Thursday, August 6, 2015
The Argos have been listed as 9.5-point favourites ... Toronto is experiencing cooler-than-normal temperatures for this time of year. The forecast for Saturday calls for mainly sunny skies and 22 degrees Celsius ... Whether the roof at Rogers Centre will be open or closed depends on Argos head coach Scott Milanovich.
2 - THAT POSITIVE VIBE: The Roughriders held a closed practice on Wednesday but even to those of us locked outside the stadium, you could hear a huge whoop and cheer from the club as they concluded the workout. Head coach Corey Chamblin said the team is ready to put the past month and a half behind them. "I can tell you right now that the guys understand the storm is over and it's time for us to win football games."
The Riders feel the worst of the adversity is behind them and the tide is about to turn in their favour. Not many are picking the Riders to win this game, but I am. Anything can happen in the CFL and it's time for the Riders to get a break.
3 - HAVING SAID THAT: Until the Riders get that first win, Chamblin will be dogged by rumours of his job status. I was surprised how many of my TV and radio analysts aren't willing to provide Corey much leniency given all he's accomplished in his time here. Of course there's the 2013 Grey Cup win in the biggest game the team has ever played, and also the fact the Riders have never missed the playoffs in Chamblin's tenure. The scenario this year is eerily similar to 1991 when John Gregory was fired in August of that year, not even a season-and-a-half after delivering the 1989 Grey Cup championship. The 1991 season was marred quarterback Kent Austin's separated shoulder early on but that wasn't enough to stop GM Alan Ford from dropping the axe. That couldn't have been easy on Al.
I, for one, don't want to see a coaching change here. We need continuity to achieve long-term success.
4 - A SHOVEL TO THE FACE: Perhaps the biggest reason for the shock amongst the Rider Nation with the team's 0-6 start is the fact nobody expected it. I figured the club would start 4-0 heading into that Week 5 showdown with Hamilton but injuries at key positions derailed that. "I'm shocked," Hall of Fame Rider linebacker Cleveland Vann said on In The Huddle this week when asked about the team's struggles. You wait -- if the Riders should pull off the upset in Toronto on Saturday, the mood of this province will change as quickly as you can snap your fingers. However should they fall to 0-7, we'll be suitably devastated.
5 - THE BACK-UP PLAN: No matter how this 2015 season turns out, there will be many who feel the franchise will return to prominence with the return of star quarterback Darian Durant in 2016. However with devastating injuries piling up on Durant's football resume, you've got to think the braintrust is starting to look towards the Quarterback of the Future.
"A little bit," Rider GM Brendan Taman said. "But Darian's still our guy. There's no doubt about that going forward. But you always have to think about the future and what it may bring. I think that's why we wanted to bring a guy like Blake Sims in rather than a guy that's been around the bush a little bit. That does go into our thought process, yes."
6 - DON'T LOOK NOW BUT ... : Star Rider slotback Weston Dressler has now caught a pass in 76 consecutive games played. However the UND product has a long ways to go to catch Don Narcisse for his CFL record 216 consecutive games-with-a-catch streak. Interestingly enough, Narcisse also played 216 career games. Remarkable.
NFL WATCH: Last year at this time we were on red alert tracking the progress of Dressler in camp with the Kansas City Chiefs. This year there's no such excitement however we've got an eye on Brett Jones in camp with the N.Y. Giants, Brian Peters with the Minnesota Vikings and Ben Heenan with the Indianapolis Colts. Unfortunately Colts camp hasn't started off so well for Heenan, as the Grand Coulee, SK product was carted off the field on Wednesday with an undisclosed injury. Should he return to Riderville, that would change things considerably.
As for Brian Peters, he has impressed Vikings coach Mike Zimmer early in camp. Here's what Zimmer told reporters in Mankato, MN: "He's got athletic ability," Zimmer said. "He is fast, he can run. He was a little bit more physical than maybe we anticipated, but now with the way the NFL is you kind of need some of these cover linebackers. I think what is going to determine with him is the physicality part of his game, being a former safety. He is a smart kid. Maybe, if he played in space in Canada, that might help some of those things, but so far we have been happy with him."
7 - THE CANADIAN TV RATINGS WATCH: Sports on TV blogger Chris Zelkovich of Yahoo.ca does a nice job each week of tracking Canadian TV sports ratings and his latest report is not good news for the CFL. The top four most-watched sporting events on TV last week all included the Toronto Blue Jays, highlighted by the 1.39-million viewers who tuned in on Monday to catch David Price's debut. Coming in at #5 was the Saskatchewan-Edmonton CFL game Friday night which drew 600,000 viewers, was tops in the CFL.
8 - CFL GAME NOTES: Here are some interesting tidbits from the CFL's weekly game notes package entering Week 7 ... 2015 is the most pass-dominated season in the CFL since 1993. Teams are passing 74% of the time versus the run ... The games are speeding up. The average CFL game takes 2:53:29 to play which has shaved off three minutes from last year despite the fact penalties are up 11% ... The average attendance in the CFL this season is 27,742 and Week 6 saw a 19% rise in attendance from Weeks 1-5 ... 22 teams in CFL history have started the season 0-6 and of those, only THREE have won Game 7 ... The East Division is 8-6 versus the West so far this year ... With only two defensive takeaways, the Roughriders are on pace to set a CFL record for the least in a season. The 2006 Edmonton Eskimos set the mark with 25. The Riders are on pace for six.
9 - GO RED SOX: After a regular season which featured a double-digit losing streak, the Regina Red Sox are now a win away from advancing to Round 2 of the WMBL Playoffs. Red Sox manager Scottie Douglas stopped by our broadcast location before Monday's Game 2 against Yorkton and winked, "Thanks for not giving up on us". In the midst of their losing streak in late June, I chatted with Douglas in the locker room at Gold's Gym and told him, "You're the best skipper in the league. Chin up! You'll figure it out." It was nice for him to remember that visit, and it felt equally good to stick by him.
Incidentally Red Sox President Gary Brotzel told us on Monday that way back in year one of their existence a decade ago, the Boston Red Sox sent the Regina ball club a Cease and Desist order to stop using the name "Red Sox". The letter was ignored, and Boston eventually went away.
Congratulations too, by the way, to the Weyburn Beavers who have advanced to the second round of the WMBL playoffs for the first time in franchise history.
10 - OK BLUE JAYS: If you're already sick of hearing about the Toronto Blue Jays, then move to China until November. As Sportsnet's Arash Madani told the SportsCage on Tuesday, the Blue Jays' 2015 playoff push is going to "grip the nation" just like it did in 1992 and 1993. Personally I can't wait. One can only wonder if names like Kevin Pillar, Russell Martin, David Price, Josh Donaldson and Troy Tulowitzki will become national heroes like Devon White, Pat Borders, Duane Ward, Kelly Gruber, Paul Molitor, etc. Even more interesting will be to see if manager John Gibbons can achieve the status of Cito Gaston. It's going to be a fun next few months!
MEDIA APPEARANCES: For more Rider talk, tune into TSN 1290 in Winnipeg Thursday morning at 7:30 as I'll be chatting with host Troy Westwood and then in studio on Global Regina at 8:20 am with host Taylor Shire. It never ends!
THAT'S IT FOR TODAY! HAVE A GREAT WEEKEND