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

west_preview

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

Week 4 Preview

Dear CFL:

If you have to create infographics of penalties, you obviously:

a) think you have a problem; and

b) want to make it clear that you’re not the source of the problem.

Needless to say, we all have yelled ‘C’MON REF!‘ at some point early on in this season.

Personally, I have been rather frustrated with the amount of penalty flags I see each and every game.

And I’m faaaaaaaaaaaar from the only one.

So, in response to those who think that the referees have been abusing their penalty powers, the CFL released these infographics yesterday:

penaltiespenalties2

(You know, these infographics might be the most professional material the CFL has ever put out.)

My first question in looking at these infographics is since when do we refer to penalties as fouls?

My second question is: aren’t roughness fouls also preventable fouls?  I would think that shoving a guy after the whistle is somewhat preventable.

My third question is what is a technical foul? And really, aren’t all fouls predictable and therefore preventable in some way?  If a kicker kicks a kickoff (heh) out of bounds, it may be more of a technical foul because there isn’t any roughness involved, and it’s not as if the kicker wanted the ball to go out of bounds.  But couldn’t it have been prevented had the kicker kicked the ball better?  Maybe he should’ve squib kicked it if there’s a substantial wind…

ANYWAY…

The CFL’s argument is that nearly 60% of the penalty flags that have been thrown thus far this season didn’t need to be thrown.  And of those, only a small fraction have anything to do with the new rules.

While I would agree with this in part, the fact is that more penalties are being called in general according to someone who has a lot more time on their hands than me. It’ll be interesting to watch how this analysis changes as the season goes on.

Regardless, the CFL and its players need to figure out how to deal with the epidemic of penalty flags, because nobody has enjoyed watching these flag fests over the past couple of weeks – not even ME.

Here are this week’s games:

Week 4

And here are your previews:

  • The Kitty Cats come off a bye week where they said BUH BYE to running back Nic Grigsby ($10 says he ends up with the Riders by Labour Day).  The Als are smarting a bit after losing a close game to those awful Blue Bumblers.  While the Cats are a better team on paper and also have game-breaker Brandon Banks (hmmm…he needs a nickname), the Als are rather formidable when they’re playing at home.  So…I’m going to go out on a limb and say Montreal wins this one. Prediction: Montreal by 4
  • I can’t believe the spread in this game is only 3.5 points – especially after the Schmoes shredded the RODBLACKS last week.  I think this is the week where we actually find out if the RODBLACKS are, as they say, ‘for real’ (I hate that phrase), or if they’re the scout team I think they are.  I still don’t think that MATTY ICE (Matt Nichols) is a good QB.  Must I link to the most hilarious interception you may ever see to prove my point?  Okay.  I will.  The Schmoes’ defensive was back in gear last week, but I expect the RODBLACKS to come out with a bit more fire since they’re playing at home.  Nevertheless, the Schmoes will still win this game.  Prediction: Edmonton by 12
  • What can I tell you about this game that you don’t already know?  I can tell you that Weldon Brown won’t be suiting up for the Riders again this season.  And I can tell you that this spells trouble.  Up until he had to leave last week’s game due to injury, he had pretty much shut down Emmanuel Arceneaux.  I fear the same won’t occur this week.  For some reason the Lions don’t run the ball much, which I always think is a mistake because Andrew Harris is a goooood running back.  So let’s put it this way: if the Lions start running the ball, the Riders are going to have even more problems.  The Riders are desperate to win at home and keep the boo birds at bay.  Therefore, I think they Riders will play ‘not to lose’ instead of ‘to win,’ and that never works out well.  Prediction: BC by 6
  • The Stumps have juuuuuuuuuuuust been getting by the last couple of weeks.  A one point win over the Kitty Cats and a five point win over the Arblows doesn’t exactly scream ‘COMMANDING’.  Maybe it’s still a bit of a Grey Cup hangover, but they’re just not all that sharp.  Lucky for them, though, they get to play the Bumblers.  The Bumblers have shown that their defence will make teams pay for their mistakes, so if the Stumps’ offence can keep from turning over the ball, the Stumps should cruise to a win.  Plus, I just don’t think that Free (Drew) Willy will be able to put up enough offence to keep pace with the Stumps. Prediction: Calgary by 10

Rider Review – Week 3: Deja Vu

lossIt might have been a new week on the schedule, but for the Riders, it might as well have been a repeat of last week.

For the second week in a row, we did not watch the Riders lose this game.

Instead, we watched them give it away yet again.

A glutton for punishment, I re-watched the last 2:21 minutes of the game, and while there were bad penalties, a controversial review of a third down gamble and missed tackles galore, I could not help but think that there was one thing, and one thing only, that should be blamed for the loss of a ten point lead and eventually the game:

Coaching.hoo

For whatever reason, the Riders aren’t being put in position to win.

Last week, it was poor time management.  This week, it was poor decision-making.

Instead of punting the ball away and forcing the Lions to march down the field to kick a field goal to tie while being up three points with 1:00 left in the 4th quarter, Coach Chamblin decided to send in the short yardage team on 3rd and 1/2 a yard.

The result?  The Riders couldn’t convert, and BC was already nearly in field goal territory.

Next, the Riders declined an illegal procedure penalty.  Instead of putting the Lions at 1st and 15, it was 2nd and 10.

A short pass and a field goal later, the game was tied and going into overtime.

Or was it?  The Riders still had 12 seconds to possibly get into field goal position to try and win the game in regulation.

Instead, the Riders knelt down successfully (as Jim Daley, the White Zombie, would say) and forewent any chance of putting the game away.

In the ensuing mini-game, it was 3rd and a few inches and Coach Chamblin vacillated between going for it and kicking a field goal.

He went with a field goal, and the Lions won by scoring a touchdown a few plays later.hoooooo

Two weeks in a row, the Riders have led going into the final minute of the football game.  And two weeks in a row, they’ve not only lost those leads, but the games themselves.

A pattern is emerging – and the pattern shows that the coaches have a lot of work left to do.

Now for Things That Worked and Things That Didn’t.

THINGS THAT WORKED

1. Weston Dressler: Possibly motivated by team mate Ryan Smith’s coming out party last week, Dressler had his best game in quite some time with 9 catches for 122 yards and two TDs.  After spending most of last year with the Kansas City Chiefs, it’s good to have Dressler back with the team on a permanent basis.

2. Running game: Apparently I know nothing (although this should be rather apparent if you read my predictions every week and then look at the actual results).  Here I thought the Riders would be about as pure of a passing team as you could be in the CFL, yet they lead the league in rushing.  The tandem of Jerome Messam and Anthony Allen put up over 170 yards on Friday night, and the running game has certainly opened up the passing game.  Given how successful the running game has been so far this season, it’d be nice to see the Riders use it to their advantage in 2nd and short or 3rd and short situations.

3. Tyree Hollins: While he got burnt on Emmanuel Arceneaux’s OT touchdown, he was more than capable in his first start.  Starting in place of Marshay Green, he did not look out of place and had a few key tackles.  At the age of 24, he potentially has a long career ahead of him as he appears to have the tools to be a solid DB.

4. Red zone conversions: After settling for four field goals last week, the Riders scored TDs every time they were past BC’s 20 yard line.  On the other side of the ball, the Riders kept BC from doing the same during regulation, a big improvement from last week.

effTHINGS THAT DIDN’T

1. Pass rush: I repeat my thoughts from last week:  

You ask why it didn’t work?  BECAUSE IT WAS NON-EXISTENT.  A game where John Chick isn’t even mentioned is not a good game.  In the ‘new’ CFL where defenders cannot cover receivers as they once did, a defence requires a pass rush in order to be aggressive.  Otherwise, your secondary is left trying to cover receivers that will undoubtedly either get open or draw a pass interference flag.  The defensive line was supposed to be one of the Riders’ strengths, and through two games it’s been less than ordinary.

In addition, those three man defensive fronts have to go.

2. Secondary coverage: While overall the coverage appeared to be a lot tighter this week (and it really couldn’t have been any looser), it still broke down at key times, allowing a lot of long completions.  For instance, Austin Collie tiptoed along the sideline to score the TD that allowed the Lions to get back into the game.  But there’s still a lot of rooom for improvement, as Travis Lulay threw for over 400 yards and five different BC receivers had more than 50 yards on Friday night.  Yuck.

3. Situational decisions: See above.

4. Discipline: The secondary continues to have trouble with the new illegal contact rule, but what continues to be so frustrating is how the Riders’ offence continues to take penalties that negate first downs.  This time, a TD was taken off the board due to a penalty.  While the Riders eventually got that go-ahead TD, it was mainly due to a number of ill-timed BC penalties that extended the drive.  The Riders need to play a lot smarter, as the number of penalties is simply unacceptable.

OFFENSIVE STAR: TIE – #7 Weston Dressler, SBbah

As stated above, he’s baaaaaaaaaaack.

DEFENSIVE STAR: #37 – Tyree Hollins, DB

A solid game by the rookie, as I discussed above.

SPECIAL TEAMS STAR: #39- Ray Early, P

His punting average was nearly 50 yards.  Too bad he didn’t get a chance to pin the Lions deep late in the 4th quarter.

NEXT UP: vs. BC. The second part of the home and home series goes on Friday night at Taylor Field.  The Riders will definitely have revenge on their minds, and they’ll be desperate to win their first game of the season.  Hopefully the boo birds don’t come out.