Heading into the 2013 CFL season some pigskin pundits were cautiously optimistic about the Riders’ chances of being legit Grey Cup contenders this year while others were more pessimistic. Three weeks into the season, though, the Riders have exceeded the expectations of even their most ardent fans, sitting first in the CFL West with a 3W-0L record after impressive road wins against the Edmonton Eskimos and Toronto Argonauts, along with a solid victory at home against the Calgary Stampeders (game shot above).
Really, it’s hard to find fault with any aspect of the Green & White’s performance so far in 2013. In addition to boasting the league’s leading rusher in Kory Sheets (who has racked up 442 yards and scored four TDs), Darian Durant has the highest QB rating having completed 54 of 75 passes for 674 yards and eight TDs and ZERO interceptions. Defense and special teams have also performed well — and the result, as noted above, is three straight victories by a combined score of 114 to 67.
Of course, last year the Riders also got off to an impressive 3-0 start before losing five straight games — a streak that was kick-started by games against the Stamps in Calgary and at home against the Ti-Cats where they gassed comfortable fourth quarter leads and ended up losing. Following the five game losing streak the Riders regained momentum somewhat and won five of six before nose-diving again and closing out the season with five straight losses.
So while the team and fans have reason to feel good about the fast start, they have to guard against being over-confident heading into this game against a 1W-2 L Hamilton team that has endured some early season struggles — especially on defence. Another wrinkle to consider is the health of QB Darian Durant. In the fourth quarter of the Toronto game he was forced to leave with an injured ankle, and mid-week it was looking like the Riders were leaning toward starting Drew Willy and resting Durant to ensure he didn’t further aggravate the injury and miss more games down the road.
Also yet to be determined is whether former Rider all-star receiver Andy Fantuz would be suiting up for the Tabbies after missing the previous two games. One ex-Rider great who will be on the opposition sidelines though is Hamilton head coach Kent Austin, who as a QB for the Green & White in 1989 and head coach in 2007, played a prominent role in the team’s last two Grey Cup championships. So it will be interesting to see how fans welcome him back to Mosaic. Game time is 5 p.m., and TSN has the broadcast.