Winnipeg – the place where dreams go to die

September 6, 2017 - 7:27am

The Riders 38-24 win over the Blue Bombers has resulted in heart palpations in Winnipeg that perhaps their 7-2 record has somehow been sullied by the Riders stumping the Bombers tempo offense by going down with fake injuries.

Considering the Bombers biggest win has been against an injury ravaged Edmonton Eskimos (and let’s check the Eskimos games against Saskatchewan and Calgary following that game to put some context on the Bombers win) and considering the Bombers score more field goals than touchdowns, the Riders win should not have come as a surprise.

For Rider fans it’s pretty easy to be feeling good about the team following the win, although it was not as overwhelming as the Rider wins over Edmonton and BC. The Riders could have let the Bombers back into the game into the fourth quarter, and that is something the Bombers can build on and the Riders will need to address for the Banjo Bowl.

As we hit the halfway point of the season, how teams deal with injuries will probably determine how high they will finish in the standings. The Bombers had some injury problems with TJ Heath in the defensive secondary while the Riders lost Nic Demski and Cam Marshall to injury for the Banjo Bowl.

The determining factor in the Labour Day game is the Rider receiving corps is better than the Bombers defensive secondary, especially if they get the matchups they want. What will be interesting is if the Riders go to a Canadian backfield can they keep enough balance in the offense to prevent the Bombers from just rushing three and dropping nine back into pass coverage.

While Rider fans may be shaking their heads in amazement at how the team has responded in this five game stretch that has been said to be determining their potential playoff fate, the Riders did go on a run last year only to lay an egg at home to Montreal following their best game of the season against Toronto. So the question is whether the Riders can rise to the challenge of coping with injuries and dealing with the challenge of BC probably beating Montreal on Friday night to move into fourth place.

It’s an issue that Rider Coach Chris Jones is probably pondering, especially with the Riders giving up two late touchdowns in garbage time to the Eskimos and then basically playing the Bombers to a saw off in the second half of the Labour Day game. The Rders should be staying away from rankings and talk of being a potential Grey Cup participant because they haven’t made the playoffs yet.

For the Bombers, who have basically beaten a bunch of eastern teams en route to a 7-3 record, now have to address their own adversity, which is losing to the Riders and facing the prospect of losing the season series. The Bombers may now be facing the prospect they are not as good as they thought they were.

On the other hand, the Riders have five games against eastern opponents in their last nine games, plus two games against Calgary and one against Edmonton plus the Winnipeg game.

For the Riders to start thinking about their playoff chances, beating their divisional opponents is an important first step and with half a season to go, there is still so much that can go wrong or right, including a rash of Edmonton like injuries.

The Riders along with the rest of the CFL were looking at the final NFL cutdown and one of the more interesting things was Hamilton working out Johnny Manziel while putting Zach Collaros on the trading block. While Hamilton beat Toronto in a classic rain delay Labour Day game, Jeremiah Masoli was not really that impressive.

 The issue may be that Collaros is not willing to listen to coaching, or at least coaching that he respects. Considering Collaros has a massive contract that has not been reflected in wins, if Hamilton is going to rebuild and dumping John Chick to Edmonton for draft picks was a first step, then shopping Collaros and freeing up salary cap space is not surprising.

Hamilton has shopped Collaros to the Riders, Toronto and considering how Darian Durant has sucked in Montreal, I would not be surprised if Montreal didn’t at least put in a call. I can’t see Collaros being traded with his current contract unless it is renegotiated to be more team favorable.

Right now it seems Derrel Walker may be returning to Edmonton while Otha Foster III is maybe looking at coming back to the Riders. What is interesting about the NFL cuts is that more Canadians are sticking in the NFL than former CFL players. The cuts will work themselves out in the next week or so as players decide whether to sign practice squad contracts or whatever works for them.

So we have Montreal going to BC on Friday and perhaps the unimaginable needs to be said. Maybe Chris Jones was right about Darian Durant. Mind you Ottawa unleashed a devastating pass rush in a 32-4 win over Monteal that saw Durant pulled and the question raised of whether Durant’s contract is keeping Montreal from adding better pieces on offense and defense.

If Montreal cannot keep Durant upright and he continues to force the ball into double and triple coverage and Montreal has no running game, then the question of who walks the plank needs to be asked. This is the structure the Wetenhalls wanted with Kavis Reed as GM and Jacques Chapdelaine as head coach and it is not working.

Anthony Calvillo was great at taking plays from Marc Trestman, but his impact on the Montreal offense or Durant has yet to be measured. Montreal’s defense may keep them in a number of games, but their offense is a dumpster fire and looks to continue that trend.

BC on the other hand has their own three game losing streak but it seems they are moving to Travis Lulay while Jon Jennings is trying to shed the Casey Printers V 2.0 persona he seems to have taken on the field.  BC is vulnerable in this game because their offensive line is not the best at keeping their quarterbacks upright but they seem to have more continuity than what Montreal is offering. BC wins this one 27-24.

Three games on Saturday with Saskatchewan at Winnipeg for the Banjo Bowl kicking things off. At first I thought looking at the second half of the Rider win the Riders may be looking at a loss heading into Winnipeg, but then after listening to Doug Brown, then the Winnipeg media complaining about how the Riders used “fake injuries” it struck me either Winnipeg is trying to play some mind games for the rematch or maybe the Riders are inside their heads and making them question their magnificent march towards their first Grey Cup in 27 years.

Right now I am going to think the Bombers are spooked, and even though the Riders lose Cam Marshall for the game due to injury, and Nic Demski, the Canadian running back tandem of Greg Morris and Kienan LaFrance will be joined by Calleb Holley on the receiving corps, although anything is likely, and the Riders biggest problem is thinking all they have to do is show up in Dollarama Field.

I am going to go with the historical tendency of this game, which surprisingly has a near 50/500 split and when the Riders win, it is usually pretty close, unless God is smiling and decides to smite the Bombers personally, in which case they usually go complain to Satan. I would not be surprised to see the Riders lose, but the Bombers overreaction is not the type of response you get from say, a Calgary. Riders win this one 32-29.

Then we have June Jones bringing the Hamilton Tiger-Cats to Ottawa to try to extend his unbeaten streak to two games. Which considering it took an Act of God in a rain delay to get their first win, and some questionable reffing, is asking a lot. After losing a bunch of close games, it seems Ottawa is finding the soft underbelly of their schedule against their eastern rivals and finding it to their liking. Ottawa wins this one 33-22.

Finally we have Calgary going to Edmonton where the Eskimos are trying to right a three game losing streak that maybe owes more to injuries catching up to them and a lack of depth than anything else. Calgary made it look easy against Edmonton and as much as Mike Reilly shows leadership, he is not out on defense in coverage, making tackles or knocking down passes. Calgary will go for the soft middle of the Edmonton defense, and sweep the Battle of Alberta with a 32-23 win.   

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