far. They have 10 completions of 30+ yards, 4 more than any other club. They have 8 rushes of 20+ yards, again 4 more than any rival. They do not however have a single long kick return in 2015.
4th Quarter points: Saskatchewan has scored 27 points in the 4th Quarter over the last two games.
Hamilton at 1-2: The Tiger-Cats are only one win out of a share of first place despite two losses by a total of only 5 points. Being 1-2 after three games has been common for Hamilton of late – 5 times in 6 years (2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 & 2015).
#1 Run defence: The Ti-Cats have held all three of their opponents to 80 yards rushing or less and including last year’s regular season finale have gone 4 straight games without a 100-yard opponent total. They lead the CFL allowing opponents just 68.0 yards per game and just 4.2 yards per attempt.
All at once: Hamilton has scoring +/- mark of +21 despite losing twice. The scored a CFL season-best 52 points at Winnipeg in Week 32 but only 36 points in their other two games.
2nd down conversions: Despite the lack of offensive TDs, the Ti-Cats convert on second down better than all but one team. The Riders are off the charts at a record pace 63.3% but Hamilton is not far behind at 58.3%.
The Riders look for their first win of the season, and they’ll be in front of a raucous crowd at Taylor Field whose patience is running out.
After a slow start, with a win, the Tiger Cats can tie the Montreal Alouettes for third place in the East Division.
The league’s #1 offence will go up against its #1 defence. In other words, this should be a good test for Kevin Glenn and his league-leading offence.
Quarterbacks: Obviously Kevin Glenn is having a banner year. And there really isn’t much more KG could do, even though the Riders are 0-4. Hamilton QB is having an okay start to the season, but needs to pick it up a bit in order to get his team back to .500. Edge: Riders
Offensive Lines: The Riders’ offensive line continues to play, but bad penalties at crucial times have overshadowed what has been a solid start to the season. And I know next to nothing about the Ti Cats offensive lines except that OG Peter Dyakowski kicks my ass in the Maclean’s Quiz every single week. Edge: Riders
Receivers: Ryan Smith is back for the Riders, as is Nic Demski. While I can’t say the Riders’ offence has exactly suffered in their absence, getting them back in the line up makes a great offence even better. Luke Tasker hasn’t been much of a weapon given that he’s been sidelined due to injury. The right side of the receiving core features Andy Fantuz and the always dangerous Bakari Grant, but other than that, there aren’t a lot of recognizable names. Edge: Riders
Running Backs: Jerome Messam and Anthony Allen continue to light up opposing defences, and Messam leads the CFL in combined yards. CJ Gable is always a threat, but he’s only one guy. Edge: Riders
Defensive Lines: Justin Hickman and Ted Laurent are always a handful, and have helped the Tiger Cats become the league’s best defence against the run. Meanwhile, John Chick, Alex Hall and Terrarius George have pretty much been invisible. For the love of all things Green and White, let’s see some actual BLITZES during this game. Edge: Tiger Cats
Linebackers: Jake Doughty and Jeff Knox Jr. continue to gain experience in their rookie season, but it’s been a bit of a rough ride to start the season. Simoni Lawrence leads the Tiger Cats’ linebackers, all of whom have had strong starts to the season, despite their record. Edge: Tiger Cats
Secondaries: Hamilton DB Rico Murray will always be my favourite because of how he slipped during the 2013 Grey Cup introduction. After that happened, I knew the Riders were going to win. Alex Suber gets the start in the Riders’ secondary after DB Tristan Jackson suffered a serious injury after being horsecollared by cheap shot artist and BC kicker Richie Leone. I know kickers don’t look like cheap shot artists, but I’ve decided that this kid is. Even
Special Teams: The Rider’s kicking game is in good hands with Paul McCallum, but their return game just sucks. the Tiger Cats have Brandon Banks, who continues to return kick for TDs and would have a few more in that column were it not for ill-timed penalties. (See also: Grey Cup 2014. Too soon?) Edge: Tiger Cats
Intangibles: If you thought the Riders were desperate last week, well, you’d think they’d be even more so this week. But for whatever reason, the Riders appear rather calm despite their last place position. It probably helps that Coach Chamblin was forced to take a chill pill after last week’s loss.