2016 CFL Season Preview: Part 3 of 4 – West Division

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It still irritates me that the Blue Bombers are in the West Division.

But that really has nothing to do with the topic at hand.

We’re here to discuss what should be a great race in the CFL’s West Division this year.  The Division’s bottom three teams last year, i.e. Winnipeg, B.C. and Saskatchewan, have all made moves that *should* make them more competitive, setting the stage for what could be an excellent playoff spot battle after Labour Day.

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Rider Report – Week 4: Riders vs. BC

coreyTHE RECORDS

Saskatchewan: 0-3 – Last in the West Division, and last in the CFL

BC: 1-1 – Tied for 2nd in the West Division

THE WEEK BEFORE

The Lions came back late in the 4th quarter to tie up the game and send it into OT where they beat the Riders in the first mini-game.

THE STATS

From CFL.ca:

Tough losses: Saskatchewan is 0-3 but their three losses are by a combined 9 points. It is the first time in 33 years (1982) they have lost three in a row by 4 points or less.

OT Heartbreak: Saskatchewan’s back-to-back OT losses is only the third time in CFL history that has ever happened (BC twice: 1991 & 2010).

1st down success: One of the keys to the Riders’ #1 CFL offence (504.3 yards per game) is their outstanding first down production.  They lead the CFL at 8.7 yards per play on first down and have had no less than 437 yards in any game this year.  They were averaging 324 yards after three games in 2014.

Turnover Ratio: The Riders rank #8 in T/O Ratio at -4 and have not won that aspect of any game this season.

Getting to 1-1: The win last week helped BC avoid another 0-2 start, something they did in 2008, 2009, 2011 & 2014.  They have been slow starters recently and since 2009 are 31-34 (.477) in the first half of seasons, and 41-22 (.651) in the second half.

Leaving it Late: In the win over Saskatchewan last week, BC scored on 8 of their last 12 possessions and that included 17 points in the final 8:00 of the game.

THE STORY LINES

How do you solve a problem like Corey Chamblin? Or is Corey Chamblin even a problem? Rider Nation seems quite divided on the performance of its head coach as of late, and this week’s game will either help Coach Chamblin begin to redeem himself in the eyes of the fans or continue his spiral downward.  While I’m not Coach’s biggest fan, I hope it’s the former.

The Lions will look to win their second game in a row, but this time in regulation.  To the best of my recollection, the Lions have a pretty good record at Taylor Field.

THE MATCH-UPS

Quarterbacks: Kevin Glenn continues to put up impressive numbers and keep the Riders’ offence at the top of the league. Travis Lulay appears to be getting his game back as he threw for over 400 yards last week en route to an OT victory.  Even

Offensive lines: The Riders’ offensive line is developing into a strong unit – although those ‘hands to the face’ penalties could stop at any time now.  The Lions’ offensive line played well last week, but honestly, the Riders didn’t even test them.  Edge: Riders

Receivers: Emmanuel Arceneaux got the last laugh last week as he scored the winning TD.  But Weston Dressler put up over 100 yards in the first eleven minutes of the game.  If the weather’s good, look for the QBs to put a lot of balls in the air.  Edge: Even

Running backs: From the CFL’s game notes, it appears that both Rider RBs Jerome Messam and Anthony Allen are on pace to break 1,000 yards this season. While it’s still early, this bodes well for the Riders’ offence come fall.  The Lions need to use Andrew Harris more.  He started to make a difference near the end of last week’s game and could be a game breaker if utilized properly.  Edge: Riders

Defensive lines: The Riders’ defensive line continues to rush 3 most of the time, which pretty much makes them invisible.  I don’t recall much about the Lions’ pass rush from last week either.  Even

Linebackers: It was Adam Bighill who kept Rider rookie QB Brett Smith from making the 3rd and 1 that likely would have given the Riders the game.  The Riders continue to go with their young’uns, and the learning curve is noticeable.  Edge: Lions by a football field

SecondariesThe Riders lost Weldon Brown to a season-ending injury and have brought in Geoff Tisdale as a reinforcement.  The Lions’ receivers couldn’t cover Weston Dressler in the 1st quarter, but eventually figured out how to keep him from scoring.  Edge: Even

Special Teams: Richie Leone nailed a 56 yard field goal last week to send the game into overtime.  Paul McCallum is 5/5 so far this year.  Even

INTANGIBLES

The Riders are in desperation mode these days.  Playing at home in front of a crowd that’s begging for a win and hasn’t been shy about voicing its displeasure with the 0-3 start may make the Riders a little tight.  Also, the Riders need to stop taking so many penalties (this is a recording).  BC comes in without any pressure, which is a definite advantage.  Edge: BC

Rider Report – Week 3: Riders in BC

kevin

THE RECORDS

Saskatchewan: 0-2 – Last in the West Division

BC: 0-1 – Tied for 2nd in the West Division

THE WEEK BEFORE

The Riders lost 42-40 to the Argos in double OT.  The REDBLACKS came back to drop the Lions 27-16.

THE STATS

*Note that the Lions have played one less game than the Riders.

The Riders lead all team offensive categories in the CFL, averaging 542 yards per game, with a net average of 538 yards per game.  This average is nearly 200 yards more than the next team.  The Riders are passing and rushing for an average of 381 and 161 yards per game, respectively. The Lions’ offence is 6th overall in the league, with only 254 passing yards and 59 rushing yards.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Riders are 5th in yards allowed per game (6th passing/6th rushing), while the Lions are 7th (5th passing/9th rushing).

THE STORY LINES

Both teams look for their first wins of the year after disappointing starts to the year.  The Lions got off to a good start in their opening game, but faltered in the 4th quarter, allowing the REDBLACKS to score two late TDs to win.  The Riders are 0-2 for the first time since 2011 (also known as the FAILED GREG MARSHALL EXPERIMENT), but have only lost both games by a combined total of 6 points.  However, the Riders have dug themselves a bit of a hole to begin the season, losing two games at home.  A win on the road would go a long way to helping them dig themselves out.

geooooooooooorge

A few notable players and coaches switched sides over the offseason.  Former Rider offensive coordinator George Cortez now has the same role with the Lions.  Rider PK Paul McCallum was released by the Lions just prior to training camp after playing for the team for nine years.  This will be McCallum’s first game back at BC Place since being released, and he comes in with a 100% field goal percentage.  Not too shabby.

THE MATCH-UPS

Quarterbacks: Kevin Glenn has put up spectacular numbers through the first two weeks of the season.  He’s 3rd in passing in the CFL, but he’s also played one less half than the two QBs in front of him and only trails the leading passer by 38 yards.  Travis Lulay played his first full game in nearly two years last week.  He looked a little rusty, and he seemed to be forcing the long throws.  This week will be a test as that shoulder gets two straight weeks of work.  Edge: Riders

Offensive lines: The Riders’ offensive line has been surprisingly strong thus far, allowing only 1 sack thus far, and letting KG do all of that passing.  The Lions’ offensive line, though, is full of Lions’ rookies; only one player on the Lions’ offensive line remains from last year’s group.  Edge: Riders

Receivers: Both teams heavily rely on their receivers for offence.  This is a big turnaround for the Riders, who have been known as a rush-first offence for the last couple of years.  BC’s receivers are more prototypical receivers – tall, strong and speedy – while Saskatchewan’s receivers are a lot smaller and rely a lot more on finesse and speed rather than height and power.  Nevertheless, the Riders have been lighting up opposing defences.  The jury is still out on the Lions’ receivers under the new offence run by George Cortez.  Edge: Riders

Defensive lines: The Riders’ defensive line has struggled to get pressure thus far this season, but the Lions haven’t had a lot of success either.  Edge: No one

Linebackers: The Lions have reigning MOP Solomon Elimimian and Adam Bighill in the middle.  The Riders are starting Jeff Knox Jr. and Jake Doughty, both of whom are only in their third and second CFL starts, respectively.  Edge: Lions by a lot

SecondariesThe Riders have a veteran secondary, but that secondary is having trouble adjusting to the new illegal contact rules.  Instead of playing a man-to-man defence, the Riders now play a type of zone defence that has more holes in it than Justin Trudeau’s election platform.  (Yeah, I was reaching there).  The Lions’ secondary is officially full of newbies as stalwart Ryan Phillips went down to injury last week.  Edge: Riders, but barely because they’re playing like rookies

Special Teams: As noted above, Paul McCallum returns to BC for the first time as a Rider since 2005.  Ray Early leads all punters in punting averages and has been a welcome addition to the Riders’ special teams.  The Riders’ special teams coverage has been solid.  The Lions are starting a rookie kicker who converted all of his field goals and converts last week; his punting, though, was a bit suspect.  The Lions also allowed a TD on a return, but lucky for them, it was negated by a penalty.  Edge: Riders

INTANGIBLES

For whatever reason, I think the Riders will want this game more.  But, the Riders also need to stop taking so many penalties  Edge: No one