Saskatchewan: 0-5; last in the West Division and in the CFL
Edmonton: 3-1; first in the West Division
THE WEEK BEFORE
The Riders lost yet again, but this time to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 31-21. The score flattered the Riders.
The Eskimos started slowly, but in the second half went on a scoring rampage, eventually demolishing the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 32-3.
The Riders continue to lead the CFL in rushing and passing, but their defence remains second last in the league. Kevin Glenn leads CFL QBs in passing yards, but as he’s now on the six-game injured list (and likely done for the year), he’ll be passed within a week or two. Jerome Messam continues to lead the CFL in rushing. Weston Dressler in second in the CFL in receiving yards.
Offence ain’t the problem.
The Eskimos’ offence is struggling, as it currently sits sixth in the league. QB Matt Nichols is having trouble passing the ball consistently, and as a rush, the Eskimos are relying on their rushing game, which is the league’s second best rushing attack.
The Eskimos’s defence, though, is a totally different story. Their defence has overtaken the Tiger-Cats’ defence as best in the CFL, as it has allowed the fewest points and sits second in sacks.
The Riders continue to look for their first win of the season.
QB Brett Smith gets his first start in the CFL. To date, he’s thrown something like five passes.
The Eskimos’ defensive lines is licking its chops. Said Eskimos’ DE (and former Rider) Odell Willis:
“I just pray for the kid and pray that nobody gets hurt. It’s unfortunate that he has to be out there to see it like this, but we have to come get him. Somebody has to welcome him to the CFL. I hope everybody comes out healthy and it’s a good game, but I feel sorry for the kid.”
Yet again, the league’s #1 offence will go up against its #1 defence. But the league’s #1 offence will be missing its catalyst, Kevin Glenn, so the match-up isn’t all that fair anymore.
Quarterbacks: I maintain that Matt Nichols is not a quality QB. He got pulled last game against the BLUE BOMBERS for goodness’ sake. He will no doubt be motivated to play better. As for Riders’ rookie QB Brett Smith, well, you just hope he survives. Edge: Eskimos
Offensive Lines: The Eskimos’ offensive line is sixth in sacks allowed, but again, Matt Nichols in the QB. The Riders’ offensive line played well again last week, except for the procedure penalties that had me silently swearing. The Riders’ offensive line is going to have to play lights out if it wants to keep the Eskimos’ d-line from pressuring Smith, which is a formidable task. Edge: Riders
Receivers: For what might be the first time this year, the Riders are starting the same group of receivers two weeks in a row. This is good news. For the Eskimos, Adarius Bowman can’t seem to catch anything so far this year, and he’s about the only game-changer the Eskimos have. Edge: Riders
Running Backs: Jerome Messam and Anthony Allen had their worst game of season last week, but that was mostly because they weren’t given the ball enough. They will be heavily relied upon tonight in order to help our their rookie QB in his first start. The Eskimos lost their starting QB, John White, before the season started, although newcomer Shakir Bell has had a solid start. Still… Edge: Riders
Defensive Lines: This isn’t even a contest. Odell Willis and Marcus Howard lead the CFL’s best defensive line, and it will likely be blitzing nine times out of ten. An anonymous CFL coach or manager said the following about the Riders’ defence this week:
What’s wrong with Saskatchewan’s defence? Bad players. Hamilton should have scored 40 on them. We play the Riders next month, and scoring on them will be like stealing candy. I wouldn’t want more than two guys they are starting on defence.
I’m betting at least one of those two guys in John Chick. But he’s only a man among boys. Edge: Eskimos by a billion
Linebackers: Jake Doughty and Jeff Knox Jr. combined do not even come close to one JC Sherritt. Edge: Eskimos by nine trillion
Secondaries: Terrell Maze and Tyron Brackenridge are having tough seasons. Tristan Jackson is back, which is good, although Alex Suber had a good game last week. I don’t know the names of any of the guys in the Eskimos’ secondary, but given that their defence has given up the fewest points, I’d say it’s a good one. Edge: Eskimos by just less than a billion
Special Teams: Having Tristan Jackson back will help the Riders’ return game, although the kicking game remains solid. Eskimos’ PK Grant Shaw is a perfect 9/9 for field goals this year, while Rider PK Paul McCallum has only missed one. Even
Intangibles: Coach Corey Chamblin has clearly resigned himself to losing, as his press conferences are quieter these days. The Riders are still one of the league’s most-penalized teams, and that isn’t helping matters. The only real intangible is the fact that no one knows how QB Brett Smith will perform. The Riders would love for him to have a performance like Rocky Butler did in the 2002 Labour Day game that the Riders inexplicably won. But remember: that was Rocky Butler’s only good game. The best that Rider fans can hope for is that Smith shows enough skills to give fans hope that with time, he’ll progress into a starting QB.