Today’s game marks the halfway point for Green & White. And for my part, the first half (for the league especially) has been a humongous stinker. Outside of a few intradivision match-ups it was all East vs. West. With the tally of wins and losses currently standing at 23-3 for the West, massive shit-kicking is the only way to describe the result.
Sometimes the wins were convincing. Other times, like with Edmonton’s 10-8 “thrashing” of the Redblacks in Ottawa on Aug. 15 and the 16-11 “pummeling” the Riders administered to the Alouettes at Mosaic Stadium on Aug. 16, they’ve been hard fought. But they’ve been victories nonetheless. And the lack of head-to-head games in the West has made it difficult to determine how all the top teams match up against each other.
After their gut-check win against the Lions in Vancouver 20-16 on Aug. 24, the Riders are 6W-2L. Yet they sit third in the West behind the Stampeders and Eskimos who are both 7W-1L. The Riders are done with the Leos for the year. And after the annual home-and-home with Winnipeg they’ll be done with them too. Then the Riders have games in Hamilton and at home against Ottawa to reach the two-thirds point of the season. After that, they play five of their last six games against the Eskimos (three games) and Calgary (two). That should result in some pretty good football. But October’s a long time to wait.
As for this tilt, it should be interesting. Unlike the past few years when Winnipeg was uh… how should I say… less that competitive, the Bombers have played some okay football so far in 2014. Although, again, most of their wins have come against the East, and three or so have been of the last-minute variety — so perhaps a bit lucky, but Ws nonetheless.
The Riders, meanwhile, face a bit of uncertainty at QB. Darian Durant may miss the game with a bum finger on his throwing hand. That injury forced him to miss the second half of the B.C. tilt, but Tino Sunseri filled in admirably. And despite some mega (and concerning) breakdowns on special teams with huge returns against the Riders prevailed.
If Sunseri starts, he could be vulnerable to the unusual blitz schemes that Bomber defensive coordinator Gary Etcheverry employs. Fortunately for the Riders it may not come to that. While Etch’s unbalanced defensive sets do cause havoc for pass defense blocking schemes, they have proven vulnerable in the past (both in Winnipeg, and when Etch was with the Riders from 2008-10) to a pounding running game — which the Riders just happen to possess in spades.
Throw in a rabid Labour Day crowd pumped over the Riders five game winning streak, and I foresee a Rider victory. Although the special teams need to pick it up a ton because their performance so far, outside of a few big returns on offense, has been pretty shaky.
Game time is 2 p.m., and TSN has the broadcast. Find out more at Riderville.